Michael Levi Rodkinson.

New edition of the Babylonian Talmud. Original text edited, corrected, formulated, and translated into English (Volume 2) online

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duty of the day)." Therefore said R. Na'hman in the name of
R. Itz'hak, and according to others R. Huna the son of R.
Jehoshua : " The reason is, because one is enabled to abandon
these things for the time being (and hence the duty does not
devolve upon him for that day),"

From what we have learned above, we see, that for the cir-
cumcision itself and all its necessary accessories the Sabbath
may be violated, according to the dictum of R. Eliezer. Whence
does he deduce this ? This is the reasoning of R. Ehezer : It
is written [Leviticus xii. 3] : " And on the eighth day shall the
flesh of his foreskin be circumcised." Thus, as it says dis-
tinctly the eighth day, it makes no difference what day the
eighth falls on, whether it be Sabbath or not. Let us see: The
rabbis and R. Eliezer differ only as far as the preparations for
circumcision on the Sabbath are concerned, but not as to the
circumcision itself. If, then, they do not regard the text quoted
as does R. Eliezer, they should not even permit the violation
of the Sabbath on account of circumcision itself. What source


do they base their permission on ? Said Ula, and also R. Itz-
'hak: " This is traditional."

An objection was raised : We have learned that the Sabbath
may be violated in order to save life. Whence do we know this ?
Said R. Elazar ben Azariah: " Why! if it be permitted when
circumcision is concerned to violate the Sabbath, where but
one of the many members of the body is concerned, it should
certainly be permitted in so much greater a degree when the
whole body is to be saved. If thou sayest, then, that the per-
mission to perform circumcision on the Sabbath is only tradi-
tional, how is it possible that thou shouldst derive an a fortiori
assumption from a traditional institution?" Therefore R. Jo-
hanan saith, that the permission to perform the rite of circum-
cision on Sabbath is not based upon tradition, but is derived
from the word " day," as the verse quoted above reads: " And
on the eighth day," etc. ; whereas it could read simply, " And
on the eighth"; for in the preceding verse we read "seven
days," etc.

Said Resh Lakish to R. Johanan : " The word ' day,' however,
is also necessary, that we may know that the rite must be per-
formed during the day and not at night ! " This can be inferred
from another passage [Genesis xvii. 12], where it expressly says:
" And at eight days old shall every man-child in your generations
be circumcised," etc.

R. A'ha bar Jacob said: As far as the rite of circumcision
itself is concerned, the rabbis also hold that the permission to
perform it is based on the passage quoted, " and on the eighth
day"; but as for the preparations necessary for circumcision,
they claim to find no justification for violating the Sabbath on
that account. But it is absolutely necessary that " the eighth "
be mentioned, for otherwise how would we know that the rite
should not be performed on the seventh ? That is also definitely
settled by the other passage, as stated above: "And at eight
days old," etc. Still, both passages are necessary, in order to
prove that the eighth day is the day for circumcision ; because,
if it did not state expressly " on the eighth day," it might be
presumed that the seventh day would do, and if it did not state
" at eight days old," it might be presumed that after the child
is eight days old any other later day, e.g., the ninth, would do.
Hence R. Johanan's explanation is the most acceptable; and we
have learned in a Boraitha in support of R. Johanan's explana-
tion, and not of that of R. A'ha bar Jacob, as follows: " On.


the eighth day shall he be circumcised, even though it be Sab-
bath." How, then, is it possible to keep the commandment in
Exodus xxxi. 14? " And ye shall keep the Sabbath, for it is
holy unto you : every one that defileth it shall surely be put to
death." This refers to other labor, but not to that of circumci-
sion. How, then, do we know that circumcision is not included
in the prohibited labor, and that the eighth day does not refer
to all other days except Sabbath ? To this end it reads " the
eighth day,'" and " day " means, even on Sabbath.

The rabbis taught : Although it is written [Deut. xxiv. 8] :
" Take heed in the plague of leprosy," which signifies, that the
leprous spot must not be cut; but if the white spot (the symp-
tom of leprosy) show itself on the member to be circumcised,
it may be cut off, whether the member be circumcised at the
prescribed time or afterwards.

