Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zackai

An Outsider: Moed Katan 17

One of the greatest and the most tragic figure of Talmudic literature is Rav Eliezer ben Hurcanus, known simply as Rabbi Eliezer Hagadol, Rabbi Eliezer the Great. His teacher, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zackai, declared that "he was like a plastered cistern that does not lose one drop" and, "if all the Sages of Israel were on a scale and Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurcanus was on the second side, he would outweigh them all" (Avot 2:12). Yet this great Sage was excommunicated for refusing to accede to the ruling of the majority in a most arcane debate about the purity of an oven.

V'zot HaBracha: Four Giants

“And Moshe was one hundred and twenty years when he died” (Devarim 34:7). It is a beautiful, if somewhat unrealistic, custom to offer blessings to those celebrating a birthday that they should live to be 120. While this quantity of life is (usually) unrealistic, the blessing to live to 120 relates not only to quantity, but to the quality of life; “his eyesight did not diminish and his strength did not wane” (ibid). 

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