yoke of the kingdom of heaven. His pupils asked:
'O master, thus far?' He replied: 'All my life
have I been distressed about this verse : " With all
thy soul " ' (even if He takes away thy soul) ; I used
to say : When shall I have the opportunity to fulfil
it? Shall I not fulfil it now that the opportunity is
come?' He prolonged the word One, so that his
soul departed while he uttered the word One. A
heavenly voice came forth, and said : ' Happy art
thou, Rabbi Akiba, because thy soul departed at
the word One! The ministering angels said unto
the Holy One, blessed be He : ' Is this the Torah,
and this the reward thereof? Is Thy hand governed
by men, O Lord?'* He replied unto them: 'Their
portion is in eternal life.' ° A heavenly voice came
^ Deuteronomy 30. 20.
' Ibid. 6. 5.
* Psalm 17. 14. A haggadic interpretation is given here.
Rashi offers a different explanation. It is also possible, by
changing the vocalization, to translate : These are slain for
34 POST-BIBLICAL HEBREW LITERATURE
forth, and said: ' Happy art thou, Rabbi Akiba; thou
art ready for the life of the world to come.'
2. A Controversy on the Merits of Charity *
Tunius Rufus' asked Rabbi Akiba: 'If your God
loves the poor, why does he not sustain them ? ' He
replied : ' That we may be delivered from the punish-
ment of Gehenna.' Turnus Rufus said : ' That would
condemn you to Gehenna. I shall give thee a parable.
A king of flesh and blood is wroth against his ser-
vant, casts him into a dungeon, and decrees that none
shall give him food or drink. A man, however, comes,
and gives him food and drink. When the king hears
of it, will he not be angry with him? Ye are called
servants, as it is written : " For unto Me the children
of Israel are servants," ' * Rabbi Akiba replied : ' This
is not so ; let me give thee a parable. A king of flesh
and blood is wroth against his son, casts him into a
dungeon, and commands that none shall give him food
or drink. A man, however, comes and gives him food
and drink. When the king hears of it, will he not
send him gifts ? We are called children, as it is writ-
ten: "Ye are the children of the Lord your God."'"
But Turnus Rufus said unto him : ' Ye are called
children, and ye are likewise called servants : when
ye do God's will, ye are called children ; but when ye
do not God's will, ye are called servants. At
present, however, ye are not doing God's will.' Rabbi
Akiba replied : ' Nevertheless it is written : " Is it
* Tractate Baba Batra loa.
' A Roman commander in Judea under Hadrian. Turnus
stands either for Tyrannus or T. Annius.
* Leviticus 25. 55.
'Deuteronomy 14. i.
THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD 35
not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou
bring the poor that are cast out to thy house ? " " Now
to which time do the words bring the poor that are
cast out to thy house apply? Certainly to the present
time, and yet it is written : " Is it not to deal thy bread
to the hungry ! " '
3. Maxims and Admonitions "
Rabbi Eleazar ha-Kappar says: Keep away from
complaining, lest thou shouldst complain against others,
and sin all the more. Love him who reproves thee,
that thou mayest add wisdom to thy wisdom ; hate
him who praises thee, that thy wisdom may not be
diminished. Love the synagogue, that thou mayest
take thy reward every day ; love the house of study,
that thy children may be inspired to study the Torah.
Love the poor, that thy children may not come to
that state. Love humility, that thou mayest complete
the years of thy life. Love acts of beneficence, that
thou mayest be delivered from the angel of untimely
death. Be careful in reading the Shema' and prayers,
that thou mayest be delivered from the punishment
of Gehenna. Let thy house be open wide, that thou
mayest not lack sustenance. Take heed that the doors
of thy house should not be locked when thou reclinest
at the table to eat and to drink ; for the doors of thy
house sometimes lead thee to poverty. Take care of
the honor of thy wife, that she may not be like a
barren woman. Be joyful when thou art afflicted with
pain, for this delivers thee from the punishment of
'" Isaiah 58. 7.
