On that day the sages
collected all the objects Rabbi Eliezer ben Horkenos had
declared Tahor (pure) and burned them. Further, the Sages
decided to excommunicate Rabbi Eliezer ben Horkenos. His
insisting on sticking by his opinion after the Sages decided against
it posed a danger to the unity of Torah teaching and observance.
The Sages asked "Who
will go to Rabbi Eliezer and inform him of our decree (without provoking
Rabbi Akiva said "I
will go, for I am concerned that perhaps an unfit person will go
and inform him and bring about the destruction of the entire world."
He dressed in black
clothing (as a sign of mourning) and sat down at a distance of four
amot from R. Eliezer.
Rabbi Eliezer said
"Akiva, Why is
today different from other days, why are you sitting so far away
from me today?"
Rabbi Akiva replied
"It seems that
your colleagues have separated themselves from you."
Rabbi Eliezer understood.
He tore his garments and removed his shoes (since, according to
halachah, one who is banned must tear his garments and walk
without leather shoes). He then slid off his chair, sat himself
on the ground and began to cry.
(Rabbi Eliezer's) tears immediately caused a third of the world's
olives, wheat, and barley harvest to ruin. Some say, even the dough,
which the women were kneading at that time became spoiled.
Every place that Rabbi
Eliezer set his eyes went up in flames.
The head of the Sanhedrin,
(Jewish high court), Rabbi Gamliel, under whose leadership the ban
had been decreed, was then traveling at sea. The ocean began to
swell, and towering waves threatened to swamp the vessel.
he remarked, "that the world is in uproar only because of the
decree against Rabbi Eliezer ben Horkenos."
He stood up and turned
in prayer to Hashem: "Master of the Universe, You know
that I did not do this for my own honor nor for the honor of my
father's house. It was for only for Your honor that I banned him,
to avoid the spread of disputes among the Jewish people."
The sea then calmed.
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