Emerging from the cave

Bad4Shidduchim brought up Rav Shimon Bar Yochai with respect to seeking a shidduch. In http://badforshidduchim.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/saintly-shadchan/ she mentions "he’s not either known for his tolerance of imperfect people, like me.” What is particularly interesting of the story of R' Shimon Bar Yochai in the cave is that he was forced to learn tolerance. The account appears in the Gemara in Shabos.

Rashbi and his son hid in a cave for 13 years (where they miraculously subsisted on the fruit of a carob tree and water) because his death was demanded for speaking critically of the emperor's accomplishments with respect to infrastructure. He stated that all of it was done for impure and selfish motives. When the emperor died, the decree was nullified, and he was informed he could leave the cave. But upon emerging he could not tolerate that the people were in engaged in field work. He denounced them for occupying themselves only with this world while foresaking the spiritual world. In his case, looks could kill. His gaze literally burned. Hashem was not pleased with this. A heavenly voice declared, "Did you come out to destroy my world? Return to the cave."

They did for another twelve months. After that, they were allowed to emerge. Though his son, still had a tendency to destroy the unworthy, his father counteracted him. They were appeased by seeing a man rushing on erev Shabbos with 2 bunches of myrtle. When they asked him about it, he explained that one was for zachor and one was for shamor. Doing a 180 degree turn on his previous condemnation of the people, Rashbi declared, " See how precious are the commandments to Israel!"

There are many lessons to be gleaned from this story. There are deep reasons why this particular mitzvah should have been key to their making peace with the state of affairs. It may have something to do with the fact that Shabbos is me'eyn olam haba, and what this man did demonstrated that our actions in olam hazeh in actuality are in prepartion for olam haba. But, undoubtedly, there is more to it. The number of 13 years plus another 12 months are also surely significant. It is also noteworthy that Rav Shimon ben Yochai reached a higher level of englightenment than his son, though they were in the exact same situation. But I will not cover all that now.

Rather I would say that this story actually is a perfect object lesson for those who seek their shidduch. When no one was good enough to meet Rashbi's standards, he had to exile himself -- despite the fact that his life was no longer under threat of death. His learning tolereance is not just a matter of lower expectation but a result of deeper understanding. It took an additional 12 months of intensive study to reach the level of enlightenment that would allow him to appreciate the good in others even though they were not perfect. So to connect all the dots here, certainly, one has a right to be selective about shidduchim. But this story demonstrates two ways of viewing others. Some people are quick to find the flaws and reject people out of hand (at least they are not able to zap them with laser eyes, but their shidduch resumes are likely tossed out because one of the background items didn't match the A list). It takes an even greater person to see the good in people and appreciate their true value.


Chaim B. said…
I highly recommend Rav Kook's analysis of this story which is found online here:


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