Rabbi and Antoninus

Antoninus said to Rabbi: “The body and the soul can exempt themselves from judgment.  How?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   The body can say, ‘The soul has sinned, from the day it left me I am like a stone in the grave. The soul can say, ‘The body has sinned, from the day I departed from it I fly in the air like a bird. He replied, “I will tell you a parable. To what may this be compared? To a human king who owned a beautiful orchard which contained nice figs. He appointed two guards; one lame and the other blind. The lame man said to the blind man, ‘I see nice figs in the orchard. Come and give me a shoulder ride and we will come and eat them.’ The blind man rode on the lame man and they ate the figs. Days later, the owner of the orchard came and asked them, ‘Where are those nice figs?’ The lame man replied, ‘Do I have feet to walk with?’ The blind man replied, ‘Do I have eyes to see with?’  What did he do? He placed the lame man upon the blind man and judged them as one. Thus will the Holy One bring the soul, place it in the body, and judge them together, as it is written, “He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people (Psalms 50:4).” “He shall call to the heavens from above”-this is the soul; “and to the earth, that he may judge his people”-to the body.” Antoninus said to Rabbi, “Why does the sun rise in the east and set in the west?”  He replied, “If it went the opposite direction, you’d have the same question.” “This is my question,” he said, “Why set in the west?” He answered, “In order to greet (‘give shalom’) to its creator, as it is written, ‘And the host of the heavens bows to you (Nehemiah 9:6).” He said, “If so, it should travel to the midpoint of the sky, give greetings, and depart.” - “Because of workers and travelers.”  Antoninus said to Rabbi, “When is the soul placed in a person; from the hour of conception (‘pekidah’), or when [the embryo] is formed?” He replied, “From the moment of formation.”Antoninus said to him, “Can a piece of meat be unsalted for three days without spoiling? It must be from the hour of conception.” Rabbi said: This dvar Antoninus taught me and the Bible supports him, for it is written, “Your pekudatcha preserves my spirit (Job 10:12).”  Antoninus said to Rabbi, “From what time does the yetzer hara govern a person; from the formation [of the embryo], or from its exit (birth)?”  He replied, “From formation.”  He said, “If so, it would kick its way out of its mother’s womb. Rather, it must be from the time of birth.” Rabbi said: This dvar Antoninus taught me, and the Bible supports him, for it is said, “Sin crouches at the door (Bereshit 4:7).” (B. Sanhedrin 91)


Rabbenu instructed Rabbi Afas, “Write a letter in my name to the Emperor Antoninus.” He rose and wrote, “From Yehudah Nasia to our honored king, Antoninus.” He took it a tore it up and said, “Write, ‘From your servant Yehudah, to our honored king, Antoninus.” Rabbi Afas said to him, “Rabbi, why do you disparage your own honor?” Rabbi said to him, “Am I better than my ancestor? Did he (Yaacov to Esau) not say, “Thus says your servant Yaacov”? (Bereshit Rabbah 75:5)

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