"Tractate Derek Erez Zuta, chapter 9, Tawrogi's edition
pp. 45, seq.
36 POST-BIBLICAL HEBREW LITERATURE
Gehenna. Rejoice in thy table when the hungry derive
pleasure from it ; for thereby thou wilt prolong thy
days in this world and in the world to come. Be joy-
ful when thou hast given away aught from thy house,
that the anger of the angel of death may be averted
from thee, as it is written : ' A gift in secret pacifieth
anger ; and a present in the bosom strong wrath.' " If
thou hast refrained thyself from doing a good deed,
the angel of death will meet thee; but if thou hast
caused thy feet to hurry for the sake of the poor and
for the sake of the commandments, the words Blessed
art thou when thou contest in, and blessed art thou
when thou goest out'^^ apply to thee. If thou keepest
thy mouth from slander, thou wilt be all thy days in
peace. If thou hast been impudent before one who is
greater than thou, thou wilt in the end become leprous.
If thou hast refrained thyself from a good deed, and
has occupied thyself with a sinful deed, thy wife will
in the end die of a plague, as it is written : ' Son of
man, behold, I take away from thee the desire of thine
eyes with a plague.' " If thou hast run to honor a
sage, thou wilt have sons and daughters who are
righteous before Heaven ; and if thou hast run to
honor a poor man, thou wilt have sons who study
the Torah and fulfil the commandments in Israel. If
thou seest that a sage has died, turn not away from
him until thou hast accompanied him to the grave ; so
that when thou diest, thou shalt enter into peace and
rest in thy bed. If thou seest that thy friend is im-
poverished, and that his hand has failed, send him
not back empty, as it is written : * Whoso keepeth
^^ Proverbs 21. 14.
" Deuteronomy 28. 6.
" Ezekiel 24. 16.
THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD 37
the commandment shall know no evil thing.' " If
thou hast lent him aught in the hour of his need, the
words Then shalt thou call, and the Lord will answer '"
will apply to thee. If thou hast humbled thyself, the
Holy One, blessed be He, will lift thee up; but if thou
hast made thyself haughty oefore thy friend, the
Holy One, blessed be He, will humble thee. Pursue
peace, and people shall tell of thy peace as of the peace
of Phinehas the son of Eleazar. And thus did Rabbi
Eleazar say: Love peace, and hate strife. Great is
peace, for even if the Israelites worship idols, but
peace reigns in their midst, the Shekinah, as it were,
can do them no harm, as it is written : ' Ephraim is
united, though he has idols, let him alone.' " But if
strife is in their midst, what is written concerning
them ? ' Their heart is divided : now shall they be
destroyed.' " How does this apply ? A house in which
there is strife will in the end be laid waste. The sages
say: A synagogue in which there is. strife will in the
end be demolished. If two scholars dwelling in one
city have two courts of justice, and there is strife in
their midst, they will die an untimely death.
Abba Saul says: Strife between courts of justice
brings about the destruction of the world.
'' Ecclesiastes 8. 5.
" Isaiah 58. g.
" Hosea 4. 17. A haggadic interpretation is here given.
V. THE MIDRASH
[The midrashic literature is divided into two main classes :
halakic and haggadic. The former deals with legal matters,
while the latter, which comprises the greater part of midrashic
collections, is exegetic and homiletic. Some of the books are
arranged in accordance with the order of the biblical pas-
sages upon which they are based, while others are groups
of homilies delivered on the important Sabbaths and festivals.
The language of this branch of literature is mostly Hebrew,
and is very fluent and sometimes poetic, but Aramaic pas-
sages occur now and then, especially in the older collections.
These works were compiled and redacted at various times,
from the tannaitic period down to the twelfth century, and
are mostly of Palestinian origin.]
