PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF CERTAIN CHACHAMIM
R. Elazar b'Rebbi Shimon and R. Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi were very fat. A Nochris taunted them 'surely, you (cannot have relations, and) did not father your wives' children.' They refuted her claim.
Question: Why did they answer her? "Al Ta'an Kesil k'Ivalto (do not answer foolish words of a fool)!"
Answer: They needed to avert any suspicion about their children.
R. Yochanan: R. Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi's bicep (or thigh - Ritva; Rabeinu Peretz - daily food intake) was like a pouch of nine Kavim.
R. Yochanan's and Rav Papa's were also big (but not as big).
R. Yochanan was a remnant of the beautiful people of Yerushalayim. (Tosfos - he lived long after the Churban! Rather, he remained from such a family. Others explain that he was born before the Churban and lived very long. He cites Halachos in the name of R. Shimon and other Tana'im.) One may get a taste of his beauty by seeing light reflecting off a new silver Kli.
Question: We learned that the beauty of Rav Kahana was a taste of the beauty of R. Avahu, whose beauty was a taste of the beauty of Yakov Avinu, whose beauty was a taste of the beauty of Adam ha'Rishon;
R. Yochanan was not listed!
Answer: That is only because he lacked a beard (Rashi; Maharsha - he had a radiant countenance, but the shape of his face was not outstanding).
R. Yochanan used to sit by the Mikvah when women would return from immersing. They would see him, and this caused their children to be beautiful and learn Torah like him.
Rabanan: Aren't you afraid of Ayin ha'Ra'ah (harsh judgment due to envy)?
R. Yochanan: I descend from Yosef. Ayin ha'Ra'ah does not rule over his seed - "Alei Ayin";
(R. Avahu): We read this 'Olei Ayin' (they rise above the (evil) eye).
(R. Yosi bar Chanina): We learn from "v'Yidgu la'Rov" - just like Dagim (fish) are covered by water, they are not in eye's scope, similarly, the seed of Yosef are not in scope of Ayin ha'Ra.
HOW REISH LAKISH BECAME A GREAT CHACHAM
One day R. Yochanan was bathing in the Yarden river. Reish Lakish (who was then a robber), struck by R. Yochanan's beauty, jumped across the river. R. Yochanan hoped to channel Reish Lakish's strength to Torah. He offered 'if you return to Torah, you may marry my sister, who is more beautiful than I.'
Reish Lakish agreed. He was unable to leap across the river to get his Kelim (the acceptance to learn sapped his strength). R. Yochanan taught him, and he became great in Torah. One day they were learning about Tum'ah of Kelim.
Question: When are a sword, knife, dagger, spear, and sickle considered finished, so that they receive Tum'ah?
Answer #1 (R. Yochanan): It is when they are reheated in the furnace.
Answer #2 (Reish Lakish): It is when they are burnished in water.
R. Yochanan: A robber knows about robbers' tools!
Reish Lakish: You did not help me. I am called Rebbi now, and also before (I learned from you) I was called Rebbi (of thieves! Maharsha - this is how R. Yochanan understood. Really, Reish Lakish meant that he was a Rebbi in Torah and knew about these Kelim even before he was a thief.)
R. Yochanan: I brought you under the wings of the Shechinah!
R. Yochanan felt bad, and Reish Lakish fell sick. His wife asked R. Yochanan (her brother) to pray for Reish Lakish, if not for his sake, for her son or herself (that they not become an orphan or widow).
R. Yochanan refused - "Azvah Yesomecha... v'Almenosecha Alai Tivtachu" (I will care for you).
Reish Lakish died; R. Yochanan missed him sorely. Rabanan sent R. Elazar to replace him, for he was very sharp. Whatever R. Yochanan said, he found a support for it.
R. Yochanan: You are no replacement! Reish Lakish would ask 24 questions against whatever I said. I would give 24 answers, and learning increased;
You only support me. I already know that I teach according to the Halachah!
