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Michael Levi Rodkinson.

New edition of the Babylonian Talmud. Original text edited, corrected, formulated, and translated into English (Volume 9) online

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means, I told him to break the tables. According to others, that
thought is expressed in the following passage [Deut. ix. 16]:
" And I looked, and behold, ye had sinned against the Lord."
He would not say " I looked," unless he saw the writing of the



i6 THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD.

tables flying away. Anonymous teachers find the same in the
following passage [Deut. x. 5] : " And they have remained there,
as the Lord hath commanded me." He would not have said
he was commanded unless he had been told to break them. R.
Elazar b. Azariah infers it from the following passage [ibid.
xxxiv. 12]: '* Which Moses displayed before the eye of all
Israel " ; or, ** All that Moses did was by the command of the
Lord," as in other cases Moses acted according to the command
of God. [R. Aqiba infers it from the following passage: " And
I took hold of the two tables." What can a man take hold of ?
Only what he can destroy {i.e.y if he had not been commanded
to do so he could not have been able to destroy a thing given by
God). R. Meir infers it from the following passage: " Which
thou hast broken " ; it really means, " which thou didst break
rightfully " (see Sabbath, p. 165).]

Also Hezekiah, King of Judah, did four things of his own voli-
tion which were in accordance with the will of the Lord (see
Pesachim, p. 99 in the Mishna) : " And Hezekiah prospered in
all his works " [II Chron. xxxii. 30].

What is the safeguard that Job made to his words ? (Let us
see), it is written [Job i. i] : "And this man was perfect and up-
right, and fearing God, and eschewing evil." We learn there-
from that Job kept aloof from anything that led to sin, from
abomination and from what is equal to it. It may be asked [if it
is so, are not the terms" perfect " and " upright " superfluous?
(the words " fearing God " and " eschewing evil," are they not
sufficient) ? Infer from this that the term " perfect " means that
he was born circumcised. Adam the first man also came forth
circumcised, as it is written [Gen. i. 27]: "And God created
man in his image." Also Seth was so born, as it is written
[ibid. V. 3]: "And begat a son in his likeness, after his im-
age." Noah, too, was born circumcised, as [ibid. vi. 9] the
term " perfect " was used in reference to Noah. Shem was also
so born, as it is written [ibid. xiv. 18]: " And Malkizedek, king
of Salem." * Jacob the patriarch was also so born, as the appel-
lation " perfect " was also applied to him [ibid. xxv. 27]. And
Joseph was also so born, as it is written [ibid, xxxvii. 2] :
" These are the generations of Jacob: Joseph." It ought to be
the generation of Jacob : Reuben (as he was the first-born).

* There is a tradition in the Talmud that Malkizedek is identical with Shem.
Salem in Hebrew means also " perfect." Hence the analogy.



TRACT ABOTH.



17



Why is it Joseph ? Infer from this, that as Jacob was born cir-
cumcised, so also was Joseph. And Moses was born circum-
cised, as it is written [Ex. ii. 2] : " And when she saw him, that
he was a goodly child." What good could his mother see in
him ? Was he then more beautiful than all mankind ? Say,
then, he was born circumcised. Also Balaam the wicked was
born circumcised, as it is written [Numb. xxiv. 4] : " Thus saith
he who heareth the sayings of God." (According to the tradi-
tion of the Talmudists, one who is not circumcised could not
hear the words of God, and as Balaam was a Gentile, and not
circumcised by his parents, and yet he heard the words of God,
consequently he must have been born circumcised.) Samuel
was also born so, as he is also graced with the appellation good
[I Sam. ii. 26]. David was also born so, traditionally, as (the
support from Ps. xvi. i does not imply anything). Also Jere-
miah was born circumcised, as it is written [Jer. i. 5]: "Be-
fore yet I had formed thee in thy mother's body I knew thee,
and before thou wast yet come forth out of the womb I sancti-
fied th^^.'' Also Zerubabel was born so, as it is written [Hag-
gai, ii. 23]: " On that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take
thee, O Zerubabel, the son of Shealtiel, my servant.''^ And he
(Job) said [Job xxxi. i] : "A covenant have I made with my
eyes: how then should I fix my looks on a virgin?" Infer
from this that Job was so scrupulous with himself that he did
not even look at a virgin. This is to be made an a fortiori con-
clusion — namely, if a virgin whom he could marry himself, or
to his son, brother, or relatives was not looked upon by him
because he was so rigorous with himself, so much the more did
he refrain from looking at a married woman. But what was the
reason that Job was so rigorous with himself as regards looking
at a virgin ? Because he thought, if I look at her to-day (and
like her) and to-morrow she marries some one else, I will have
looked on (and liked) a married woman.

