Sometimes in those Empty Ones You May Discover Bells of Gold!
A teaching did Moses charge us, a heritage for Jacob’s assembly! (Deuteronomy 33:4).
“Rabbi Parnak said in Rabbi Yoḥanan’s name: He who is himself a scholar, and his son is a scholar, and his son’s son too, Torah will nevermore cease from his seed, as is written, As for me, this is My covenant with them, says YHWH; My spirit that is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, nor out of the mouth of your descendants, nor out of the mouth of your descendant’s descendants, says YHWH, from this time forth and forever (Isaiah 59:21). What is meant by says YHWH?—the blessed Holy One, said, ‘I am surety for you in this matter.’ What is the meaning of from this time forth and forever?—Rabbi Yirmeyahu said: ‘From now on Torah seeks its home [i.e., it becomes hereditary in that family]” (BT Bava Metsi’a 85a).
“Rabbi Yose said: Let the property of your fellow be as precious to you as your own. Prepare yourself to study Torah, for it does not come to you as an inheritance. And let all your deeds be for the sake of heaven” (M Avot 2:17).
“If one wants to become a priest or a Levite he cannot because his father was not a priest or a Levite. However, if one wants to become righteous even if he is a gentile he can do so because it is not a family trait, as it says: bless YHWH, those who fear YHWH, bless YHWH (Psalms 135:20)—it does not say the house of those who fear YHWH but those who fear YHWH. It is not a family trait, rather, on their own they chose to fear and love the blessed Holy One. Therefore, the blessed Holy One loves them” (Bemidbar Rabbah 8:2).
“Be heedful of the children of the poor, for from them Torah goes forth, as is written, Water drips מִדָּלְיָו (midalyav), from his branch, [and his root in abundant waters] (Numbers 24:7)—[מִדַּלִּים (mi-dallim), from the poor,] goes forth Torah [likened to water]. And why is it not usual for scholars to give birth to sons who are scholars?—Rabbi Yosef said, ‘That they not say, The Torah is their legacy’ [i.e., others should not complain that it is useless for them to study, or that they themselves should not think study unnecessary]. Rav Sheshet, the son of Rav Idi, said: ‘That they should not be arrogant towards the public.’ Mar Zutra said: ‘Because they act high-handedly against the public.’ Rav Ashi said: ‘Because they call people donkeys.’ Ravina said: Because they do not first utter a blessing over the Torah [as required]. For Rav Yehudah said in Rav’s name: ‘What is meant by, Who is the wise man, that may understand this? [… for why is the land perished and is burned up like a wilderness, that none passes through?] (Jeremiah 9:11). Now, this question was put to the sages and prophets but they could not answer it until the blessed Holy One Himself did so, as is written, And YHWH says, Because they have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice, neither walked in it (ibid. 12): but is not have not obeyed My voice identical with, neither walked in it?—Rav Yehudah said in Rav’s name: ‘[It means] that they did not first recite a blessing over Torah'” (BT Nedarim 81a).
“Like a slice of pomegranate רַקָּתֵךְ (raqatekh), your forehead (Song of Songs 4:3)… Even רֵיקַנִין (reiqanin), the empty ones, among you are as full of mitsvot as a pomegranate [is full of seeds]” (BT Berakhot 57a).
“That donkey-driver, is he here? For sometimes in those empty ones, you may discover bells of gold! [In rabbinic literature the bell appears as a symbol of revelation and inspiration, see BT Sotah 9b, in the name of Rabbi Neḥemiah: ‘Shekhinah was ringing before him like a bell’]” (Zohar 2:95a).
“Sometimes in a poor man’s undergarment you’ll find a pearl” (Zohar 3:157b, cf. M Avot 4:1).
“Rabbi Yose son of Yehudah of Kefar Bavli said: When you learn from the young, what is it like? Like eating unripe grapes or drinking wine straight from the vat. When you learn from the old, what is it like? Like eating ripe grapes and drinking old wine.
Rabbi Meir said: Do not look at the flask but at what it contains, for a new flask may contain old wine, and an old flask may not contain anything, even new wine” (M Avot 5:26–27).