Rabbi Shimon Lakish (Reish Lakish) Meets his Future


One day, Rabbi Yohanan was swimming in the Jordan River. Resh Lakish saw him. He leapt into the Jordan after him. Rabbi Yohanan said to him, “Your strength for Torah!” Resh Lakish said to him, “Your beauty for women!” Rabbi Yohanan said, “If you repent, I will give you my sister who is more beautiful than I.” Resh Lakish accepted this. He wanted to return to get his clothes but was unable to. He returned to Torah and Mishnah and became a great man. One day, they were arguing in the Bet Midrash concerning the sword, knife, hunting spear, military spear, hand sickle, and the harvest sickle; at what point would they become ritually impure? From the moment their production has been completed. When is their production completed? Rabbi Yohanan says, “From the moment they are tempered.” Resh Lakish said, “From the moment they are polished with water.” Rabbi Yohanan said to Resh Lakish, “A thief knows his thievery.” Resh Lakish said to him, “What good have you done for me? There (among the disreputable) they called me ‘rabbi,’ and here they call me ‘rabbi.” Rabbi Yohanan said, “I did well by you by bringing you under the wings of the shechinah.” Rabbi Yohanan felt demoralized. Resh Lakish became ill. Rabbi Yohanan’s sister came crying, and asked him to do something for the sake of her children and he refused. For the sake of preventing her from becoming a widow and he refused. Resh Lakish died. Rabbi Yohanan was in great pain over him. The rabbis said, “Who should go and try to settle his mind? Let Rabbi Eleazar ben Pedat go, for he is sharp at learning.” Rabbi Eleazar ben Pedat went and sat before Rabbi Yohanan. To everything Rabbi Yohanan said, Rabbi Eleazar ben Pedat would say to him, “There is a braita that supports you.” Rabbi Yohanan said to him, “You are like bar Lakish? To everything I said, he would reply with twenty four objections and I would provide twenty four solutions, and through this the matter would become clarified. And you say, ‘There is a braita that supports you.’ Don’t I already know that what I said makes sense?” Rabbi Yohanan would go and rip his clothing and cry and say, “Where are you bar Lakish? Where are you bar Lakish?” He would scream until his mind left him. The rabbis prayed for him, and he died. (B. Baba Metzia 84.)

 

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