Contact Us

Rabbi Eliezer Ben Hyrkanos

Rabbi Eliezer Ben Hyrkanos

 Email

1.

Not far from Jerusalem there lived a rich man, one of the richest Jews of his time, by the name of Hyrkanos. He had a number of sons, one of whom was called Eliezer. Eliezer was not thought to be a scholar, able to understand the teachings of the Torah. He was brought up on the land, as were his other brothers. He spent most of his time plowing and planting, shepherding the sheep, and doing similar farm jobs.

Eliezer, was dissatisfied with his work. He felt a yearning for the great city of Jerusalem, where great Torah Academies and scholars were to be found. He often used to think about the Creator and His wisdom in managing the world: He used to walk about deep in thought as if in a dream, and his father and brothers considered him to be lazy and "good­-for-nothing." They therefore took a dislike to him and gave him the hardest jobs to perform.

The brothers once went to the valley to plow, where the earth was soft, while sending Eliezer to a hill to plow, where the ground was hard and stony. Eliezer tried his utmost to plow smoothly, but the animal stumbled on a stone, fell and broke a foot. Eliezer decided to take advantage of the situation and once and for all leave home and go to study Torah.

When the brothers discovered that Eliezer had disappeared, they ran quickly and told their father that Eliezer had run away from home. Hyrkanos became very angry and declared that he would never allow Eliezer to enter his home again and he would receive no part of his fathers wealth.

2.

Tired and hungry, Eliezer finally arrived in Jerusalem and wended his way to the great Yeshivah of Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai.

Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai saw before him a young man of over twenty years of age, thin and pale but with a burning desire to learn the holy Torah. He soon noticed that Eliezer was greatly talented and he accepted him into his Yeshivah. Eliezer started learning with his whole heart and soul. Each day saw him rising higher and higher in his accomplishments and studies. He suffered hunger, but complained to no one.

One morning, Hyrkanos arrived in Jerusalem, having come to see Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai. He wished to obtain the great Rabbi's consent to his plan not to give Eliezer a part of his inheritance. Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai soon discovered that his pupil Eliezer was Hyrkanos' son. He did not tell Hyrkanos anything but just invited all the great scholars and prominent people of Jerusalem, Hyrkanos among them, to come into the Beth Ha-Midrash. When all the people were assembled, Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai called upon Eliezer to deliver a Talmudic discourse.

Rabbi Eliezer's discourse was full of Torah and wisdom. Everyone present was amazed by the lecture, and sparks of fire seemed to shoot forth from Rabbi Eliezer's mouth. Hyrkanos was more astonished than anyone else. He did not know whether he was dreaming or if it was really his own son Eliezer who had delivered that brilliant discourse.

Hyrkanos approached Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai and said: "I came to Jerusalem with the intention of depriving my son Eliezer of his portion of my riches. I have now decided, however, to give him all my wealth, including the portions his brothers were to receive." Eliezer absolutely refused to take the slightest amount which rightfully belonged to his brothers.

Rabbi Eliezer became very famous. The Nassi ("Prince"), Rabbi Simeon ben Gamliel, took him as his son-in-law, giving him his daughter Eymah Shalom for a wife.

When Jerusalem was besieged before the destruction of the Second Beth Hamikdosh and Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai managed to leave the city in a strange manner (pretending to be dead), Rabbi Eliezer ,was one of the disciples who carried the coffin. Later on, he accompanied his beloved teacher to Yavne.

3.

Rabbi Eliezer had an exceptional memory. He did not forget a single word that he learned. Rabbi Jochanan ben. Zakkai compared him to a cemented pit, where not one drop of water is lost. Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai also said about him: "If all the scholars of Israel were to be placed on one side of the scales and Rabbi Eliezer on the other, he would weigh them all down."

Rabbi Eliezer established a Yeshivah in Lud (Lydda), which became famous for the great scholars who studied there.

Many are the wise sayings that Rabbi Eliezer spoke to his disciples. One of the sayings was: "Repent one day before dying!" When the disciples inquired as to how it was possible to know on which day they would die, he replied: "That is just what I mean. Because a person does not know when he will die, he must therefore repent every day!"

When Rabbi Eliezer was dying, his disciples gathered around his bed to be able to learn from him, if only for a few more moments. They asked him questions about intricate details of Jewish law and he, answered them all. Thus, Friday evening, engrossed in the study of the holy Torah, and answering "pure" on the final question, his saintly soul went up to heaven.

 Email
Start a Discussion
1000 characters remaining
This page in other languages