For R. Judah, R. Jose, and R. Simeon were sitting, and Judah, a son of proselytes, was sitting near them. R. Judah commenced [the discussion] by observing, ‘How fine are the works of this people!They have made streets, they have built bridges, they have erected baths.’ R. Jose was silent. R. Simeon b. Yohai answered and said, ‘All that they made they made for themselves; they built market-places, to set harlots in them; baths, to rejuvenate themselves; bridges, to levy tolls for them.’ Now, Judah the son of proselytes went and related their talk, which reached the government. They decreed: Judah, who exalted [us], shall be exalted, Jose, who was silent, shall be exiled to Sepphoris; Simeon, who censured, let him be executed. He and his son went and hid themselves in the Beth Hamidrash, [and] his wife brought him bread and a mug of water and they dined. [But] when the decree became more severe he said to his son, Women are of unstable temperament: she may be put to the torture and expose us.’ So they went and hid in a cave. A miracle occurred and a carob-tree and a water well were created for them. They would strip their garments and sit up to their necks in sand. The whole day they studied; when it was time for prayers they robed, covered themselves, prayed, and then put off their garments again, so that they should not wear out. Thus they dwelt twelve years in the cave. Then Elijah came and stood at the entrance to the cave and exclaimed, Who will inform the son of Yohai that the emperor is dead and his decree annulled? So they emerged. Seeing a man ploughing and sowing, they exclaimed, ‘They forsake life eternal and engage in life temporal!’ Whatever they cast their eyes upon was immediately burnt up. Thereupon a Heavenly Echo came forth and cried out, ‘Have ye emerged to destroy My world: Return to your cave!’ So they returned and dwelt there twelve months, saying, ‘The punishment of the wicked in Gehenna is [limited to] twelve months.’ A Heavenly Echo then came forth and said, ‘Go forth from your cave!’ Thus.’; they issued: wherever R. Eleazar wounded, R. Simeon healed. Said he to him, ‘My son! You and I are sufficient for the world.’ On the eve of the Sabbath before sunset they saw an old man holding two bundles of myrtle and running at twilight. What are these for?’ they asked him. ‘They are in honour of the Sabbath,’ he replied. ‘But one should suffice you’? — One is for ‘Remember-‘ and one for ‘Observe.’ Said he to his son, ‘See how precious are the commandments to Israel.’ Thereat their minds were tranquilized.
I was told to go back to the cave.
My first response was “I’m not Rashbi (Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai). I don’t want to be him. I’m not ruining things. I don’t want to have to go back to calm down a bit.”
But then I was thinking – maybe I am Rashbi.
I ran away. I ran to a place that was different and hidden from the world I was part of. In some ways I think I felt like that world was trying to get me. But where I ran, the Jewish world was no longer there, or at least it wasn’t the Jewish community that I was part of. I found a place where I could just be, I did not have to prove the validity of my existence. I did not have to have arguments about why I could be doing what I am doing. I found a cave, where it felt like my community and school from before totally forgot about me, and let me just be.
And while in the cave, I was naked except for the sand, unless I was praying, just like Rashbi and his sons. While in class, many times I felt as if I was without clothing, there was nothing protecting me, just the sand that I was covered in for modesty reasons. But the nakedness was done to preserve my clothing, so that when I would go out to be with patients and staff, I would be fully covered, dressed in a way that I felt comfortable. But then I would be called back, and it would be time to shed those clothing.
I want to leave the cave, but in leaving all I can feel is anger. I am so angry at the Jewish world right now. I am so angry at the Orthodox Jewish world right now. Reading Jewish news papers just makes my blood boil, so I don’t do it. I can’t bring myself to go to classes in shuls or centers, just the thought of it makes me mad and disgusted. I am angry that there isn’t more being done. I am angry that I feel outside something that is actually important to me. I am angry that people are praising people that I feel are causing a lot of harm. I am angry that the Jewish community is functioning in the way it is.
Yes, I find what is going on abhorrent and stupid. It just makes me angry and disgusted. I find it difficult to have conversations about what is going on in the Jewish community, all I want to do is show the bad stuff. I want to burn it not with my eyes, but with my voice. Even though I know that it is just what needs to be done, just like the plowing, I am not able to see that just yet. I can’t understand how people are finding joy, meaning or spirit in what is happening?
And then I was told to go back into the cave. This year in the cave, I was allowed to explore my anger. To feel frustrated and hurt and sad and mad. But maybe I need another year so I can learn what good things there are and can be. To be able to find the softness and the joy and love that can come from Judaism. Maybe I need this time to find “how precious are the commandments to Israel” and find a way for my mind to feel tranquil.