What safeguard have the prophets made to their words ? It
is written [Is. xlii. 13]: ** The Lord — as a mighty one will he
go forth, like a man of war will he arouse his vengeance : he
will shout, yea, raise the war-cry." Is then the Lord as one
mighty one ? Is He not stronger than all the mighty ones of
the world put together ? The same is in Amos [iii. 8]: " The
lion hath roared, who will not fear ? the Lord Eternal hath spoken,
who will not prophesy ? " Is then the voice of the Lord equal
to one lion — is it not as of all the lions of the whole world put



i8 THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD.

together ? The same meaning is conveyed by the following pas-
sage [Ezek. xliii. 2]: " Behold, the glory of the God of Israel
came from the way of the east ; and his voice was like a noise of
many waters; and the earth gave light from his glory." (Now
let us see. We know from a tradition that the words) " like a
noise of many waters" mean the angel Gabriel; and by " the
earth gave light, "etc., is meant the appearance of the Shekhina.
Is not here an a fortiori conclusion to be drawn ? Gabriel, who
is only one of the thousands of millions of servants who minister
before the Lord, if his voice reached from one end of the world
to the other, so much the more would that of the King of kings,
the Holy One, blessed be He, who has created the universe, who
has created the higher and the lower; but the reason why the
prophets spake so is, that only such things are mentioned that
the eye of a human being can see, and only such things are writ-
ten that the ear of a human being can hear.

What was the safeguard that the Hagiographers made to
their words ? It is written [Prov. v. 8]: " Remove far from her
thy way and come not nigh to the door of her house." " Re-
move far from her thy way " means heresy against which one is
warned. Lest one say, I have confidence in myself and I am
sure that it would not influence me, therefore it is written [Ps.
ii. 19]: " All that come unto her return not again, and they will
not reach the paths of life." [It is written [ibid. ix. 2]: " She
hath killed her cattle, she hath mingled her wine ; she hath also
set in order her table." This refers to the wicked. When one
goes away with them, they give him food and drink, they clothe
and cover him, and give him plenty of money; but as soon as
he becomes one of them, each one recognizes what belonged to
him and takes it away from him. Concerning them it is written
[ibid. vii. 23]: " Till an arrow cleaveth through his liver, as a
bird hasleneth into the snare, and knoweth not that it is done
to take his life."]

Another explanation to the above passage is this: ** Remove
far from her thy way " refers to a harlot. When one is warned
not to go in this market, and not to enter into that alley, as
there is a celebrated and much-spoken-of harlot, and he says,
I have confidence in myself even though I go there I would not
be seduced by her; nevertheless they must say to him. Go not,
for after all thou canst be seduced by her. Did not our sages
say: "A man shall not be in the habit of passing by the door of
a harlot, for it is written [ibid. vii. 26] : ' For many deadly



TRACT ABOTH. 19

wounded hath she caused to fall: yea, very numerous are all
those slain by her ' "?

What is the safeguard that the sages made to their words ?
e.g., the reading of Shema (see Berachoth), and so also have the
latter sages made a safeguard to their words; and they have
multiplied disciples who did the same thing. As to this, how-
ever, the schools of Shammai and Hillel differ. The School of
Shammai maintain that one shall teach only those who are
wise, modest, rich, and come from a good family ; the School of
Hillel, however, hold that one may teach every one, as there
were many transgressors in Israel, and after they had become
upright, pious, and righteous men, engaged in the study of the
Law, they had the good fortune that from them descended men
of uprightness, piety, and righteousness.



Tosephtha — A both of R. Nathan.

* R. Aqiba said: " Whoever takes a coin from the fund in-
tended for charity to the poor when he is not in need of it, will
not die before he will really be in need of assistance." f He
used to say: One that bandages his eyes or his shoulders, and
says: " Give charity to the blind or to the leper," will in the
end speak the truth — that is, he will be such. He also said:
One that throws his bread on the ground, or scatters his money
in his anger, will not die before he will be in actual need of
assistance. He said again: One that tears his garments or
breaks his vessels in his wrath, will eventually worship idols, for
this is the way of the evil thoughts : to-day they urge him to
tear his garments, and to-morrow they will advise him to wor-
ship idols. And again: One that is desirous that his wife shall
die in order to inherit her property, or to marry her sister, or
one who is desirous that his brother shall die in order to marry
his wife, in the end will be buried by them. Regarding such it
is written [Eccl. x. 8]: " He that diggeth a pit will fall into it;
and him who breaketh down a fence, a serpent will bite him."

