Bava Batra 158b
A house falls upon a mother and son, rachmana litzlan, the woman’s heirs claim, “he died first, then she died, so we inherit her property”; the man/boy’s heirs claim, “she died first, then he died, so we inherit her property”. Although in previous similar cases (a man and his son, a husband and wife) Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel disagreed as to who gets the property, with Beit Shammai ruling that the groups of heirs split it, and Beit Hillel ruling that the property remains in the presumptive possession of whoever's hands it was in previously – HERE, the anonymous first opinion of the Mishnah claims that Beit Hillel concedes to Beit Shammai’s position. Rabbi Akiva, however, says that, no, also here, Beit Hillel disputed with Beit Shammai and maintained their position. Ben Azzai observes to Rabbi Akiva “we are dismayed over the previous disputes, and you come to foment dispute where there is (a report of) agreement?
The Gemara then takes up Rabbi Akiva’s position and asked, “in the presumptive possession of whom?”. Rabbi Ila says, of the mother; Rabbi Zeira says, of the son. When Rabbi Zeira came up to the Land of Israel, he took up Rabbi Ila’s position. He said, this shows that the air of the Land of Israel makes one wise!”
What does that wisdom consist of? The Rashbam, whose commentary “takes Rashi’s place” in Bava Batra, explains, “since I’ve come to the Land of Israel, I’ve set my mind upon leaving my original position and determining the truth of matters”.
This is SUCH a powerful piece. Notice how many layers of dispute precede Rabbi Zeira. The two contesting parties (who have no proof of their claims), Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel, Tana Kama and Rabbi Akiva, and finally, Rabbi Ila and Rabbi Zeira.
What Rabbi Zeira left behind upon coming to the Land of Israel is the necessity to establish one’s being against a hostile world by asserting and arguing for one’s positions as though one’s life depended upon being right. But, upon ASCENDING to the Land of Israel, he made a concerted effort to stop doing that, to leaving behind the whole notion of establishing one’s position, a fortified, entrenched position, an initial position which, born of one’s own insights and ingenuity, just MUST be right because it is a product of one OWN, and therefore, a veritable homunculus of one very self.
In the Land of Israel, one is part of something much larger, literally, a member of the tribe (or “a tribe”, as the gemara goes on to point out) one need not be right to be, worthy is indelibly present as part of the vital, eternal people upon the land, and therefore, one is freed (or must free oneself, if habituated otherwise) to seek, find and acknowledge truth, G-d seal, wherever it is to be found.
Oh, the great Rabbi Zeira (whose name means “small”)! Oh, the wondrous air of the land! Where do we find such people, where do we breathe such air today?