Thursday, August 18, 2011

15 Av - Rabbi Nachum Ish Gamzu

I'm a few days late with this post, but I''m sure Rabbi Nachum Ish Gamzu would say: "Gam Zu L'Tova"  anyway.

Nachum of Gimzo, a teacher of Rabbi Akiva, was a Tanna of the 2nd generation [1st century]. In the Talmud he is called "ish gam zu" [the man of "gam zu"], and this name is explained as referring to Nachum's motto. It is said that on every occasion, no matter how unpleasant the circumstance, he exclaimed "Gam zu le-ṭovah" [This, too, will be for the best].

Due to the miraculous events which continually punctuated the life of Nachum Ish Gamzu, he was nominated to present the Emperor with a gift. This journey to Rome posed many hazards, and the man who would undertake it would need to be accustomed to miracles which would be necessary on this dangerous mission. At one of the inns where he stayed, the innkeeper decided to investigate the contents of the Rabbi Ish Gam Zu's box, and when he discovered the jewels and precious stones inside, he stole them and replaced the contents with earth from his garden.

So Rabbi Ish Gam Zu arrived at the Emperor's palace with a box of earth. When the Emperor found the box to contain nothing but earth, he had Nachum Ish Gamzu thrown into jail. Nachum accepted this with his usual 'Gam Zu le'Tovah' - and a miracle occurred, in the form of a visit from Eliyahu ha'Navi, who suggested to the Emperor that this might be special earth from Avraham the father of the Jews, who, during the battle against the four kings, threw earth at them which turned into swords (and straw which turned into arrows).

The Emperor tried it out on an enemy whom he had hitherto found invincible. When the Emperor was victorious, he set Nachum Ish Gamzu free, filled the box with jewels and precious stones and sent him home with great honor. When the innkeeper realized what had happened - he demolished his house and brought the dust to the Emperor as a gift (thinking that all the earth on their property was special 'miracle earth'). But of course, nothing happened with the earth that they brought, and the Emperor had them killed for mocking him.

Everything that happens in life is for the best, even if we don't perceive it that way until much later. Later we can look back and realise that it really was "gam zu l'tova".

1 comment:

Leah said...

Devorah, I am so sorry to print this here, yet take a look at what has gone on today in Israel. Baruch Dayan HaEmet. Hashem yokom domo.