Rabban Gamliel

Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Yehoshua were in a boat. Rabban Gamliel had some bread and Rabbi Yehoshua had some semolina. When Rabban Gamliel used up his bread, he began to eat Rabbi Yehoshua’s semolina, saying to him, “How did you guess that we would be so delayed that you brought semolina?” (Semolina lasts longer than bread). He replied, “There exists a star that appears once every 70 years and fools the captain of boats. I told myself that it might appear and cause us to go astray.” Rabban Gamliel then asked him, “If you are so knowledgeable, why do you roam the seas to earn a living?” Rabbi Yehoshua replied, “Before being surprised at me, be surprised at two students that you have at yeshiva, Rabbi Eliezer ben Chisma and Rabbi Yochanan ben Gudgeda. They know how many drops of water there are in the sea, yet have no bread to eat or clothes to wear.”

Rabban Gamliel noted it well, wanting to place them at the head of the yeshiva so they could earn a living from such a position. When he arrived at the yeshiva he had them summoned, but they did not present themselves because they fled from honor. Once again he had them summoned, and this time they came. He told them, “Do you think that I am giving you honor? I am bestowing servitude upon you, as it is written, ‘If today you become a servant to this people’ [I Kings 12:7].”

One time, Rabban Gamliel was in the middle of teaching the following lesson: “In the future, a woman will give birth every day, as it is written, ‘the pregnant and the birthing together’ [Jeremiah 31:8].” A student began to mock him and said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Rabban Gamliel responded, “I will show you an example in this world.” They went outside and he showed him a hen.

Again, Rabban Gamliel taught: “In the future, the trees will yield their fruit every day, as it is written, ‘to produce branches and bear fruit’ [Ezekiel 17:8].” This same student mocked him again and said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” He replied, “I will show you an example in this world.” They went outside and he showed him a caper plant, which bears fruit many times a year.

Again, Rabbi Gamliel taught: “In the future, Eretz Israel will make loaves of bread and clothes of pure and clean wool come out of the ground, as it is written, ‘May there be abundant 9" [grain] on the earth’ [Psalms 72:16].” (Note: The word 9" designates food, as in the story of Joseph. It also evokes the idea of cleanliness and purity, as in the expression bara ka’chama [“pure as the sun”- Song of Songs 6:10]). The same student mocked him once more, saying, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Yet again he replied, “I will show you an example in this world.” They went outside and he showed him some truffles and mushrooms, which appeared as is overnight, and which were large and round like loaves of bread. Concerning woolen clothes, he showed him the fibers that were growing around a palm tree, which look similar to clothes (Shabbat 30a; Rashi ibid; Avoth HaOlam).




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