ILFA AND R. YOCHANAN
Ilfa and R. Yochanan were in financial difficulties and decided to leave yeshivah for business.
Sitting under a ruinous wall, R. Yochanan overheard one Malach saying to another that they should push the wall onto them, as they were leaving eternal life for temporal life.
The other Malach said to leave them be as one of them was destined for great things.
Since Ilfa did not hear this, R. Yochanan concluded that they were referring to him, and returned to yeshivah.
R. Yochanan became Rosh Yeshivah; Ilfa was told that he would have earned that had he stayed.
Ilfa promptly hung from a ship's mast and said that he would drown himself if unable to state the source for a Beraisa of R. Chiya and R. Oshiya in a Mishnah.
An old man challenged him with the following Beraisa:
If a dying man requests that his children be given a Shekel per week, and they require a Sela, then they are given a Sela.
If he said "give them nothing other than a Shekel," then they are given a Shekel.
If he named other heirs after them, then with either phraseology they are given a Shekel.
Ilfa replied that it is based on R. Meir's view that it is a mitzvah to fulfill a dead man's wishes.
NACHUM ISH GAM-ZU
Nachum Ish Gam-Zu was blind, lacking hands and feet, covered in boils, lying in a ruinous house, with his bed placed in water-jugs to prevent the ants reaching him.
His students wanted to rescue him from the house and then his vessels.
He told them to save the vessels first as it was his merit that was keeping it from collapsing.
As soon as they took him out, the house collapsed.
When asked why such as Tzadik was suffering so, he told them that he brought it upon himself:
When traveling laden on a donkey, a beggar asked him for sustenance.
He told the beggar to wait for him to dismount from the donkey, but by the time he had done so, the beggar had died.
Nachum asked that his body which had not had sufficient mercy on the other should suffer.
His students said "Woe that we have seen you so!"; he replied "Woe if you had not seen me so."
He was called Nachum Ish Gam-Zu as he would say about everything Gam Zu le'Tovah - this is also for the best.
The community once sent their tribute to the King - precious stones - with Nachum, because he experienced miracles.
While staying in an inn, the innkeepers replaced the jewels with earth.
Upon being presented with the tribute, the king wanted to kill the Jews.
Nachum said "Gam Zu le'Tovah."
Eliyahu ha'Navi appeared in disguise and suggested that the earth was Avraham's miraculous earth which turned into swords.
The king tested it successfully against another state, and sent Nachum back with jewels.
While staying at the inn, he told them that he had been given them for that which he had brought.
The innkeepers demolished the building and presented the king with the rubble, telling him that Nachum's earth came from there; when it did not turn into swords, they were killed.
The Mishnah said that plague is defined as a city that can raise 500 troops suffering three deaths in three days.
(Beraisa): A city of 1500 men (such as Akko) and nine die in three days - this is plague.
If they die in one day or four days, it is not plague.
A city of 500 men (such as Amiko) suffering three deaths in three days - this is plague.
If they die in one day or four days, it is not plague.
Drokras was a city of 500 men and it suffered three deaths in a single day.
R. Nachman bar R. Chisda decreed a fast.
(R. Nachman bar Yitzchak): This followed R. Meir's view that if an ox is declared a Mu'ad for goring three times in three days, all the more so if it gored three times in a single day.
When asked to join R. Nachman bar R. Chisda, he replied that the man honors the place rather than the place honoring the man.
We find this with Har Sinai which was sacrosanct only as long as the Shechinah was there.
Likewise, a Metzora was only forbidden to enter the camp while the Mishkan was standing.
R. Nachman bar R. Chisda responded that he would come and join R. Nachman bar Yitzchak.
He replied that it would be more appropriate for him to join R. Nachman bar R. Chisda, as his father was greater.
TZADIKIM SAVING THEIR CITIES
In Sura there was pestilence except in Rav's neighborhood.
They thought this was due to Rav's merit, but were told in a dream that his merit is far greater than that.
Rather, it was due to someone there who would lend digging tools for burials.
In Drokras there was a fire, but it did not affect R. Huna's neighborhood.
They thought this was due to R. Huna's merit, but were told in a dream that his merit is far greater than that.
Rather, it was due to a woman who would heat her oven and then lend it to her neighbors.
When told that locusts were seen, R. Yehudah decreed a fast even before any damage had occurred, as it was bound to happen.
When told that there was a disease amongst the pigs, he decreed a fast.
Question: Does this mean that he holds that rampant diseases amongst one species spread to others?
Answer: No, it was because humans have similar anatomy to pigs and are likely to suffer from the same diseases.
When Shmuel was told that there was an epidemic in a distant town, he decreed a fast, as there was no barrier to prevent it from spreading to his town.
When R. Nachman was told that there was an epidemic in Eretz Yisrael, he decreed a fast in Bavel; because "when the mistress is smitten, the servant will certainly be smitten."
Question: This implies that no such extrapolation is to be made from one city in the Diaspora to another - why, then, did Shmuel decree a fast in his town because of an epidemic in another town?
Answer: Because there were caravans traveling between the two.
ABA THE BLOOD-LETTER
Aba the blood-letter received a Divine greeting every day, which only happened to Abaye every Erev Shabbos and to Rava every Erev Yom Kippur.
Abaye was discouraged, but was told that he could not match Aba's deeds:
When treating women, Aba would cover them with a sheet and draw the blood through slits so as not to look at her.
He would place the payment box in a concealed place so that those who could not afford to pay would not be embarrassed.
He would treat Torah scholars for free and give them money for buying food to recuperate.
Abaye once sent a pair of scholars to investigate him; he gave them cushions to sleep on, which they took.
They met Aba at the market and asked him to evaluate the cushions, which he did.
They then owned up and asked him what he had suspected.
He replied that he had thought they needed the money to urgently redeem captives, and would no longer take the cushions back as he had already committed himself to donating them to charity.