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A Carob Tree and a Spring

A Carob Tree and a Spring


Rabbi Judah, Rabbi Jose, and Rabbi Shimeon were sitting, and Judah, a son of proselytes, was sitting near them.

Rabbi Judah commenced the discussion by observing, "How fine are the works of this people [the Romans]! They have made streets, they have built bridges, they have erected baths."

Rabbi Jose was silent.

Rabbi Shimeon bar Yohai responded: "All that they made, they made for their own benefit. They built market-places, to set harlots in them; baths, to rejuvenate themselves; bridges, to levy tolls for them."

Judah the son of proselytes went and related their talk, which reached the government. They decreed: "Judah, who exalted us, shall be exalted, Jose, who was silent, shall be exiled to Sepphoris; Shimeon, who censured, shall be executed."

Rabbi Shimon and his son went and hid themselves in the study hall, and his wife brought him bread and a mug of water and they dined. When the decree became more severe... they went and hid in a cave.

A miracle occurred and a carob-tree and a wellspring of water were created for them. They would remove their garments and sit up to their necks in sand. The whole day they studied; when it was time for prayers they robed, covered themselves, prayed, and then put off their garments again, so that they should not wear out. Thus they dwelt twelve years in the cave.

Then Elijah the Prophet came and stood at the entrance to the cave and exclaimed: "Who will inform the son of Yochai that the emperor is dead and his decree annulled?" So they emerged.

Seeing a man ploughing and sowing, they exclaimed: "They forsake eternal life and engage in temporal life!" Whatever they cast their eyes upon was immediately incinerated.

A heavenly echo came forth and announced: "Have you emerged to destroy My world? Return to your cave!"

So they returned and lived there another twelve months, saying, "The punishment of the wicked in Gehenna is limited to twelve months." A heavenly echo then came forth and said, "Go forth from your cave!"

Now wherever Rabbi Eleazar harmed [with his look], Rabbi Shimeon healed. Said Rabbi Shimeon to his son, "My son! You and I are sufficient for the world."

On the eve of the Sabbath before sunset they saw an old man holding two bundles of myrtle and running at twilight. "What are these for?" they asked him. "They are in honour of the Sabbath," he replied. "But one should suffice you?" they asked. "One is for 'Remember [the Shabbat day' (Exodus 20:8)] and one is for 'Keep [the Shabbat day' (Deuteronomy 5:12)]."

Said Rabbi Shimeon to his son: "See how precious are the mitzvot to people of Israel." Thereupon their minds were put at ease.

R. Shimon bar Yochai and R. Elazar in the Cave - depiction by chassidic artist Shoshannah Brombacher
R. Shimon bar Yochai and R. Elazar in the Cave - depiction by chassidic artist Shoshannah Brombacher
Talmud, Shabbat 33b
Image by chassidic artist Shoshannah Brombacher. To view or purchase Ms. Brombacher’s art, click here.
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Discussion (15)
February 12, 2017
I struggle but think I might have an idea what this means."They forsake eternal life and engage in temporal life! This is what rabbi shimeon said that got him put in a cave. he was punished again and put back in a cave when he put down some folks for plowing and soughing instead of "studying". Rabbi shimeon was being rebuked for assuming we should only focus on study but ignore the physical world we live in. in the end rather than seeing the man carrying two bundles of myth as a problem, they could now understand that he was doing this for a reason and could not understand that temporal (worldly affairs) are necessary to connect to G-d. Of course they must be in balance and not lead towards idol worship of materialism, but all in balance.
Pittsford NY
December 31, 2015
Very Spiritual drawing..I could get lost in this one trying to figure it all out so will make it my mission..
December 27, 2015
This story seems disjointed and baffling. Nevertheless I will offer and explanation (as I suppose the story invites me to do). The three rabbis exemplify three attitudes toward the Romans: respect, neutrality, and bitter opposition. (Rabbi Judah in fact knew Greek and was an intermediary between Jews and Romans). The informer's identity, I suppose, denotes a mistrust of proselytes. The subsequent isolation of Shimion and his son seem to symbolize increasing devotion to study, and their nakedness symbolizes closeness tothe sacred text. But their horror at seeing a man plowing and sowing goes to far, and they are rebuked for forsaking the world altogether.
I hope someone will post a better and fuller explanation!
April 20, 2015
Good story I really enjoyed it
November 6, 2012
The Cave Sketch
This looks like the womb of G-d but I am still trying to work it out. I see the little Torah(I think) drawing with an arrow therefore Torah is The Word and hence G-d. It's a wonderful piece of art too. Having a distinct meaning is more important though so will have another think!
Anna Cortez(Nee Kotrys)
May 11, 2012
Carob Tree And A Spring
And as Rabbi Shimeon said: "All lthat they made, they made for their own benefit. They built market-places, to set harlots in them; baths, to rejuvenate themselves; bridges, to levy tolls for them." And I add: 'They also made a crown of thorn for Yisrael, and for 2,000 years we have been bleeding from that crown.' Until Mashiach comes, all will be revealed. Blessed be Hashem.
May 1, 2010
Poverty vs. Prosperity
They went into the cave poor; they exited the cave with such abundance that they had to share and to spare. Sometimes "the riches of the poor are greater than the poverty of the rich."
June Green
Lynnville, TN
April 30, 2010
in response to HUH?
this is the raw text of the story, translated into not so easy english. If you read the other articles and posts about Lag BaOmer, you'll see how the Jewish people celebrate the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the father in the story, because he brought the hidden parts of the Torah (the Zohar, the Kabbalah) down to earth - through study - during his stay in the cave with his son. He insisted that his yartzeit be a day of celebration, so Lag BaOmer became even more joyful and special, not just the day that Rabbi Akiva's students stopped dying. Hope this helps a bit.
Waterbury, CA
February 13, 2010
Happy to find this site. I was just eating some bread and taking a few drinks from a jug of water. Why 12 months in hell?
January 28, 2010
I don't understand the story. Can somebody explain what's going on?
Roanoke, VA