Rabbi Yosi and the student from Great Snoring (based on Bereshit Rabbah 34:15, read the original by clicking here)
Rabbi Yosi was an excellent teacher. There was no child he could not inspire. No child he could not make love the Torah. No child he could not make see the greatness of the Jewish tradition and instill pride and desire to learn more. No child that is, until Natan came along.
Natan was the worse student in the academy. His mind seemed coated in a fact-repellant oil. He wasn’t a bad kid, he was quiet and compliant. But he had no friends, and simply wasn’t there. He was always looking through the window. The other teachers in the academy had tried their best, but with no success whatsoever.
Rabbi Yosi was patient. He explained the same verse once, twice, three times, ten times. Nothing. Natan simply couldn’t absorb anything.
Rabbi Yosi asked: “Natan, why can’t you learn? Why do you look at the window so much? Where are you from?
Natan answered: “Me? Rabbi, I’m from Great Snoring. I miss it deeply and can’t think of anything but how much I’m not from here”
Rabbi Yosi contained his desire to laugh. Great Snoring was like Chelm, you know, the place where people make jokes about. They said that it was so far away that you would grow old before reaching it. They said it was so hot that even the camels couldn’t stand it. They said it was so dry that they marked Great Snoring with a mount of sand on the map. They said that in Great Snoring you had to speak with your mouth closed so that the flies wouldn’t get in. And that, of course, even the babies snored in Great Snoring.
“Oh”, said Rabbi Yosi, “tell me, why do you like Great Snoring so much?”
“Great Snoring is the grandest of places! It is warm and sandy. I never need to wear so many layers as I do here! The dorm is so cold and damp. Great Snoring is warm. People there care for each other and help each other in the dry season. My people are smart too! They even figured out that if you smear the heads of the newborns with paste of dried red figs, the flies don’t bother the newborns. Here, when others talk to me, it is just to make jokes about my town. There I had real friends. Here, everyone is buzzing talking about each other, there the only buzzing was the flies.”
This was more than Natan had said in the entire year. So Rabbi Yosi started asking Natan, every day, for stories about Great Snoring, and did he have stories! And bit by bit Natan began improving. He stopped looking at the window so much, and even made a few friends. And that is how rabbi Yosi said: “Blessed is the One who makes any place be loved by those born there.”
Natan became a good student. Eventually he returned to Great Snoring and became a teacher himself. And he never forgot Rabbi Yosi.