A biblical festival must not be violated on account of circum-
cision, unless it happen to be the eighth day (precisely the pre-
scribed time). Whence do we adduce these two ordinances ?
From the teaching of the rabbis, as follows: The first one is
based on the verse [Leviticus xii. 3] : " And on the eighth day
shall \\it. flesh of his foreskin be circumcised." The order is
imperative, regardless of whether the member be leprous or not.
Whence do we know this ? Perhaps it means to say, that only
the healthy flesh of the foreskin be circumcised ? Nay; it could
say merely the foreskin, but it says expressly the flesh of the
foreskin, meaning that even if the flesh be leprous it should also
be circumcised. What need is there of a special verse for this
purpose ? During circumcision no intention to cut leprous flesh
exists; hence, if it be done, it is done unintentionally, and an
unintentional act does not involve culpability ? Said Abayi :
" The verse is used here to counteract the opinion of R. Jehu-
dah, who holds, that an act committed unintentionally also
involves culpability." Rabha said: " The verse must be used,
even if the opinion of R. Simeon be adhered to, who holds,
that an act committed unintentionally does not involve culpabil-
ity. For in this case it is different ; the act committed here is
like the one where a man would behead another and still claim
no intention to kill him (and when circumcising the flesh of the
foreskin, if there be a leprous sore, one cannot help but cut it).
This, even R. Simeon admits, would involve culpability, were it
not for that exonerating verse." Does Rabha alone hold thus ?
Have we not learned elsewhere that Abayi and Rabha both



agree, that R. Simeon declares even an unintentional act, which
is, however, like the case of one beheading another without the
intention to kill him, to be prohibited ? After Abayi had heard
Rabha's explanation, he accepted it.

The second ordinance mentioned is, according to Rabha,
based upon the verse [Exodus xii. 16]: " No manner of work
shall be done on them, save what is eaten by every man ; that
^«/j/ may be prepared by you." "That" stands for circumci-
sion only in its prescribed time, but not for the preparation for
it; and " only" stands as a prohibition not to perform the rite
unless it be the prescribed time. R. Ashi, however, said: " No
special verse is needed for this, for a festival is referred to [in
Leviticus xxiii. 32] as " a sabbath of rest shall it be unto you."
Hence it is a positive commandment, and the verse stated (imme-
diately before this) is a negative commandment ; thus a festival
is covered by both a positive and negative commandment, while
circumcision is covered by a positive commandment only, and
one positive commandment cannot supersede a joint positive and
negative commandment.

" A rule was laid down by R. Aqiba." Said R. Jehudah in
the name of Rabh : " The Halakha according to R. Aqiba pre-
vails." We have learned also in the matter of Passover sacri-
fices to the same effect, that every act of labor that can be per-
formed on the day before Sabbath must not supersede the
(due observance of) Sabbath, but the killing of the sacrifice,
which cannot be done on the day before Sabbath, does supersede
(the due observance of) Sabbath ; and R. Jehudah declared also,
in the name of Rabh, that the Halakha according to R. Aqiba
prevails. It is necessary that he should so instruct us at both
times, because, if he instructed only as concerns circumcision,
we might assume that where sacrifices for the Passover are con-
cerned, the preparations which could have been made on the day
before Sabbath, but were not, would supersede the due observ-
ance of the Sabbath; because failure to bring that sacrifice
would involve the punishment of Karath (being cut off), while
failure in circumcision would not involve Karath, if not per-
formed at the right time; and, on the other hand, had he
instructed us only as concerns sacrifices for the Passover, we
might assume that the Sabbath could be violated if the acts
necessary for circumcision which could have been performed on
the day before, were not; for the reason, that the covenant
regarding circumcision is mentioned thirteen times in the Thora,


and is in consequence regarded as a thirteenfold commandment,
which must under all circumstances be observed. Hence the
necessity for the twofold instruction.

MISHNA: One may perform everything necessary for cir-
cumcision on the Sabbath, as circumcising, tearing open, suck-
ing out the blood, applying a plaster or caraway seed. If the
latter had not been ground before the Sabbath, one may masti-
cate it with the teeth and then apply it. If one had not mixed
wine with oil before the Sabbath, he may apply each separately.
One must not prepare an actual bandage (on the Sabbath), but
may apply an old piece of linen ; and if such had not been pre-
pared before the Sabbath, the circumciser may bring it with him
tied around his finger and even from another court (yard).

