Rabbi Yohanan and Reish Lakish in the NYT’s
If we look back in history, when people would go down to the lake to bathe, they didn’t wear bathing suits (they hadn’t been invented yet). One of the stories from the Talmud tells of Shimon ben Lakish, a highwayman and former gladiator from the third-century A.D. who became a learned rabbi. One evening, while walking along the shore, he saw a beautiful woman bathing. Being very physical in all senses, he rushed into the water — only to face Rabbi Yochanan (known as a great scholar and to be rather effeminate). To assuage Shimon’s disappointment and anger, the rabbi told him, “if you think of me as beautiful, you should see my sister.” Intrigued, Shimon followed him home, met his sister, and immediately fell for her, and she for him (bad boy syndrome goes way back). Rabbi Yochanan said “Whoa, we can’t have a criminal in the family, you have to study first.” And thus Shimon became his brother-in-law and one of the great rabbis and jurists of his time.
It’s nice to see two important Talmudic rabbis mentioned in the New York Times, but Reish Lakish saw Rabbi Yoḥanan swimming in the Jordan River and not the Kinneret.