As we saw on yesterday’s, our Gemara is discussing issues of bribery and the care that a judge must take to ensure that his decision will be free of any prejudice. One the stories related by the Gemara tells of Rav Anan, who refused to accept a basket of fish from someone who asked him to judge his case. Furthermore, Rav Anan informed the man that he could not act as a judge for him, since the offer of the basket of fish might influence any future decisions that he would make. Nevertheless, after listening to the man’s argument that he should be allowed to give the present since giving a present to a Torah scholar is, itself, a mitzva (as a source, the man referred to a present that was given to the prophet Elisha – see II 4:42), Rav Anan accepted the present and referred him to Rav Nahman for judgment.
When Rav Nahman received the letter from Rav Anan which explained that Rav Anan could not judge this man’s case and that he was, therefore, referring the case to Rav Nahman, Rav Nahman assumed that the man must have been related to Rav Anan and that it would be appropriate to hear his case before the other cases that were on his docket. When the other party saw the honor that was being given to this man, he lost his train of thought, did not defend himself well, and lost the case.
Although Rav Anan did not mean for this to happen, his response to the man’s offer skewed justice, and as a result the prophet Eliyahu, with whom Rav Anan studied on a regular basis, stopped coming to learn with him. Only after fasting and prayer did Eliyahu return, but Eliyahu’s presence became so frightening that Rav.Anan had to make a box for himself to stay in while learning. Eliyahu’s teachings during that period are known as Seder Eliyahu Zuṭa, while the earlier teachings are known as Seder Eliyahu Rabba.
We find many references in the Talmud to Eliyahu studying with the Talmudic sages. In II Divrei HaYamim (21:12) we find a letter sent to King Yehoram of Judah from the prophet Eliyahu, years after he had passed away. Many quotes in the Talmud that are taken from this work open with the words “Tanna deVei Eliyahu…” referencing the book of interpretations of biblical verses, stories of Jewish history over the generations, and first-person accounts that are presented as Eliyahu’s own words.