Hebraic Literature; Translations from the Talmud, Midrashim and Kabbala
Among the absurd notions as to what the Talmud was, given credence in the Middle Ages, one was that it was a man! The mediaeval priest or peasant was perhaps wiser than he knew. Almost, might we say, the Talmud was Man, for it is a record of the doings, the beliefs, the usages, the hopes, the sufferings, the patience, the humor, the mentality, and the morality of the Jewish people for half a millennium.
What is the Talmud? There is more than one answer. Ostensibly it is the corpus juris of the Jews from about the first century before the Christian era to about the fourth after it. But we shall see as we proceed that the Talmud was much more than this. The very word "Law" in Hebrew—"Torah"—means more than its translation would imply. The Jew interpreted his whole religion in terms of law. It is his name in fact for the Bible's first five books—the Pentateuch. To explain what the Talmud is we must first explain the theory of its growth more remarkable perhaps than the work itself. What was that theory? The Divine Law was revealed to Moses, not only through the Commands that were found written in the Bible, but also through all the later rules and regulations of post-exilic days. These additional laws it was presumed were handed down orally from Moses to Joshua, thence to the Prophets, and later still transmitted to the Scribes, and eventually to the Rabbis. The reason why the Rabbis ascribed to Moses the laws that they later evolved, was due to their intense reverence for Scripture, and their modest sense of their own authority and qualification. "If the men of old were giants then we are pigmies," said they. They felt and believed that all duty for the guidance of man was found in the Bible either directly or inferentially. Their motto was then, "Search the Scriptures," and they did search them with a literalness and a painstaking thoroughness never since repeated. Not a word, not a letter escaped them. Every redundancy of expression was freighted with meaning, every repetition was made to give birth to new truth. Some of the inferences were logical and natural, some artificial and far-fetched, but all ingenious. Sometimes the method was inductive and sometimes deductive. That is, occasionally a needed law was promulgated by the Jewish Sanhedrin, and then its authority sought in the Scripture, or the Scripture would be sought in the first instance to reveal new law.
So while the Jewish code, religious and civil, continued to grow during the era of the Restoration of the second Temple, to meet the more complex conditions of later times, still the theory was maintained that all was evolved from original Scripture and always transmitted, either written or oral, from Moses from Mount Sinai. It was not, however, till the year 219 after the Christian era that a compiled summary of the so-called oral law was made—perhaps compiled from earlier summaries—by Rabbi Jehudah Hanassi (the Prince), and the added work was called the Mishnah or Second Law. Mark the date. We have passed the period of the fall of Judea's nationality. And it was these very academies in which the Jewish tradition—the Jewish Law was studied, that kept alive the Jewish people as a religious community after they had ceased to be a nation. This Mishnah, divided into six sedarim or chapters, and subdivided into thirty-six treatises, became now in the academies of Palestine, and later in Babylonia, the text of further legal elaboration, with the theory of deduction from Scripture still maintained.
Although the life of denationalized Israel was much narrower and more circumscribed, with fewer outlets to their capacities, nevertheless the new laws deduced from the Mishnah code in the academies grew far larger than the original source, while the discussions which grew around each Halacha, as the final decision was termed, and which was usually transmitted with the decision, grew so voluminous that it became gradually impossible to retain the complex tradition in the memory—remarkable as the Oriental memory was and is. That fact, added to the growing persecutions from Israel's over-lords, and the consequent precarious fate of these precious traditions, made it necessary to write them down in spite of the prejudice against committing the oral law to writing at all. This work was undertaken by Rav Asche and his disciples, and was completed before the year 500. The Mishnah, together with the laws that later grew out of it, called also Gamara, or Commentary, form the Talmud. While the Palestinian school evolved a Gamara from the Mishnah which is called the "Palestinian Talmud," it was the tradition of the Babylonian academies, far vaster because they continued for so many more centuries, that is the Talmud per se, that great work of 2,947 folio leaves. Were we to continue the tradition further, we might show how often this vast legal compilation was the subject of further commentary, discussion and deduction by yet later scholars. But that takes us beyond our theme and is another story.
In forming an estimate of these laws, we must first remember that they belonged to the days when religion and state were one. So we shall find priestly laws mixed up with police laws, sanitary regulations side by side with regulations of sanctity, the injunctions teaching political economy and morality almost in the same line. It should rather then be compared to codes of law than to religious scriptures, though often there the comparison would be incomplete, since the religious atmosphere pervaded even the most secular circumstance of the life of the Jew. There was no secular. The meanest function in life must be brought in relation to the great Divine. This must be understood in studying the Talmud, this must be understood in studying the Jew. As law, it compares favorably with the Roman code—its contemporary in part. In the treatment of a criminal it is almost quixotically humane. It abhors the shedding of blood, and no man can be put to death on circumstantial evidence. Many of its injunctions are intensely minute and hair-splitting to the extreme of casuistry. Yet these elements are familiar in the interpretation of law, not only in the olden time, but in some measure even to-day. There are instances where Talmudic law is tenderer than the Biblical; for example, the lex talionis is softened into an equivalent.
Yet the legal does not form the whole of the Talmud, nor perhaps the part that would most interest the casual reader or the world at large. It is the dry, prosaic half. There is a poetic half, let us say a homiletic half, what we call Agada, as distinct from the legal portion called Halacha. The term Agada, "narrative," is wofully insufficient to describe the diverse material that falls under this head, for it comprehends all the discursive elements that come up in the legal discussions in the old Babylonian and Palestinian academies. These elements are occasionally biographical,—fragments of the lives of the great scholars, occasionally historical,—little bits of Israel's long tragedy, occasionally didactic,—facts, morals, life lessons taught by the way; occasionally anecdotic, stories told to relieve the monotony of discussion; not infrequently fanciful; bits of philosophy, old folk-lore, weird imaginings, quaint beliefs, superstitions and humor. They are presented haphazard, most irrelevantly introduced in between the complex discussions, breaking the thread that however is never lost, but always taken up again.
From this point of view the Talmud is a great maze and apparently the simplest roads lead off into strange, winding by-paths. It is hard to deduce any distinct system of ethics, any consistent philosophy, any coherent doctrine. Yet patience rewards the student here too, and from this confused medley of material, he can build the intellectual world of the early mediæval Jew. In the realm of doctrine we find that "original sin," "vicarious atonement," and "everlasting punishment," are denied. Man is made the author of his own salvation. Life beyond the grave is still progressive; the soul is pre-existent.
A suggestion of the wit and wisdom of the Talmud may be gathered from the following quotations:—
A single light answers as well for a hundred men as for one.
The ass complains of cold even in July.
A myrtle in the desert remains a myrtle.
Teach thy tongue to say, "I do not know."
Hospitality is an expression of Divine worship.
Thy friend has a friend, and thy friend's friend has a friend; be discreet.
Attend no auctions if thou hast no money.
Rather flay a carcass, than be idly dependent on charity.
The place honors not the man, 'tis the man who gives honor to the place.
Drain not the waters of thy well while other people may desire them.
The rose grows among thorns.
Two pieces of coin in one bag make more noise than a hundred.
The rivalry of scholars advances science.
Truth is heavy, therefore few care to carry it.
He who is loved by man is loved by God.
Use thy noble vase to-day; to-morrow it may break.
The soldiers fight and the kings are heroes.
Commit a sin twice, it will seem a sin no longer.
The world is saved by the breath of the school children.
A miser is as wicked as an idolater.
Do not make woman weep, for God counts her tears.
The best preacher is the heart; the best teacher time;
the best book the world; the best friend God.
The philosophy in the Talmud, rather than the philosophy of it, has been made the subject of separate treatment just as the whole of the Agada has been drawn out of the Talmud and published as a separate work.
What is the Talmud to the Jew to-day? It is literature rather than law. He no longer goes to the voluminous Talmud to find specific injunction for specific need. Search in that vast sea would be tedious and unfruitful. Its legal portion has long been codified in separate digests. Maimonides was the first to classify Talmudic law. Still later one Ascheri prepared a digest called the "Four Rows," in which the decisions of later Rabbis were incorporated. But it was the famous Shulchan Aruch (a prepared table) written by Joseph Caro in the sixteenth century, that formed the most complete code of Talmudic law enlarged to date, and accepted as religious authority by the orthodox Jews to-day.
I have already referred to the literature that has grown out of the Talmud. The "Jewish Encyclopedia" treats every law recognized by nations from the Talmudic stand-point. This will give the world a complete Talmudic point of view. In speaking of it as literature, it lacks perhaps that beauty of form in its language which the stricter demand as literature sine qua non, and yet its language is unique. It is something more than terse, for many a word is a whole sentence. Written in Aramaic, it contains many words in the languages of the nations with whom Israel came in contact—Greek, Roman, Persian, and words from other tongues.
Like the Jew, the Talmud has had a history, almost as checkered as that of its creator. Like him it was singled out for persecution. Louis IX. burned twenty-four cart-loads of Talmuds in Paris. Its right of survival had often been wrested through church synods and councils. It has been banned, it has been excommunicated, it has been made the subject of popish bulls; but it was in the sixteenth century that the Benedictine Monks made a particular determined effort to destroy it. Fortunately they knew not the times. It was the age of Humanism, the forerunner of the Reformation, and the Talmud found its ablest defender in the great Christian humanist, John Reuchlin. He was the one first to tell his co-religionists, "Do not condemn the Talmud before you understand it. Burning is no argument. Instead of burning all Jewish literature, it were better to found chairs in the universities for its exposition." The cause of liberality and light gained the day, and the printing-press decided the perpetuation of the Talmud.
In the second stage of its persecution the censor figures. His Philistine pen passed ruthlessly over everything that seemed to hint at criticism of the Church; but not content with expunging the heretical and the inferentially heretical, the censor at times went even so far as to erase sentiments particularly lofty, in order that the Talmud should not have the credit of expounding noble doctrine, nor the Jew the advantage of studying it.
But the latest stage of its persecution belongs to more modern days, when inquisitions were out of date and monkish claws were cut. The traducer would spitefully engage the services of some renegade Jew, to gather from the Talmud all portions and passages that might seem grotesque and ridiculous, so that the world might form an unfavorable impression of the Talmud and of the people who treasure it. This has been done with so much success that up till very recently the Gentile world, including the Christian clergy, knew of the Talmud only through these unfortunate perversions and caricatures. Imagine the citation of a chapter from Leviticus and one from Chronicles, of some vindictive passages in the Psalms, of a few skeptical bits in Ecclesiastes and Job, and one or two of the barbaric stories in Judges, to be offered to the world as a fair picture of the Bible, and you will understand the sort of treatment the Talmud has received from the world at large and the kind of estimate it has been given opportunity to form.
