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Why did Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai stay in a cave for 13 years?

by Rabbi Yossi Marcus

  

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There was once a discussion between Rabbi Shimon, Rabbi Judah and Rabbi Yose. Rabbi Judah praised the work of the Romans who had rebuilt the land of Israel (after having destroyed it). Rabbi Shimon protested, saying that all that they did was for selfish purposes. If they built bridges it was to collect tolls, and so on. Rabbi Yose was silent.

Word of this discussion came to the attention of the Roman authorities, who proclaimed the following: Rabbi Judah, who had praised Rome, would be given prominence over all the other rabbis. He would be the first to speak at all gatherings. Rabbi Yose, who remained silent, would be exiled. Rabbi Shimon who spoke against Rome would be killed.

Rabbi Shimon immediately went into hiding. He hid in a cave for twelve years with his son Rabbi Elazar until it was safe to emerge, then went back in for another year.



Source: Talmud, Shabbat 33b

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Kabbalistic significance

Posted by: x ben x on Apr 30, 2007

One of the Kabbalistic meanings of the 13 years is that 13 = 12 + 1, meaning rising above the 12 signs of the zodiac, above our reactive nature (Sitra Achara; evil inclination).
Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Judah
1. The fourth son of Jacob and Leah. He was blessed by Jacob to be the leader of the tribes. Consequently, the Davidic royal dynasty is from the tribe of Judah. 2. The southern part of Israel which was occupied by the Tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and always remained under the reign of the kings from the tribe of Judah.