R. Yochanan tore his clothing, cried and went crazy. Rabanan requested mercy for him, and he died.
R. ELAZAR B'REBBI SHIMON
In spite of the supports that R. Elazar b'Rebbi Shimon handed over only Resha'im (83b), he was concerned lest he handed over a Tzadik. He requested afflictions. At night they would put 60 felt blankets under him. During the day they would pour over him 60 basins of water. Blood from his boils would fill 60 basins. His wife would make for him 60 types of food from figs; he would recover. She would not let him go to the Beis Medrash, lest he be pressed (to answer questions, which could aggravate his condition).
At night he would invite the afflictions; in the morning he would expel them, lest they detract from his Torah. Once his wife heard this. She was outraged that he caused his own afflictions, which depleted her father's wealth. She rebelled against him and went to her father's house. Sailors (who were saved from mortal danger in his merit) gave him a gift of 60 slaves bearing 60 wallets of money, who prepared his special remedy.
His wife asked her daughter to check on him. He told her 'we (Chachamim) have more wealth than my wife's family - "mi'Merchak Tavi Lachmah"'. He ate, drank and recovered and went to the Beis Medrash. Women came asking about blood stains of 60 different hues. He declared that all of them are Tahor.
Rabanan were skeptical. He said 'if I am correct, all 60 women should have male children.' It was fulfilled, and they called the children Elazar.
(Beraisa - Rebbi): The evil kingdom (Romi) withheld the birth of many children by making R. Elazar seize thieves (and be absent from the Beis Medrash).
Before he died, he told his wife 'I know that many Rabanan are angry at me (for handing over their relatives). They would not eulogize me properly. Leave me in the attic and do not worry.'
Rav Shmuel bar Nachmani: I heard second-hand from his wife that he was there between 18 and 22 years. She would check his hair. When a hair was taken from him, he would bleed. One day she saw a worm coming from his ear. That night, he explained to her in a dream that this was because once he heard a Chacham shamed and did not protest enough.
People would come for judgment. They would state their claims, and a voice from the attic would give the verdict.
Version #1: One day his wife quarreled with a neighbor. She was cursed 'you should be like your husband, unburied.' Rabanan heard, and decided that it is time to bury him.
Version #2: R. Shimon (his father) came to Rabanan in a dream, telling them that it is time to bury his son.
The people of his city would not allow the burial, since they were protected from beasts all the years he was in the attic. On Erev Yom Kipur they were busy, and people from a nearby village took the body. They brought him to the cave where his father was buried; a snake guarded it from outside. They asked permission to let the son come to his father; the snake allowed them.
Rebbi inquired to marry his widow. She refused, because 'you (Rebbi) are like Chulin compared to R. Elazar.'
Rebbi: Granted, he was greater in Torah. Was he greater in deeds than me?!
His widow: I did not know if he was greater in Torah, but I know that he was greater in deeds than you. He accepted on himself afflictions!
Question: Why did Rebbi say that R. Elazar was greater than him in Torah?
Answer: Rebbi and R. Elazar b'Rebbi Shimon used to sit on the ground in front of R. Shimon ben Gamliel and R. Yehoshua ben Korchah (and other Rabanan), who were on benches. Rabanan learned much from Rebbi and R. Elazar, they felt that they should also be on benches.
R. Shimon ben Gamliel: Perhaps Ayin ha'Ra'ah will rule over my son (Rebbi)!
R. Yehoshua ben Korchah: We must also be concerned for R. Elazar!
R. Elazar was insulted by the idea that Rebbi was (equally important and therefore) prone to Ayin ha'Ra. Previously, R. Elazar used to support Rebbi's teachings;
Now, when Rebbi said that he had a question, R. Elazar would say 'this is what you want to ask; this refutes you. You have asked enough questions without substance!'
Rebbi was dejected. His father consoled him: do not expect to be as great as him. His father was a lion. Your father is a fox!