What is the value of the Talmud for the Jew? Certainly its greatest value was rendered in the Middle Ages, when literature was scant and copies of the few books in existence were rarer. When the Jew was shut out of the world's pleasure and the world's culture and barred up in Ghetto slums, then it was that the Talmud became his recreation and his consolation, feeding his mind and his faith. In this way it not only became in the Middle Ages a picture of the Jew, but largely formed his character. It made him a keen dialectician, tempered with a thoughtful and poetic touch. It fostered his patience and his humor and kept vivid his ideals. It linked him with the Orient, while living in the Occident and made him a bridge between the old and the new.
To the world at large it has great value archæologically. Here are preserved ancient laws, glint lights on past history, forgotten forms in the classic tongues, and pictures of old civilization. No one criticism can cover the whole work. It is so many-sided. It includes so many different standards of worth and value. If we take it as a whole, it is good, it is bad and indifferent; it is trash and it is treasure; it is dust and it is diamonds; it is potsherd and it is pearls; and in the hands of impartial scholars, it is one of the great monuments of mental achievement, one of the world's wonders.
Maurice H. Harris
Where do we learn that the Shechinah rests even upon one who studies the law? In Exodus xx. 24, where it is written, "In all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee."
Berachoth, fol. 6, col. 1.
One pang of remorse at a man's heart is of more avail than many stripes applied to him. (See Prov. xvii. 10.)
Ibid., fol. 7, col. 1.
"Here, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord!" (Deut. vi. 4.) Whosoever prolongs the utterance of the word one, shall have his days and years prolonged to him. So also Zohar, syn. tit. ii.
Ibid., fol. 13, col. 2.
Once, as the Rabbis tell us, the Roman Government issued a decree forbidding Israel to study the law. Whereupon Pappus, the son of Yehudah, one day found Rabbi Akiva teaching it openly to multitudes, whom he had gathered round him to hear it. "Akiva," said he, "art thou not afraid of the Government?" "List," was the reply, "and I will tell thee how it is by a parable. It is with me as with the fishes whom a fox, walking once by a river's side, saw darting distractedly to and fro in the stream; and, addressing, inquired, 'From what, pray, are ye fleeing?' 'From the nets,' they replied, 'which the children of men have set to ensnare us.' 'Why, then,' rejoined the fox, 'not try the dry land with me, where you and I can live together, as our fathers managed to do before us?' 'Surely,' exclaimed they, 'thou art not he of whom we have heard so much as the most cunning of animals, for herein thou art not wise, but foolish. For if we have cause to fear where it is natural for us to live, how much more reason have we to do so where we needs must die!' Just so," continued Akiva, "is it with us who study the law, in which (Deut. xxx. 20) it is written, 'He is thy life and the length of thy days;' for if we suffer while we study the law, how much more shall we if we neglect it?" Not many days after, it is related, this Rabbi Akiva was apprehended and thrown into prison. As it happened, they led him out for execution just at the time when "Hear, O Israel!" fell to be repeated, and as they tore his flesh with currycombs, and as he was with long-drawn breath sounding forth the word one, his soul departed from him. Then came forth a voice from heaven which said, "Blessed art thou, Rabbi Akiva, for thy soul and the word one left thy body together."
Berachoth, fol. 61, col. 2.
The badger, as it existed in the days of Moses, was an animal of unique type, and the learned are not agreed whether it was a wild one or a domestic. It had only one horn on its forehead; and was assigned for the time to Moses, who made a covering of its skin for the tabernacle; after which it became extinct, having served the purpose of its existence. Rabbi Yehudah says, "The ox, also, which the first man, Adam, sacrificed, had but one horn on its forehead."
Shabbath, fol. 28, col. 2.
Once a Gentile came to Shamai, and said, "Proselytize me, but on condition that thou teach me the whole law, even the whole of it, while I stand upon one leg." Shamai drove him off with the builder's rod which he held in his hand. When he came to Hillel with the same challenge, Hillel converted him by answering him on the spot, "That which is hateful to thyself, do not do to thy neighbor. This is the whole law, and the rest is its commentary." (Tobit, iv. 15; Matt. vii. 12.)
Ibid., fol. 31, col. 1.
When Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai and his son, Rabbi Elazar, came out of their cave on a Friday afternoon, they saw an old man hurrying along with two bunches of myrtle in his hand. "What." said they, accosting him, "dost thou want with these?" "To smell them in honor of the Sabbath," was the reply. "Would not one bunch," they remarked, "be enough for that purpose?" "Nay," the old man replied; "one is in honor of 'Remember' (Exod. xxii. 28); and one in honor of 'Keep' (Deut. v. 8)." Thereupon Rabbi Shimon remarked to his son, "Behold how the commandments are regarded by Israel!"
Ibid., fol. 33, col. 2.
Not one single thing has God created in vain. He created the snail as a remedy for a blister; the fly for the sting of a wasp; the gnat for the bite of a serpent; the serpent itself for healing the itch (or the scab); and the lizard (or the spider) for the sting of a scorpion.
Ibid., fol. 77. col. 2.
When a man is dangerously ill, the law grants dispensation, for it says, "You may break one Sabbath on his behalf, that he may be preserved to keep many Sabbaths."
Shabbath, fol. 151, col. 2.
Once when Rabbi Ishmael paid a visit to Rabbi Shimon, he was offered a cup of wine, which he at once, without being asked twice, accepted, and drained at one draught. "Sir," said his host, "dost thou not know the proverb, that he who drinks off a cup of wine at a draught is a greedy one?" "Ah!" was the answer, "that fits not this case; for thy cup is small, thy wine is sweet, and my stomach is capacious."
P'sachim, fol. 86, col. 2.
At the time when Nimrod the wicked had cast our Father Abraham into the fiery furnace, Gabriel stood forth in the presence of the Holy One—blessed be He!—and said, "Lord of the universe, let me, I pray thee, go down and cool the furnace, and deliver that righteous one from it." Then the Holy One—blessed be He!—said unto him, "I am One in my world and he is one in his world; it is more becoming that He who is one should deliver him who is one." But as God does not withhold His reward from any creature, He said to Gabriel, "For this thy good intention, be thine the honor of rescuing three of his descendants." At the time when Nebuchadnezzar the wicked cast Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah into the fiery furnace, Yourkami, the prince of hail, arose before God and said, "Lord of the universe, let me, I pray thee, go down and cool the fiery furnace, and rescue these righteous men from its fury." Whereupon Gabriel interposed, and said, "God's power is not to be demonstrated thus, for thou art the prince of hail, and everybody knows that water quenches fire; but I, the prince of fire, will go down and cool the flame within and intensify it without (so as to consume the executioners), and thus will I perform a miracle within a miracle." Then the Holy One—blessed be He!—said to him, "Go down." Upon which Gabriel exclaimed, "Verily the truth of the Lord endureth forever!" (Ps. cxvii. 2.)
P'sachim, fol. 118, col. 1.
One peppercorn to-day is better than a basketful of pumpkins to-morrow.
Chaggigah, fol. 10, col. 1.
One day of a year is counted for a whole year.
Rosh Hashanah, fol. 2, col. 2.
If a king be crowned on the twenty-ninth of Adar (the last month of the Sacred year), on the morrow—the first of Nissan—it is reckoned that he commences his second year, that being the new year's day for royal and ecclesiastical affairs.
For the sake of one righteous man the whole world is preserved in existence, as it is written (Prov. x. 25), "The righteous man is an everlasting foundation."
Yoma, fol. 38, col. 2.
Rabbi Meyer saith, "Great is repentance, because for the sake of one that truly repenteth the whole world is pardoned; as it is written (Hosea xiv. 4), 'I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for mine anger is turned away from him.'" It is not said, "from them," but "from him."
Ibid., fol. 86, col. 2.
He who observes one precept, in addition to those which, as originally laid upon him, he has discharged, shall receive favor from above, and is equal to him who has fulfilled the whole law.
Kiddushin, fol. 39, col. 2.
If any man vow a vow by only one of all the utensils of the altar, he has vowed by the corban, even although he did not mention the word in his oath. Rabbi Yehuda says, "He who swears by the word Jerusalem is as though he had said nothing."
Nedarim, fol. 10, col. 2.
Balaam was lame in one foot and blind in one eye.
Soteh, fol. 10, col. 1, and Sanhedrin, fol. 105, col. 1.
One wins eternal life after a struggle of years; another finds it in one hour (see Luke xxiii. 43).
Avodah Zarah, fol. 17, col. 1.
This saying is applied by Rabbi the Holy to Rabbi Eliezar, the son of Durdia, a profligate who recommended himself to the favor of heaven by one prolonged act of determined penitence, placing his head between his knees and groaning and weeping till his soul departed from him, and his sin and misery along with it; for at the moment of death a voice from heaven came forth and said, "Rabbi Eliezar, the son of Durdia, is appointed to life everlasting." When Rabbi the Holy heard this, he wept, and said, "One wins eternal life after a struggle of years; another finds it in one hour." (Compare Luke xv. 11-32.)
Whosoever destroyeth one soul of Israel, Scripture counts it to him as though he had destroyed the whole world; and whoso preserveth one soul of Israel, Scripture counts it as though he had preserved the whole world.
Sanhedrin, fol. 37, col. 1.
The greatness of God is infinite; for while with one die man impresses many coins and all are exactly alike, the King of kings, the Holy One—blessed be He!—with one die impresses the same image (of Adam) on all men, and yet not one of them is like his neighbor. So that every one ought to say, "For myself is the world created."
Ibid., fol. 37, col. 1.
