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Shabbat Parashat Bo 5778

Ein Ayah: Seeking Only the Great of the Great

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 6:4)

Gemara: Rav was told: A great and tall man, who limps and teaches that it is permitted to wear a crown, has come. Rav said: Who is a great and tall man who limps? Levi. It is clear, then, that Rabbi Affes has died, Rav Chanina has taken on the role of the head of the central rabbinical academy, so that Levi had no one to study with and came here.


Ein Ayah: A person of unusually great intellect cannot be compared, in terms of his emotions and knowledge, to normal people. He cannot even be compared to special people with straight hearts, even if they are among the wisest people of their generation, if the person in question is a giant among giants in his spiritual stature. 

Such a giant will not be able to interact regularly with normal people because the latter’s average-level concepts pollute his spirit and lower its glow from its lofty level. Therefore, he is forced to choose a place for himself in which the average level of his counterparts will not be a burden to him. He also does not want his lofty and wondrous way of life to be mixed in among normal concepts even of those who are involved in Torah and in wisdom, but according to the levels that fit the generation and the times.

Such a great person cannot go along with set arrangements that are aligned with public leadership, amongst an assemblage of Torah scholars whose level is measured according to their influence on the people of their time. That is why Levi, the “great and tall man,” stayed on the outside and only connected himself to another person of lofty intellect, with whom he was close enough to unite and develop great concepts together. This was Rav Chanina.

However, even Rav Chanina became inappropriate for Levi when he accepted upon himself the mantle of leadership of a broad group. He was forced, after all, to embrace a more normal level to which more people would be able to be drawn. The light from above which Rav Chanina was worthy of attaining had to give way to lesser levels in order to be able to improve the spiritual lot of the masses. Levi could then no longer join with him, as he did not fit in among such normal frameworks.

On the other hand, even someone as great as Levi needed to connect to other great spiritual powers and have his logic interact with that of another. Only when there is some level of contrast in thinking can someone like Levi increase the light and complete his wisdom in his understanding of godly matters. That is why, with no one to connect to in Eretz Yisrael, Levi came to Bavel. Such an elevated soul gives search for a place and a land in which the spiritual element that his soul needed was found. This internal recognition of a great person is inspired by a divine spirit to fulfill his great spiritual thirst. The greatest person who remained in that generation was Rav, who by this time had moved to Bavel. Indeed, Rav, who was close in spirit to Levi, was able to deduce what experiences Levi must have undergone in order to bring him to Rav’s courtyard.
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