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Michael Levi Rodkinson.

New edition of the Babylonian Talmud. Original text edited, corrected, formulated, and translated into English (Volume 8) online

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ten [II Chron. xxxv. 21] : " But he (Necho, King of Egypt) sent
ambassadors to him (Josiah), saying : What have I to do with
thee, thou King of Judah ? I come not against thee this day, but
against the house wherewith I have war, and God hath com-
manded me to make haste : forbear thee from meddling with
God who is with me, that He may not destroy thee." What is
meant by " God who is with me " ? What God could Necho
have had with him ? Said R. Jehudah in the name of Rabh :
" It was an idol, and for the reason that Necho had confidence
in the idol, Josiah thought that he could surely vanquish him in
battle."

Further it says [ibid. 23] : " And the archers shot at King
Josiah ; and the king said to his servants : Carry me away ; for I
am sorely wounded." What is meant by u sorely wounded"?
Said R. Jehudah in the name of Rabh : " From that it may be
inferred that his whole body was perforated by the arrows like a
sieve." Before Josiah died, Jeremiah the prophet noticed that
his lips were moving, and thinking that, God forbid, he was say-
ing something blasphemous on account of the terrible pain he
was suffering, Jeremiah stooped down and heard Josiah justify-
ing the judgment which had befallen him, saying the passage
[Lament, i. 18] : " Righteous is the Lord ; for against his orders
have I rebelled." Whereupon Jeremiah lamented his death with
the words [ibid. iv. 20] : " The breath of our nostrils, the anointed
of our Lord, was caught in their pits."

" Should be sounded even on Sabbath!' The rabbis taught :



TRACT TAANITH (FASTING). 63

On account of a city surrounded by foes, a ship that was wrecked
at sea, or even on account of an individual pursued by foes, rob-
bers, or evil spirits, a man may keep a fast-day himself (without
waiting for the order instituting it). R. Jose, however, said :
"A man is not allowed to do this by himself, lest he become
weak through fasting and unable to work, when he would become
dependent upon others who might have no pity for him, because
he himself was the one responsible for his condition." Said R.
Jehudah in the name of Rabh : "What reason has R. Jose for
this assertion ? Because it is written [Genesis, ii. 7] : ' And the
man became a living being,' which implies, that man should let
the living soul, given him by the Creator, live and not wilfully
kill it."

11 Simeon the Temanite says" etc. We have learned in a
Boraitha : For a pest an alarm should be sounded on a Sabbath,
and so much the more on a week-day ; but R. Hanan bar Pitom,
the disciple of R. Aqiba, said in the name of his Master that for
a pest no alarm need be sounded even on a week-day.

" On account of every plague" etc. The rabbis taught: On
account of every plague — with which may the community never
be visited — an alarm should be sounded, except on account of an
excess of rain. What is the reason? Said R. Johanan : "Be-
cause it is not permitted to pray for the cessation of too much
good." Said Rami bar R. Jod : " In the land of exile (Babylon)
an alarm should be sounded for an excess of rain." We have
also learned in a Boraitha that in a year when there is an excess
of rain the priests of the weekly watch would send word to the
standing men : " Take care of your brethren in exile, that their
houses may not become their graves."

The rabbis taught : It is written [Lev. xxvi. 4] : " Then will
I give you rains in their due season," which means, that the earth
shall not become too full of water nor that it shall be thirsty, but
have just sufficient ; for if there is too much rain, the earth be-
comes too sodden and fruit cannot grow. Another explanation
of the term " in their due season " is, that the rains will fall on
the night of the fourth day of the week and on the night of Sab-
bath, when men do not go out ; for so do we find, that in the
days of Simeon ben Sheta'h rain fell only on those nights, and
grain prospered so that wheat-grains became as testicles, barley-
corns as the kernels of olives, and lentils as golden Dinars ; and
part of these fruits of the earth were preserved to show to future
generations, in order to demonstrate to them that the only reason



64 THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD.

why crops were not as prosperous as they formerly were was be-
cause of the transgressions of the people, as it is written [Jere-
miah, v. 25] : " Your iniquities have turned away these things,
and your sins have withholden what is good from you."

So it was also at the time when Herod built the new Temple.
It would rain only at night, and in the morning the wind would
disperse the clouds, the sun would commence to shine, and the
people would go to their work in peace, so that all men knew
that they were engaged in a heavenly undertaking.