"He caused the lame to mount on the back of the blind, and judged them both as one." Antoninus said to the Rabbi, "Body and soul might each plead right of acquittal at the day of judgment." "How so?" he asked. "The body might plead that it was the soul that had sinned, and urge, saying, 'See, since the departure of the soul I have lain in the grave as still as a stone.' And the soul might plead, 'It was the body that sinned, for since the day I left it, I have flitted about in the air as innocent as a bird.'" To which the Rabbi replied and said, "Whereunto this thing is like, I will tell thee in a parable. It is like unto a king who had an orchard with some fine young fig trees planted in it. He set two gardeners to take care of them, of whom one was lame and the other blind. One day the lame one said to the blind 'I see some fine figs in the garden; come, take me on thy shoulders, and we will pluck them and eat them.' By and by the lord of the garden came, and missing the fruit from the fig trees, began to make inquiry after them. The lame one, to excuse himself, pleaded, 'I have no legs to walk with;' and the blind one, to excuse himself, pleaded, 'I have no eyes to see with.' What did the lord of the garden do? He caused the lame to mount upon the back of the blind, and judged them both as one." So likewise will God re-unite soul and body, and judge them both as one together; as it is written (Ps. 1, 4), "He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people." "He shall call to the heavens from above," that alludes to the soul; "and to the earth, that He may judge His people," that refers to the body.
Sanhedrin, fol. 91, cols, 1, 2.
Rabbi Yehudah, surnamed the Holy, the editor of the Mishnah, is the personage here and elsewhere spoken of as the Rabbi by pre eminence. He was an intimate friend of the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius.
One thing obtained with difficulty is far better than a hundred things procured with ease.
Avoth d'Rab. Nathan, ch. 3.
In the name of Rav, Rabbi Yehoshua bar Abba says, "Whoso buys a scroll of the law in the market seizes possession of another's meritorious act; but if he himself copies out a scroll of the law, Scripture considers him as if he had himself received it direct from Mount Sinai." "Nay," adds Rav Yehudah, in the name of Rav, "even if he has amended one letter in it, Scripture considers him as if he had written it out entirely."
Menachoth, fol. 30, col. 1.
He who forgets one thing that he has learned breaks a negative commandment; for it is written (Deut. iv. 9), "Take heed to thyself … lest thou forget the things."
Menachoth, fol. 99, col. 2.
A proselyte who has taken it upon himself to observe the law, but is suspected of neglecting one point, is to be suspected of being guilty of neglecting the whole law, and therefore regarded as an apostate Israelite, and to be punished accordingly.
Bechoroth, fol. 30, col. 2.
It is written (Gen. xxviii. ii), "And he took from the stones of the place;" and again it is written (ver. 18), "And he took the stone." Rabbi Isaac says this teaches that all these stones gathered themselves together into one place, as if each were eager that the saint should lay his head upon it. It happened, as the Rabbis tell us, that all the stones were swallowed up by one another, and thus merged into one stone.
Chullin, fol. 91, col. 2.
Though the Midrash and two of the Targums, that of Jonathan and the Yerushalmi, tell the same fanciful story about these stones, Aben Ezra and R. Shemuel ben Meir among others adopt the opposite and common-sense interpretation which assigns to the word in Gen. xxviii. ii, no such occult meaning.
The psalms commencing "Blessed is the man" and "Why do the heathen rage" constitute but one psalm.
Berachoth fol. 9, col. 2.
The former Chasidim used to sit still one hour, and then pray for one hour, and then again sit still for one hour.
Ibid., fol. 32, col. 2.
All the benedictions in the Temple used to conclude with the words "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel unto eternity;" but when the Sadducees, corrupting the faith, maintained that there was only one world, it was enacted that they should conclude with the words "from eternity unto eternity."
Berachoth, fol. 54, col. i.
The Sadducees (Zadokim), so called after Zadok their master, as is known, stood rigidly by the original Mosaic code, and set themselves determinedly against all traditional developments. To the Talmudists, therefore, they were especially obnoxious, and their bald, cold creed is looked upon by them with something like horror. It is thus the Talmud warns against them—"Believe not in thyself till the day of thy death, for, behold, Yochanan, after officiating in the High Priesthood for eighty years, became in the end a Sadducee." (Berachoth, fol. 29, col. 1.) In Derech Eretz Zuta, chap. i., a caution is given which might well provoke attention—"Learn or inquire nothing of the Sadducees, lest thou be drawn into hell."
Rabbi Yehudah tells us that Rav says a man should never absent himself from the lecture hall, not even for one hour; for the above Mishnah had been taught at college for many years, but the reason of it had never been made plain till the hour when Rabbi Chanina ben Akavia came and explained it.
Shabbath, fol. 83, col. 2.
The Mishnah alluded to is short and simple, viz, Where is it taught that a ship is clean to the touch? From Prov. xxx. 19, "The way of a ship in the midst of the sea." (i.e., as the sea is clean to the touch, therefore a ship must also be clean to the touch).
It is indiscreet for one to sleep in a house as the sole occupant, for Lilith will seize hold of him.
Ibid., fol. 151, col. 2.
Lilith (the night-visiting one) is the name of a night spectre, said to have been Adam's first wife, but who, for her refractory conduct, was transformed into a demon endowed with power to injure and even destroy infants unprotected by the necessary amulet or charm.
"Thou hast acknowledged the Lord this day to be thy God; and the Lord hath acknowledged thee this day to be His peculiar people" (Deut. xxvi. 17, 18). The Holy One—blessed be He!—said unto Israel, "Ye have made Me a name in the world, as it is written (Deut. vi. 4), 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord;' and so I will make you a name in the world, as it is said (1 Chron. xvii. 21), 'And what one nation in the earth is like Thy people Israel?'"
Chaggigah, fol. 3, col. 1.
Why are the words of the Law compared to fire? (Jer. xxiii. 29.) Because, as fire does not burn when there is but one piece of wood, so do the words of the Law not maintain the fire of life when meditated on by one alone (see, in confirmation, Matt, xviii. 20).
Taanith, fol. 7, col. i.
"And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo" (Deut. xxxiv, i). Tradition says there were twelve stairs, but that Moses surmounted them all in one step.
Soteh, fol. 13, col. 2.
Pieces of money given in charity should not be counted over by twos, but one by one.
Bava Bathra, fol. 8, col. 2.
"Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth?" (Job xxxix. 1.) The wild goat is cruel to her offspring. As soon as they are brought forth, she climbs with them to the steep cliffs, that they may fall headlong and die. But, said God to Job, to prevent this I provide an eagle to catch the kid upon its wings, and then carry and lay it before its cruel mother. Now, if that eagle should be too soon or too late by one second only, instant death to the kid could not be averted; but with Me one second is never changed for another. Shall Job be now changed by Me, therefore, into an enemy. (Comp. Job ix. 17, and xxxiv. 35.)
Bava Bathra, fol. 16, cols. 1, 2.
A generation can have one leader only, and not two.
Sanhedrin, fol. 8, col. 1.
"Like the hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces" (Jer. xxiii. 29). As a hammer divideth fire into many sparks, so one verse of Scripture has many meanings and many explanations.
Ibid., fol. 34, col. 1.
In the Machser for Pentecost (p. 69) God is said to have "explained the law to His people, face to face, and on every point ninety-eight explanations are given."
Adam was created one without Eve. Why? That the Sadducees might not assert the plurality of powers in heaven.
Ibid., fol. 37, col. i.
As the Sadducees did not believe in a plurality of powers in heaven, but only the Christians, in the regard of the Jews, did so (by their profession of the doctrine of the Trinity), it is obvious that here, as well as often elsewhere, the latter and not the former are intended.
"And the frog came up and covered the land of Egypt" (Exod. viii. i; A. V. viii. 6). "There was but one frog," said Rabbi Elazar, "and she so multiplied as to fill the whole land of Egypt." "Yes, indeed," said Rabbi Akiva. "there was, as you say, but one frog, but she herself was so large as to fill all the land of Egypt." Whereupon Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah said unto him, "Akiva, what business hast thou with Haggadah? Be off with thy legends, and get thee to the laws thou art familiar with about plagues and tents. Though thou sayest right in this matter, for there was only one frog, but she croaked so loud that the frogs came from everywhere else to her croaking."
Sanhedrin, fol. 67, col. 2.
Rabba, the grandson of Channa, said that he himself once saw a frog larger than any seen now, though not so large as the frog in Egypt. It was as large as Acra, a village of some sixty houses (Bava Bathra, fol. 73, col. 2.)
Apropos to the part the frog was conceived to play or symbolize in the Jewish conception of the mode and ministry of Divine judgment, we quote the following:—"We are told that Samuel once saw a frog carrying a scorpion on its back across a river, upon the opposite bank of which a man stood waiting ready to be stung. The sting proving fatal, so that the man died; upon which Samuel exclaimed, 'Lord, they wait for Thy judgments this day: for all are Thy servants.' (Ps. cxix. 91.)" (Nedarim, fol. 41, col. 1.)
"According to the days of one king" (Isa. xxiii. 15). What king is this that is singled out as one? Thou must say this is the King Messiah, and no other.
Sanhedrin, fol. 99, col. 1.
Rabbi Levi contends that Manasseh has no portion in the world to come, while Rabbi Yehudah maintains that he has; and each supports his conclusion in contradiction of the other, from one and the same Scripture text.
Ibid., fol. 102, col. 2.
The words, "Remember the Sabbath day," in Exod. xx. 8, and "Keep the Sabbath day," in Deut. v. 12, were uttered in one breath, as no man's mouth could utter them, and no man's ear could hear.
Shevuoth, fol. 20, col. 2.
The officer who inflicts flagellation on a criminal must smite with one hand only, but yet with all his force.
Maccoth, fol. 22, col. 2.
I would rather be called a fool all my days than sin one hour before God.
Edioth, chap. 5, mish. 6.
He who observes but one precept secures for himself an advocate, and he who commits one single sin procures for himself an accuser.
Avoth, chap. 4, mish. 15.
He who learns from another one chapter, one halachah, one verse, or one word or even a single letter, is bound to respect him.
Ibid., chap. 6, mish. 3.
The above is one evidence, among many, of the high esteem in which learning and the office of a teacher are held among the Jews. Education is one of the virtues—of which the following, extracted from the Talmud, is a list—the interest of which the Jew considers he enjoys in this world, while the capital remains intact against the exigencies of the world to come. These are:—The honoring of father and mother, acts of benevolence, hospitality to strangers, visiting the sick, devotion in prayer, promotion of peace between man and man, and study in general, but the study of the law outweighs them all. (Shabbath, fol. 127, col. 1.) The study of the law, it is said, is of greater merit to rescue one from accidental death, than building the Temple, and greater than honoring father or mother. (Meggillah, fol. 16, col 2.)
