Rabbi Chanina ben Tradyon
“Two who sit together and no words of Torah pass between them constitute a seat of cynics” — Rabbi Chanina ben Tradyon (Avot 3:2)
There is no greater cynicism than that expressed by one who is told that all the gold coins he can count in one hour will be his, and yet he remains idle. He certainly scoffs at the value of the coins and scorns them. In similar fashion one who is idle from studying Torah despite his awareness of the great reward available can only be called a cynic.
“No words of Torah pass between them” indicates that the two are involved in the study of Torah independently – but they do not join together to learn as a chavruta. This can only be the result of each one scoffing in his heart at the knowledge and abilities of the other and thinking that he has nothing to gain from a chavruta with him. Therefore “no words of Torah pass between them” – they do not learn together. These are certainly considered cynics even if they don’t actually utter a sound of scorn.
- Midrash Shmuel, as quoted by the Tosefot Yom Tov