The Rabbi and the Exceedingly Ugly Man

Submitted by Linda Lacey

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:27-28

On one occasion Rabbi Eleazar son of Rabbi Simeon was coming from Migdal Gedor, from the house of his teacher. He was riding leisurely on his donkey by the riverside and was feeling happy and elated because he had studied much Torah. There he chanced to meet an exceedingly ugly man who greeted him, “Peace be upon you, rabbi.”

He, however, did not return his greeting but instead said to him, “Racca (empty one or good for nothing) how ugly you are! Is everyone in your town as ugly as you are?” The man replied, “I do not know, but go and tell the craftsman who made me, ‘How ugly is the vessel which you have made.'” When Rabbi Eleazar realized that he had sinned, he dismounted from the donkey and prostrated himself before the man and said to him, “I submit myself to you, forgive me!”
Talmud, B. Ta’an. 20a-b1

This article was kindly submitted by Linda Lacey, an En-Gedi supporter from Loveland, Colorado. She adds this comment, “I love this parable and it keeps me focused. I think we all struggle with this problem and hopefully this will be helpful to someone else too.”

We echo that sentiment; thank you for sharing this with us Linda! This month we are beginning a new series of articles based on wisdom from the Bible, with insights for living our lives based on the book of Proverbs or other Bible texts. We would like to encourage you to send us articles, stories, or original thoughts that have been helpful to you and which you think would be appropriate for this theme. If you would like to do that, or if you would like to share a note of encouragement that we can pass on to Linda, you can use the convenient form designed for this purpose by clicking on this link.

To explore this topic more, see chapter 14, “God’s Image Stamped in Dust” in Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus, Zondervan, 2012, p 180-91.

(1) The Talmud is large volume of texts which are commentary on the Mishnah, which is commentary on the laws of the Torah. Written down about 500 AD. Contains many Jewish oral traditions that may date from Jesus’ time, even though it was written down later. Two versions exist – the Babylonian and the Jerusalem Talmuds.

Photo by SwapnIl Dwivedi on Unsplash

Consider the Ravens

by Lois Tverberg

Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Luke 12:24

Consider the Ravens

Why do people work for a living when Jesus promises that God will care for us just as he cares for the ravens? Are we just not trusting God enough for his sustenance? Should we quit our jobs and wait for manna to fall from heaven?

A rabbi from the 2nd century made a relevant observation:

“Have you ever seen a wild beast or a bird who has a trade? Yet they get along without difficulty. And were they not created only to serve me? And I was created to serve my Master. So is it not logical that I should get along without difficulty? But I have done evil and forfeited my right to sustenance without difficulty.” Simeon ben Eleazar, Mishnah, Kiddushim 4:14

Rabbi Eleazar bases his thoughts on the creation story in Genesis. According to Genesis 1:26, humans were made in God’s image to reign over creation-,- so just as a king’s subjects are his “servants,” God decreed that animals are man’s “servants.”

But unlike animals, Adam sinned by eating the apple, and was condemned to toil for food instead of having it easily available. The rabbi explains that because he is a sinner like Adam, he must work hard for his food, unlike the animals.

Consider the Ravens

We can gain from the contrast between the words of Jesus and Rabbi Eleazar. It’s simply a reality of life that we must work and make a living to sustain ourselves, and often our jobs are toilsome and frustrating. We aren’t guaranteed a life free of sweat and labor. But we can trust that through the work that God gives us, he’s providing for our needs, just as he cares for the birds.

Rather than worrying that we’re on our own to scratch out a living, we can rest on the fact that we are precious in God’s sight, and that he’s watching over us. We can do our work to please him because we know he cares for us.

Photo: and Vincent Van Gogh