More Discussions for this daf
1. Yesh Koneh Olamo b'Sha'ah Achas 2. Antoninus 3. Agadah with Rebbi and Antoninus
4. Roman Language

Sam Kosofsky asked:


We've had three stories in which someone did teshuva at the expense of their life, R. Elazar ben Durdaya, a nochri who circumsised himself and a Roman executioner of R. Chananyya ben Tradyon. Each time a bas kol said this person was mezumon l'chayei haolom haba and in Eliezer ben Durdaya's case he was called Rebbe Elazar ben Durdaya. Each time that this occured Rebbe cried and said some people can be kone olomo b'shaa achas, they can

merit olom haba in one minute as it were.

Why did Rebbe cry each time? Might one think that he didn't fargin these individuals the olom haba they were now entitled to? Did he think that it's bad that some people work their whole life for olom haba and yet others get it in an instant although this type of teshuva seems to require one'e death?

Sam Kosofsky

Rav Joseph Pearlman replies:

Regarding "Yesh Koneh Olamo b'Sha'ah Achas," I heard from Rav Miller zt'l of Gateshead a beautiful explanation for why these Ba'alei Teshuvah always died immediately after accepting Ol Malchus Shamayim. In brief, he explained that when these people ultimately saw the truth and did complete Teshuvah, they felt so guilty and remorseful at their previous behavior that they could no longer live with their acute embarrassment. The culture shock was too great for their system and they suffered a heart attack occasioned by the unbearable stress caused by the "Stirah Ruchanis."

As to why Rebbi cried, the probability is that it was a cry of expressiveness that he and the Tzadikim had to work hard all of their lives to achieve what the Ba'al Teshuvah achieved in only a single moment. He certainly did not begrudge these people their Olam ha'Ba, but he might have been just a little concerned at how hard the Tzadikim had to work all their lives (see a similar concept in Sukah 52a).

Rav E. Dessler zt'l addresses this question at length in Michtav me'Eliyahu (vol. 1, p. 27), where he discusses in detail the concept of "Yesh Koneh Olamo b'Sha'ah Achas." [He explains that achieving perfection in Avodas Hash-m must be done through steps and stages, like climbing a ladder from one rung to the next. This spiritual growth mirrors the way that a person develops physically. However, a person who is so disabled that he cannot climb up the ladder must be carried to the top by someone else. A person with no arms or legs cannot climb up by himself. Similarly, a Rasha has lost the ability to climb up the ladder of spiritual elevation, and thus he needs to be carried up if he genuinely resolves to serve Hash-m. Hash-m sees his sincere remorse and lifts him up, as it were, to the top, without him having to climb step by step the way a Tzadik must climb. Of course, no one wants to be in such a disabled spiritual state such that he cannot climb himself, but, on the other hand, it is a great Zechus to have Hash-m lift one from the bottom all the way to the top. It is in this context that Rav Dessler writes:]

"It turns out that there are two ways [to grow in Avodas Hash-m and to reveal the Kevod Hash-m in this world]: (1) The difficult way of the Tzadikim, who climb step by step; (2) the 'easy' way of the Resha'im who decide [with all of their hearts] to do Teshuvah. This is what Chazal mean when they teach (Sukah 52a) that in the future, when Hash-m brings the Yetzer ha'Ra [and shows it to the Tzadikim and Resha'im], to the Tzadikim it will appear like an enormous mountain, and to the Resha'im it will appear like the strand of a hair. Both groups will cry; the Tzadikim cry and say, 'How were we able to overcome such an enormous mountain like this!' and the Resha'im cry and say, 'How were we not able to overcome such a small strand of hair like this!'... Each group cries in earnest...."

He writes further (p. 30), "It is known that those who cling to the material pleasures of this world will claim that this [discussion of growing in Avodas Hash-m] is extreme. However, anyone who wishes to remove an element of evil from himself is indeed extreme, and all of those who 'acquired their World to Come in one moment' were extreme. In fact, there were only three such individuals (as mentioned in Avodah Zarah 10b, 17a, and 18a), and all of them succeeded in completely destroying their former thoughts and ways, and with the most profound dedication they were able to achieve an internal level of Mesiras Nefesh through the desire of the heart, and through this they acquired their World to Come in a single moment."

Incidentally, I saw in the Ben Yehoyada (Avodah Zarah 10b) in connection with Shalom ben Keti'ah who gave all of his assets to Rebbi Akiva and his companions, that the Hebrew letters of "AKiYVA" form the initial of, " Y esh K oneh O lamo V 'Sha'ah A chas," to symbolize the transfer. It occurred to me that Rebbi Akiva himself was a Ba'al Teshuvah and perhaps from the time he took this upon himself he was Koneh Olamo b'Sha'ah Achas, but he did not die immediately, nor for a very long time after, because (a) he had not gone nearly as far to the extremes that the other three had (for he had been an innocent shepherd with outstanding Midos, which had attracted his future wife, Rachel bas Kalba Savu'a, to him), and (b) he has a very balanced personality, as can be seen from the incident in which four entered the "Pardes" and Rebbi Akiva was the only one to come out unscathed and enhanced by the experience (see Chagigah 14b).

Reverting back to the cases of "Yesh Koneh Olamo...," see also Michtav me'Eliyahu (vol. 4, pp. 201-2), where he explains two ways in Avodas Hash-m: (1) Through constant attrition of the Yetzer ha'Ra, by rejection of external distractions using all means at one's disposal; (2) Through prayer and Ruchniyus, which can cut through all the barriers and the Timtum ha'Lev instantaneously, which was the way of Rebbi Elazar ben Durdaya.

Perhaps Rebbi cried to show that although he had succeeded in (1), he wanted to have the Zechus of emulating (2) as well.

Pesach Kasher v'Same'ach,

Joseph Pearlman