Sermon Illustrations

The Babylonian Talmud (tractate Baba Metsia, page 59b) tells a story of Rabbi Eliezer, one of the greatest of the rabbinical sages, and instructor of the great Rabbi Akiva. One day he was engaged in a fierce debate with a group of rabbis about a small matter of interpretation. When he could not sway the group opinion, he invoked a miracle to prove he was right. Trees uprooted before the eyes of the rabbis! They were impressed, but replied, "We do not listen to trees." He then caused a river to flow backwards, but the rabbis replied, "We do not listen to rivers." Frustrated, Rabbi Eliezer cried, "If I am right, let the walls of the academy prove it!" The walls fell in, and again, though impressed, the rabbis replied, "We do not listen to walls." Finally, at his wits end, Rabbi Eliezer cried, "If the Law agrees with me, let it be proven from Heaven!" At that very moment, all of those present in the ruins of the academy heard a voice from Heaven saying, "Why do you dispute with Rabbi Eliezer, seeing that in all matters the Law agrees with him?" To this, the rabbis replied, "Sorry, we do not listen to Heaven."