לְיָנוֹקָא פְּסוֹק לִי פְּסוּקָךְ אֲמַר לֵיהּ וְאַתְּ שָׁדוּד מַה תַּעֲשִׂי כִּי תִלְבְּשִׁי שָׁנִי כִּי תַעְדִּי עֲדִי זָהָב כִּי תִקְרְעִי בַפּוּךְ עֵינַיִךְ לַשָּׁוְא תִּתְיַפִּי וְגוֹ׳ a child: Recite your verse to me. He recited to him: “And you, spoiled one, what are you doing, that you clothe yourself with scarlet, that you deck yourself with ornaments of gold, that you enlarge your eyes with paint? In vain you make yourself fair” (Jeremiah 4:30).
עַיְּילֵיהּ לְבֵי כְנִישְׁתָּא אַחֲרִיתִי עַד דְּעַיְּילֵיהּ לִתְלֵיסַר בֵּי כְנִישָׁתָא כּוּלְּהוּ פְּסַקוּ לֵיהּ כִּי הַאי גַוְונָא לְבָתְרָא אֲמַר לֵיהּ פְּסוֹק לִי פְּסוּקָךְ אֲמַר לֵיהּ וְלָרָשָׁע אָמַר אֱלֹהִים מַה לְּךָ לְסַפֵּר חֻקָּי וְגוֹ׳ הָהוּא יָנוֹקָא הֲוָה מְגַמְגֵּם בְּלִישָּׁנֵיהּ אִשְׁתְּמַע כְּמָה דַּאֲמַר לֵיהּ וְלֶאֱלִישָׁע אָמַר אֱלֹהִים אִיכָּא דְּאָמְרִי סַכִּינָא הֲוָה בַּהֲדֵיהּ וְקַרְעֵיהּ וְשַׁדַּרֵיהּ לִתְלֵיסַר בֵּי כְנִישָׁתֵי וְאִיכָּא דְּאָמְרִי אֲמַר אִי הֲוַאי בִּידִי סַכִּינָא הֲוָה קָרַעְנָא לֵיהּ He brought him to another synagogue, until he had brought him into thirteen synagogues, where all the children recited to him similar verses that speak of the hopeless situation of the wicked. At the last one, he said to him: Recite your verse to me. He recited to him: “And to the wicked [velerasha] God says, what is it for you to declare My statutes” (Psalms 50:16). The Gemara relates: That child had a stutter, so it sounded as though he were saying to him: Vele’elisha, i.e., and to Elisha, God says. This made Elisha think the child was deliberately insulting him. Some say Aḥer had a knife, and he tore the child apart and sent him to the thirteen synagogues. And others say that Aḥer merely said: Had I a knife, I would have torn him apart.
כִּי נָח נַפְשֵׁיהּ דְּאַחֵר אָמְרִי לָא מֵידָן לִידַיְּינֵיהּ וְלָא לְעָלְמָא דְּאָתֵי לֵיתֵי לָא מֵידָן לִידַיְּינֵיהּ מִשּׁוּם דַּעֲסַק בְּאוֹרָיְיתָא וְלָא לְעָלְמָא דְּאָתֵי לֵיתֵי מִשּׁוּם דַּחֲטָא אֲמַר רַבִּי מֵאִיר מוּטָב דְּלִידַיְּינֵיהּ וְלֵיתֵי לְעָלְמָא דְּאָתֵי מָתַי אָמוּת וְאַעֲלֶה עָשָׁן מִקִּבְרוֹ כִּי נָח נַפְשֵׁיהּ דְּרַבִּי מֵאִיר סְלֵיק קוּטְרָא מִקִּבְרֵיהּ דְּאַחֵר The Gemara relates: When Aḥer passed away, the Heavenly Court declared that he should not be judged, nor brought into the World-to-Come. He should not be judged in a manner befitting his deeds, because he occupied himself with Torah, whose merit protects him. And he should not be brought into the World-to-Come because he sinned. Rabbi Meir said: It is better that he be judged properly and be brought into the World-to-Come. When I die I will request this of Heaven, and I will cause smoke to rise up from his grave, as a sign that he is being sentenced in Gehenna. The Gemara relates: When Rabbi Meir passed away, smoke rose up from the grave of Aḥer, implying that Rabbi Meir’s wish was granted.
אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן גְּבוּרְתָּא לְמִיקְלֵי רַבֵּיהּ חַד הֲוָה בֵּינַנָא וְלָא מָצֵינַן לְאַצּוֹלֵיהּ אִינְקְטֵיהּ בְּיָד מַאן מַרְמֵי לֵיהּ מִן אָמַר מָתַי אָמוּת וַאֲכַבֶּה עָשָׁן מִקִּבְרוֹ כִּי נָח נַפְשֵׁיהּ דְּרַבִּי יוֹחָנָן פְּסַק קוּטְרָא מִקִּבְרֵיהּ דְּאַחֵר פְּתַח עֲלֵיהּ הַהוּא סַפְדָנָא אֲפִילּוּ שׁוֹמֵר הַפֶּתַח לֹא עָמַד לְפָנֶיךָ רַבֵּינוּ Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Was this a mighty deed on Rabbi Meir’s part, to burn his teacher? Was this the only remedy available? Can it be that there was one Sage among us who left the path and we cannot save him? If we hold him by the hand, who will remove him from our protection; who? Rabbi Yoḥanan continued and said: When I die I will have the smoke extinguished from his grave, as a sign that he has been released from the sentence of Gehenna and brought to the World-to-Come. Indeed, when Rabbi Yoḥanan passed away, the smoke ceased to rise up from the grave of Aḥer. A certain eulogizer began his eulogy of Rabbi Yoḥanan with the following: Even the guard at the entrance could not stand before you, our rabbi. The guard at the entrance to Gehenna could not prevent Rabbi Yoḥanan from arranging the release of Aḥer.
בִּתּוֹ שֶׁל אַחֵר אָתְיָא לְקַמֵּיהּ דְּרַבִּי אֲמַרָה לֵיהּ רַבִּי פַּרְנְסֵנִי אָמַר לָהּ בַּת מִי אַתְּ אָמְרָה לוֹ בִּתּוֹ שֶׁל אַחֵר אֲנִי אָמַר לָהּ עֲדַיִין יֵשׁ מִזַּרְעוֹ בָּעוֹלָם וְהָא כְּתִיב לֹא נִין לוֹ וְלֹא נֶכֶד בְּעַמּוֹ וְאֵין שָׂרִיד בִּמְגוּרָיו אָמְרָה לוֹ זְכוֹר לְתוֹרָתוֹ וְאַל תִּזְכּוֹר מַעֲשָׂיו מִיָּד יָרְדָה אֵשׁ וְסִכְסְכָה סַפְסָלוֹ שֶׁל רַבִּי בָּכָה וְאָמַר רַבִּי וּמָה לַמִּתְגַּנִּין בָּהּ כָּךְ לַמִּשְׁתַּבְּחִין בָּהּ עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה The Gemara relates: The daughter of Aḥer came before Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi and said to him: Rabbi, provide me with sustenance, as she was in need of food. He said to her: Whose daughter are you? She said to him: I am the daughter of Aḥer. He said to her, angrily: Is there still of his seed remaining in the world? But isn’t it stated: “He shall have neither son nor grandson among his people or any remaining in his dwellings” (Job 18:19)? She said to him: Remember his Torah, and do not remember his deeds. Immediately, fire descended and licked Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi’s bench. Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi wept and said: If God protects the honor of those who treat the Torah with contempt in such a manner, as Aḥer despised the Torah and relinquished its teachings, how much more so would He do for those who treat it with honor.
