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
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
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