י״א במרחשון ה׳תשע״ח (October 31, 2017)

Sanhedrin 107a-b: A Proper Rebuke

The Mishna (daf 90a) taught that one of the people who has no portion in the World-to-Come is Geḥazi, the student of the prophet Elisha. In II Melakhim (chapter 5) we learn that Geḥazi was condemned to suffer from leprosy because he accepted a reward from Na’aman, a foreign general whose leprosy was cured by Elisha. The Gemara concludes from this story that a person should always encourage a relationship, even when rebuking a student- le-olam tehe semol doḥah ve-yemin mekarevet – a person should push aside with his weaker hand while bringing closer with his stronger hand. Elisha is presented as having failed as a teacher and mentor, having pushed Geḥazi away with both hands.

Another example of this kind of fault is the story of Yehoshua ben Peraḥya, who is presented as having pushed aside Yeshu HaNotzri – Jesus — with both hands. The story that is told is that Yehoshua ben Peraḥya was returning to Jerusalem following his flight to Alexandria in Egypt, together with his student, Yeshu HaNotzri. When they stopped in an inn and were treated well, Yehoshua ben Peraḥya mentioned to Yeshu that the service was good. Yeshu responded that the innkeeper was unattractive. This response led Yehoshua ben Peraḥya to ban Yeshu, and Yehoshua ben Peraḥya was unable to change his mind until it was too late and Yeshu had turned away from traditional Judaism.

In standard printings of the Talmud, this story appears without the name Yeshu HaNotzri, which was removed by censors for reasons of sensitivity to the Christian society in which they lived. It should be noted, however, that the story of Yehoshua ben Peraḥya who was driven from Jerusalem by King Yannai, could not have taken place any later than 76 BCE. Thus the reference to Yeshu HaNotzri cannot be connected with the individual who established the Christian faith. Many commentaries suggest that all of the Talmudic references to Yeshu refer to another person, or else that there is more than one person with that name who lived during the times of the Mishna.

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