I. The Prophet Jeremiah Meets Mother Zion
Mourning for Her Exiled Children^
Jeremiah said: While going up to Jerusalem, I
lifted up mine eyes, and saw a woman sitting on the
top of a mountain, clad in black garments, her hair
dishevelled; she was crying and asking who would
comfort her, and I was crying and asking who would
comfort me. I drew nigh unto her, and said: 'If
thou art a woman, speak to me; if thou art a ghost,
depart from me.' She replied : ' Dost thou not know
me ? I am she who had seven children ; their father
went away to a city across the sea. A messenger
came and said unto me : " Thy husband died in the
city across the sea." While I went about weeping for
him, another messenger came, and said unto me : " The
house fell upon thy seven children, and killed them."
Now I know not for whom I should weep and for
whom I should dishevel my hair.' I said : * Thou
* Pesikta Rabbati, Friedmann's edition, p. 131b.
THE MIDRASH 39
art not better than my mother Zion, and yet she
has become pasture for the beasts of the field.' She
answered and said unto me : ' I am thy mother Zion,
I am the mother of the seven, for thus it is written :
" She that hath borne seven languisheth," ' ' Jere-
miah then said unto her : ' Thy m_isfortune is Hke
the misfortune of Job : Job's sons and daughters
were taken away from him, and Hkewise thy sons and
daughters were taken away from thee ; I ^ took away
from Job his silver and gold, and from thee, too, did I
take away thy silver and gold; I cast Job on the
dunghill, and likewise thee did I make into a dunghill.
And just as I returned and comforted Job, so shall
I return and comfort thee; I doubled Job's sons and
daughters, and thy sons and daughters shall I also
double ; I doubled Job's silver and gold, and unto thee
I shall do likewise ; I shook Job from the dunghill, and
likewise concerning thee it is written : " Shake thy-
self from the dust ; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem." '
A mortal of flesh and blood built thee, a mortal of
flesh and blood laid thee waste ; but in the future I
shall build thee, for thus it is written : " The Lord
doth build up Jerusalem, He gathereth together the
dispersed of Israel." ' *
2. The Death of Moses *
The Holy One said to Gabriel: 'O Gabriel, Go, and
bring Me the soul of Moses.' Eut he replied : ' Lord of
'Jeremiah 15. 9.
^ Here and in the following sentences the prophet speaks for
* Isaiah 52. 2.
* Psalm 147. 2.
° This narrative is part of a Midrash especially devoted to
this subject, entitled Midrash Petirat Moshch, which was
added at the end of Debarim Rabbah.
40 POST-BIBLICAL HEBREW LITERATURE
the universe, how can I look upon the death of him who
is equal to the sixty myriads of Israel? How can I cause
anguish to such a man ? ' God then said to Michael :
'Go, and bring Me the soul of Moses.' He replied:
' Lord of the universe, I was his teacher, and he was
my pupil ; I cannot look upon his death.' Whereupon
God said to Sanimael the wicked : ' Go, and bring Me
the soul of Moses.' He immediately clothed himself
with wrath, girded on his sword, wrapped himself in
cruelty, and went to meet Moses. When Sammael
perceived that Moses was sitting and writing the In-
effable Name, that the radiance of his countenance
was like the sun's, and that he resembled an angel of
the Lord of hosts, he was afraid of him, and said :
' It is certain that the angels are not able to take the
soul of Moses.'
Before Sammael appeared, Moses knew that Sam-
mael was coming. As soon as Sammael saw Moses,
trembling and pain, as of a woman in travail, took
hold of him. Sammael could not open his mouth,
until Moses said to him : ' There is no peace, saith the
Lord concerning the wicked ! ' W^hat art thou doing
here ? ' He replied : ' I came to take thy soul.'
' Who sent thee ? ' asked Moses. ' He that created
all creatures,' answered Sammael. ' Thou shalt not
take my soul,' said Moses. ' The souls of all that
enter this world are delivered into my hands,' said
Sammael. ' I am stronger than all who enter this
world,' asserted Moses. ' Wherein lies thy strength ? '
asked Sammael. ' I am Amram's son, who came
forth circumcised from my mother's womb, so that
there was no need to circumcise me. On the very day
of my birth I was able to talk ; I walked about, and
' Isaiah 48. 22.