"Repent one day before thy death." In relation to which Rabbi Eliezer was asked by his disciples, "How is a man to repent one day before his death, since he does not know on what day he shall die?" "So much the more reason is there," he replied, "that he should repent to-day, lest he die to-morrow; and repent to-morrow, lest he die the day after: and thus will all his days be penitential ones."
Avoth d'Rab. Nathan, chap. 15.
He who obliterates one letter from the written name of God, breaks a negative command, for it is said, "And destroy the names of them out of that place. Ye shall not do so unto the Lord your God" (Deut. xii. 3, 4).
Sophrim, chap. 5, hal. 6.
Rabbi Chanina could put on and off his shoes while standing on one leg only, though he was eighty years of age.
Chullin, fol. 24, col. 2.
A priest who is blind in one eye should not be judge of the plague; for it is said (Lev. xiii. 12), "Wheresoever the priest (with both eyes) looketh."
Negaim, chap. 2, mish. 3.
The twig of a bunch without any grapes is clean; but if there remained one grape on it, it is unclean.
Okzin, chap, i, mish. 5.
Not every man deserves to have two tables.
Berachoth, fol. 5, col. 2.
The meaning of this rather ambiguous sentence may either be, that all men are not able to succeed in more enterprises than one at a time; or that it is not given to every one to make the best both of the present world and of that which is to come.
Abba Benjamin used to say "There are two things about which I have all my life been much concerned: that my prayer should be offered in front of my bed, and that the position of my bed should be from north to south."
Ibid., fol. 5, col. 2.
There are several reasons which may be adduced to account for Abba Benjamin's anxiety, and they are all more or less connected with the important consequences which were supposed to depend upon determining his position with reference to the Shechinah, which rested in the east or the west.
Abba Benjamin felt anxious to have children, for "any man not having children is counted as dead," as it is written (Gen. xxx. 1), "Give me children, or else I die." (Nedarin, fol. 64, col. 2.)
With the Jew one great consideration of life is to have children, and more especially male children; because when a boy is born all rejoice over him, but over a girl they all mourn. When a boy comes into the world he brings peace with him, and a loaf of bread in his hand, but a girl brings nothing. (Niddah, fol. 31, col. 2.)
It is impossible for the world to be without males and females, but blessed is he whose children are boys, and hapless is he whose children are girls. (Kiddushin, fol. 82, col. 2.)
Whosoever does not leave a son to be heir, God will heap wrath upon him. (Scripture is quoted in proof of this, compare Numb. xxvii. 8 with Zeph. i. 15.) (Bava Bathra, fol. 116, col. 1.)
"There are two ways before me, one leading into Paradise, the other into Hell." When Yochanan, the son of Zachai, was sick unto death, his disciples came to visit him; and when he saw them he wept, upon which his disciples exclaimed, "Light of Israel! Pillar of the right! Mighty Hammer! why weepest thou?" He replied, "If I were going to be led into the presence of a king, who is but flesh and blood, to-day here and to-morrow in the grave, whose anger with me could not last forever, whose sentence against me, were it even unto death, could not endure forever, and whom perhaps I might pacify with words or bribe with money, yet for all that should I weep; but now that I am about to enter the presence of the King of kings, the Holy One—blessed be He forever and ever!—whose anger would be everlasting, whose sentence of death or imprisonment admits of no reprieve, and who is not to be pacified with words nor bribed with money, and in whose presence there are two roads before me, one leading into Paradise and the other into Hell, and should I not weep?" Then prayed they him, and said, "Rabbi, give us thy farewell blessing;" and he said unto them, "Oh that the fear of God may be as much upon you as the fear of man."
Berachoth, fol. 28, col. 2.
Rabbi Ami says, "Knowledge is of great price, for it is placed between two divine names, as it is written (I Sam. ii. 3), 'A God of knowledge is the Lord,' and therefore mercy is to be denied to him who has no knowledge; for it is written (Isa. xxvii. 11), 'It is a people of no understanding, therefore He that hath made them will not have mercy on them.'"
Berachoth fol. 33, col. 1.
Here we have a clear law, drawn from Scripture, forbidding, or at any rate denying, mercy to the ignorant. The words of Rabbi (the Holy) are a practical commentary on the text worth quoting, "Woe is unto me because I have given my morsel to an ignorant one." (Bava Bathra, fol. 8, col. 1.)
But who is the ignorant one from whom this mercy is to be withheld? Here the doctors disagree. He, says Rabbi Eliezer, who does not read the Shema, "Hear, O Israel," etc., both morning and evening. According to Rabbi Yehudah, he that does not put on phylacteries is an ignorant one. Rabbi Azai affirms that he who wears no fringes to his garment is an ignorant one, etc. Others again say he who even reads the Bible and the Mishna but does not serve the disciples of the wise, is an ignorant one. Rabbi Huna winds up with the words "the law is as the others have said," and so leaves the difficulty where he finds it. (Berachoth, fol. 47, col. 2.)
Of him "who transgresses the words of the wise, which he is commanded to obey," it is written, "He is guilty of death and has forfeited his life." (Berachoth, fol. 4, col. 2, and Yevamoth, fol. 20, col. 1.) Whoso, therefore, shows mercy to him contradicts the purpose and incurs the displeasure of God. It was in application of this principle, literally interpreted, that the wise should hold no parley with the ignorant, which led the Jews to condemn the contrary procedure of Jesus Christ.
It was this prohibition to show mercy to the ignorant, together with the solemn threatenings directed against those who neglected the study of the law, that worked such a wonderful revolution in Hezekiah's time; for it is said that then "they searched from Dan to Beersheba, and did not find an ignorant one." (Sanhedrin, fol. 94, col. 2.)
When the Holy One—blessed be He!—remembers that His children are in trouble among the nations of the world, He drops two tears into the great ocean, the noise of which startles the world from one end to the other, and causes the earth to quake.
Berachoth, fol. 59, col. 1.
We read in the Talmud that a Gentile once came to Shamai and said, "How many laws have you?" Shamai replied, "We have two the written law and the oral law." To which the Gentile made answer, "When you speak of the written law, I believe you, but in your oral law I have no faith. Nevertheless, you may make me a proselyte on condition that you teach me the written law only." Upon this Shamai rated him sharply, and sent him away with indignant abuse. When, however, this Gentile came with the same object, and proposed the same terms to Hillel, the latter proceeded at once to proselytize him, and on the first day taught him Aleph, Beth, Gemel, Daleth. On the morrow Hillel reversed the order of these letters, upon which the proselyte remonstrated and said, "But thou didst not teach me so yesterday." "True," said Hillel, "but thou didst trust me in what I taught thee then; why, then, dost thou not trust me now in what I tell thee respecting the oral law?"
Shabbath, fol. 31, col. 1.
Every man as he goes on the eve of the Sabbath from the synagogue to his house is escorted by two angels, one of which is a good angel and the other an evil. When the man comes home and finds the lamps lit, the table spread, and the bed in order, the good angel says, "May the coming Sabbath be even as the present;" to which the evil angel (though with reluctance) is obliged to say, "Amen." But if all be in disorder, then the bad angel says, "May the coming Sabbath be even as the present," and the good angel is (with equal reluctance), obliged to say "Amen" to it.
Ibid., fol. 119, col. 2.
Two are better than three. Alas! for the one that goes and does not return again.
Shabbath, fol. 152, col. 1.
As in the riddle of the Sphinx, the "two" here stands for youth with its two sufficient legs, and the "three" for old age, which requires a third support in a staff.
There were two things which God first thought of creating on the eve of the Sabbath, which, however, were not created till after the Sabbath had closed. The first was fire, which Adam by divine suggestion drew forth by striking together two stones; and the second, was the mule, produced by the crossing of two different animals.
P'sachim, fol. 54, col. 1.
"Every one has two portions, one in paradise and another in hell." Acheer asked Rabbi Meyer, "What meaneth this that is written (Eccl. vii. 14), 'God also has set the one over against the other'?" Rabbi Meyer replied, "There is nothing which God has created of which He has not also created the opposite. He who created mountains and hills created also seas and rivers." But said Acheer to Rabbi Meyer, "Thy master, Rabbi Akiva, did not say so, but spake in this way: He created the righteous and also the wicked; He created paradise and hell: every man has two portions, one portion in paradise, and the other in hell. The righteous, who has personal merit, carries both his own portion of good and that of his wicked neighbor away with him to paradise; the wicked, who is guilty and condemned, carries both his own portion of evil and also that of his righteous neighbor away with him to hell." When Rav Mesharshia asked what Scripture guarantee there was for this, this was the reply: "With regard to the righteous, it is written (Isa. lxi. 7), 'They shall rejoice in their portion, therefore in their land (beyond the grave) they shall possess the double.' Respecting the wicked it is written (Jer. xvii. 18), 'And destroy them with double destruction.'"
Chaggigah, fol. 15, col. 1.
The question asked above by Acheer has been practically resolved by all wise men from the beginning of the world, but it is the boast of the Hegelians that it has for the first time been resolved philosophically by their master. Others had maintained that you could not think a thing but through its opposite; he first maintained it could not exist but through its opposite, that, in fact, the thing and its opposite must needs arise together, and that eternally, as complements of one unity: the white is not there without the black, nor the black without the white; the good is not there without the evil, nor the evil without the good.
Pride is unbecoming in women. There were two proud women, and their names were contemptible; the name of the one, Deborah, meaning wasp, and of the other, Huldah, weasel. Respecting the wasp it is written (Judges iv. 6), "And she sent and called Barak," whereas she ought to have gone to him. Concerning the weasel it is written (2 Kings xxii. 15), "Tell the man that sent you," whereas she should have said, "Tell the king."
Meggillah, fol. 14, col. 2.
If speech is worth one sela (a small coin so called), silence is worth two.
Ibid., fol. 18, col. 1.
The Swiss motto, "Speech is worth silver, silence worth gold," expresses a sentiment which finds great favor with the authors and varied expression in the pages of the Talmud.
If silence be good for wise men, how much better must it be for fools!
P'sachim, fol. 98, col. 2.
For every evil silence is the best remedy.
Meggillah, fol. 18, col. 1.
Silence is as good as confession.
Yevamoth, fol. 87, col. 1.
Silence in a Babylonian was a mark of his being of good family.
Kiddushin, fol. 71, col. 2.
Simeon, the son of Gamliel, said, "I have been brought up all my life among the wise, and I have never found anything of more material benefit than silence."
Avoth, chap. 1.
