Saturday, November 21, 2009

A thief and a prostitute

We learn things from all sorts of people and events.
Reb Zusha M'Anipoli is quoted in the Hayom Yom for famously bringing 7 lessons we can learn from a thief. (Reb Mendal Futerfas once said, after having served a sentence in a Siberian prison, that Reb Zusha obviously had not been in prison. If he had, he would have learned thousands of things from a thief!)

In the gemara in Avoda Zara, a prostitute dramatically changes a man's life.
It is the famous story of Elazar Ben Durdaya (who, by the way, is one of the Rosh's most beloved characters from history. Possibly only topped by The Snake from Genesis), the worst sinner ever. The gemara recounts how he had made it his mission to visit every zonah in the world, and how he managed to accomplish just that. Finally, he heard stories of a woman so beautiful, and so expensive, that he crossed seven rivers with a pocket full of gold, just for her. When this woman was with Elazar, she blew some air (to put it nicely), and said, "Just like this air cannot return to its place, so too, Elazar Ben Durdaya cannot return with Tshuva."
This woman was not that much of a better person that Elazar was. Yet she brought him to the painful realization of how far he had gone from the right path.
The rest of the story tells how Elazar Ben Durdaya ran away, and begged the mountains and hills, then the sun and moon, and finally the planets, all to beg for mercy on his behalf. They all replied that they had themselves to ask for, and couldn't bother asking for him, as well. Finally, Elazar Ben Durdaya, broken and alone, uttered, "Ein Hadavar Taluy Eleh Bi"-It is only up to me. He put his head between his knees, and wept so bitterly, that he passed away.
A Heavenly Voice cried out and proclaimed: Reb Elazar Ben Durdaya has a place in the World To Come".

An inspiring story, to say the least. The Rosh loves to bring this story, and explain why Rebbi Yehuda HaNasi cried after this episode, and what it meant, and how they called him 'Reb' Elazar, at the end...

But anyway, we see how the words of a zonah had such a profound effect on our protagonist. Furthermore, it was the person Elazar was directly involved with, the person he was sinning with, who woke Elazar up to the awful person he had become.

Why am I speaking about this?
Because I had a similar experience.

No, I don't chas v'shalom have any connection to any zonah, besides for her, of course. And no, I'm not as big a sinner as Elazar Ben Durdaya.

Let's just say it could have been similar to the following fictitious story: I'm with a group of friends who are smoking, and after asking them for a cigarette, a friend tells me that I'm better than they are, and shouldn't start to smoke.
This didn't happen, but what did occur recently, could be considered similar, I think.

It's important we all have people who believe in us, and see who we really are, what we are involved with, and what we can be.