THE MIDRASH 41
spoke to my father and mother ; I did not even drink
milk. When I was three months old, I prophesied
and said that I was destined to receive the Torah from
the midst of flames of fire. While walking about in
the streets, I entered the king's palace, and took ofif
his crown from his head. When eighty years old I
did signs and wonders in Egypt, and brovight forth
the sixty myriads of Israel in the sight of all the
Egyptians ; I divided the sea into twelve parts, and
made the waters of Marah sweet. I ascended to
heaven, where I walked about, and took part in the
controversy of the angels ; I received the Torah of
fire, dwelt under the throne of fire, took shelter
under a pillar of fire, and spoke face to face with God.
I conquered the dwellers of heaven, and revealed their
secrets to the sons of men. I received the Torah from
the right hand of God, blessed be He, and taught it to
Israel. I waged war against Sihon and Og, the two
mightiest men of the Gentiles, who were so tall that
during the flood the waters reached not their ankles.
I made the sun and moon stand still in the height of
the universe, and smote these mighty men with the
stafif that was in my hand, and slew them. Who is
there among them that enter this world who can do
all this ? Get thee hence, O wicked one ; thou must
not stand here ; go, and flee from me. I will not give
thee my soul.'
Sammael forthwith returned, and brought word
back to God. But the Holy One said to Sammael :
' Go, and bring the soul of Moses.' He immediately
drew his sword from its sheath, and stood near Moses.
Whereupon Moses grew wroth, seized in his hand the
staff, upon which was engraved the Ineffable Name,
42 POST-BIBLICAL HEBREW LITERATURE
and fell upon him with the Ineffable Name, and taking
a ray of splendor from between his eyes, he blinded
Sammael's eyes. Thus far Moses prevailed.
At the last moment a heavenly voice came forth,
and said : ' The hour of thy death has come.' Moses
then said to the Holy One, blessed be He : ' O Lord
of the universe, remember the day on which Thou
didst reveal Thyself unto me in the bush, and didst
say unto me : " Come, and I will send thee unto
Pharoah, that thou mayest bring forth My people
the children of Israel out of Egypt." ^ Remember the
time when I stood upon mount Sinai for forty days
and forty nights. I implore Thee, deliver me not unto
the hand of the angel of death.' Whereupon a
heavenly voice came forth, and said unto him:
' Fear not ! I Myself shall take charge of thee and
of thy burial.'
At that moment Moses arose, and sanctified himself,
as do the Seraphim. The Holy One came down from
the highest heaven of heavens to take the soul of
Moses, and with Him were three ministering angels,
Michael, Gabriel, and Zagzagel. Michael arranged
Moses' bed, and Gabriel spread a garment of fine
linen at his head ; Zagzagel was at his feet. Michael
stood at one side, and Gabriel at the other. The Holy
One then said to Moses : ' Moses, close thine eye-
lids, one upon the other; place thy hands upon thy
breast ; place thy feet one upon the other.' Moses did
as he was commanded. At that moment the Holy One
summoned the soul from Moses' body, and said unto
her : ' My daughter, one hundred and twenty years
have I appointed for thee to be in Moses' Ijody ; the
' Exodus 3. TO.