Rabbi Akiva said, "Laughter and levity lead a man to lewdness; but tradition is a fence to the law, tithes are a fence to riches, vows are a fence to abstinence, while the fence of wisdom is silence."
Ibid., chap. 3.
When they opened his brain, they found in it a gnat as big as a swallow and weighing two selas.
Gittin, fol. 56, col. 2.
The context of the above states a tradition current among the Jews in reference to Titus, the destroyer of Jerusalem. It is said that when, after taking the city, he had shamefully violated and profaned the Temple, he took the sacred vessels of the sanctuary, wrapped them in the veil of the holy place, and sailed with them to Rome. At sea a storm arose and threatened to sink the ship; upon which he was heard reflecting, "It seems the God of these Jews has no power anywhere but at sea. Pharaoh He drowned, and Sisera He drowned, and now He is about to drown me also. If He be mighty, let Him go ashore and contend with me there." Then came a voice from heaven and said, "O thou wicked one, son of a wicked man and grandson of Esau the wicked, go ashore. I have a creature—an insignificant one in my world—go and fight with it."
This creature was a gnat, and is called insignificant because it must receive and discharge what it eats by one aperture. Immediately, therefore, he landed, when a gnat flew up his nostrils and made its way to his brain, on which it fed for a period of seven years. One day he happened to pass a blacksmith's forge, when the noise of the hammer soothed the gnawing at his brain. "Aha" said Titus, "I have found a remedy at last;" and he ordered a blacksmith to hammer before him. To a Gentile for this he (for a time) paid four zuzim a day, but to a Jewish blacksmith he paid nothing, remarking to him, "It is payment enough to thee to see thy enemy suffering so painfully." For thirty days he felt relieved, but after, no amount of hammering in the least relieved him. As to what happened after his death, we have this testimony from Rabbi Phineas, the son of Aruba: "I myself was among the Roman magnates when an inquest was held upon the body of Titus, and on opening his brain they found therein a gnat as big as a swallow, weighing two selas." Others say it was as large as a pigeon a year old and weighed two litras. Abaii says, "We found its mouth was of copper and its claws of iron." Titus gave instructions that after his death his body should be burned, and the ashes thereof scattered over the surface of the seven seas, that the God of the Jews might not find him and bring him to judgment. (Gittin, fol. 56, col. 2.)
"The man with two wives, one young and the other old." Rav Ami and Rav Assi were in social converse with Rabbi Isaac Naphcha, when one of them said to him, "Tell us, sir, some pretty legend," and the other said, "Pray explain to us rather some nice point of law." When he began the legend he displeased the one, and when he proceeded to explain a point of law, he offended the other. Whereupon he took up this parable in illustration of the plight in which their obstinacy placed him. "I am like the man with the two wives, the one young and the other old. The young one plucked out all his gray hairs (that he might look young), and the old wife pulled out all his black hairs (that he might look old); and so between the one and the other he became bald. So is it with me between you. However, I've something nice for both of you. It is written (Exod. xxii. 6), 'If a fire break out and catch in thorns, so that the stacks of corn, or the standing corn, or the field be consumed therewith, he that kindled the fire shall surely make restoration.' The Holy One—blessed be He!—hath said, 'I must both judge myself and take upon myself to indemnify the evil of the conflagration I have caused, for I have kindled a fire in Zion,' as it is written (Lament, iv. 11), 'He hath kindled a fire in Zion, and hath devoured the foundations thereof.' I must therefore rebuild her with fire, as it is written (Zech. ii. 5), 'I will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.'"
Bava Kama, fol. 60, col. 2.
Rabbi Oshaia asked, "What is this that is written, (Zech. xi. 7), 'I took unto me two staves; the one I called Amiable and the other Destroyer'?" The staff called Amiable represents the disciples of the wise in the land of Israel, who were friendly one toward another in their debates about the law. The staff called Destroyer represents the disciples of the wise of Babylon, who in the like debates were fierce tempered and not friendly toward one another. What is the meaning of Babel or Babylon? Rabbi Yochanan says it means "confused in the Bible, confused in the Mishna, and confused in the Talmud." "He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old" (Lam. iii. 6). Rabbi Jeremiah said by this we are to understand the Babylonian Talmud.
Sanhedrin, fol. 24, col. 1.
The Rabbis say these three hate their fellows—dogs, cocks, and conjurors; to which some add, among others, the disciples of the wise of Babylon. (P'sachim, fol. 113, col. 2.)
On his return from Babylon to the land of Israel, Rabbi Zira fasted a hundred fasts, during which he prayed that he might be enabled to forget the Babylonian Talmud. (Bava Metzia, fol. 85, col. 1.)
Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Yonathan traveled one day together; they came to two roads, one of which led by the door of a place devoted to the worship of idols, and the other by a place of ill fame. Upon which one said to the other, "Let us go by the former, because our inclination to the evil that waylays us there is already extinguished." "Nay, rather," said the other, "let us go by the latter, and curb our desires; so shall we receive a reward in recompense." In this resolution they went on, and as they passed the place the women humbled themselves before them and withdrew ashamed into their chambers. Then Yochanan asked the other, "How didst thou know that this would occur to us?" He made answer, "From what is written (in Prov. ii. 2), 'Discretion (in the law) shall preserve thee.'"
Avodah Zarah, fol. 17, cols. 1, 2.
Given two dry firebrands and one piece of green wood, the dry will set fire to the green.
Sanhedrin, fol 93, col. 1.
With two dogs they caught the lion.
Ibid., fol. 95, col. 1.
Both these proverbs express the same idea, that a minority, be it ever so strong, must give way to a majority.
"And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed together" (Numb. xxii. 7). Midian and Moab were never friendly toward each other; they were like two dogs tending a flock, always at variance. When the wolf came upon the one, however, the other thought, "If I do not help my neighbor to-day, the wolf may come upon myself to-morrow;" therefore the two dogs leagued together and, killed the wolf. Hence, says Rabbi Pappa, the popular saying, "The mouse and the cat are combined to make a feast on the fat of the unfortunate."
Ibid., fol. 105, col. 1.
Rabbi Yochanan, in the name of Yossi, the son of Zimra, asks, "What is this that is written (Ps. cxx. 3), 'What shall be given unto thee, or what shall be added unto thee, O thou false tongue'?" The Holy One—blessed be He!—said to the tongue, "All the members of the body are erect, thou only art recumbent; all other members are without, thou art within, and not only so, for I have surrounded thee with two walls, one of bone and the other of flesh. What shall be given to thee, or what shall be added unto thee, O thou false tongue?" Rabbi Yochanan, in the name of Yossi, says, "He who slanders is an atheist, for it is written (Ps. xii. 4), 'Who have said, With our tongues will we prevail; Our lips are with us; who is lord over us?'"
Erchin, fol. 15, col. 2.
Here are a few sayings from the Talmud on the abuse of the tongue.
He who slanders, he who receives slander, and he who bears false witness against his neighbor, deserve to be cast to the dogs.
Psachim, fol. 118, col. 1.
All animals will one day remonstrate with the serpent and say, "The lion treads upon his prey and devours it, the wolf tears and eats it, but thou, what profit hast thou in biting?" The serpent will reply (Eccl. viii. II), "I am no worse than a slanderer."
Taanith, fol. 8, col. 1.
Adonijah was deprived of life for no other reason than that he was given to quarreling. It is lawful to slander one so evil disposed as he was.
God will say to the prince of hell, "I from above and thou from below shall judge and condemn the slanderer."
Erchin, fol. 15, col. 2.
The third tongue (i.e., slander) hurts three parties: the slanderer himself, the receiver of slander, and the person slandered.
Four classes do not receive the presence of the Shechinah: scorners, liars, flatterers, and slanderers.
Sanhedrin, fol. 103, col. 1.
Where are we told that when two sit together and study the law the Shechinah is with them? In Mal. iii. 16, where it is written, "They that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it."
Berachoth, fol. 6, col. 1.
Why did Elijah employ two invocations, saying twice over, "Hear me! hear me!" (1 Kings xviii. 37.) Elijah first prayed before God, "O Lord, King of the universe, hear me!" that He might send fire down from heaven and consume all that was upon the altar; and again he prayed, "Hear me!" that they might not imagine that the result was a matter of sorcery; for it is said, "Thou hast turned their heart back again."
Berachoth, fol. 9, col. 2.
The twofold invocation of Elijah, which betokens his intense earnestness, anagrammatically expressed, is echoed in the words of the bystanders, "The Lord He is the God, the Lord He is the God."
"I dreamed," said Bar Kappara one day to Rabbi (the Holy), "that I beheld two pigeons, and they flew away from me." "Thy dream is this," replied Rabbi, "thou hast had two wives, and art separated from them both without a bill of divorcement."
Ibid., fol. 56, col. 2.
The Rabbis teach concerning the two kidneys in man, that one counsels him to do good and the other to do evil; and it appears that the former is situated on the right side and the latter on the left. Hence it is written (Eccl. x. 2), "A wise man's heart is at his right hand, but a fool's heart is at his left."
Ibid., fol. 61, col. 1.
For two sins the common people perish: they speak of the holy ark as a box and the synagogue as a resort for the ignorant vulgar.
Shabbath, fol. 32, col. 1.
On the self-same day when Jeroboam introduced the two golden calves, the one into Bethel and the other into Dan, a hut was erected in a part of Italy which was then subject to the Greeks.
Ibid., fol. 56, col. 2.
In the context where the above tradition occurs, which, as is obvious, relates to the founding of Rome, we meet with another on the same subject as follows:—When Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh, the Angel Gabriel thrust a reed into the sea, stirring up therewith the sand and mud from the bottom. This, gradually collecting, first shaped itself into an island and then expanded so as to unite itself with the continent. And thus was the land created for the erection of the hut which should one day swell into the proportion of a proud imperial city.
If Israel kept only two Sabbaths, according to the strict requirement of the law, they would be freed at once from their compelled dispersion; for it is written (Isa. lvi. 4, 7), "Thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my Sabbaths, Even them will I bring to my holy mountain."
Shabbath, fol. 118, col. 2.
Adam had two faces; for it is said (Ps. cxxxix. 5), "Thou hast made me behind and before."
Eiruvin, fol. 18, col. 1.
