The Holy Glow of Rav Yochanan

Day 4. Berachos 5 


The Gemara relates a story

Rav Yochanan went to visit Rav Eliezer, who was sick. Rav Yochanan noticed that the room was very dark. Rav Yochanan proceeded to lift up his sleeve and the room filled with light. Rav Eliezer, however, immediately started to cry. Rav Yochanan tried to comfort Rav Eliezer while trying to understand why his friend was crying. Eventually Rav Eliezer told him I am crying over the beauty of your arm which will be decomposed in the earth. Rav Yochanan responded – This is something worthy of crying about and they both started crying together. 

Berachos 5

What is going on here?
Why is Rav Yochanan lifting up his sleeve to bring light into the house, just open the window?
Why is his arm even producing light?
Finally, why are these two great Sages crying over the eventual decomposition of Rav Yochanan?

The Meforshim explain as follows: The more pure and holy a person is, the more he shines, this is why we see the faces of Tzaddikim have a special glow. However, this glow is only for this world as it is on our physical bodies. Once there is Techiyas HaMeisim our bodies will return to how they were in this world. In the meantime, the shine of holiness stays inside the ground and is no longer revealed.

The seforim further teach us that the dirt of the ground is the secret of the future. We build and plant on the ground, as we look forward to the future.  Rav Eliezer was crying because he was thinking about the times of Mashiach in the future, when the holiness of Rav Yochanan will once again be revealed. 

Regarding why he was crying even though Rav Yochanan was still alive  – the meforshim explain that Rav Yochanan came from a family from Yerushalayim known for their beauty, and seeing his arm, reminded Rav Eliezer of Yerushalayim and he was crying over the Churban. Another explanation is that Rav Eliezer knew that this beauty of Rav Yochanan was similar to the beauty of Adam HaRishon, who brought the concept of death to the world and therefore he cried. 

Regarding why he picked up his sleeve – The meforshim explain based on the Yerushalmi that during the winter months, Rav Yochanan suffered from headaches and he only put tefillin on his arm. Rav Eliezer was crying over the light that glows on a person from the mitzvos that he does. However once a person dies, he no longer has the opportunity to reach this level of wholesomeness. 

May we all merit to this special glow of the tzaddikim. 

Based on Ayin Eliyahu; Semichas Chachamim; Maharsha, Imrei Daas & Maggid Taaluma

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