GEMARA: Let us see: The Mishna enumerates all the acts
necessary for the performance of the rite of circumcision ; why,
then, does it commence by saying, " everything necessary" for
circumcision, and then proceed to detail " everything " ? What
act is there that has not been enumerated ? The Mishna means
to include what was taught us by the rabbis, as follows: " The
circumciser, while engaged in finishing the circumcision, if notic-
ing that excrescences still remain on the gland, whether they are
of a nature which make the circumcision invalid or such as do
not make it invalid, may remove them. But if he had already
finished (and put up his instruments), if excrescences which
make the circumcision invalid remain, he may remove them ;
but if they do not make the circumcision invalid, he must not
remove them." (Hence by stating " everything that is neces-
sary," etc., the Mishna means to include, that it is permitted
even to remove excrescences which do not make the circumcision
invalid, provided the operator had not already finished and put
up his instruments.) Who is the Tana who holds, that if the
circumciser had already finished he must not return and remove
the excrescences ? Said Rabha bar bar Hana in the name of R.
Johanan, it was R. Ishmael the son of R. Johananben Berokah,
as we have learned in a Boraitha: " If the fourteenth of Nissan
fall on a Sabbath, the animal used for the Passover sacrifice may
be skinned only as far as the breast, so saith R. Ishmael the son
of R. Johanan ben Berokah; but the sages say, that the whole
animal may be skinned." (Now, we see that R. Ishmael holds,
that after the work had been completed as far as was necessary
no more may be done; hence he is the one who says, that the
circumciser must not return to remove the excrescences.) This


is not conclusive evidence! It may be that R. Ishmael in the
case of the sacrifice holds, that because it is not necessary that
the commandment be beautified.* But in the case of circum-
cision, where the beautifying of the commandment is necessary
(as is taught in Tract Sakkah), we might say, that R. Ishmael is
of a different opinion ; therefore the sages of Neherdai say, that
the Tanas who hold, that after having finished the circumcision
the operator must not commence anew, are in reality the rabbis
who differ with R. Jose in Tract Menachoth concerning the law
of the showbreads.f

The rabbis taught: " If excrescences remain on the gland
after circumcision, and are such as make the circumcision in-
valid, they must be removed ; and failure to do so involves the
punishment of Karath." Who becomes liable to be punished
by Karath ? Said R. Kahana: " The circumciser. " (If he per-
formed the circumcision on Sabbath and did not finish it, he
simply made a wound and did not perform a commandment;
hence he becomes amenable to Karath. R. Papa opposed this:
" The circumciser might say, ' I have performed one half of a
commandment ; come ye and complete the other half. Why
should I be punished by Karath ? ' Therefore if the circumcision
was performed on an adult who, excrescences which make it
invalid having remained, will not permit them to be removed,
he becomes amenable to Karath." This was opposed by R.
Ashi : " As for an adult, what news does that impart to us ? It
is expressly stated [Genesis xvii. 14] : ' And any uncircumcised
male, who circumciseth not the flesh of his foreskin, that soul
shall be cut off from his people' ? Therefore he says nay; it
really refers to the circumciser, and only then if he came late on
Sabbath, near twilight, and was told that it would be impossible
to finish the operation before night, but persisted in performing
it. If in consequence he left excrescences which make the cir-
cumcision invalid, he simply made a wound without performing
a commandment, and thus he becomes amenable to Karath."

" Sucking out the blood.'' R. Papa said: " The circumciser
who does not suck out the wound places the child in danger,
and should be discharged from office." Is this not self-evident ?

* The Hebrew word " Veanvehu " is interpreted by the Talmud to signify " and I
will beautify him," while in the translation of the Bible, by I. Leaser, it is translated,
" I will sing his praise," and the reference made to the verse by the Talmud accepts
the term in its Talmudical sense.

f This will be explained in the Tract Menachoth.


It certainly must be dangerous not to do this, or the Sabbath
would not be violated in order to perform that duty ! We might
assume, that the blood having already come to the surface it
would run out of itself, and hence by sucking it out the Sab-
bath is not violated ; hence we are given to understand that this
is not so : the blood is moved only by the suction, and the Sab-
bath is violated ; but failure to do this would involve danger for
the child and hence it is permitted, and is regarded the same as
applying a plaster or caraway seeds (mentioned further on in the
Mishna), the omission of which would also involve danger to
the child.