There is a notion among the Rabbis that Adam was possessed originally of a bisexual organization, and this conclusion they draw from Gen. i. 27, where it is said, "God created man in his own image; male-female created He them." These two natures, it was thought, lay side by side; according to some, the male on the right and the female on the left; according to others, back to back; while there were those who maintained that Adam was created with a tail, and that it was from this appendage Eve was fashioned. Other Jewish traditions tell us that Eve was made from "the thirteenth rib of the right side" (Targ. Jonath.), and that "she was not drawn out by the head, lest she should be vain; nor by the eyes, lest she should be wanton; nor from the mouth, lest she should be given to garrulity; nor by the ears, lest she should be an eavesdropper; nor by the hands, lest she should be intermeddling; nor by the feet, lest she be a gadder; nor by the heart, for fear she should be jealous; but she was taken out from the side. Yet, in spite of all these precautions, she had all the faults so carefully provided against."
If in time of national calamity a man withdraw himself from his kindred and refuse to share in their sorrow, his two guardian angels come and lay their hands upon his head and say, "This man has isolated himself from his country in the day of its need, let him not live to see and enjoy the day when God shall restore its prosperity." When the community is in trouble, let no man say, "I will go home and eat and drink, and say, Peace be unto thee, oh my soul!" (Luke xii. 19); for to him Scripture hath solemnly said (Isa. xxii. 13, 14), "Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till you die."
Taanith, fol. 11, col. 1.
An infant that has died under a month old is (to be) carried to the grave in the arms (not in a coffin), and buried by one woman and two men, but not by one man and two women.
Moed Katan, fol. 24, col. 1.
Both Rashi and the Tosephoth allude to a case which justifies the rule given here, where a woman actually carried a living child in a coffin, in order to avoid the suspicion of an assignation she had made with a man, who set out to join her. But the Tosephoth, after noticing this version of Rashi, gives another more to the point. The story in the Tosephoth is to this effect:—A woman was once weeping and groaning over the grave of her husband, and not very far away was a man who was guarding the corpse of a person who had been crucified. In the moment of mourning an affection sprung up between the two, and in the engrossment of it the corpse which the man guarded was stolen. He was in great trepidation for fear of the king's command. The woman said, "Don't be afraid; exhume my husband, and hang him up instead." This was accordingly done. (See Kiddushin, fol. 80, col. 2.)
There were two date trees in the Valley of Hinnom from between which smoke ascended, and this is the gate of hell.
Succah, fol. 32, col. 2.
According to Jewish tradition, there are three gates to Gehinnom, one in the desert, one in the sea, and one in Jerusalem: In the desert, as it is written (Numb. xvi. 33), "They went down, and all that belonged to them, alive into hell." In the sea, as it is written (Jonah ii. 2), "Out of the belly of hell have I called," etc. In Jerusalem, as it is written (Isa. xxxi. 9), "Thus saith the Lord, whose fire is in Zion, and His furnace in Jerusalem."
When two women are seen sitting on opposite sides of a cross road facing each other, it is to be presumed that they are up to witchcraft and contemplate mischief. What in that case must you do? Go by another road, if there is one, and if not, with a companion, should such turn up, passing the crones arm-in-arm with him; but should there be no other road and no other man, then walk straight on repeating the counter-charm, as you pass them—
Agrath is to Asia gone,
And Blussia's killed in battle.P'sachim, fol. 111, col. 2.
Agrath and Blussia are two Amazons well known to those familiar with Rabbinic demonology.
"If Mordecai, before whom thou hast began to fall, be of the seed of the Jews, expect not to prevail against him, but thou shalt fall" (Esth. vi. 13). Wherefore these two fallings? They told Haman, saying, "This nation is likened to the dust, and is also likened to the stars; when they are down, they are down even to the dust, but when they begin to rise, they rise to the stars."
Meggillah, fol. 16, col. 1.
If any two disciples of the wise, dwelling in the same city, have a difference respecting the Halachah, let them remember what Scripture denounces against them, "And also I gave them statutes that are not good, and judgments by which they shall not live" (Ezek. xx. 25).
Ibid., fol. 32, col. 1.
If a man espouse one of two sisters, and does not know which he has espoused, he must give both a bill of divorce. If two men espouse two sisters, and neither of them know which he has espoused, then each man must give two bills of divorce, one to each woman.
Yevamoth, fol. 23, col. 2.
There is a time coming (i.e., in the days of the Messiah), when a grain of wheat will be as large as the two kidneys of the great ox.
Kethuboth, fol. 111, col. 1.
According to a recent discovery, which has been confirmed by subsequent observation and experiment, wheat is a development by cultivation of the tiny grain of the Ægilops ovata, a sort of grass; but we are indebted to Rabbinic lore for the curious information that before the Fall of man wheat grew upon a tree whose trunk looked like gold, its branches like silver, and its leaves like so many emeralds. The wheat ears themselves were as red as rubies, and each bore five sparkling grains as white as snow, as sweet as honey, and as fragrant as musk. At first the grains were as big as an ostrich's egg, but in the time of Enoch they diminished to the size of a goose's egg, and in Elijah's to that of a hen, while at the commencement of the common era, they shrank so small as not to be larger than grapes, according to a law the inverse of the order of nature. Rabbi Yehudah (Sanhedrin, fol. 70, col. 1) says that wheat was the forbidden fruit. Hence probably the degeneracy.
Of two that quarrel, the one that first gives in shows the nobler nature.
Ibid., fol. 71, col. 2.
He who sets aside a portion of his wealth for the relief of the poor will be delivered from the judgment of hell. Of this the parable of the two sheep that attempted to ford a river is an illustration; one was shorn of its wool and the other not; the former, therefore, managed to get over, but the latter, being heavy-laden, sank.
Gittin, fol. 7, col. 1.
Zoreah and Eshtaol (Josh. xv. 33) were two large mountains, but Samson tore them up and grated the one against the other.
Soteh, fol. 9, col. 2.
The above tradition is founded on Judges xiii. 25, in which it is said of Samson, "And the spirit of God began to move him at times in the camp of Dan, between Zoreah and Eshtaol," in which the word "move," signifies also to "strike a stroke," "step a step," and "once." Founding on which last two meanings, Rabbi Yehudah says, "Samson strode in one stride from Zoreah to Eshtaol," a giant stride of two miles or more. Taking the word in the sense of "strike," or "producing a ringing sound," another Rabbi tells us that the hairs of Samson's head stood upright, tinkling one against another like bells, the jingle of which might be heard from Zoreah to Eshtaol. The version in the text takes the same word in the sense of to "strike together."
On the day when Isaac was weaned, Abraham made a great feast, to which he invited all the people of the land. Not all of those who came to enjoy the feast believed in the alleged occasion of its celebration, for some said contemptuously, "This old couple have adopted a foundling, and provided a feast to persuade us to believe that the child is their own offspring." What did Abraham do? He invited all the great men of the day, and Sarah invited their wives, who brought their infants, but not their nurses, along with them. On this occasion Sarah's breasts became like two fountains, for she supplied, of her own body, nourishment to all the children. Still some were unconvinced, and said, "Shall a child be born to one that is a hundred years old, and shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear?" (Gen. xvii. 17.) Whereupon, to silence this objection, Isaac's face was changed, so that it became the very picture of Abraham's; then one and all exclaimed, "Abraham begat Isaac."
Bara Metzia, fol. 87, col. 1.
Rava relates the following in the name of Rabbi Yochanan:—"Two Jewish slaves were one day walking along, when their master, who was following, overheard the one saying to the other, 'There is a camel ahead of us, as I judge—for I have not seen—that is blind of one eye and laden with two skin-bottles, one of which contains wine and the other oil, while two drivers attend it, one of them an Israelite, and the other a Gentile.' 'You perverse men,' said their master, 'how can you fabricate such a story as that?' The slave answered, and gave this as his reason, 'The grass is cropped only on one side of the track, the wine, that must have dripped, has soaked into the earth on the right, and the oil has trickled down, and may be seen on the left; while one of the drivers turned aside from the track to ease himself, but the other has not even left the road for the purpose.' Upon this the master stepped on before them in order to verify the correctness of their inferences, and found the conclusion true in every particular. He then turned back, and … after complimenting the two slaves for their shrewdness, he at once gave them their liberty."
Sanhedrin, fol. 104, col. 2.
When the disciples of Shamai and Hillel increased in Israel, contention increased along with them, so much so, that the one law became as two laws (and these contradictory).
Soteh, fol. 47, col. 2.
If two parties deposit money with a third, one a single manah and the other two hundred, and both afterward appear and claim the larger sum, the depositary should give each depositor one manah only, and leave the rest undivided till the coming of Elijah.
Bava Metzia, fol. 37, col. 2.
"Till Elijah comes" is a phrase which is in use among the Jews to express postponement forever, like ad Kalendas Græcas. It is applied to questions that would take Elijah to settle, which, it is believed, he will not appear to do till doomsday.
"And I will make thy windows of agates" (Isa. liv. 12). Two of the angels in heaven, Gabriel and Michael, once disputed about this: one maintained that the stone should be an onyx, and the other asserted it should be a jasper; but the Holy One—blessed be He!—said unto them, "Let it be as both say, which, in Hebrew, abbreviated, is an agate."
Bava Bathra, fol. 75, col. 1.
"The horseleech has two daughters, crying, Give! give!" (Prov. xxx. 15.) Mar Ukva says, "This has reference to the voice of two daughters crying out from torture in hell, because their voice is heard in this world crying, 'Give! give!'—namely—heresy and officialism."
Avodah Zarah, fol. 17, col. 1.
Rashi says heresy here refers to the "heresy of James," or, in other words, Christianity.
Two cemeteries were provided by the judicial authorities, one for beheaded and strangled criminals, and the other for those that were stoned or burned. When the flesh of these was consumed, they collected the bones and buried them in their own place, after which the relations came and saluted the judge and the witnesses, and said, "We owe you no grudge, for you passed a just judgment."
Sanhedrin, fol. 46, col. 1.
Alas! for the loss which the world has sustained in the degradation of the helpful serpent. If the serpent had not been degraded, every Israelite would have been attended by two of kindly disposition, one of which might have been sent to the north, and the other to the south, to bring for its owner precious corals and costly stones and pearls.
Sanhedrin, fol. 59, col. 2.
Here are two or three other sayings from the Talmud relative to the serpent.
Benjamin the son of Jacob, Amram the father of Moses, and Jesse the father of David all died, not because of their own sin (for they had none, says Rashi), but because of the (original) sin committed under the serpent's temptation.