"// once happened that Honi Hantdgel" etc. The rabbis taught :
It once happened the greater part of the month of Adar had
passed, and no rain had yet fallen. Honi Hama'gel was there-
upon requested to pray for rain. He prayed, but no rain de-
scended. So he marked out a circle around him, the same as
Habakkuk did, as it is written [Habakkuk, ii. 1] : " Upon my watch
will I stand, and place myself upon the tower," placed himself
in the midst of it, and said : " Creator of the universe ! Thy
children have always looked up towards me as being like a son
of Thy house before Thee. I swear therefore, by Thy great
Name, that I shall not move from this place until Thou shalt have
compassion upon Thy children." Whereupon the rain com-
menced to drop down gently. Said the disciples to him : " May
it be that we may see thee and not die ; for we think that the
rain is merely dropping in order to release thee from thy vow."
And he replied : " It was not for this I prayed, but for rain suffi-
cient to fill the wells, cisterns, and caves." The rain then fell in
torrents, each drop being as large as the mouth of a barrel, and
the sages opined that each drop contained no less than a lug of
water. The disciples again said to him : " Rabbi, may we see
thee and not die ! We believe that the rain is falling in order to
destroy the world." He again said : " Not for such rains have I
prayed ; but for mild, felicitous, and liberal showers." The rain
then descended in the usual manner, until the Israelites of Jeru-
salem were obliged to seek refuge from the city to the Temple
mount on account of the rain. They then came to him and said :
" Rabbi, even as thou didst pray that the rain might descend,
thus pray now that it may cease." And he replied : " I have a
tradition that it is not permitted to pray for a cessation of too
much good. Still, bring me a praise-offering." It was accord-
ingly brought to him, and putting both hands upon it, he said :
" Creator of the universe ! Thy people which Thou hast brought
out of Egypt cannot be sustained either with too much evil or too



TRACT TAANITH (FASTING). 65

much good. When Thou becamest angry with them, they could
no longer bear it ; and now that Thou hast showered too much
good (rain) upon them, they cannot bear it either. Let it be Thy
will that the rains may cease and the world become happy."
Thereupon a wind came up, dispersed the clouds, the sun com-
menced to shine, and the people went out into the fields and
brought back mushrooms.

Simeon ben Sheta'h then sent him word, saying: If thou wert
not Honi, I would order that thou be anathematized ; for were
these years as those when Elijah said that no rain should fall
and when he had the key to the rain, thou wouldst have
merely desecrated the Holy Name ; but what shall I do with
thee, since thou art petulant towards God, and yet He forgiveth
and indulgeth thee like a petted child who is petulant towards
its father, and says : " Father, bathe me in hot water, bathe me
in cold water, give me nuts, almonds, apricots, and pomegra-
nates," and is nevertheless forgiven and indulged ? To thee
may be applied the passage [Prov. xxiii. 25] : " Let thy father
and thy mother rejoice, and let her that hath born thee be
glad."

The rabbis taught : What was the word which the Sanhedrin
sitting in the chamber of marble sent to Honi Hama'gel after the
occurrence ? They cited the passage [Job, xxii. 28] : " And if thou
decree a thing, it will be fulfilled unto thee ; and upon thy ways
the light will shine," and said : " Thou hast decreed below, and
the Holy One, blessed be He, ratified it above, and the genera-
tion which was in darkness thou hast enlightened with thy
prayer."

R. Johanan said : All the days of this righteous man (Honi),
he troubled himself concerning the meaning of the passage
[Psalms, cxxvi. 1] : " When the Lord bringeth back again the
captivity of Zion, then shall we be like dreamers." Honi would
constantly say : " How can a man sleep or be like a dreamer for
seventy years ? " Once he was travelling on the road, and he
noticed a man planting a carob-tree. He asked him how many
years it would take before the tree would bear fruit, and the man
answered : " Seventy years." Honi. then asked : " Art thou, then,
sure that thou wilt live seventy years ? " And the man replied :
" I found carob-trees in existence when I came into the world,
consequently my ancestors must have planted them. Why
should I not also plant them for my children ? " About that
time Honi became hungry, and sat down to eat near the newly
5



