Thursday, July 14, 2005

One Went Nuts

There is a famous story of four sages that went to Pardes (the Four Worlds of Kabbalah) in search of ultimate truth (Hagigah 14B).

Ben Azzai gazed at the ultimate truth and died.
Ben Zoma gazed and went crazy.
Acher (one who shan't be named) gazed and became a heretic.
Only Rabbi Akiva went up in peace and returned in peace.

Of the four, I find Ben Zoma the most interesting. He is credited with one of my favorite Mishnas in Pirke Avot: Who is the rich man? One who is happy with his lot. He is also mentioned in the Pesach Hagaddah for explaining why the Exodus from Egypt must be mentioned on the night of the seder. The verse says, "That you may remember the day you left Egypt all the days of your life. " Ben Zoma explained that the "days of your life" refers to daytime. The extra word "all" refers to the nights as well.

In those two places, he teaches us to focus on what we have, not what we lack, and to look beyond what we see in front of us. These are two lessons I would do well to remember.


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