Pride And Honor
Our sages teach us that a man should always be gentle and avoid honor and haughtiness. It was because of this advice that a grave dispute arose among some of our sages.
One day, the following mishna was taught in the academy, "When the prince (nasi) enters, all the people rise and do not resume their seats until he requests them to sit. When the chief justice enters, the people occupying the two rows of seats facing the entrance rise and remain standing until he takes his seat. When.the sage enters and remains standing, everyone whom he passes rises until the sage has taken his seat."
This mishna was taught during the time of Rav Simeon ben Gamaliel's reign as prince. Rav Nathan was the president of the Sanhedrin and Rav Meir was the sage of the college. At that time, when Rav Simeon ben Gamaliel would enter, all the people arose and remained standing until he took his seat. Likewise, the same honor was accorded to Rav Nathan and Rav Meir.
Rav Simeon ben Gamaliel, wanting to increase the prestige and influence of the prince's office, said, "If all the people arise for all three of us, there is no difference between me and the others, and I would prefer that distinction should be made to elevate the prince's office."
He thereupon issued a decree and enacted the rules laid down in the above mishna. However, this was carried out in the absence of Rav Meir and Rav Nathan. The following day, when they entered the academy and saw that the people did not rise for them, they asked for the reason. They were told that Rav Simeon ben Gamaliel had issued a decree ordering these variations.
Rav Meir became angry and he said to Rav Nathan, "1 am the sage and you are the chief justice; let us also enact some rules in our behalf."
Attempt To Trap The Prince
"What can we do?" asked Rav Nathan.
"Let us ask Rav Simeon to teach us the Talmudic tract Uktzin. We are well aware that Rav Simeon is not versed in this tractate and when he fails to answer our questions we will say to him, 'Who can utter the mighty acts of the L-rd?' (Psalms 106:2). 'He who can teach all of His praises. We will then depose him and you will take his place and become prince and I will take your place."
One of the disciples overheard this conversation and said, "G-d forbid that Rav Simeon should be embarrassed; it would lead to the prince's disgrace."
Feeling that it would be wrong to disclose the plot openly, he went and sat down outside of Rav Simeon's study and began expounding the tractate aloud, repeating it again and again.
Hearing this, Rav Simeon was perplexed. "What is going on?" he wondered. "Perhaps something is brewing at the college and this was done to call it to my attention." He concentrated his attention on this tract and he soon knew it perfectly.
Punishes The Culprits
The following day, when the prince arrived at the college, Rav Meir arose and said, "Will the master teach us the tract Uktzin?" Rav Simeon obliged and lectured on that subject. After he finished he said to them, "Had I not familiarized myself with the subject you would have put me to public shame." He thereupon gave the order to expel them from the college. They did not take this lying down. They would write out questions on slips of paper and throw them into the college. When they could not be solved, they would write out the answers and send them back.
Rav Jose arose and, in an. exasperated tone, said, "The Torah is without (the knowledge is outside) and we remain within!"
Rav Simeon ben Gamaliel, realizing that this might lead to open revolt, thereupon retracted his expulsion order and said, "Le them come back. However, they must be punished that no halacha shall be reported in their name. They must not receive any credit for a law."
Henceforth, Rav Meir was named "anonymous" and Rav Nathan "some say." Sometime later, they both had dreams urging them to seek reconciliation with Rav Simeon. Rav Nathan did so, but Rav Meir did not, saying that dreams are not to be followed and are of no consequence.
When Rav Nathan finally came to reconciliation, Rav Simeon said to him, "Granted that your father's influence helped you become the chief justice, but could it have helped you become a prince?"
It was many years later that Rav Simeon's grandson returned the honor to Rav Meir and quoted his name, saying, "It was said in the name of Rav Meir."
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