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The brilliance of Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah


 

​One of the most quoted and respected sages of the Talmud is Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah. Not only his wisdom shone through all the later generations, butmany miracles happened in his merit which allow us to have a glimpse into the inner workings of miracles.

​We learn of his greatness in a Mishnah from Pirkei Avot in which Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi praised his disciples. He compared Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah to a spice-peddlers’ basket. This is because Rabbi Elazar was like a merchant who took his cart and traveled over the lands, and everyone ask him [their question]: Do you have fine oil? Do you have herbal ointments? Do you have persimmons? And, to everyone’s surprise, they would find that he had everything. Whenever a student would come to him and ask a question, Rabbi Elazar would quote from Scripture, from Mishnah, from the Midrash, from the law, and something from the stories.

 

Miracles for the Sake of Torah

​Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah appears in the Aggadah of Pesach. In one of his quotes he states “I’m like a 70-year-old person and I didn’t merit to know why the reading of the Shema is also said at night, until Ben Zomah came and explained”. The wording is very important, and we need to investigate why he said the word “like”, instead of just his precise age.

​Back in his days, Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah was only 18 when he was appointed the head of the Yeshiva of Yavneh. The head of the  Yeshivah, who was also the head of the Sanhedrin (the Supreme Court of seventy-one Sages) and the Prince of all the people, wasRabban Gamliel, a descendant of the royal family of David HaMelech. Though Rabban Gamliel was great in every aspect, but he had a strict attitude towards others. Because of that, the sages took a unanimous decision to depose him and install Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah. While Rabban Gamliel thought it neccessary to keep a strict discipline they preferred someone who was still great, but more likeable. However, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah was still young.

​That night, a miracle was done to him, and his hair became white, and he got a long white beard, like a sage. In Sha’ar HaGilgulim, Rav Chaim Vital teaches that this happened because was a reincarnation of the Prophet Shmuel, who died when he was only 52. It seems that this transformation happened specifically because the Prophet Shmuel’s soul was activated on him, and so we can now understand why Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah said he’s like a 70 year old person: his previous age of 18 plus Prophet Shmuel’s 52 equals 70!

 

Inner workings of miracles

​There’s a psychological principle that states that we don’t see the world as it is, but rather as we are. This pithy quote has in fact a source in the Jewish Tradition. The way we see the world has a profound, though subtle, impact on how it operates. This is after all the basis for the prohibition of men lusting for, or merely looking, at women.

​In Likutey Moharan, Rebbe Nachman teaches that the power of sight travels all the way to the object aimed, and then returns with the image that a person sees. Our power of sight parallels that of Hashem, who’s always looking at us and bringing us closer to him.

​However, this power can unfortunately be abused. Since the desired object is pulled towards oneself, merely glancing at it, even if it’s another person, pulls it to the one gazing.

​This principle illustrates a little how miracles work. Since reality is a reflection of ourselves, if we are able to see it with good eyes, we will project that light to the world. This, of course, requires us to fight for the sake of the Torah just like Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah did. And when we do that, we are able to activate many miracles. This is what many great rabbis of our generations attributed their greatness to: the guarding of the eyes and seeing the world in a positive way.

​Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah is buried in the Galilee. May we merit to draw many miracles following this great sage’s example!


This article was written in the zechut of Liora batPauline Nalian and Avraham ben Ora Kutnick.


Studying Kabbalah is a huge source of merit that can bring all sorts of salvation to a person’s life. If you want to sponsor to have me study in-depth Kabbalah from the Arizal or the Rashash in your merit and receive its blessings, especially for sustenance, children ❤️

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