When good materializes

When I make it into the downtown portions of the big city near me, I always ask, “Will there be enough parking?” To be honest, the hunt for parking is something that causes me some stress. Eventually, though, especially if you’re willing to pay for it, parking can be found.

But there is something special when “parking karma” strikes. When the perfect spots appears, seemingly out of thin air, especially right outside the venue you’re going.

There is something satisfying about the correct thing materializing at the right moment.

On Sanhedrin 59b, we get just such a story:

Is there such a thing as meat that comes down from the heavens? Yes. For we have a story about Rabbi Shimon ben Halafta, who was walking down a path when he encountered lions. Because they roared at him so they could eat him, he said, in prayer, quoting a verse, “The young lions roar for prey, and seek their food from God,” (Psalms 104:21). 

While out and about, Rabbi Shimon Ben Halafta encounters two lions. This dangerous moment when a single mistake could cost him his life. These two hungry lions begin to roar at him, and he realizes they want to eat him.

He is not going to get away, so what does he do? He quotes a verse from Scripture mirroring his exact experience. He’s the prey.

But Rabbi Shimon ben Halafta has some serious luck. The Talmud goes on:

Two thighs came down from heaven for him. One, the lions ate, and one, they left behind.

WHAT? Meat materializes, providing the lions with an alternative to Rabbi Shimon’s body. This isn’t parking karma, this is miraculous meat!

After this, Rabbi Shimon ben Halafta does what any reasonable rabbi would do…

He picked it up and came to the Beit Midrash, the study hall. He asked about it, “Is this pure or impure, is this kosher or unkosher?” They said to him, there is no impure thing that comes from the heavens.

He brings it to the Beit Midrash to find out if he can eat it.

This story teaches us a few things:

Be open to the possibility of things working out.

Yes, this story could have ended very differently. Rabbi Shimon ben Halafta could have been eaten, the lions would have been satisfied, and that would have been that. But it didn’t happen that way.

It can be easy to look at life and imagine the lions eating you. Everything is bad, suffering is everywhere, and life is terrible. The possibility of success, of survival, of thriving is available, if we’re open to it.

What might this miracle look like in your life, if you paid closer attention?

It is ok to be silly.

Rabbi Shimon ben Halafta’s first response is to go to the Beit Midrash and ask a kashrut question.

We might think that framing this miraculous moment with the mundanity of kashrut degrades this story, but I don’t think that’s what’s happening. He hasn’t lost his sense of what happened to him, he’s actually highlighting it.

He translates this moment of survival into a question, drawing out its absolute absurdity while asking such a simple question.

It is like finding Taylor Swift concert tickets in your pocket and, looking up at your friends with a smirk, asking, “Do you think the seats have cup holders?” Everyone around you would be shocked, “THAT’s the question you’re asking?!”

I’m not sure if he’s playing humble, but I want to imagine that he’s showing off his sense of humor. He’s being himself, celebrating this moment by cracking a joke.

Good things can just be good things.

We live in a moment when it can be hard to feel good about things. There is a lot of suffering, violence, and conflict in the world. It can be overwhelming. It is good to remember this, especially those of us who have such abundance.

And, it is important to remember that good things that happen to you are still good things, regardless of whatever else is happening. We can celebrate and enjoy what we have.

This is why we learn, “no impure things come from heaven.” It is a reminder that these wonderful moments don’t have to be tarnished. 

It is ok to feel pure joy, like finding the perfect parking spot.

Thank you for reading! In my With Torah and Love newsletter, I write about Torah, Talmud, self-awareness, and becoming our best selves as students of life and Judaism.

About the Author

Rabbi Jeremy Markiz is a teacher and consultant. He teaches the Torah rooted in personal growth, kindness, intentionality, and bettering the world. He writes the With Torah and Love newsletter.

He helps clergy, congregations, and Jewish organizations grow and communicate clearly in the digital world, develop effective strategies, and solve problems with his consulting firm, Next Level Rabbinics.