כ״ט בכסלו ה׳תשע״ו (December 11, 2015)

Sota 47a-b: The Stronger Hand Should Draw Him Near

Having introduced us to the story of Elisha and the young men whose deaths he caused, our Gemara continues discussing Elisha, and another incident in which he was involved. In II Melakhim chapter 5 we learn that Elisha’s student, Gehazi, 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 dohah 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 Gehazi away with both hands.

Another example of this kind of fault is the story of Yehoshua ben Perahyah, who is presented as having pushed aside Yeshu haNotzri with both hands. The story that is told is that Yehoshua ben Perahyah 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 Perahyah mentioned to Yeshu that the service was good. Yeshu responded that the innkeeper was unattractive. This response led Yehoshua ben Perahyah to ban Yeshu, and Yehoshua ben Perahyah 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, commonly transliterated as Jesus, 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 Perahyah, 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, as is more likely, that there was more than one person with that name who lived during the times of the Mishna.

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