Yochanan Ben Zakkai's years numbered 120. 40 years he was involved in business, 40 years he studied, and 40 years he taught
ר' עקיבא איתקדשת ליה ברתיה (דבר) דכלבא שבוע שמע (בר) כלבא שבוע אדרה הנאה מכל נכסיה אזלא ואיתנסיבה ליה בסיתוא הוה גנו בי תיבנא הוה קא מנקיט ליה תיבנא מן מזייה אמר לה אי הואי לי רמינא ליך ירושלים דדהבא אתא אליהו אידמי להון כאנשא וקא קרי אבבא אמר להו הבו לי פורתא דתיבנא דילדת אתתי ולית לי מידעם לאגונה אמר לה ר' עקיבא לאנתתיה חזי גברא דאפילו תיבנא לא אית ליה אמרה ליה זיל הוי בי רב אזל תרתי סרי שנין קמי דר' אליעזר ור' יהושע למישלם תרתי סרי שנין קא אתא לביתיה שמע מן אחורי ביתיה דקאמר לה חד רשע לדביתהו שפיר עביד ליך אבוך חדא דלא דמי ליך ועוד [שבקך] ארמלות חיות כולהון שנין אמרה ליה אי צאית לדילי ליהוי תרתי סרי שנין אחרנייתא אמר הואיל ויהבת לי רשותא איהדר לאחורי הדר אזל הוה תרתי סרי שני אחרנייתא אתא בעשרין וארבעה אלפין זוגי תלמידי נפוק כולי עלמא לאפיה ואף היא קמת למיפק לאפיה אמר לה ההוא רשיעא ואת להיכא אמרה ליה (משלי יב, י) יודע צדיק נפש בהמתו אתת לאיתחזויי ליה קא מדחן לה רבנן אמר להון הניחו לה שלי ושלכם שלה הוא שמע (בר) כלבא שבוע אתא ואיתשיל על נידריה ואשתריי ואשתרי
§ In connection to the above incident concerning the poverty of scholars and their potential to become wealthy through remarkable circumstances, the Gemara relates an incident: Rabbi Akiva became betrothed to the daughter of bar Kalba Savua. When bar Kalba Savua heard about their betrothal, he took a vow prohibiting her from eating all of his property. Despite this, she went ahead and married Rabbi Akiva.
In the winter they would sleep in a storehouse of straw, and Rabbi Akiva would gather strands of straw from her hair. He said to her: If I had the means I would place on your head a Jerusalem of Gold, a type of crown.
Elijah the prophet came and appeared to them as a regular person and started calling and knocking on the door. He said to them: Give me a bit of straw, as my wife gave birth and I do not have anything on which to lay her. Rabbi Akiva said to his wife: See this man, who does not even have straw. We should be happy with our lot, as we at least have straw to sleep on. She said to him: Go and be a student of Torah.
He went and studied Torah for twelve years before Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua. At the completion of the twelve years, he was coming home when he heard from behind his house that one wicked person was saying to his wife: Your father behaved well toward you. He was right to disinherit you. One reason is that your husband is not similar to you, i.e., he is not suitable for you. And furthermore, he has left you in widowhood in his lifetime all these years. She said to him: If he listens to me, he should be there for another twelve years. Rabbi Akiva said: Since she has given me permission through this statement, I will go back and study more.
He turned back and went to the study hall, and he was there for another twelve years. Eventually he came back accompanied by 24,000 pairs of students. Everyone went out to greet him, as he was by then a renowned teacher, and she too arose to go out to greet him.
That wicked person said to her: And to where are you going? As she was excessively poor, she was not dressed in a grand manner, as fit for the wife of one so esteemed. She said to him: “A righteous man regards the life of his beast” (Proverbs 12:10); he knows that I am in this state as a result of my dedication to him.
She came to present herself before Rabbi Akiva, but the Sages tried to fend her off, as they were unaware of her identity. He said to them: Leave her. Both my Torah knowledge and yours are hers.
When bar Kalba Savua heard that the famous man was his son-in-law, he came before halakhic authorities and requested the dissolution of his vow, and it was dissolved.
Rabbi Meir says: A person should always teach his son a clean and easy trade and pray for success to the One to Whom wealth and property belong, as ultimately there is no trade that does not include both poverty and wealth, since a person can become rich from any profession.
Poverty does not come from a particular trade, nor does wealth come from a particular trade, but rather, all is in accordance with a person’s merit. Therefore, one should choose a clean and easy trade, and pray to God for success.
Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar says: Have you ever seen a beast or a bird that has a trade? And yet they earn their livelihood without anguish. But all these were created only to serve me, and I, a human being, was created to serve the One Who formed me. Is it not right that I should earn my livelihood without anguish? But I, i.e., humanity, have committed evil actions and have lost my livelihood. This is why people must work to earn a living.
Abba Guryan of Tzadyan says in the name of Abba Gurya: A person may not teach his son the trades of a donkey driver, a camel driver, a pot maker, a sailor, a shepherd, or a storekeeper. The reason for all these is the same, as their trades are the trades of robbers; all of these professions involve a measure of dishonesty and are likely to lead to robbery.
....Rabbi Nehorai says: I set aside all the trades in the world, and I teach my son only Torah, as a person partakes of its reward in this world and the principal reward remains for him in the World-to-Come, which is not true of other professions, whose rewards are only in this world.
Furthermore, if a person comes to be ill, or old, or undergoes suffering, and is unable to be involved in his trade, behold, he dies in hunger. But with regard to the Torah it is not so, since one can study it under all circumstances.