(Here follows a repetition of a Mishna in Baba Kama, which,
according to our method, we have omitted.)

* Chapter III. of the original.

f In a Mishna at the end of Tract Peah it is stated the reverse, viz. : That one
who needs charity and refuses to take it will not depart from this world until he wiU
be in a position to give charity.



20 THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD.

R. Dostai b. Janai said : Though thou hast chosen and sown
in the first quarter, sow also in the second : perhaps a hail might
destroy the first, but the second will be preserved ; for thou
knowest not which will succeed, whether this or that, or both
may be preserved, and both of them will be alike good, as it is
written [Eccl. xi. 6] : "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the
evening let not thy hand rest." And even though thou hast
sown in the first and second quarters, do not neglect to do so
also in the third, as it may happen that a blast might destroy
the first, but the latter will be preserved, as is said in the pas-
sage just mentioned.

R. Ishmael b. R. Jose said : The above passage refers to
study, thus: Study the Law in thy old age, even if thou hast
studied it in thy youth. Do not say: " I do not want to study
when I am aged " ; but study it always, because thou knowest not
which will succeed. If thou hast studied the Law in years of
plenty, do not count it for the years of famine. The study dur-
ing times of ease does not count for those of distress, because
one thing done in distress is better than a hundred in ease, as it
is written [ibid.]: " In the morning sow thy seed, and in the
evening let not thy hand rest." R. Aqiba also said the same.

R. Meir said : When thou hast studied under one master, say
not: "It is enough," but go and study under another ; yet do
not go to all of them, but only to those who were near to the
Law from the start (meaning a scholar from a scholarly house),
as it is written [Ps. v. 15]: " Drink water out of thy own cis-
tern, and running water out of thy own well."

It is a duty to study under three masters,, such as R. Eliezer,
R. Joshua, and R. Aqiba, as it is written [Ps. viii. 34] : " Happy
is the man that hearkeneth unto me, waiting day by day at my
gates, waiting at the posts of my doors." * Because thou canst
not know which master's teaching will remain with thee, or per-
haps all are good, as may be learned from the above-mentioned
passage.

R. Joshua said: "The same passage applies also to this:
Marry a woman in thy youth ; marry one also (if need be) when
you are old ; beget children in thy youth, and do so also in thy
old age. Do not say, I will not marry again as I have children,
but marry and beget more children, as you do not know which
of them will be the good."

* This is inferred from the superfluous letter ^ and fl ; as Tl^l, *' gates," is also
plural, not less than two, from the added 1 and fl they deduce one more.



TRACT ABOTH. ai

He used also to say: "If thou hast given a coin to a poor
man in the morning, and another one begs of you in the even-
Jiig> give him also, as thou knowest not whether both will be
benefited by thy donation, and whether both are alike deserv-
ing, as it is written : "In the morning sow thy seed." *

It happened that a pious man who used to spend much in
charity, while aboard a ship encountered a great storm, and the
ship foundered. R. Aqiba saw him go down, and came to tes-
tify before the court in order that his wife might marry again.
Before the court adjourned, the man came and stood before
them. Said R. Aqiba to him: "Did you not sink into the
sea?" He answered: "Yea." "And who brought thee out
of the sea?" R. Aqiba asked again. He answered: "The
charities that I have given have saved me from the sea."
"Whence dost thou know this?" He said: "When I went
down in the deep, I heard the noise of the waves. It seemed to
me that they said to each other : This man has done charity all
his days (and they actually threw me on land)." R. Aqiba then
arose and said : Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel, who
has chosen the words of the Torah and the words of the sages,
for they are preserved everlastingly. As it is written [Eccl. xi.
i] : " Cast thy bread upon the face of the waters; for after many
days wilt thou find it again." It is written again [Prov. x. 2]:
" And charity will deliver from death."

It happened that to Benjamin the upright, who was the
treasurer of charities, there came a woman and asked for food.
He said : " I assure you that the treasury is empty." She said :
Rabbi, if thou wilt not help me, thou wilt kill a widow and her
seven children." He then fed them at his own expense. Years
afterward Benjamin the upright fell ill, and he suffered very
much on his sick-bed. Said the angels before the Holy One,
blessed be He: "Lord of the Universe, Thou hast said: He
who preserves one soul of Israel is regarded (by Scripture) as if
he preserved an entire world. Benjamin the upright, who has
preserved a widow and seven children, (is entitled) so much more
to such consideration, yet he is pining on the couch of a painful
disease." They implored the mercy of God in his behalf, and
His decree was annulled, and twenty-two years were added to
his life.