" Applying a plaster or caraway seeds.'' Abayi said: " My
mother told me, that the most effective plaster for all ills is
made of seven different kinds of fat and one kind of wax " ; and
Rabha said: " The best plaster for all ills is one made of wax
and resin." Rabha stated this publicly in a lecture in the city
of Mehuzza, and two brothers the sons of Minyumi, who were
physicians, tore their clothes in anger; for they had known of it
and made capital out of the secret, until Rabha came and
revealed it. Said Rabha to them: " I will tell you of some-
thing that I shall not proclaim publicly, and that is, Samuel
said, that one who washes his face and does not dry it thor-
oughly, becomes afflicted with scabs, and the remedy for such is
the fluid extract of mangold."

' * If the latter {caraway seeds) had not been ground before the
Sabbath,'* etc. The rabbis taught: " In preparing for circumci-
sion, such things as must not be done on Sabbath, may be done
on a festival. One may grind the seeds and mix wine with oil."
Asked Abayi of R. Joseph : Why may the caraway seeds be
ground on a festival ? because they may be utilized for cooking :
then why should it not be permitted to mix wine with oil on
Sabbath ? It may be utilized for a sick person who is not dan-
gerously ill. As we have learned in a Boraitha: " Wine and oil
must not be mixed for a sick person on the Sabbath," but R.
Simeon ben Elazar in the name of R. Meir said, that it may
be. Said R. Simeon ben Elazar: It once happened, that R.
Meir was sick with stomach trouble, and we wanted to mix wine
with oil for him (on the Sabbath), but he would not permit us
to do this. So we asked him whether he wished his own words
to be made void during his lifetime, and he answered: " Nay; it
is allowed to mix wine with oil on Sabbath, but I cannot bring
it over me to act contrary to the decree of my colleagues."


Thus we see, that it is at all events allowed to mix wine with oil
on the Sabbath. Why, then, does the Mishna say, that if this
was not done on the day before the Sabbath, each should be
applied separately ? The difference lies therein, that when
giving it to a sick person, it is merely mixed, but when used for
a balm (at circumcision) it must be thoroughly stirred and re-
quires a good deal of labor. Let it be given (applied) just
mixed. That is just what the Mishna prescribes, each to be
applied separately; i.e., it should not be stirred.

Abayi said: " My mother told me, that if a child appears
red all over it is a sign that the circulation is imperfect, and
hence circumcision should be postponed until the circulation is
perfect. If a child has a greenish cast it is a sign that the blood
is impoverished, and circumcision should then be postponed
until the blood is richer." This we have also learned in a Bo-
raitha, as follows : " R. Nathan said : ' I once went to a city by
the sea, and there met a woman whose first and second child
both died in consequence of circumcision. The third child she
brought to me, and I noticed that it was quite red. I told her
to wait until the blood had settled and then circumcise it. She
did so and then circumcised it, and the child lived. The child
was then named after me, Nathan the Babylonian. At another
time I came to the country of Cappadocia, and a woman came
to me telling me that she had had two children circumcised, both
of whom had died in consequence of circumcision. The third
she brought to me, and I noticed that it had a greenish cast. I
also noticed, that if it were circumcised no blood would flow; so
I told her to wait until the circulation of the blood was in order.
She did so, and the child was circumcised, and lived. She
named it also after me, and called it Nathan the Babylonian.' "

MISHNA : One may bathe the child both before the circum-
cision as well as after (on Sabbath), by sprinkling water over it
with the hand, but not by pouring water over it from a vessel.
R. Eliezer ben Azariah says : One may bathe a child on the
third day (after the circumcision), even if it fall on a Sabbath ; for
it is written [Genesis xxxiv. 25] : " And it came to pass on the
third day, when they were sore." On account of a doubtful
child (a child about which there is a doubt whether it was born
in the eighth month of its gestation, and is therefore not ex-
pected to live) or an hermaphrodite, the Sabbath (-rest) must not
be desecrated. R. Jehudah permits this in the case of an her-


GEMARA : The Mishna commences by saying: " One may
bathe the child," and then goes on to say that it may only be
sprinkled by hand. That is not bathing! Said Rabha : " The
Mishna means to state, that a child may be bathed as usual on
the day of circumcision, either before or after the performance
of the rite ; but on the third day after circumcision, if that day
should be a Sabbath, one may only sprinkle the child by hand,
and not bathe it in a vessel." R. Elazar ben Azariah, however,
said, that even if the third day fall on a Sabbath the child may
be bathed as usual, as it is written [Gen. xxxiv. 15] : " And it
came to pass on the third day, when they were sore."

