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Ta'anit 22a recounts (in the g'mara) a story of R. Beroka b. Haza'ah and Eliyahu ha-Navi in a marketplace in Be Lapat, which a note in my Soncino translation says is in Khuzistan. R. Beroka asks Eliyahu if anybody in this market merits a place in Olam Haba and Eliyahu says no, but he later amends this to identify three people who do, two jesters and a jailor who at great risk protects Jews from harm by gentiles.

From the details of the story it's clear that there is at least something of a Jewish community in this place (the jailor is a secret Jew who reports to the rabbis what the gentiles are decreeing against them). The mishna in Sanhedrin 10:1 says that all Israel has a place in Olam Haba except for a very few (enumerated). So what's going on in this market?

  • Is Be Lapat populated by those few Jews who really don't merit a place in Olam Haba? (Including R. Beroka?)

  • Maybe there are plenty of Jews there who merit Olam Haba but they avoid the market for some reason?

  • Maybe Eliyahu is being uncharacteristically harsh?

  • 1
    maybe it was shabbos? – Clint Eastwood Jul 3 '14 at 2:22
  • @ClintEastwood meaning what? That people were conducting business on Shabbat and this disqualifies one from Olam Haba? (What was Eliyahu doing there?) BTW, while I didn't say it in my summary because it didn't seem relevant, the events here actually happen on two consecutive days. – Monica Cellio Jul 3 '14 at 2:24
  • Maybe it was Rosh Hashana and Rabbi Beroka went out into the market to get a minyan. – Clint Eastwood Jul 3 '14 at 2:49
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    uncharacteristically? I would say Eliyahu is pretty characteristically harsh. – Daniel Jul 3 '14 at 8:02
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Rabbi Avraham Chayim Schorr (Toras Chayim to Sanhedrin 90a) addresses this question and concludes that this refers to people who would merit immediate admission to olam haba without any prior suffering of the soul.1

R' Tzadok of Lublin (P'ri Tzadik, Vayikra, Lag Ba'Omer V'siyum HaShas, §3) provides an alternative explanation. He says that all of Israel is guaranteed a portion in olam haba, but that less meritorious people will have no memory of their previous lives.2 Only those who are particularly meritorious will experience entrance into olam haba as awaking from a sleep with their memories and knowledge intact.


1 This is similar to the explanation provided by Tosafos (K'suvos 103b, s.v. מזומן לחיי העולם הבא) for why all who were present at R' Y'huda HaNasi's death merited special admission to olam haba when all of Israel has a share in olam haba by default.

2 This is his interpretation of the gemara in Sota (5a), referring to haughty or arrogant people: וא"ר אלעזר כל אדם שיש בו גסות הרוח אין עפרו ננער.

  • what about people who dont believe in jeeljuleem being a concept in judaism? this doesnt provide an answer for them – MoriDowidhYa3aqov Jul 3 '14 at 3:58
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    @MoriDoweedhYaa3qob How does this relate to גילגולים? This refers to תחיית המתים or, possibly according to the תורת חיים, this may refer to עולם הנשמות. – Fred Jul 3 '14 at 4:02
  • >previous lives i assumed this meant their previous previous life sorry if i misunderstood – MoriDowidhYa3aqov Jul 3 '14 at 4:19
  • @MoriDoweedhYaa3qob No need to apologize. I can see how that could be misunderstood, so thank you for pointing that out. – Fred Jul 3 '14 at 4:28
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The Talmud doesn't say that R' Beroka and Elijah traversed the entire market place looking for those that merited the hereafter. Indeed it seems that the question was posed in a milling crowd of people, as Elijah at first says no, and then notices the Jailor, who is hurrying by as R' Beroka must run to catch him. A similar situation occurs with the Jesters, who Elijah notices as they walk by. Jews were likely a minority in the province at that time, so Gentiles were probably more commonly seen than Jews, certainly in specific areas of a market. Consider for example the Muslim quarter of Old Jerusalem.

Also, Khuzestan is a whole province in Iran. I do not think it is unreasonable to say that within a province different areas are populated by Jews and different areas are not. The same is true of any city with a Jewish population.

One could thus argue that R' Beroka was on some errand in a Gentile-occupied area of either the market, or the province, (which was close to the governing body of the province, hence the jailor's presence), and that a crowd of Gentiles is being surveyed, all of whom have not yet merited a share in the world to come, for one reason or another.

  • I wonder if the Jesters were Jews! – Baby Seal Jul 17 '14 at 18:01

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