וְרַבִּי מֵאִיר הֵיכִי גְּמַר תּוֹרָה מִפּוּמֵּיהּ דְּאַחֵר וְהָאָמַר רַבָּה בַּר בַּר חָנָה אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן מַאי דִּכְתִיב כִּי שִׂפְתֵי כֹהֵן יִשְׁמְרוּ דַעַת וְתוֹרָה יְבַקְשׁוּ מִפִּיהוּ כִּי מַלְאַךְ ה׳ צְבָאוֹת הוּא אִם דּוֹמֶה הָרַב לְמַלְאַךְ ה׳ צְבָאוֹת יְבַקְּשׁוּ תּוֹרָה מִפִּיהוּ וְאִם לָאו אַל יְבַקְּשׁוּ תּוֹרָה מִפִּיהוּ The Gemara poses a question: And Rabbi Meir, how could he learn Torah from the mouth of Aḥer? But didn’t Rabba bar bar Ḥana say that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: What is the meaning of that which is written: “For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek Torah from his mouth; for he is an angel of the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 2:7)? The verse teaches: If the rabbi is similar to an angel of the Lord of hosts, perfect in his ways, they should seek Torah from his mouth; but if not, they should not seek Torah from his mouth.
אָמַר רֵישׁ לָקִישׁ רַבִּי מֵאִיר קְרָא אַשְׁכַּח וּדְרַשׁ הַט אׇזְנְךָ וּשְׁמַע דִּבְרֵי חֲכָמִים וְלִבְּךָ תָּשִׁית לְדַעְתִּי לְדַעְתָּם לֹא נֶאֱמַר אֶלָּא לְדַעְתִּי Reish Lakish said: Rabbi Meir found a verse and interpreted it homiletically: “Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to My knowledge” (Proverbs 22:17). It does not state “to their knowledge,” but “to My knowledge.” In other words, one must listen to the words of the Sages, despite their flaws, provided that their opinion concurs with that of God.
רַב חֲנִינָא אָמַר מֵהָכָא שִׁמְעִי בַת וּרְאִי וְהַטִּי אׇזְנֵךְ וְשִׁכְחִי עַמֵּךְ וּבֵית אָבִיךְ וְגוֹ׳ Rav Ḥanina said that one can find support for this idea from here: “Listen, daughter and consider, and incline your ear; forget also your own people and your father’s house” (Psalms 45:11), which likewise indicates that one must listen to the words of a Sage while forgetting, i.e., ignoring, the faulty aspects of his teachings.
קָשׁוּ קְרָאֵי אַהֲדָדֵי לָא קַשְׁיָא הָא בְּגָדוֹל הָא בְּקָטָן The Gemara asks: If so, the verses contradict each other, for one source states that one may learn only from a scholar who is perfect in his ways, while the other indicates that it is permitted even to learn from one whose character is flawed. The Gemara answers: This is not difficult. This case, in which it is permitted to a flawed scholar, is referring to an adult; whereas that case, which prohibits doing so, is referring to a minor, who should learn only from a righteous person, so that his ways are not corrupted by a teacher with flawed character.
כִּי אֲתָא רַב דִּימִי אֲמַר אָמְרִי בְּמַעְרְבָא רַבִּי מֵאִיר אֲכַל תַּחְלָא וּשְׁדָא שִׁיחְלָא לְבָרָא דָּרֵשׁ רָבָא מַאי דִּכְתִיב אֶל גִּנַּת אֱגוֹז יָרַדְתִּי לִרְאוֹת בְּאִבֵּי הַנָּחַל וְגוֹ׳ לָמָּה נִמְשְׁלוּ תַּלְמִידֵי חֲכָמִים לֶאֱגוֹז לוֹמַר לָךְ מָה אֱגוֹז זֶה אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁמְּלוּכְלָךְ בְּטִיט וּבְצוֹאָה אֵין מַה שֶּׁבְּתוֹכוֹ נִמְאָס אַף תַּלְמִיד חָכָם אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁסָּרַח אֵין תּוֹרָתוֹ נִמְאֶסֶת When Rav Dimi came from Eretz Yisrael to Babylonia, he said: In the West, Eretz Yisrael, they say: Rabbi Meir ate a half-ripe date and threw the peel away. In other words, he was able to extract the important content from the inedible shell. Rava taught: What is the meaning of that which is written: “I went down into the garden of nuts, to look at the green plants of the valley” (Song of Songs 6:11)? Why are Torah scholars compared to nuts? To tell you: Just as this nut, despite being soiled with mud and excrement, its content is not made repulsive, as only its shell is soiled; so too a Torah scholar, although he has sinned, his Torah is not made repulsive.
