C.S. Lewis & The Talmud

Do C.S. Lewis and the Talmud have anything in common? Recently, my wife and I have been reading The Chronicles of Narnia to our children. We are on the third book in the series, The Horse and His Boy. Over the course of a few days I read the first half of the book (of which I never could get into) and then let my wife take over in reading the second half of the book. Since I had lost interest in the book, they finished it up without me. When they were nearly finished with the book my wife said that while reading she had found a Talmudic inference by Lewis (my wife is very cool).

As Shasta (the main character of the book) has just reached what he believes to be his haven and resting place after narrowly escaping death and saving his companion’s life, he is told there is no time to rest and he must press on to warn King Lune of an impending attack. Lewis tells us:

Shasta’s heart fainted at these words for he felt he had no strength left. And he writhed inside at what seemed the cruelty and unfairness of the demand. He had not yet learned that if you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.

Although I’m sure Lewis didn’t intend on citing a Talmudic principle (as he was generally smug in the Christian “superiority” to Judaism), he nevertheless was able to deduce the same conclusion as Rabbi Azzai of the Talmudic era:

Ben Azzai said: Be eager to fulfill the smallest mitzvah and flee from transgression; for one mitzvah induces another and one transgression leads to another transgression. The reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah, the reward of one transgression is another transgression.
Avot 4:2

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