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The following story appears in the Talmud ( I think ), but I don't know where:

There was a Rabbi who saw a man and his son come along, and the father sent his son up a tree to do shiluach haKen. The son falls from the tree and dies, and the Rabbi becomes an apikores, iirc citing that the son died after performing two mitzvot whose reward is lengthening of days. The son of this Rabbi, who is also a Rabbi comes and says his father didn't know the principle that there is only reward in olam haba.

Where does this story appear?

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Elisha ben Abuyah, aka Acher in the talmud. (Don't have specific citations handy.) – Monica Cellio Oct 2 '13 at 17:47
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Check out Chulin 142a or Kiddushin 39b.

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Yep! I was just about to post that. At the end of the story it's suggested that the sage Elisha ben Abuya ("more like Elisha ben A-boo-yah!," my friend likes to say), was the one who saw it. BTW, the gemara rejects the answer of "the reward is in olam haba" as insufficient to explain this tragedy. Elisha's grandson, R. Jacob, suggests that it was a "shaky ladder", i.e. the world is sometimes a place of brokenness and injustice. I heard Daniel Reisel give a phenomenal drash on it once at Limmud. – Noam Sienna Oct 2 '13 at 18:05

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