THE MIDRASH 43
time to depart has now arrived. Come thou forth,
tarry not.' The soul said unto Him : ' Lord of the
universe, I know that Thou art the God of all spirits,
and that all the souls, the souls of the living and of
the dead, are delivered into Thy hands, and that Thou
didst create and fashion me, and put me into Moses'
body for one hundred and twenty years. Now is
there in the world a body purer than that of Moses,
upon which there never was any pollution, nor worm
and maggot ? Therefore I love it, and desire not to de-
part from it.' But the Holy One said : ' O soul, come
forth, tarry not. I shall bring thee up to the highest
heaven of heavens, and cause thee to dwell under My
Throne of Glory near the Cherubim, Seraphim, and
hosts of other angels.' The soul then said : * O Lord of
the universe, when from Thy Shekinah in heaven there
came down two angels, Uzzah and Azzael, they coveted
the daughters of the earth, and corrupted their way
upon the earth, so that Thou didst suspend them be-
tween heaven and earth. But the son of Amram
has not come in unto his wife from the day Thou
didst reveal Thyself unto him in the bush, as it is
written : " And Miriam and Aaron spoke against
Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had
married, for he had married a Cushite woman." ° I
implore Thee, let me remain in Moses' body.'
At that moment the Holy One kissed him, and
took away his soul with a kiss. God wept, and cried,
as it were : ' Who will rise up for Me against the
evil-doers? who will stand up for Me against the
workers of iniquity?'" The Holy Spirit said: 'And
there hath not arisen a prophet since in Lsrael like
Numbers 12. I.
Psalm 94. 16.
44 POST-BIBLICAL HEBREW LITERATURE
unto Moses.' " The heavens wept, and said : ' And
the upright among- men is no more.' " When Joshua
sought his master and found him not, he wept, and
said : ' Help, O Lord, for the godly man hath ceased ;
for faithfulness hath failed from the children of men.' '^
The ministering angels said : ' He executed the
righteousness of the Lord.' " Israel said : ' And His
ordinances with Israel.' " All of them together said :
' He entereth into peace, they rest in their beds, each
one that walketh in his uprightness.' "
The memory of the righteous is blessed, and his
soul shall be in the life of the world to come.
" Deuteronomy 34. 10.
" Micah 7. 2.
" Psalm 12. 2.
" Deuteronomy S3- 21.
" Isaiah 57.' 2.
VI. ELEAZAR BE-RABBI KALIR
[Opinions differ as to the time and birthplace of this Hturgic
poet. The latest researches, however, tend to prove that
he flourished in Palestine toward the end of the seventh cen-
tury. He was a very prolific poet, about two hundred of
his poems being still extant in the various Mahzorim. His
muse is doleful, bewailing the misfortunes of the Jewish
people. His style, though chiefly biblical in construction, teems
with newly-coined words.]
I. A Complaint*
* Why is the glory of kingdoms cast down and still
without dominion ? ' ' Bel she set up as king, and
walked after him, against the law of God. Over her
was then set the mistress of kingdoms,^ until God's
rule shines forth.'
She burned my dwelling-place, and crushed my
saints, and yet her kingdom was prolonged. She
spreads on all sides, she bends her bow against me,
and extends her yoke. She terrified and crushed
the tender people ; and yet she still holds sway. She
laid bare and waste my temple's foundation ; her guile
is very deep. She lifted up her head, and took crafty
counsel ; her hands are exalted. Her cunning burns
' This poem, which is found in the Ashkenazic ritual for
New Year, consists of fifteen stanzas, and is an acrostic bear-
ing the author's name. Each stanza has three short rhyming
lines. The poet asks why the Jewish kingdom is cast down
(stanza i). A brief answer is given by the Holy Spirit
(stanzas 2 and 3). The remaining stanzas are uttered by the
Jewish nation complaining of the evil done to her by her
enemies who as yet have not been punished for their wicked-
^ That is, Rome.
46 POST-BIBLICAL HEBREW LITERATURE
in her, she soars to the sky, and is girt with sov-
ereignty. She rent my curtains, and destroyed my tent ;
she harrowed and ploughed my land. She props her-
self with dominion, is girt with sovereignty, and me she
harasses. She plans rebellion, and hastes to serve
strange gods ; — God's kingdom she profanes. She
tortures the King's sons, and says before the King:
* Who in heaven is king over me ? '
She vaunts against the King's throne : ' There is
no king save me, none else besides me reigns.'
