The venerated Jewish teacher Moses Maimonides, tells the story of a young rabbi who was born in Jerusalem around 70 AD – that would put him on the scene just a few years after the death of the Apostle Paul, and in the year the Temple was destroyed by Roman general Titus.  And just like Saul of Tarsus, this young rabbi was known as Elisha ben Abuyah who sought to educate himself on all things profound and intellectual. Elisha, whose nickname was “Aher,” was mentioned in the Jewish Mishnah, Tractate “Aboth” (4:20), as having a unique view of education. It reads, “He that learns as a child is like ink written on a new piece of paper. He who learns as an old man is like ink written on used paper with many erasures.”  Aher was a student of Greek.  According to Jewish tradition, as written in the Jerusalem Talmud, “Aḥer’s tongue was never tired of singing Greek songs,” which, according to some, caused his eventual leaving the Jewish faith. But his most famous tactic, for which he acquired an embarrassing reputation, was promoting himself as a self-appointed authority on all questions concerning righteous living.

One such incident occurred when a disciple, Rabbi Meir, sat in the synagogue in Tiberias on the Sabbath expounding to his students. Word reached him that his mentor Rabbi Aher was riding around in the marketplace on a horse. So, Rabbi Meir stopped his class and ran over the marketplace to see for himself. When he arrived Aher looked at him and asked, “What verse have you been expounding on today?”  Rabbi Meir replied: “So the LORD blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning.” (Job 42:12).  Aher then asked: “How did you explain this to your students?”  Rabbi Meir responded: “The Lord gave Job twice as much at the end as he had before. In other words, God doubled his possessions.”  Aher smugly remarked, “Rabbi Akiva ben Joseph, who alas is gone and not alive, would have explained it differently.  He would have said: ‘The Lord blessed the latter end of Job because of his observance of precepts and good deeds that had been his from the beginning’.”

By using such tactics, Aher hoped to elevate himself above others as an infallible wise man. Rabbi Moses Maimonides uses this story to warn those who try to pretend that they know more than they actually do.  By doing so they end up making gibberish out of what should be a clear explanation. He then points to Proverbs 25:16 which says, “If you find honey, eat only what you need; for if you eat too much, it will make you throw up!” Too much of a good thing is always lurking when people stuff themselves with more information than they can comprehend and end up simply regurgitating gibberish. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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