66 THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD.

planted tree. After the meal he fell asleep, and a bay * formed
about him so that he could not be noticed, and thus he slept for
seventy years. When he awoke, he observed a man gathering the
fruit from the carob-tree ; and he asked the man : " Didst thou
plant this tree ? " The man replied : " Nay ; I am the grandson of
the man that planted it." Honi then realized that he must have
slept for seventy years, and when he looked around for his ass,
he noticed that there were many smaller asses. He then went to
his home, and inquired whether the son of Honi Hama'gel was
still alive. He was told that the son was no longer living, but
that a son of the son was alive. He then said : " I am Honi
Hama'gel " ; but they would not believe him. He went to the
house of learning and heard them say : " To-day the Halakhoth
are as clear as in the days of Honi Hama'gel, who would im-
mediately render a clear decision when any questions whatever
were put to him by the rabbis." He went in and said to them :
" I am that Honi " ; but they would not believe him, nor would
they accord him due respect. This caused him to become down-
cast and despondent, and he prayed to God that he might die,
and so he died. Said Rabha : " This illustrates the saying : ' Give
me the glory due me, or give me death.' "

Abba Helkyah was a grandson of Honi Hama'gel. When
the country was in need of rain the rabbis would send to him,
and he would pray for rain, which thereupon commenced to fall.
One day the country was in need of rain, and the rabbis sent a
committee of two younger rabbis to him, with the request that
he pray for rain. They came to his house, but did not find him.
They went to his field, and found him weeding it. They greeted
him, but he made no reply. On his way back to his home, he
placed some wood and the hoe on one shoulder and a garment
on the other shoulder. The entire way he did not wear shoes,
but whenever he came to water which he had to ford he would
put them on. When he came to a thorny path, he would raise
his garments. When he came to the city, his wife met him
dressed in fine apparel. When he reached his house, his wife
entered first, then he, and finally the two young rabbis entered.
He sat down to his meal, but extended no invitation to the
rabbis to join him. When dealing out bread to his children, he
gave the elder one loaf and the younger two. Afterwards he



* The Hebrew term is " Meshunitha." Rashi explains it to mean a rock, while
the dictionaries define it as given, in our text.



TRACT TAANITH (FASTING). 67

said to his wife in a low voice : " I know that these rabbis came
on account of rain. Come, let us go up into the attic and pray
for rain, and should the Lord have mercy on His children and
cause it to rain, it will not appear as if it came about through us."
They went up into the attic, and he stood in one corner, while
she stood in another. The rain-cloud appeared in the direction
where the wife was standing.

When he went down again, he said to the rabbis : " What
hath brought the rabbis here ? " And they replied : " The rabbis
have sent us to Master that he may pray for rain." And he
answered : " Blessed be the Lord, that ye no longer need Abba
Helkyah's favor." Said they to him : " We well know that this
rain is come only on account of Master, still we should like to
know the reason for several actions on his part which appear to
us surprising. Why, when we greeted the Master, did he not turn
his face towards us?" He replied : " I hired myself out for the
day and my time was not my own, hence I did not wish to waste
any." " Why did the Master carry the wood on one shoulder
and the garment on the other ? " " Because the garment was bor-
rowed by me to wear, but not to use as a pad for wood."
" Why did the Master go barefooted all the way, and put on
his shoes when coming to water? " " Because the entire way I
could see what I was stepping on, but in water I could not."
" Why did the Master raise his dress when walking in a thorny
path?" " Because if my flesh should receive a scratch, it will
heal; but if the garment should become torn it cannot be
mended." " Why, when the Master came to the city, did his
wife come forth to meet him, dressed in her best apparel ? "
" In order that I may not look at any other woman." " Why
did she enter first, then the Master, and then we? " " Because
I know nothing about you." " Why, when the Master sat down
to eat, did he not invite us to partake also ? " " Because there
was not sufficient bread for all, and I did not wish to invite you
merely to receive your thanks in vain." " Why did the Master
give the elder child one loaf and the younger two? " " Because
the elder was at home all day and probably helped himself pre-
viously, but the younger was at school all day and more hun-
gry." " Why did the rain-cloud appear first in thy wife's cor-
ner?" " Because my wife is always at home, and when a poor
man begs for a meal she always gives it to him readily, while I
can but give him a Zuz and he must first go and purchase food
for it. Thus her charity is more effective than mine."



68 THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD.

Hanan the Hidden was a son of the daughter of Honi Hama'-
gel. When the country was in need of rain, the rabbis would send
the school-children to him, who would surround him, take hold of
his garments, and cry : " Father, father, give us rain ! " And
he would say to the Holy One, blessed be He : " Creator of the
universe ! Cause rain to descend, for the sake of those who can-
not distinguish between a father capable of giving rain and one
who is not." Why was he called Hanan the Hidden ? Because
whenever he would do some good, he would hide himself so as
not to be observed.

