January 9, 2022

Megillah 28

Much of Megillah 27b-28a is filled with the responses of various elderly Talmudic masters to the question posed to them by their disciples of במה הארכת ימים – ‘On account of which [meritorious practise] have you attained longevity?’.
For example, Rav Preida answered this question by stating that, ‘In all my days (מימי), no one ever came to the study hall before me, and I never recited Birkat HaMazon in the presence of a Kohen, and I never ate the meat of an animal whose priestly gifts have not been separated’. Rav Nechunya ben Hakanah answered by stating that, ‘In all my days (מימי), I never derived honour from the shame of another person, nor has my fellow’s curse risen onto my bed, and I was always foregoing concerning issues involving my money’. While Rav Zeira answered by listing a variety of his personal practices such as ‘In all my days (מימי) I never showed anger in my house’, and ‘nor did I ever rejoice in the stumbling of my fellow’.
Interestingly, there is little overlap between each of the answers given by these Amoraim other than their use of the word מימי – ‘in all my days’. Based on this, as well as a related teaching in the Yerushalmi (Kiddushin 1:9), Rabbi Yechezkel Munk (quoted in ‘Reflections of the Maggid’ p. 266) explains that the unifying theme across all these responses was the choice of each of these sages to consistently commit themselves to a particular series of practices, and to make these practices a daily habit in their life.
Beyond this, it is also noteworthy that many of the practices listed by these Amoraim are generally not considered to be ‘top priorities’ in halacha. Acknowledging this fact, Rabbi Yehudah HaChassid writes (Sefer Chassidim, note 210), ‘if you see a talmid chacham who enjoys longevity, know that he has accepted upon himself [seemingly] trivial and minor [meritorious] deeds that others don’t do. As we see in Massechet Megillah [where amoraim were asked]: ‘On account of which [meritorious practise] have you attained longevity?’ they each spoke of deeds they performed that were not [even] d’oraita (ordained by the Torah). They attached significance to practices that some people might consider to be trivial.’
From here we learn the value of consistency and daily habits (which, as it happens, I discuss in the latest edition of my RZWeekly podcast in reference to my daily daf yomi learning and writing habits – see https://spoti.fi/3Ga44qp), as well as the importance of paying attention and being sensitive to the religious and spiritual practices that others often overlook.
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