Rabbi Shimeon - Sabbath of the Talmud
Type of Spiritual Experience
Now superficially not much happened in the cave, but the contents of the Zohar were supposed to have been the fruit of this long seclusion, so no visions and apparently no hallucinations – unless you count the palm tree and the spring – which I think are symbolic of enlightenment, but instead 'wisdom' or at least a more intuitive sense of the spiritual world.
A description of the experience
Sabbath of the Talmud, Babylonian recension
On a certain occasion Rabbi Jehudah, Rabbi Josi, and Rabbi Shimeon were sitting together and with them also was Jehudah, the son of proselytes.
Rabbi Jehudah opened the conversation saying 'How beautiful are the works of this nation [the Romans]. They have established markets, they have built bridges, they have opened bathing houses'.
Whereupon Rabbi Jose was silent.
But Rabbi Shimeon ben Jochai answered, saying 'All these things have they instituted for their own sake. Their markets are gathering places for harlots, they have built baths for their own enjoyment and bridges to collect tolls from those who cross them'.
Jehudah, the son of proselytes, repeated the conversation and it came to the ears of Caesar who proclaimed 'Jehudah, who extols us, shall be extolled; Josi, who said nothing, shall be exiled to Saphoris [Cyprus], Shimeon, who disparaged us, shall be put to death'.
Rabbi Shimeon and his son then went out and hid themselves in the lecture hall, but afterwards in a cave, where a miracle took place, a date tree and a spring of water being raised up for them.
They laid aside their garments and sat covered with sand up to their necks, studying the whole time and assuming their vestures only at prayer time, for fear that the same might wear out.
In this wise they spent 12 years in the cave, when Elijah came to the opening and said 'Who will inform the son of Jochai that Caesar is dead and his decree is annulled?'
Hereupon they left the cave.