Said R. Z'reiqa to R. Saphra : " Come and see the difference
between the pious of Babylon and the righteous of Palestine.
The pious of Babylon — e.g., R. Huna and R. Hisda — when the
country was in need of rain, would say : " Let us combine and
pray to God, perhaps we shall find favor in His eyes, and He
will give us rain " ; and the righteous of Palestine — e.g., R. Jonah
the father of R. Mani — when the country was needing rain,
would go to his house, ask for a sack, and say : " I will go to the
market and buy a Zuz' worth of grain." When going out he
would seek a deep place, as it is written [Psalms, cxxx. i] : " Out
of the depths have I called to thee, O Lord," and he would sta-
tion himself in a hidden place, cover himself with the sack, and
offer up a prayer for rain to the Lord, and forthwith rain would
descend. When returning home, he would be asked : " Didst
thou buy the grain for a Zuz ? " And he would reply : " I no-
ticed that it commenced to rain, and hence thought it unneces-
sary to go to the market for it, as it can be had now anywhere."

Again it happened that R. Mani the son of Jonah was sorely
troubled by the members of the house of the Nassi (prince) ; so
he went and threw himself on his father's grave, exclaiming :
" Father, father, the men of the house of the Nassi are troubling
me." One day the retainers of the Nassi were riding by the
burial ground where Jonah was interred, and their horses could
not proceed until they vowed not to trouble R. Mani any more.

R. Mani would frequently come to the house of R. Itz'hak
ben Aliashib, and he once told R. Itz'hak that the members of
his father-in-law's family were giving him much trouble. Said R.
Itz'hak : " May they become poor ! " and they really did become
poor. R. Mani then came again, and complained that now his
relatives were poor they were compelling him to support them.
Said R. Itz'hak : " May they then become rich again ! " and ac-
cordingly they became rich.



TRACT TAANITH (FASTING). 69

At another time R. Mani complained to R. Itz'hak that his
wife was too ill-favored. Said R. Itz'hak : " What is her name ? "
And R. Mani replied: "Hannah." Said R. Itz'hak: "May
Hannah become handsome ! " and accordingly she became hand-
some. Subsequently R. Mani came again, and complained that
now his wife had become handsome she made life a burden to
him by her vanity, and R. Itz'hak said : " May Hannah again
become ugly ! " and Hannah again became ugly.

Some time later, two disciples of R. Itz'hak ben Aliashib
begged him to pray to the Lord for them, that they might be-
come wiser and more capable for study. Said he to them : " I
used to do that at one time and would succeed ; but I have
stopped that practice and shall not do it again."

Elazar the man of Birtha would be shunned by the men who
were sent out to collect money for charitable purposes, because
he would give away everything he had. One day he went out
into the market to buy the articles necessary for the proper cele-
bration of his daughter's marriage. The collectors of alms per-
ceived him, and hid themselves. He, however, pursued and
overtook them, and said : " I adjure you, tell me for what purpose
ye are sent out now and what ye need." And they answered :
" We are collecting money for two orphans who are about to be
married." Said he : " I vow they have precedence over my
daughter." And he gave them everything he had, with the ex-
ception of one Zuz, for which he bought some wheat and de-
posited it in his storehouse. The mother (Elazar's wife) said
to the daughter: "What did your father bring?" And the
daughter replied : " All that he brought he deposited in the
storehouse." She then went to the storehouse, but could not
open the door, as the wheat was piled up so high and the store-
house was so full that the wheat forced its way through the
cracks in the walls. Thereupon she betook herself to the house
of learning, where Elazar her husband was studying, and calling
him out, said : " Come and see what thy friend did for thee."
Arriving at the storehouse, Elazar said : " I vow that all this
wheat is devoted to the poor, and thou hast but a share in it
equal to the other poor."

R. Jehudah Hanassi (the Second) once ordered a fast-day and
prayed for rain, but without success. Said he : " What a differ-
ence there is between Samuel the prophet and Jehudah the son
of Gamaliel ! Woe is to the generation that has retrograded to
such an extent and woe to the Nassi (prince) who hath witnessed



7 o THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD.

it." He became very despondent, and forthwith rain began to
fall.

A fast-day was ordered from the house of the Nassi, and no
previous notice thereof was given to R. Johanan and Resh Lakish.
Said R. Johanan to Resh Lakish : " What shall we do? We did
not take it upon ourselves to fast to-day or yesterday ? Re-
plied Resh Lakish : " We are dependent upon the Nassi ; hence
it is not necessary for us to take it upon ourselves a day in
advance."

