Brachot 17 - Rabban Gamliel is a Delicate Individual

The students continued questioning Rabban Gamliel about seeming inconsistencies in his behavior. He washed in hot water on the first night after his wife died. They asked him, "Our teacher, you taught us that a mourner is prohibited to wash!?" He answered, "I am not like other people, I am a delicate individual." He was teaching that the Sages only prohibited a mourner to wash for pleasure, not if it was for health reasons.

The word "delicate" is "istenis" in Hebrew. It has six letter, each hinting to one of the six reincarnated souls that were present in him, Abraham, Simon, Taviomi, Nachum, Yehuda, Sechorah.  For their honor and rectification, he had to wash himself.

When his servant Tavi died, he accepted condolences. His students asked, "Our teacher, you taught us not to accept condolences for slaves, but use a different way of expressing one's compassion, so that people will not mistakenly assume that the slave and his family were in fact free people, - which has implications for genealogy." He told them, "Tabi was not like other people, he was a Torah Sage." This was a rare, unusual situation, and the regular decrees do not apply in exceptional cases.

The Talmud lists a number of special prayers and favorite moral lessons from various teachers. The common theme of them is that one should strive to become a better person, not just learn about it, and that a prayer, or moral lesson, needs to be repeated many times, in order to take effect.

Art: Vittore Ghislandi - Portrait Of Giovanni Secco Suardo And His Servant