When R. Dimi came from Palestine, he said in the name of
R. Elazar, that the Halakha prevails according to R. Elazar ben
Azariah. In the West the question was discussed whether R.
Elazar ben Azariah meant that the whole body of the child
might be bathed, or whether the part circumcised only might be
bathed. Said one of the rabbis, whose name was R. Jacob: " It
seems to me that the whole body is meant, because if the wound
only was meant, wherein does the wound caused by circumcision
differ from any other wound ? Any wound may be bathed on
the Sabbath in water and oil, according to Rabh's opinion."
This was opposed by R. Joseph : " Is it immaterial whether the
water was warmed on the Sabbath or before the Sabbath?"
This was again opposed by R. Dimi : " Whence dost thou know
that the Mishna refers to water that was warrhed on Sabbath,
perhaps they (the sages and R. Elazar) differ even as to water
warmed before the Sabbath set in ? " Said Abayi : " I was pre-
pared to answer this question myself, but R. Joseph preceded
me and said, that of a necessity the water must have been
warmed on Sabbath, because the precariousness of the child
demanded it,"

We were also taught, that when Rabhin came from Pales-
tine, he said in the name of R. Abuha quoting R. Elazar, and
according to another version, in the name of R. Abuha quoting
R. Johanan, that the Halakha prevails according to R. Elazar
ben Azariah, whether it be with water that was warmed on the
Sabbath or before the Sabbath, or whether the whole body or
only the circumcised part is concerned, because it would be
dangerous not to bathe the child on that day.

It was said above in the name of Rabh, that every wound
may be bathed on the Sabbath with water or oil ; but Samuel said
that water may be poured to one side of the wound and it may


run down into the wound. An objection was made : " We have
learned, that oil or water must not be put on a piece of cotton
to place on a wound ?" This is prohibited on account of the
necessity to wring the piece of cotton. We have been taught by
a Boraitha in accordance with Samuel's opinion; viz.: "Water
must not be placed directly on the wound, but near it, that it
may run down into the wound."

The rabbis taught: " Dry cotton and dry sponge, but not
dry papyrus or dry cloth, maybe placed on a wound." This
presents a contradiction. Is not dry cotton the same as dry
cloth ? This is no diflficulty. By cloth is meant new cloth,
which must not be used, whereas old cloth may be. Said
Abayi : " From this we see, that pieces of cloth heal a wound."

" On account of a doubtful child or an hermaphrodite,'' etc.
The rabbis taught: It is written [Leviticus xii. 3], " his fore-
skin'' \ so, on account of a foreskin which must be circumcised,
the Sabbath may be violated, but on account of one which is
doubtful the Sabbath must not be desecrated. Such also is the
case with the circumcision of the foreskin of a true male, but
not with that of an hermaphrodite. R. Jehudah, however, says,
that the Sabbath may be violated on account of an hermaphro-
dite, and if the latter is not circumcised he becomes amenable to
Karath. The Sabbath may also be violated on account of a
child who was born at a certain time, but not on account of one
who was born at twilight (and it is not known whether it was
born on Sabbath or on the following day). It is not allowed to
violate the Sabbath on account of a child who was born without
a foreskin, because the school of Shamai (only) contends, that
even if a child is born without a foreskin, some blood must be
drawn in commemoration of the covenant. The school of
Hillel, however, says, " That is not necessary." Said R. Sim-
eon ben Elazar: "The school of Hillel and the school of
Shamai did not differ as to a child born without a foreskin ; both
agree that blood must be drawn from it, because the foreskin is
not wholly missing, but is merely ingrown. They differ only as
regards a proselyte who was born without a foreskin. When
seeking conversion, the school of Shamai contends that blood
of the covenant must be drawn from his gland, whereas the
school of Hillel does not require this to be done.

The Master said: " On account of a doubtful child, the Sab-
bath must not be desecrated." What does he mean by " doubt-
ful " ? He means to say, what we learned from the rabbis;

VOL. II.-— 8


viz.: A child born in the seventh month may have the Sabbath
violated for it, but if born in the eighth it must not. If it is
doubtful whether it was born in the seventh or in the eighth
month, the Sabbath must not be violated on its account. Not
only this, but a child born in the eighth month must not even be

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Online LibraryMichael Levi RodkinsonNew edition of the Babylonian Talmud. Original text edited, corrected, formulated, and translated into English (Volume 2) → online text (page 12 of 21)