Rabbi Zeira

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Rabbi Zeira was a leading third generation Babylonian Amora that moved to Eretz Yisroel. He is mentioned hundreds of times throughout the two Talmuds and his teachings are quoted by many proceeding Amoraim. Originally called Rav Zeira in the Talmud Bavli, he became known as Rebbe Zeira after receiving Smicha. In the Talmud Yerushalmi he is called Rabbi Ze'era. He was an expert at the esoteric mysteries of Kabbalah and lived to a very old age.


[edit] Bavel

Rabbi Zeira was born in Bavel. His father was a layman who worked as a tax collector but was known for his exceptional piety. Orphaned in his youth, Rabbi Zeira went to study Torah in the academies of Surah under Rav Huna and later in Pumpadisa under Rav Yehuda. He also studied under the other leading Babylonian Amoaraim of the time including Rav Chisda, Rav Nachman and Rav Hamnuna.

[edit] Purim Death

One year Rabbi Zeira celebrated the Purim feast with Rabbah. During the meal they both got intoxicated, using the wine and its unique annual Purim channeling opportunities as a means to attain extremely high esoteric levels through Kabalistic meditations. Rabbah who was able to better handle these states of greatly expanded consciousness (as alluded in his name Rabbah = Great) ended up slaughtering Rabbi Zeira by raising him to levels he could not handle (as alluded in his name Zeira = Lesser - Constricted). Upon sobering the next day and descending from his previous states, Rabbah prayed and Rebbe Zeira was brought back to life. When Rabbah invited Rabbi Zeira to the Purim meal the following year, he refused saying that miracles do not occur every day.

[edit] The Golam

Rava created a golam using the mysteries and meditations contained in Sefer Yitzira and sent him to Rav Zeira. When the golam failed to respond to Rabbi Zeria's questions, he realized it was a golam created by one of the Sages and told it to return to dust.

[edit] Aliya

[edit] Yearning for Israel

Rabbi Zeira held of Eretz Yisroel in great esteem, saying that breathing its air makes an individual wiser and even the mundane conversations of its residents are considered Torah. He always had great interest in the teachings that originated in Eretz Yisroel that were being given over by the 'Nichosi', Rabbis who would travel back and forth between Bavel and Eretz Yisroel to transmit teachings. Rabbi Zeira had a great yearning to move there but was prevented by his teacher Rav Yehuda who held it was forbidden to immigrate to Eretz Yisroel before the arrival of the Moshiach since the prophet Yermiyah said "in Bavel they will remain".

[edit] Fasting

Before undertaking the trip, Rabbi Zeira fasted 100 times in order to forget the Torah he had studied in Bavel which was steeped in controversy, so he could absorb the pure Torah of Eretz Yisroel without any impediments. Later he fasted two more sets of 100 fasts. One to prevent the death of Rabbi Elazar ben Pedas in order to avoid the communal responsibility from falling on him and the second set to be saved from the fires of Gehinum.

[edit] Departure

After dreaming that he had been forgiven for all his sins, Rebbe Zeira took this as sign urging him to move to Eretz Yisroel and decided to do so. Rabbi Zeira was forced to leave Bavel without biding farewell to his teacher Rav Yehuda, to avoid having him prevent the trip. Not wanting to leave without any contact, Rabbi Zeria decided to hear one last teaching from his master and that would serve as the farewell. He hid near the bathhouse where Rav Yehuda was bathing and listened to the instructions that he gave his helper. From this Rabbi Zeira was able to deduce laws regarding the proper behavior one should maintain while bathing. Rabbi Zeria was very happy with what he learnt and said it was worth coming just for this information.

[edit] Trip

Upon reaching the Jordon river on the border of Eretz Yisroel, Rabbi Zeira could no longer contain his excitement and instead of waiting for the ferry boat that was the accepted safe way of crossing, he began to dangerously cross across a very narrow bridge consisting of a beam and an over hanging rope. A by-standing Tziduki mocked his rush, saying Rabbi Zeira was from an over rushed nation, citing Har Sanai as an example where the Jews committed to keep the Torah before hearing what it contained. Rabbi Zeira justified his rush, saying that if giants like Moshe and Aharon did not make it into Eretz Yisroel who said that he would merit.

