Wednesday, February 27, 2008

rabbi meir the peacemaker

After telling a story of how R’ Meir interceded to help yesomim in his town, Gittn 52 recounts how R’ Meir was passing through another town where every erev shabbos two of the ba’alei batim got into a fight. R’ Meir spent three weeks there, and through his intercession the fights ended. The gemara concludes with the upset yetzer hara being left without a home.

Sometimes the details of a story can be so revealing. Unlike the first story in the gemara, this episode did not occur in R’ Meir’s hometown. He was just a visitor, maybe a “scholar in residence”, yet he felt obligated to intercede to make peace. Not only that, but these fights occurred on erev shabbos, when even talmidei chachamim are personally involved in preparing for shabbos (kiddushin 42) and time is short, yet R’ Meir made it his business to address the situation. This was also not a one time event, but it took three weeks of R' Meir's time to reslove the problem. Lastly, I think it’s not by accident that the gemara juxtaposes the story of the fight with the story of R’ Meir helping yesomim. It goes without saying that it would be unconscionable for R’ Meir to say, “Why do I need to get involved in the mishegas of these ba’alei batim? – I have important shaylos like whether a chicken is kosher or not to pasken,” and even more unconscionable for him to divest himself of the problem and go back to his learning. But lest one think that R’ Meir would avoid the issue because he was involved in other important communal needs like tending to yesomim, kah mashma lan that this is equally an important issue to tackle.


  1. interesting.
    this seems like a theme in the life of r' meir - recall the gemarah in sotah about a woman who is not allowed to return to her husband's home unless she spits in the eye of r' meir. there his students specifically protest b/c it is not kavod torah. however, r' meir is willing to demean himself in order to create peace between the man and his wifev - again, peace as the highest value.

  2. good point. do you remember where the gemara in sota is? I remember the story, but didn't remember it was r' meir.

  3. Anonymous8:54 PM

    There is also a gemara in Sanhedrin 11a describing how R. Meir saved one of his students from embarassment. A woman came to the beit midrash claiming that one of them was m'kadesh her by biah, and R. meir began by writeer her a get, so they could all do so without embarassing the one who had done so.

  4. yerushalmi sotah 1:4