Rather, it preserves him from all evil and sin in his youth, and provides him with a future and hope in his old age.
(ח) רַבָּן יוֹחָנָן בֶּן זַכַּאי קִבֵּל מֵהִלֵּל וּמִשַּׁמַּאי... חֲמִשָּׁה תַלְמִידִים הָיוּ לוֹ לְרַבָּן יוֹחָנָן בֶּן זַכַּאי, וְאֵלּוּ הֵן, רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר בֶּן הֻרְקְנוֹס, וְרַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן חֲנַנְיָה, וְרַבִּי יוֹסֵי הַכֹּהֵן, וְרַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן נְתַנְאֵל, וְרַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן עֲרָךְ. הוּא הָיָה מוֹנֶה שְׁבָחָן. רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר בֶּן הֻרְקְנוֹס, בּוֹר סוּד שֶׁאֵינוֹ מְאַבֵּד טִפָּה. רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן חֲנַנְיָה, אַשְׁרֵי יוֹלַדְתּוֹ. רַבִּי יוֹסֵי הַכֹּהֵן, חָסִיד. רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן נְתַנְאֵל, יְרֵא חֵטְא. וְרַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן עֲרָךְ, מַעְיָן הַמִּתְגַּבֵּר. הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, אִם יִהְיוּ כָל חַכְמֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּכַף מֹאזְנַיִם, וֶאֱלִיעֶזֶר בֶּן הֻרְקְנוֹס בְּכַף שְׁנִיָּה, מַכְרִיעַ אֶת כֻּלָּם. אַבָּא שָׁאוּל אוֹמֵר מִשְּׁמוֹ, אִם יִהְיוּ כָל חַכְמֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּכַף מֹאזְנַיִם וְרַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר בֶּן הֻרְקְנוֹס אַף עִמָּהֶם, וְרַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן עֲרָךְ בְּכַף שְׁנִיָּה, מַכְרִיעַ אֶת כֻּלָּם:
(8) Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai received [the tradition] from Hillel and Shammai... Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai had five students: Rabbi Eliezer ben Horkenos, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya, Rabbi Yosi the Priest, Rabbi Shimon ben Netanel, and Rabbi Elazar ben Arakh. He would recount their praises: Rabbi Eliezer ben Horkenos is a pit covered in plaster that does not lose a drop. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya--happy is the one who gave birth to him! Rabbi Yosi the Priest is pious. Rabbi Shimon ben Netanel fears sin. And Rabbi Elazar ben Arakh is an ever-strengthening fountain. He [Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai] used to say: If all the sages of Israel were on one side of a balance scale, and Rabbi Eliezer ben Horkenos were on the other side, he [Rabbi Eliezer] would outweigh them all. Abba Shaul said in his name that if all the sages of Israel, including Rabbi Eliezer ben Horkenos, were on one side of a balance scale, and Rabbi Elazar ben Arakh were on the other side, he [Rabbi Elazar] would outweigh them all.
(ט) אָמַר לָהֶם, צְאוּ וּרְאוּ אֵיזוֹהִי דֶרֶךְ יְשָׁרָה שֶׁיִּדְבַּק בָּהּ הָאָדָם. רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר אוֹמֵר, עַיִן טוֹבָה. רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ אוֹמֵר, חָבֵר טוֹב. רַבִּי יוֹסֵי אוֹמֵר, שָׁכֵן טוֹב. רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן אוֹמֵר, הָרוֹאֶה אֶת הַנּוֹלָד. רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר אוֹמֵר, לֵב טוֹב. אָמַר לָהֶם, רוֹאֶה אֲנִי אֶת דִּבְרֵי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן עֲרָךְ מִדִּבְרֵיכֶם, שֶׁבִּכְלַל דְּבָרָיו דִּבְרֵיכֶם.
(9) He (Yochanan ben Zakkai) said to them: Go out and see what is the straight path that a person should cling to. Rabbi Eliezer says: A good eye. Rabbi Yehoshua says: A good friend. Rabbi Yosi says: A good neighbor. Rabbi Shimon says: Seeing the consequences of one's actions. Rabbi Elazar says: A good heart. He said to them: I see the words of Rabbi Elazar ben Arakh [as better than] all of yours, because your words are included in his.
Rabbi Yochanan had five disciples, and as long as he lived they sat before him. When he died, they went to Yavneh. Rabbi Elazar ben Arach, however, joined his wife at Dyomset, a place of good water and beautiful scenery. He waited for them to come to him but they didn't. When they didn't come, he wanted to go to them, but his wife did not let him. "Who needs who" she asked. "They need me" he answered. She said to him: "In the case of a food container and mice, does the food go to the mice or do the mice go to the food?" He listened to her, and remained there until he forgot his learning. After a while they came and asked him "Which is better to eat along with a 'relish,' wheat bread or barley bread?" But he couldn't answer.
(יד) רבי נהוראי אומר, הוי גולה למקום תורה ואל תאמר שהיא תבוא אחריך, שחבריך יקימוה בידך.ואל בינתך אל תשען.
(14) Rabbi Nehorai says: Exile yourself to a place of Torah, and do not say that it will follow after you, that your colleagues will make it yours. Do not rely on your understanding.
His name was not Rabbi Nehorai, but actually it was Rabbi Nechemiah. And some say his name was Elazar ben Arach. And why is he called Nehorai? Because he illuminated the eyes of the sages in matters of Halacha.