[edit] Eretz Yisroel

In Eretz Yisroel, Rabbi Zeira settled in Tiberias, studying under Rabbi Yochanan and Resh Lakish and later under their students Rav Chiya bar Abba, Rav Ami, Rav Asi and Rabbi Elazar ben Pidas. His main student was Rabbi Yermiya, himself a Babylonian immigrant. Rabbi Zeira liked Rabbi Yermiya, referring to him as "my son" and praising the great time and consistency he devoted towards Torah study.

[edit] Tiberias Thugs

Rabbi Zeira would befriend the mobsters of Tiberias in effort to make them repent, an act that was frowned upon by the other Sages. After his passing, the mobsters realized that Rabbi Zeira's prayers would no longer save them from the retribution of their sins. They became frightened of the consequences and repented.

[edit] Long Life

Rabbi Zeira lived a very long life which he credited to seven factors...

  1. Never having acted temperamental in his home.
  2. Never stepping in front of person greater then him.
  3. Never having contemplated Torah thoughts in impure locations.
  4. Never walking four cubits without donning Tefilin and thinking in Torah.
  5. Never having slept in the Beit Medresh, even a short nap.
  6. Never having been joyous at the fall of his friends.
  7. Never calling a friend by a derogatory nickname or an impersonal family name.

Rabbi Zeira also had a policy of always refusing gifts, saying "one who hates gifts, will live". When invited to home of the Resh Galusa, he would make an exception since they felt honored by his presents, he considered that a form of compensation for anything he received from them.

[edit] Passing

Upon his passing, Rabbi Zeira was eulogised;

  • Babylonia (Land of Shinor) gave birth to him;
  • Eretz Yisroel (Land of the Deer) had the pleasure of rearing him;
  • 'Wo is me,' says Tiberias (Rekes),
  • for she has lost her precious vessel"

[edit] Appearance and Personality

Rabbi Zeira was short and had dark skin for which he was mocked during his life, especially after resettling in Eretz Yisroel.

[edit] Babylonian

Rabbi Zeira spoke with a Babylonian accent, something that immediately gave away his origin. Once a market vendor oust Rabbi Zera, telling him to get out since his Babylonian ancestor were responsible for the destruction of the Temple. Rabbi Zeira was saddened by the insult since he did not understand the difference in this matter between Babylonian lineage and Eretz Yisroel lineage. After hearing in a sermon from Rabbi Shilo that the Temple would never had been destroyed if all the Jews had relocated to Eretz Yisroel during the times of Ezra, he accepted the lesson of the vendor.

[edit] Accuracy

Rabbi Zeira spent a lot of time investigating the accuracy of traditional statements handed down from the earlier generations of Sages. Often he interrogate the Rabbis of Eretz Yisroel about the accuracy of teachings that were handed down in their name. He greatly respected Rav Chiya bar Abba for the great accuracy with which he gave over his teachings. Rabbi Zeira only trusted the Briysos originating in the academy of Rabbi Chiya and Rabbi Oshia, considering all others inaccurate. Due to the accuracy of Rabbi Zeria, they ascribed the verse "A man of integrity who will find" in reference to him.

[edit] Forgiving

Rabbi Zeira would not hold a grudge against those that wronged him and would even try to bring about opportunities where they could make up.

[edit] Short Man With Burnt Hips

Rabbi Zeira fasted 100 fasts in order to be spared from the fires of Gehinum. Each month he would test this by igniting a furnace and sitting in the midst of the flames while not getting burnt. Once the the Sages found out about this, causing him to get burnt on his next attempt, from then on earning him the nickname 'short man with the burnt hips'.

[edit] Family

Little is known about the family of Rav Zeira other then his being orphaned during his youth and that he had a son named Ahava.

[edit] Teachings

  • Do not promise a child something and then not give it since it will teach the child to lie.
  • If the earlier generations had the status of 'angles' then we would be considered 'humans'. If they had the status of 'humans' then we would be considered 'donkeys'.

[edit] Kever Rabbi Zeira

Rabbi Zeira is buried in Arbel, North Israel.

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