* We omitted the narrative of a pious man who was compelled to stay over night
in a cemetery, as its proper place is in Berachoth.



22 THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD.

MiSHNA B, Simeon the Just was one of the remnants
of the Great Assembly. His motto was : '* The order
of the world rests upon three things : on law, on wor-
ship, and on bestowal of favors."

Tosephtha — Aboth of R. Nathan.

*** Upon the Torah." How so ? It is written [Hosea, vi. 6]:
** For piety I desired, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of
God more than burnt-offerings. ' ' Infer from this that the burnt-
offering is more favored than ordinary sacrifices, because it is all
burnt up in the fire, as it is written [Lev. i. 9]: " And the priest
shall burn the whole on the altar," and elsewhere [I Sam. vii.
9]: ** And Samuel took the sucking lamb and offered it for an
entire burnt-offering unto the Lord." Yet the study of the
Law is more acceptable in the sight of the Lord than burnt-
offerings, because he who is studying the Torah knows the will
of the Lord, as it is written [Prov. ii. 5] : " Then wilt thou under-
stand the fear of the Lord, and the knowledge of God wilt thou
find." From this it may be inferred that when a sage lectures
to the public it is accounted to him in Scripture as if sacrificing
fat and blood upon the altar.

Two scholars studying together, when a bride or a bier carry-
ing a corpse passes before them, must observe the following rule :
If the bride has all she needs to feel that she is such, and if the
dead has all that is needed for decent burial, the students shall
not interrupt themselves; but if such be not the case, let them
suspend their study and go to add to the joy of the bride and to
do honor to the dead. [It happened that a wedding procession
passed by while R. Tarphon was studying with his disciples, and
he directed that the bride be brought up to his house, and he
told his mother and his wife to wash, anoint, and ornament her,
and to dance for her until she should reach her groom. Accord-
ing to Elias Wilna.]

It also happened that, while R. Judah b. Ilai was teaching
his disciples, a wedding procession, which had not sufficient fol-
lowers, passed by, and he with his disciples took part in the pro-
cession until the bride passed.

It happened again that while the same was engaged in teach-
ing his disciples, a bridal party passed by. He asked : "What is

* Chapter IV. of the original.



TRACT ABOTH. 23

that ? ' and they answered: ** A bridal party." He then said:
" My sons, arise, evince your interest in the bride." So we find
that the Holy One, blessed be He, bestowed His favor upon a
bride, as it is written [Gen. ii. 22] : " And the Lord God formed
the rib." And in the cities by the sea a bride is called BeniathUy
" the formed one," If He has done so, how much more reason
is there for us so to do ? Infer from this that the Lord formed
Eve and ornamented her like a bride, and brought her to Adam,
as it is written [ibid.] : " And brought her unto Adam." Only
once has the Lord become a mediator to Adam ; henceforward
man must procure a mediator for himself, as it is written [ibid.,
ibid. 23]: " Bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh." Once
only was Eve formed out of Adam ; henceforward man betroths
the daughter of his fellowman.

*' On service.'* How so ? As long as the service of the Tem-
ple existed, the world was blessed for the sake of its inhabitants,
and the rain came down in due season, as it is written [Deut.
xi. 13, 14]: "I love the Lord your God, and to serve him
. . . that I will send rain for your land in due season."
But when the service of the Temple ceased, the inhabitants were
not blessed, and the rain did not come down in due time, as it
is written [ibid., ibid. 16] : " Take heed to yourselves that your
heart be not deceived . . . and he will shut up the heavens
that there be no rain." Also Haggai said [ii. 15, 16]: " Direct,
I pray you, your heart from this day and upward, before the
time that a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the
Lord : since those days were, when one came to a heap of sheaves
of twenty (in number), and there were but ten ; when he came
to the wine-press to draw off fifty measures out of the vat, and
there were but twenty." [Why was it not said of the wine-press
also " twenty, and there were but ten," the same as of the
wheat ? Because the wine-press is a better sign than the wheat.
There is a tradition that when the vine is spoiled it is a bad sign
for the current year.]