Again it happened that the house of the Nassi ordered a fast-
day ; but no rain descended. So Oshiya, the youngest of the
colleagues, taught : It is written [Numb. xv. 24] : " Then shall
it be, if through inadvertence of the congregation it was com-
mitted by ignorance," which is a simile to a bride in the house of
her father — if she have beautiful eyes, there is no need of exam-
ining her body, but if her eyes be bad her entire body should be
examined (i.e., if the prince of the congregation be a righteous
man, the congregation need not be tried, but if he be wicked the
congregation itself must be examined). So the servants of the
Nassi came to Oshiya, threw a cloth over his neck, and tortured
him. Said the townsfolk to the servants : " Let him be, for
though he often offends us with his sayings, still, as we see that
he means well and does so for our good, we let him have his own
way."

Rabbi once ordered a fast-day, but no rain descended. So
Ilpha, others say R. Ilphi, went up to the reading-desk to pray.
As soon as he came to the sentence, " He causeth the wind to
blow," a wind sprang up ; and when he said, " He causeth the
rain to descend," rain began to fall. So Rabbi asked Ilpha :
" What are thy merits?" And he answered: "I live in a very
small town, where it is almost impossible to obtain any wine for
the Kiddush and the Habdalah on the Sabbath ; but I go to
great trouble to procure it and distribute among my townsmen,
and when reciting the Kiddush prayer I also include my towns-
men in the prayer."

Rabh came to a certain place and ordered a fast-day, but no
rain descended. The minister of the congregation went up to
the reading-desk and commenced to pray. Arriving at the sen-
tence, " He causeth the wind to blow," a wind sprang up ; and as
soon as he said, " He causeth the rain to descend," rain began to
fall. Said Rabh to him : " What are thy merits ? " And he
answered ; " I teach little children, and treat the children of the



TRACT TAANITH (FASTING). 7 i

poor like the children of the rich. Those that cannot afford to
pay, I teach without remuneration ; and being also a fisherman,
I persuade those who do not wish to come and learn, to do so by
giving them fish to take home with them."

R. Na'hman ordered a communal fast. He prayed for rain,
which, however, did not come. And he said to the people : " Take
ye Na'hman and throw him from the roof to the ground." He
became downcast, and rain commenced to fall. Rabba ordered
a fast, he prayed, and no rain came. And they said to him :
" But when R. Jehudah orders a fast, then rain comes." He
replied : " What can I do ? In point of learning we are better
than they ; for in the years of R. Jehudah all their studies were
confined to the Section of Damages, while we study now all the
six sections. And when R. Jehudah came to the Section of
Taharath (Purification), Tract Uqtsin, and the Halakha, ' When
a woman put herbs in a pot,' or, according to others, to the Hala-
kha, ' If olives were soaked with their leaves, they are clean,' *
R. Jehudah used to say : ' I find it as deep as would befit the
times of Rabh and Samuel.' But we have thirteen colleges which
are studying the Tract Uqtsin, and nevertheless when R. Jehudah
would put off one shoe, the rain would come ; and we are crying
the whole day, and there is nobody to look at us. And if one
might say, R. Jehudah was better than we by his deeds, then if
there is any one here that knows we have not acted rightly, let
him say so ; but the true reason is, what can the leaders of the
generation do, when the generation itself is not good ? "

R. Jehudah saw once two men throwing bread at each other,
and he said : " I see from this that there is plenty in the world."
He cast an evil eye, and a famine began. Said the rabbis to R.
Kahna the son of R. Nahuniah : " We have heard that the Mas-
ter frequents the house of R. Jehudah : cause him to go into the
market (he should become aware that a famine reigns)." He did
so, and took him out into the market. He saw a crowd of men.
He asked : " What is the matter? " He was answered : " There
is a measure of dates for sale, and each is eager to obtain it."
Said he : "I perceive from this that there is famine in the world."
He said to his servant : " Take off my shoes." He had taken off
but one of his shoes, when it began to rain.

R. Mari the son of the daughter of Samuel said : " At that
time, when R. Jehudah had his shoes taken off, I stood on the

* This will be explained in its place in Tract Uqtsin,



72 THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD.



Online LibraryMichael Levi RodkinsonNew edition of the Babylonian Talmud. Original text edited, corrected, formulated, and translated into English (Volume 8) → online text (page 8 of 26)