O highest King, reject Thou her from sovereignty ; —
restore Thy dominion to Thyself.
2. The Patriarchs and Matriarchs Intercede on
Behalf of Their Exiled Children'
Jeremiah went about by the fathers' graves, and
said : ' Beloved ones, how can ye lie at rest, while
your children are banished, pierced through with the
sword? Where is then your merit in a land laid
waste ? ' The patriarchs all cried with bitter lamen-
tations, because they were bereft of their children ;
with an imploring voice they moaned to the Dweller
of the skies : ' Where is Thy pledge : " But I will
for their sakes remember the covenant of their ances-
' They changed My glory for vanity ; they had no
dread of Me, they feared Me not; when I hid My
face from them, they longed not, and waited not
^ This poem is found in the Ashkenazic ritual for the Ninth
of Ab. It consists of eleven stanzas of five rhyming lines,
except the last which has four lines. The stanzas are in
alphabetic order, two letters being disposed of in each stanza.
* Leviticus 26. 45.
ELEAZAR BE-RABBI KALIR 47
for Me. How shall I then refrain Me when they
say: "He is not our God"?"
The father of the multitude ' cried in their behalf,
and implored the Most High God : * In vain was I
tried ten times for their sake, since I now behold their
destruction. Where is Thy promise : " Fear not,
' Ah, they have erred and gone astray from Me,
and consecrated themselves to strange gods ; they
counselled to hew out cisterns for them — but broken
cisterns are theirs. How shall I refrain Me, when
they break the ten commandments ? '
And thus cried Isaac wofully unto the Dweller
of the skies : * In vain was I appointed to be slain,
since my seed is crushed and ruined. Where is Thy
pledge : " But I will establish My covenant with
' They rebelled against the prophet Jeremiah, and
defiled mount Moriah ; I am weary of hearing the com-
plaint which rises to Me from the earth. And how shall
I refrain Me since Zechariah is slain? '
And then spoke he who was born for study,* like
jackals shedding tears : * My little ones whom I reared
with care, why did they fly away so soon ? Why was I
punished a thousandfold for my blood-guilt? '
Then spoke the faithful shepherd,'" covered with
ashes, wallowing in dust : ' The flocks that were en-
trusted to my care, why were they cut off before their
'Jeremiah 5. 12.
" That is, Abraham.
' Genesis 15. i.
^ Ibid. 17.21.
' That is, Jacob.
" That is, Moses.
48 POST-BIBLICAL HEBREW LITERATURE
time? Where is Thy pledge: "They shall not
be widowed " ? ' "
The wailing voice of Leah, tabering upon her breasts,
was then heard ; her sister Rachel, too, bemoaned her
sons ; Zilpah struck her face ; Bilhah lamented, lifting
up her hands.
' Return, O perfect ones, unto your rest ; I will ful-
fil all your desires. For your sakes was I sent to
Babylon ; — I will return your children's captivity.'
"Jeremiah 51. 5.
VII. ELDAD HA-DANI.
[A traveller who flourished in the ninth century. Accord-
ing to his narrative, he was a native of East Africa. He
seems to have travelled in Spain and Babylon.]
Eldad Leaves His Native Place Beyond the
Rivers of Cush ^
And in this manner did I go forth from beyond the
rivers of Cush: I and a Jew of the tribe of Asher
boarded a small ship to trade with the sailors. And
it came to pass at midnight that the Lord caused a very
great and strong wind to blow, so that the ship was
wrecked. And the Lord ordained that I should seize
hold upon a plank. And when my companion saw
this, he likewise seized hold upon that plank with me.
And we went up and down with it, until the sea cast
us forth amidst a people whose name is Romaranus.
They are black Cushites of tall stature, without clothes
and without raiment; for they are like animals, and
When we came to their country, they seized hold
upon us. Seeing that my companion was corpulent,
plump, and fat, they slew him and devoured him,
while he shouted : * Woe is me, that I should know this
people, that the Cushites should eat my flesh.' But