Said the Israelites before the Holy One, blessed be He:
"Lord of the Universe, why hast Thou done thus to us?"
The Holy Spirit answered: "Ye looked for much, and, lo, it
came to be little, . . . because of my house that lieth in
ruins, while ye ran every man unto his own house " [Haggai, i.
9]. " If ye will employ yourselves with the service of the Tem-
ple, I will bless ye as heretofore," as it is written [ibid. ii. 18,
19]: " Direct, I pray, your heart . . . from the four and



24 THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD.

twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that tne
foundation of the Lord's temple was laid. ... Is the seed
yet in the barn ? Yea, as yet the wine, and the fig-tree, and
the pomegranate, and the olive-tree have not brought forth;
(but) from this day will I bless you." Infer from this that there
is no service which is favored by the Lord more than the Tem-
ple service.

*' Upon bestowal of favors,'' How so ? It is written [Hosea,
vi. 6] : " For kindness I desired, and not sacrifice." Moreover,
at the beginning the world was created with kindness, as it is
written [Ps. Ixxxix. 3] : " To eternity will kindness be built up
{e.g., the world is built up with kindness), the heavens — yea, in
these wilt thou establish thy faithfulness."

R. Johanan b. Zakkai once went out of Jerusalem, followed
by R. Joshua, and seeing the destroyed Temple, R. Joshua
said: *' Woe to us, that this is destroyed, the only place where
the sins of the Israelites were atoned! " R. Johanan corrected
him, saying: " My son, do not grieve over it. We have other
means of atonement as effective — namely, bestowal of favors, as
it is written [Hosea, vi. 6]: * For kindness I desired, and not
sacrifice.' As we find with Daniel, who was occupied in doing
good. And what good did he do ? He certainly did not sacri-
fice burnt-offerings and voluntary offerings, as he was in Babylon,
and with regard to the place of sacrifice, it is written [Deut. xii.
13, 14]: 'Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt-
offerings in every place which thou mayest see; but in the place
which the Lord will choose in one of thy tribes, there shalt thou
offer thy burnt-offerings.' What good, then, did he do ? He
rejoiced with people in their joy, he wept with them in their sor-
row, he helped and cheered poor brides, he honored the dead by
following them to the last resting-place, he gave material aid to
the needy, and prayed three times every day, and his prayers
were received with favor, as it is written [Dan. vi. 1 1] : ' And
three times every day he kneeled upon his knees, and prayed,
and offered thanks before his God,* etc."

When Vespasian came to destroy Jerusalem, he said to the
inhabitants: " Fools, wherefore do ye seek to destroy this city
and to burn the Temple? All I want of you is to send me a
bow or an arrow — i.e., to acknowledge my dominion over you.
I will leave you in peace." They, however, said: " Just as we
killed the two who came before thee, so will it be with thee."
When R. Johanan b. Zakkai heard this, he invited the leaders of



TRACT ABOTH. 25

Jerusalem to a conference, and said unto them: " My sons, why
should you occasion the destruction of the city and insist upon
it, as it were, that the Temple be burnt ? All the enemy wants
is that you send to him a bow or an arrow, and is willing on that
condition to depart. ' ' But they answered him in the manner they
answered Vespasian. The latter had spies within the walls of
Jerusalem, and whatever they heard they wrote upon an arrow
and threw it outside the wall. In this manner Vespasian learned
that R. Johanan b. Zakkai was friendly to Caesar (and so he
really was, and confessed it frankly to the leaders of Jerusalem).
When R. Johanan b. Zakkai saw that his efforts during several
days in succession to win the leaders for peace proved futile, for
the leaders did not listen to him, he sent for his disciples, R.
Eliezer and R. Joshua, and said: " My sons, try to take me out
of here. Make me a coffin, and I will sleep in it." They did
so, and R. Eliezer held the cofifin by one end, and R. Joshua
held it by the other, and thus carried him at sunset to the gates
of Jerusalem. When the gate-keepers asked them whom they
had there, they answered: " A corpse ; and you know that a
corpse cannot remain in Jerusalem over night." They were
allowed to go, and they carried him till they came to Vespasian.
There they opened the coffin, and he arose and introduced him-
self to Vespasian, who said: " Since thou art the Rabban Jo-
hanan b. Zakkai, I give thee the privilege to ask a favor of me."
He answered: " I request nothing but that the city of Jamnia
shall be free to me to instruct there my disciples. I will build
there a prayer-house, and will perform all the commandments
of the Lord." Hereupon Vespasian said: "It is well. Thou
mayest go thither, and undisturbed carry out the object of thy


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