Shabbath, fol. 55, col. 2.
No man was ever injured by a serpent or scorpion in Jerusalem.
Yoma, fol. 21, col. 1.
"And dust is the serpent's food" (Isa. lxv. 25). Rav Ammi says, "To the serpent no delicacy in the world has any other flavor than that of dust;" and Rav Assi says, "No delicacy in the world satisfies him like dust."
Ibid., fol. 75, col. 1.
Two negatives or two affirmatives are as good as an oath.
Shevuoth, fol. 36, col. 1.
Like two pearls were the two drops of holy oil that were suspended from the two corners of the beard of Aaron.
Horayoth, fol. 12, col. 1.
For two to sit together and have no discourse about the law, is to sit in the seat of the scornful; as it is said (Ps. i. I), "And sitteth not in the seat of the scornful."
Avoth, chap. iii.
When two are seated together at table, the younger shall not partake before the elder, otherwise the younger shall be justly accounted a glutton.
Derech Eretz, chap. vii.
Philemo once asked Rabbi (the Holy), "If a man has two heads, on which is he to put the phylactery?" To which Rabbi replied, "Either get up and be off, or take an anathema; for thou art making fun of me."
Menachoth, fol. 37, col. 1.
It is thus Rav Yoseph taught what is meant when it is written in Isaiah xii. I, "I will praise Thee, O Lord, because Thou wast angry with me: Thine anger will depart and Thou wilt comfort me." "The text applies," he says, "to two men who were going abroad on a mercantile enterprise, one of whom, having had a thorn run into his foot, had to forego his intended journey, and began in consequence to utter reproaches and blaspheme. Having afterward learned that the ship in which his companion had sailed had sunk to the bottom of the sea, he confessed his shortsightedness and praised God for His mercy."
Niddah, fol. 31, col. 1.
The night is divided into three watches, and at each watch the Holy One—blessed be He!—sits and roars like a lion; as it is written (Jer. xxv. 30), "The Lord will roar from on high, … roaring, He will roar over his habitation." The marks by which this division of the night is recognized are these:—In the first watch the ass brays; in the second the dog barks; and in the third the babe is at the breast and the wife converses with her husband.
Berachoth, fol. 3, col. 1.
The Rabbis have taught that there are three reasons why a person should not enter a ruin:—1. Because he may be suspected of evil intent; 2. Because the walls might tumble upon him; 3. And because of evil spirits that frequent such places.
Ibid., fol. 3, col. 1.
He who three times a day repeats David's psalm of praise (Ps. cxlv.) may be sure of an inheritance in the world to come.
Ibid., fol. 4, col. 2.
Three precious gifts were given to Israel, but none of them without a special affliction: these three gifts were the law, the land of Israel, and the world to come.
Ibid., fol. 5, col. 1.
These are also from the Talmud anent Israel and the Israelites.
All Israelites are princes.
Shabbath, fol. 57, col. 1.
All Israelites are holy.
Ibid., fol. 86, col. 1.
Happy are ye, O Israel! for every one of you, from the least to the greatest, is a great philosopher. (Eiruvin, fol. 53, col. 1.) The Machzor for Pentecost says, Israelites are as "full of meritorious works as a pomegranate is full of pips."
See also Chaggigah, fol. 27, col, 1.
As it is impossible for the world to be without air, so also is it impossible for the world to be without Israel.
Taanith, fol. 3, col. 2.
If the ox of an Israelite bruise the ox of a Gentile, the Israelite is exempt from paying damages; but should the ox of a Gentile bruise the ox of an Israelite, the Gentile is bound to recompense him in full.
Bava Kama, fol. 38, col. 1.
When an Israelite and a Gentile have a lawsuit before thee, if thou canst, acquit the former according to the laws of Israel, and tell the latter such is our law; if thou canst get him off in accordance with Gentile law, do so, and say to the plaintiff such is your law; but if he cannot be acquitted according to either law, then bring forward adroit pretexts and secure his acquittal. These are the words of the Rabbi Ishmael. Rabbi Akiva says, "No false pretext should be brought forward, because, if found out, the name of God would be blasphemed; but if there be no fear of that, then it may be adduced."
Ibid., fol. 113, col. 1.
If one find lost property in a locality where the majority are Israelites, he is bound to proclaim it; but he is not bound to do so if the majority be Gentiles.
Bava Metzia, fol. 24, col. 1.
(Prov. xiv. 34), "Almsgiving exalteth a nation, but benevolence is a sin to nations." "Almsgiving exalteth a nation," that is to say, the nation of Israel; as it is written (2 Sam. vii. 23), "And what one nation in the earth is like thy people, even like Israel?" but "benevolence" is a sin to nations, that is to say, for the Gentiles to exercise charity and benevolence is sin.
Bava Bathra, fol. 10, col. 2.
If a Gentile smite an Israelite, he is guilty of death; as it is written (Exod. ii. 12), "And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw there was no man, he slew the Egyptian."
Sanhedrin, fol. 58, col. 2.
All Israelites have a portion in the world to come; as it is written (Isa. lx. 21), "And thy people are all righteous: they shall inherit the land."
Ibid., fol. 90, col. 1.
"And they shall fall one on account of another" (Lev. xxvi. 37),—one on account of the sins of another. This teaches us that all Israel are surety for one another.
Shevuoth, fol. 39, col. 1.
If one find a foundling in a locality where the majority are Gentiles, then the child is (to be reckoned) a Gentile; if the majority be Israelites, it is to be considered as an Israelite; and so also it is to be, providing the numbers are equal.
Machsheerin, chap. 2, Mish. 7.
"One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh, but the earth abideth forever" (Eccl. i. 4). One empire cometh and another passeth away, but Israel abideth forever.
The world was created only for Israel: none are called the children of God but Israel; none are beloved before God but Israel.
Gerim, chap. 1.
The Jew that has no wife abideth without joy, without a blessing, and without any good. Without joy, as it is written (Deut. xiv. 26), "And thou shalt reject, thou and thy household;" without blessing, as it is written (Ezek. xliv. 30), "That He may cause a blessing to rest on thy household;" without any good, for it is written (Gen. ii. 8), "It is not good that man should be alone."
Yevamoth, fol. 62, col. 2.
The Jew that has no wife is not a man; for it is written (Gen. v. 2), "Male and female created He them and called their name man." To which Rabbi Eleazar adds, "So every one who has no landed property is no man; for it is written (Ps. cxv. 16), 'The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord's, but the earth (the land, that is), hath He given to the children of man.'"
Yevamoth, fol. 63, col. 1.
Three things did Moses ask of God:—1. He asked that the Shechinah might rest upon Israel; 2. That the Shechinah might rest upon none but Israel; and 3. That God's ways might be made known unto him; and all these requests were granted.
Berachoth, fol. 7, col. 1.
What was the Shechinah? Was it the presence of a Divine person or only of a Divine power? The following quotations will show what is the teaching of the Talmud on the matter, and will be read with interest by the theologian, whether Jew or Christian.
Where do we learn that when ten persons pray together the Shechinah is with them? In Ps. lxxxii. 1, where it is written, "God standeth in the congregation of the mighty." And where do we learn that when two sit together and study the law the Shechinah is with them? In Mal. iii. 16, where it is written, "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it." (Berachoth, fol. 6, col. 1.)
Where do we learn that the Shechinah does strengthen the sick? In Ps. xli. 3, where it is written, "The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing." (Shabbath, fol. 12, col. 2.)
He who goes from the Synagogue to the lecture-room, and from the lecture-room back to the Synagogue, will become worthy to receive the presence of the Shechinah; as it is written (Ps. lxxxiv. 1), "They go from strength to strength; every one of them in Zion appeareth before God." (Moed Katan, fol. 29, col. 1.)
Rabbi Yossi says, "The Shechinah never came down here below, nor did Moses and Elijah ever ascend on high, because it is written (Ps. cxv. 16), 'The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord's, but the earth hath he given to the children of men.'" (Succah, fol. 5, col. 1.)
Esther "stood in the inner court of the King's house" (Esth. v, 1). Rabbi Levi says, "When she reached the house of the images the Shechinah departed from her. Then she exclaimed, 'My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?'" (Meggillah, fol. 15, col. 2.)
"But ye that did cleave unto the Lord your God are alive every one of you this day" (Deut. iv. 4). Is it possible to cleave to the Shechinah? Is it not written (ibid., verse 24), "For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire"? The reply is:—He that bestows his daughter in marriage on a disciple of the wise (that is, a Rabbi), or does business on behalf of the disciples of the wise, or maintains them from his property, Scripture accounts it as if he did cleave to the Shechinah. (Kethuboth, fol. 111, col. 25.)
He who is angry has no regard even for the Shechinah; as it is written (Ps. x. 4), "The wicked, when his anger rises, does not inquire after God; God is not in all his thoughts." (Nedarim, fol. 22, col. 2.)
He who visits the sick should not sit upon the bed, nor even upon a stool or a chair beside it, but he should wrap his mantle round him and sit upon the floor, because of the Shechinah which rests at the head of the bed of the invalid; as it is written (Ps. xli. 3), "The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing." (Ibid., fol. 40, col. 1.)
When Israel went up out of the Red Sea, both the babe on its mother's lap and the suckling at the breast saw the Shechinah, and said, "This is my God, and I will prepare Him a habitation;" as it is written (Ps. viii. 2), "Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast ordained strength." (Soteh, fol. 30, col. 2.)
Where do we read that the Shechinah is present everywhere? In Zech. ii. 3, where it is written, "And behold the angel that talked with me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him." It is not said went out after him, but "went out to meet him." From this we know that the Shechinah is present everywhere. (Bava Bathra fol. 25, col. 1.)
Rabbi Akiva says, "For three things I admire the Medes:—1. When they carve meat, they do it on the table; 2. When they kiss, they only do so upon the hand; 3. And when they consult, they do so only in the field."
Berachoth, fol. 8, col. 2.
The stone which Og, king of Bashan, meant to throw upon Israel is the subject of a tradition delivered on Sinai. "The camp of Israel I see," he said, "extends three miles; I shall therefore go and root up a mountain three miles in extent and throw it upon them." So off he went, and finding such a mountain, raised it on his head, but the Holy One—blessed be He!—sent an army of ants against him, which so bored the mountain over his head that it slipped down upon his shoulders, from which he could not lift it, because his teeth, protruding, had riveted it upon him. This explains that which is written (Ps. iii. 7), "Thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly;" where read not "Thou hast broken," but "Thou hast ramified," that is, "Thou hast caused to branch out." Moses being ten ells in height, seized an axe ten ells long, and springing up ten ells, struck a blow on Og's ankle and killed him.
