Once Rabbi Chiya and Rabbi Yossi were traveling to collect Tzedakah for a holy cause. As the sun was beginning to set, they came upon an inn and decided to spend the night there.
At midnight, the two great sages awoke, as was their custom, to study together the secrets of Torah. The daughter of the innkeeper woke up just then and when she saw that their esteemed guests were awake, she went quickly and lit a candle for them. She remained standing by the entrance to their room to hear their holy learning.
Feeling the presence of the young woman nearby, Rabbi Yossi said out loud: “Ki ner mitzvah v’Torah or” (Mishlei 6) – A candle is a mitzvah and the Torah is light. He continued: “’A mitzvah is light’ this is a reference to the woman whose mitzvah (command) is to light the Shabbat and Holiday candles; and ‘Torah is light’ is a reference to the husband whose mitzvah (commandment) is the study of Torah. Therefore, even if a woman is unable to study Torah, the Torah study of her husband, will light up her candle.”
Rabbi Yossi wanted to encourage and praise the young woman who put in effort to get up and light the candle for them. Yet, as soon as Rabbi Yossi finished sharing this explanation with his colleague, they heard the young woman burst into tears. Her father woke up when he heard the crying and came over to ask his daughter what had happened. The daughter told him what she just heard from the two sages. Now both of them stood at the entrance of the room crying bitterly. Rabbi Yossi asked them why they were crying?
“Perhaps your daughter’s husband did not merit to be a Torah scholar, is this why you are crying,” he asked compassionately. “Yes, indeed, this is so,” the father answered, “and this is why my daughter and I are crying and feel so badly.”
The father recounted to Rabbi Yossi how this transpired.
“One day, I was among the congregation in the synagogue saying our prayers. Suddenly I noticed a young lad standing on a rooftop of one of the adjacent homes. When the congregation came to the recitation of the kaddish, he took such a leap from the roof, that in one second he was inside the synagogue in time to answer Amein and Amein Yehei Shemei Raba… to the kaddish being recited. I was so stunned by his alacrity and desire to fulfill the mitzvot, that I thought to myself, this young man has true awe of Heaven and good character traits, surely, he is also fluent in Torah, and even if he is not yet a Torah giant, he will grow and become one. Though he was still young, and I had just met him, his actions warmed my heart and made a deep impression on me. I spoke to my daughter and she agreed that I should approach him about a shidduch with my daughter. They married shortly thereafter.
After the wedding, I realized what a terrible mistake I made. The groom appears to be a complete ignoramus. He doesn’t even know how to say the Grace after the meal. I tried to teach him and even tried to get him tutors to teach him the Grace and the Shema, but it seems that he is not interested in learning. Or perhaps he simply is not able to learn. From then on we are in great pain and simply don’t know what to do.”
Hearing this, Rabbi Yossi turned to the father and daughter and said, “Perhaps you will have a child born to you who will be a great Torah sage.”
They were still talking when the young man awoke and jumped into the room with one leap. He sat down next to Rabbi Chiya and Rabbi Yossi. Rabbi Yossi looked at him intently. He saw his face lit up and a great light shining from him. Rabbi Yossi said: “I see in this young man a great light, but I do not know if he himself will be a great Torah scholar or he will have a son who will light up the world with the light of Torah.”
The young husband heard the words of Rabbi Yossi and he smiled. He said to them: “With your permission, I would like to say something to you.” He began.“I am very young, and you are elders, I will share some insights with you on the verse, ‘I am young and you are old therefore I held back and feared to express what’s on my mind with you’ (Iyov, 32).” He then began to explain this in depth with many hidden secrets from the esoteric part of Torah. Rabbi Yossi and Rabbi Chiya sat there in total wonderment to what they were seeing and hearing.
When he finished, he said to them, “Let me explain myself. Since I am still quite young, I took it upon myself to remain silent and not show my knowledge for a period of two months. Yesterday was the completion of this oath. Hashem directed your steps to come here so I could share my words of Torah. Now that I merited to have such great scholars as our guests, I will share with you some more. He shared with them explanations on the verse they themselves said earlier, ‘A mitzvah is a candle and the Torah is light’. His words of wisdom were deep and filled with the great secrets of Torah. Rabbi Chiya and Rabbi Yossi were filled with wonder how someone so young had such an incredible depth of knowledge.
The young man told them: “I am from Babylonia and the son of Rav Safra. I did not merit to know my father because I was orphaned from him when I was still a baby. When I came to the holy Land of Israel and saw that my friends here were learned in Torah, I took it upon myself to remain incognito. No one knew that I too knew Torah. Now I feel so fortunate that I merited to meet you here in my house.
Rabbi Yossi could not contain himself anymore. He raised his voice and cried with joy. He kissed the young man on his forehead. All those present rose and did likewise. His father-in-law and young wife were beside themselves with joy. Rabbi Yossi said: “Happy is my lot that I merited to hear from you such wonderous secrets of the Torah which I did not merit to hear from anyone until now.
Father and daughter were thrilled beyond words, crying and joyous at the same time. Also, Rabbi Chiya and Rabbi Yossi shared in their joy. The young wife prepared the table and invited everyone to a meal. During the meal, the young husband said: “I saw the deep pain of my father-in-law and my wife that I am not able even to say the Grace after meals. However, I was not able to reveal my true self to them because of my oath of silence.”
Rabbi Yossi then asked the young man to share more secrets of Torah with them. “Please light up the night for us with what you know.” The young man taught the secrets in the Grace after meals. The whole night they sat together enjoying words of Torah. When it became light, they said the Grace after the meal. Once again, they hugged and kissed the young man with great love. Rabbi Yossi said: “Since we merited such enlightenment in Torah, today is certainly a day of celebration. We will stay over so you can prepare a big party for all the people of this city. This will be a holy convocation to G-d.”
Afterwards the sages turned to the woman and blessed her that her joy should be a complete joy. They asked her father to prepare a meal for the whole community to participate. The people in the community came to share in the joy of the family who merited such an incredible groom, as the news spread throughout the city about what happened that night. During the celebratory meal, the groom spoke words of Torah and everyone was joyous and found pleasure in his teaching. All day they enjoyed together and towards evening, the people decided to appoint the young scholar as the head of the community.
Rabbi Yossi and Rabbi Chiya remained in the city for another night and the next day they took their leave of the young man and his family. When they returned to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, he said to them: “I see that you spent two days in the company of a great angel! This young man taught you hidden Heavenly secrets. How fortunate are you.”
Rabbi Yossi and Rabbi Chiya told him all that transpired on their journey. Rabbi Shimon said to them: “Fortunate are you and fortunate is my lot. I remember that one day, Rav Safra, the father of this young man, was walking with me. When we parted, I blessed him that he should merit a son who will be a lion among his friends. Though he did not merit to see it himself, his son grew up and became the lion among his peers. Fortunate are you, my dear students, that you merited to see it.”
From Sippurei Tzaddikim newsletter # 462 (based on Zohar part 2 – 165)In Sefer Zohar Hakadosh im Loshon Hakodesh the story can be found in Parshat Terumah Pg 396-418 and includes the Heavenly Torah words of the young man.