אַשְׁכְּחֵיהּ רַבָּה בַּר שֵׁילָא לְאֵלִיָּהוּ אֲמַר לֵיהּ מַאי קָא עָבֵיד הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֲמַר לֵיהּ קָאָמַר שְׁמַעְתָּא מִפּוּמַּיְיהוּ דְּכוּלְּהוּ רַבָּנַן וּמִפּוּמֵּיהּ דְּרַבִּי מֵאִיר לָא קָאָמַר אֲמַר לֵיהּ אַמַּאי מִשּׁוּם דְּקָא גָמַר שְׁמַעְתָּא מִפּוּמֵּיהּ דְּאַחֵר אָמַר לֵיהּ אַמַּאי רַבִּי מֵאִיר רִמּוֹן מָצָא תּוֹכוֹ אָכַל קְלִיפָּתוֹ זָרַק אֲמַר לֵיהּ הַשְׁתָּא קָאָמַר מֵאִיר בְּנִי אוֹמֵר בִּזְמַן שֶׁאָדָם מִצְטַעֵר שְׁכִינָה מָה לָשׁוֹן אוֹמֶרֶת קַלַּנִי מֵרֹאשִׁי קַלַּנִי מִזְּרוֹעִי אִם כָּךְ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מִצְטַעֵר עַל דָּמָן שֶׁל רְשָׁעִים קַל וָחוֹמֶר עַל דָּמָן שֶׁל צַדִּיקִים שֶׁנִּשְׁפַּךְ The Gemara relates: Rabba bar Sheila found Elijah the prophet, who had appeared to him. He said to Elijah: What is the Holy One, Blessed be He, doing? Elijah said to him: He is stating halakhot transmitted by all of the Sages, but in the name of Rabbi Meir He will not speak. He said to him: Why? He replied: Because he learned halakhot from the mouth of Aḥer. He said to him: Why should he be judged unfavorably for that? Rabbi Meir found a pomegranate and ate its contents while throwing away its peel. He said to him: Indeed, your defense has been heard above. Now God is saying: My son, Meir, says: When a person suffers, e.g., by receiving lashes or the death penalty at the hands of the court, how does the Divine Presence express itself? Woe is Me from My head, woe is Me from My arm, as God empathizes with the sufferer. If the Holy One, Blessed be He, suffers to such an extent over the blood of the wicked, how much more so does He suffer over the blood of the righteous that is spilled.
אַשְׁכְּחֵיהּ שְׁמוּאֵל לְרַב יְהוּדָה דִּתְלֵי בְּעִיבְרָא דְּדַשָּׁא וְקָא בָכֵי אָמַר לֵיהּ שִׁינָּנָא מַאי קָא בָכֵית אֲמַר לֵיהּ מִי זוּטְרָא מַאי דִּכְתִיב בְּהוּ בְּרַבָּנַן אַיֵּה סוֹפֵר אַיֵּה שׁוֹקֵל אַיֵּה סוֹפֵר אֶת הַמִּגְדָּלִים אַיֵּה סוֹפֵר שֶׁהָיוּ סוֹפְרִים כׇּל אוֹתִיּוֹת שֶׁבַּתּוֹרָה אַיֵּה שׁוֹקֵל שֶׁהָיוּ שׁוֹקְלִים קַלִּין וַחֲמוּרִין שֶׁבַּתּוֹרָה אַיֵּה סוֹפֵר אֶת הַמִּגְדָּלִים שֶׁהָיוּ שׁוֹנִין שְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת הֲלָכוֹת בְּמִגְדָּל הַפּוֹרֵחַ בָּאֲוִיר The Gemara relates: Shmuel found Rav Yehuda leaning on the bar of the door, crying. He said to him: Long-toothed one [shinnana], what are you crying for? He said to him: Is it a small matter, that which is written with regard to Sages who have sinned: “Where is he who counted, where is he who weighed? Where is he who counted the towers?” (Isaiah 33:18). He proceeded to explain: “Where is he who counted”; for they would count all the letters of the Torah. “Where is he who weighed”; for they would weigh and compare the minor and major transgressions of the Torah. “Where is he who counted the towers”; for they would teach three hundred halakhot concerning the details of tent impurity involving a wooden closet floating in the air. If they studied a subject so removed from reality in such depths, how much more so did they analyze other issues.
