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Zohar Atkins

Rav Kahana told the story that

Rav Hisda said:

In all my days, I was considered a master of planting and collecting,
Yet when I went out to trim the vineyards,
I cut too close to the vine.
Now, people will say, it would be better if I hadn’t trimmed at all.

To which Abaye said:

The branches shall return,
the leaves shall return,
and the fruit shall return.  
The only thing you have truly shorn is yourself.

Said Rav Hisda:
But what harvest can there be in the meantime?

Said Abaye:
 If one goes out as a harvester, one shall return a harvester.

Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak gave a different account:

He said that Rav Hisda was concerned about an imperfection

around his genitals
that he had revealed while grooming himself.

Rav Hisda said to himself:

The shears that would have been my exaltation
have become the shears of my demise.
What will my wife say when she sees me like this?

Abaye sought to console him:

First, your imperfection will soon be covered,
second, it is not an imperfection,
and third, if it is an imperfection, your wife will not see it as such.

Rav Pappa recounted it differently:

Rav Hisda was depressed,

because all the days of his life he had been meticulous in his prayers,
yet when it came time for him to lead Hallel on Rosh Chodesh,
he forgot all of the words, except for the opening blessing.

He said to himself:

On what will my blessing carry?

Abaye said: On your silence.

Rav Hisda objected that one cannot praise in silence.

Abaye said:

First, your silence shall soon turn to song,
Second, it already is a kind of song,
And third, even if you never sing again,

your students shall respond “Amen” to you all the same.

    Rav Hisda retorted:

I am not worried about my students,
but about the One Who Speaks and Worlds Come To Presence.

Said Abaye:

If one approaches God with the hope that he will listen,
he will listen.

Zohar Atkins
Rabbi Dr. Zohar Atkins is the founder of Etz Hasadeh and a Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. He holds a DPhil in Theology from Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and semikha from JTS. He is the author of An Ethical and Theological Appropriation of Heidegger’s Critique of Modernity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018) and Nineveh (Carcanet, 2019). He is the author of a weekly d'var Torah newsletter: tinyletter.com/etzhasadeh