Horav Meir Bergman, Shlita, cites the Meshech Chochmah in his commentary to Parashas Bechukosai. Rav Meir Simchah quotes a passage from the Talmud Bava Metzia 85b, in which Rabbi Chaviva bar Surmaki said, “I saw that in the morning the eyes of a certain sage who was regularly visited by Eliyahu HaNavi were bright and beautiful, but, in the evening they appeared as if scorched by fire. Rav Chaviva asked the sage, “What happened?”
The sage replied, “I asked Eliyahu HaNavi to show me the sages in Heaven as they rise up from Gan Eden to the Yeshivah Shel Maalah, Heavenly Academy. He told me, ‘You will be able to look at all of their thrones except for the throne of Rabbi Chiya, at which you must not look.”
“I asked him, ‘How can I distinguish between the thrones?” he replied, ‘All of them are accompanied by Angels as they rise up and descend again. Rabbi Chiya’s throne rises and descends of its own accord.’ I was unable to restrain myself. I had to see the throne of Rabbi Chiya.” The sage gazed on the throne, and immediately two sparks of fire came and struck his eyes, blinding him. “The next day, I went to Rabbi Chiya’s grave and entreated that he intercede on my behalf, and I was healed.”
The Meshech Chochmah wonders why Rabbi Chiya’s throne was deemed “off limits”? What distinguished his throne? He explains that the difference is like the difference between a talmid chacham, Torah scholar, and a machzik Torah, one who gives material support to enable Torah study. In the Talmud Berachos 34b, Chazal state that all the visions of the Neviim, Prophets, concerning the future were regarding the reward awaiting one who marries his daughter off to a talmid chacham, who does business on his behalf or who grants him something of his possessions. Concerning the talmidei chachamim themselves, the pasuk in Yeshayahu 64:3, applies, “No eye has seen G-d, but Yours what will be done for he who awaits You.”
This means that one whose main occupation is in the field of material involvement, things of the mundane, physical and familiar to mortal man – then his reward, splendid as it may be, will nonetheless be drawn from the palette of ordinary human life – something about which he can prophesy, something in line with his physical vision. A person who occupies himself primarily with holy wisdom, the shleimus, perfection, of whose concepts lies beyond the realm of the human experience, then his reward will also be beyond that of human account. The profundities of the Torah’s wisdom will be revealed to him, which will delight him in a totally spiritual manner, far beyond the grasp of the human experience. Thus, the Prophets could not speak of it.
Maharal explains that a prophecy is a vision. As such, the Navi with his physical senses can perceive only those things that are part of the physical world; his ability to “see” is limited to the human experience. Those things that are foreign to earthly human life cannot be perceived via the prophetic vision.
The sage could look at the “thrones of the sages” as a reference to the individuals who support talmidei chachamim, as a throne supports the person who sits upon it. He could, however, not gaze upon the sages themselves as they ascended to the Heavenly Yeshivah to study the Torah’s hidden wisdom. The reward which they received was supernatural, something which no human eye has been able to behold.