וְאָמַר רַבִּי אַמֵּי תְּלָת מְאָה בַּעְיֵי בְּעוֹ דּוֹאֵג וַאֲחִיתוֹפֶל בְּמִגְדָּל הַפּוֹרֵחַ בָּאֲוִיר וּתְנַן שְׁלֹשָׁה מְלָכִים וְאַרְבָּעָה הֶדְיוֹטוֹת אֵין לָהֶם חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא אֲנַן מָה תִּהְוֵי עֲלַן אֲמַר לֵיהּ שִׁינָּנָא טִינָא הָיְתָה בְּלִבָּם And Rabbi Ami said: Doeg asked Ahithophel three hundred questions with regard to a closet floating in the air, as they were both great Torah scholars. And we learned in a mishna (Sanhedrin 90a): Three kings and four commoners have no portion in the World-to-Come, a list that includes Doeg and Ahithophel. If such great Sages could sin and forfeit their share in the World-to-Come, we, who are less knowledgeable than they, what will be of us? He said to him: Long-toothed one, there was mud [tina] in their hearts, i.e., they had certain flaws that prevented their Torah learning from protecting them.
אַחֵר מַאי זֶמֶר יְווֹנִי לָא פְּסַק מִפּוּמֵּיהּ אָמְרוּ עָלָיו עַל אַחֵר בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁהָיָה עוֹמֵד מִבֵּית הַמִּדְרָשׁ הַרְבֵּה סִפְרֵי מִינִין נוֹשְׁרִין מֵחֵיקוֹ The Gemara explains: Aḥer, what was his failing? Greek tunes never ceased from his mouth. He would constantly hum Greek songs, even when he was among the Sages. This shows that from the outset he was drawn to gentile culture and beliefs. Similarly, they said about Aḥer: When he would stand after learning in the study hall, many heretical books, which he had been reading, would fall from his lap. Therefore, he was somewhat unsound even when among the Sages.
שָׁאַל נִימוֹס הַגַּרְדִּי אֶת רַבִּי מֵאִיר כֹּל עֲמַר דְּנָחֵית לְיוֹרָה סָלֵיק אֲמַר לֵיהּ כֹּל מַאן דַּהֲוָה נְקֵי אַגַּב אִימֵּיהּ סָלֵיק כֹּל דְּלָא הֲוָה נְקֵי אַגַּב אִימֵּיהּ לָא סָלֵיק The gentile philosopher, Nimos HaGardi, asked Rabbi Meir: Does all wool that enters the cauldron to be dyed emerge colored? In other words, do all those who learn Torah emerge as decent and worthy? He said to him: Whoever was clean when he was with his mother, from the outset, will emerge decent and worthy, but all those who were not clean when they were with their mother will not emerge worthy. One who approaches Torah study having been flawed from the outset will not be properly influenced by it.
רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא עָלָה בְּשָׁלוֹם וְיָרַד בְּשָׁלוֹם וְעָלָיו הַכָּתוּב אוֹמֵר מׇשְׁכֵנִי אַחֲרֶיךָ נָרוּצָה וְאַף רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא בִּקְּשׁוּ מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁרֵת לְדוֹחְפוֹ אָמַר לָהֶם הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא הַנִּיחוּ לְזָקֵן זֶה שֶׁרָאוּי לְהִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בִּכְבוֹדִי § The Gemara returns to the four who entered the orchard. It is stated above that Rabbi Akiva ascended in safety and descended safely. With regard to him, the verse states: “Draw me, we will run after you; the king has brought me into his chambers” (Song of Songs 1:4). The Gemara relates: And even Rabbi Akiva, the ministering angels sought to push him out of the orchard. The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to them: Leave this Elder, for he is fit to serve My glory.