The Talmud: Selections, by H. Polano, , at sacred-texts.com
Trust in God.
Rabbi Jochanan, the son of Levi, fasted and prayed to the Lord that he might be permitted to gaze on the angel
[paragraph continues] Elijah, he who had ascended alive to heaven. God granted his prayer, and in the semblance of a man Elijah appeared before him.
"Let me journey with thee in thy travels through the world," prayed the Rabbi to Elijah; "let me observe thy doings, and gain in wisdom and understanding."
"Nay," answered Elijah; "my actions thou couldst not understand; my doings would trouble thee, being beyond thy comprehension."
But still the Rabbi entreated:
"I will neither trouble nor question thee," he said; "only let me accompany thee on thy way."
"Come, then," said Elijah; "but let thy tongue be mute. With thy first question, thy first expression of astonishment, we must part company."
So the two journeyed through the world together. They approached the house of a poor man, whose only treasure and means of support was a cow. As they came near, the man and his wife hastened to meet them, begged them to enter their cot, and eat and drink of the best they could afford, and to pass the night under their roof. This they did, receiving every attention from their poor but hospitable host and hostess. In the morning Elijah rose up early and prayed to God, and when he had finished his prayer, behold the cow belonging to the poor people dropped dead. Then the travellers continued on their journey.
Much was Rabbi Jochanan perplexed. "Not only did we neglect to pay them for their hospitality and generous services, but his cow we have killed;" and he said to Elijah, "Why didst thou kill the cow of this good man, who-----"
"Peace," interrupted Elijah; "hear, see, and be silent! If I answer thy questions we must part."
And they continued on their way together.
Towards evening they arrived at a large and imposing mansion, the residence of a haughty and wealthy man. They were coldly received; a piece of bread and a glass of water were placed before them, but the master of the house did not welcome or speak to them, and they remained there during the night unnoticed. In the morning Elijah remarked that a wall of the house required repairing, and sending for a carpenter, he himself paid the money for the repair, as a return, he said, for the hospitality they had received.
Again was Rabbi Jochanan filled with wonder, but he said naught, and they proceeded on their journey.
As the shades of night were falling they entered a city which contained a large and imposing synagogue. As it was the time of the evening service they entered and were much pleased with the rich adornments, the velvet cushions, and gilded carvings of the interior. After the completion of the service, Elijah arose and called out aloud, "Who is here willing to feed and lodge two poor men this night?" none answered, and no respect was shown to the travelling strangers. In the morning, however, Elijah re-entered the synagogue, and shaking its members by the hands, he said, "I hope that you may all become presidents."
Next evening the two entered another city, when the Shamas (sexton) of the synagogue, came to meet them, and notifying the members of his congregation of the coming of two strangers, the best hotel of the place was opened to them, and all vied in showing them attention and honour.
In the morning, on parting with them, Elijah said, "May the Lord appoint over you but one president."
Jochanan could resist his curiosity no longer. "Tell me," said he to Elijah, "tell me the meaning of all these actions which I have witnessed. To those who have treated
us coldly thou hast uttered good wishes; to those who have been gracious to us thou hast made no suitable return. Even though we must part, I pray thee explain to me the meaning of thy acts."
"Listen," said Elijah, "and learn to trust in God, even though thou canst not understand His ways. We first entered the house of the poor man, who treated us so kindly. Know that it had been decreed that on that very day his wife should die. I prayed unto the Lord that the cow might prove a redemption for her; God granted my prayers, and the woman was preserved unto her husband. The rich man, whom next we called up, treated us coldly, and I repaired his wall. I repaired it without a new foundation, without digging to the old one. Had he repaired it himself he would have dug, and thus discovered a treasure which lies there buried, but which is now for ever lost to him. To the members of the synagogue who were inhospitable I said, 'May you all be presidents,' and where many rule there can be no peace; but to the others I said, 'May you have but one president;' with one leader no misunderstanding may arise. Now, if thou seest the wicked prospering, be not envious; if thou seest the righteous in poverty and trouble, be not provoked or doubtful of God's justice. The Lord is righteous, His judgments all are true; His eyes note all mankind, and none can say, 'What dost thou?'"
With these words Elijah disappeared, and Jochanan was left alone.