Ibid., fol. 54, col. 2.
This same story is given with more than Talmudic exaggeration in the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel, while the author of the Book of Jasher (chap. lxv., verses 23, 24) makes the camp and the mountain forty miles in extent. The giant here figures in antediluvian tradition. He is said to have been saved at the Flood by laying hold of the ark, and being fed day by day through a hole in the side of the ark by Noah himself. A tradition which says the soles of his feet were forty miles long at once explains all the extraordinary feats ascribed to him.
Rav Yehudah used to say, "Three things shorten a man's days and years:—1. Neglecting to read the law when it is given to him for that purpose; seeing it is written (Deut. xxx. 20), 'For He (who gave it) is thy life and the length of thy days.' 2. Omitting to repeat the customary benediction over a cup of blessing; for it is written (Gen. xii. 3), 'And I will bless them that bless thee.' 3. And the assumption of a Rabbinical air; for Rabbi Chama bar Chanena says, 'Joseph died before any of his brethren, because he domineered over them.'"
Berachoth, fol. 55, col. 1.
The first of these refers to the reading of the law in public worship, the second to a practice after meals when more than two adult Jews were present, and the third to the dictatorial air often assumed by the Rabbis.
Three things proceed by pre-eminence from God Himself:—Famine, plenty, and a wise ruler. Famine (2 Kings viii. 2): "The Lord hath called for a famine;" plenty (Ezek. xxxvi. 29): "I will call for corn and increase it;" a wise ruler; for it is written (Exod. xxxi. 2), "I have called by name Bezaleel." Rabbi Yitzchak says, "A ruler is not to be appointed unless the community be first consulted. God first consulted Moses, then Moses consulted the nation concerning the appointment of Bezaleel."
Ibid., fol. 55, col. 1.
Three dreams come to pass:—That which is dreamed in the morning; that which is also dreamed by one's neighbor; and a dream which is interpreted within a dream; to which some add, one that is dreamed by the same person twice; as it is written (Gen. xli. 32), "And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice."
Ibid., fol. 55, col. 2.
Three things tranquilize the mind of man:—Melody, scenery, and sweet odor. Three things develop the mind of man:—A fine house, a handsome wife, and elegant furniture.
Ibid., fol. 57, col. 2.
The Rabbis have taught that there are three sorts of dropsy:—Thick, resulting from sin; bloated, in consequence of insufficient food; and thin, due to sorcery.
Shabbath, fol. 33, col. 1.
These three grow stronger as they grow older:—The fish, the serpent, and the pig.
Ibid., fol. 77, col. 2.
It were better to cut the hands off than to touch the eye, or the nose, or the mouth, or the ear, etc., with them without having first washed them. Unwashed hands may cause blindness, deafness, foulness of breath, or a polypus. It is taught that Rabbi Nathan has said, "The evil spirit Bath Chorin, which rests upon the hands at night, is very strict; he will not depart till water is poured upon the hands three times over."
Ibid. fol. 109, col. 1.
The great importance of this ceremonial washing of the hands will appear from the following anecdote, which we quote verbatim from another part of the Talmud:—"It happened once, as the Rabbis teach, that Rabbi Akiva was immured in a prison, and Yehoshua Hagarsi was his attendant. One day the gaoler said to the latter as he entered, 'What a lot of water thou hast brought to-day! Dost thou need it to sap the walls of the prison?' So saying, he seized the vessel and poured out half of the water. When Yehoshua brought in what was left of the water to Rabbi Akiva, the latter, who was weary of waiting, for he was faint and thirsty, reproachfully said to him, 'Yehoshua, dost thou forget that I am old, and my very life depends upon thee?' When the servant related what had happened, the Rabbi asked for the water to wash his hands, 'Why, master,' said Yehoshua, 'there's not enough for thee to drink, much less to cleanse thy hands with.' To which the Rabbi replied, 'What am I to do? They who neglect to wash their hands are judged worthy of death; 'tis better that I should die by my own act from thirst than act against the rules of my associates.' And accordingly it is related that he abstained from tasting anything till they brought him water to wash his hands." (Eiruvin, fol. 21, col. 2. See also Maimonides, Hilc. Berach., vi. 19.)
From the context of the passage just quoted we cull the following, which proves that the Talmud itself bases the precept concerning the washing of hands on oral tradition and not on the written law:—"Rav Yehudah ascribes this saying to Shemuel, that when Solomon gave to the traditional rules that regulated the washing of hands and other ceremonial rites the form and sanction of law, a Bath Kol came forth and said (Prov. xxiii. 15), 'My son, if thy heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine;' and again it said (Prov. xxvii, 11), 'My son, be wise, and make my heart glad, that I may answer him that reproacheth me.'" (See Prov. xxx. 5, 6.)
There is a great deal in the Talmud about washing the hands, in addition to what is said in the treatise Yadaim, which is entirely devoted to the subject. But this topic is subordinate to another, namely, the alleged inferiority of the precepts of the Bible to the prescriptions of the Rabbis, of which the punctilious rules regulative of hand washing form only a small fraction. This is illustrated by an anecdote from the Talmudic leaflet entitled Callah, respecting Rabbi Akiva, whose fame extends from one end of the world to the other. (See Yevamoth, fol. 16, col. 2).
Once upon a time, as the Elders were sitting together, two lads passed by them, one with his head covered and the other bareheaded. Of the latter boy as he passed Rabbi Elazar said, "He is a Mamzer," and Rabbi Yehoshua, "He is a Ben Haniddah," but Rabbi Akiva contended, "He is both a Mamzer and a Ben Haniddah." Upon which the Elders said to Rabbi Akiva, "How darest thou be so bold as dispute the assertion of thy masters?" "Because I can substantiate what I say," was his answer. He then went to the mother of the lad, and found her selling pease in the market place. "Daughter," said he to her, "if thou wilt answer all that I ask of thee, I will ensure thee a portion in the life to come." She replied, "Let me have thy oath and I will do so." Then taking the oath with his lips but nullifying it in his heart, he asked her, "What sort of a son is thy lad?" She replied, "When I entered my bridal chamber I was a Niddah, and consequently my husband kept away from me." Thus it was found out that the boy was a Mamzer and a Ben Haniddah; upon which the sages exclaimed, "Great is Rabbi Akiva, for he has overcome his masters;" and as they congratulated him they said, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who hath revealed His secret unto Akiva the son of Joseph." Thus did the Rabbi forswear himself, and thus did his companions compliment him on the success of his perjury; yet the Bible says, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" (Exod. xx. 7), and "Keep thou far from a falsehood" (Exod. xxiii. 7).
Here is a companion picture from Yoma, fol. 84, col. 1.—"Rabbi Yochanan was suffering from scurvy, and he applied to a Gentile woman, who prepared a remedy for the fifth and then the sixth day of the week. 'But what shall I do to-morrow?' said he; 'I must not walk so far on the Sabbath.' 'Thou wilt not require any more,' she answered. 'But suppose I do,' he replied. 'Take an oath,' she answered, 'that thou wilt not reveal it, and I will tell thee how to compound the remedy.' This he did in the following words: 'By the God of Israel, I swear I will not divulge it.' Nevertheless, when he learned the secret, he went and revealed it. 'But was not that profaning the name of God?' asks one. 'No,' pleads another Rabbi, 'for, as he told her afterward, that what he meant was that he would not tell it to the God of Israel.' The remedy was yeast, water, oil, and salt."
The anecdote that follows is from Sanhedrin, fol. 97, col 1:—"In reference to the remark of Ravina, who said, 'I used to think that there was no truth in the world,' one of the Rabbis, Toviah (or Tavyoomah, as some say), would protest and say, 'If all the riches of the world were offered me, I would not tell a falsehood.' And he used to clench his protestation with the following apologue: 'I once went to a place called Kushta, where the people never swerve from the truth, and where (as a reward for their integrity) they do not die until old age; and there I married and settled down, and had two sons born unto me. One day as my wife was sitting and combing her hair, a woman who dwelt close by came to the door and asked to see her. Thinking that it was a breach of etiquette (that any one should see her at her toilet), I said she was not in. Soon after this my two children died, and the people came to inquire into the cause of their premature decease. When I told them of my evasive reply to the woman, they asked me to leave the town, lest by my misconduct I might involve the whole community in a like calamity, and death might be enticed to their place."
Food remains for three days in the stomach of the dog, because God knew that his food would be scanty.
Shabbath, fol. 155, col. 1.
He who is born on the third day of the week will be rich and amorous.
Ibid., fol. 156, col. 1.
Rabbi Abba, in the name of Shemuel, says, "The schools of Shammai and Hillel were at variance three years, the one party contending and saying, 'The Halacha is according to us;' and the other, 'The Halacha is according to us.' Then came a voice from the Lord and said, 'Both these and those are the words of the living God, but yet the Halacha is according to the school of Hillel.' What was the merit of the school of Hillel that the Halacha should be pronounced to be according to it? Its disciples were gentle and forbearing, for while they stood by their own decisions, they also stated those maintained by the school of Shammai, and often even mentioned the tenets of the school of Shammai first and their own afterward. This teaches us that him who humbles himself, God will exalt; and him who exalts himself, God will abase. Whoso pursueth greatness, greatness will flee from him; and whoso fleeth from greatness, greatness will pursue him."
Eiruvin, fol. 13, col. 2.
There are three entrances to hell:—One in the desert, one in the sea, and one in Jerusalem.
Ibid., fol. 19, col. i.
These three will never see hell:—He who is purified by poverty; he who is purged by a painful flux; and he who is harassed by importunate creditors; and some say, he also who is plagued with a termagant wife.
Eiruvin, fol. 41, col. 2.
Three effects are ascribed to Babylonian broth (which was made of moldy bread, sour milk, and salt):—It retards the action of the heart, it affects the eyesight, and emaciates the body.
P'sachim, fol. 42, col 1.
These three are not permitted to come between two men, nor is a man allowed to pass between any two of these three:—A dog, a palm tree, or a woman; to which some add the pig, and others the serpent as well.
Ibid., fol. 111, col. 1.
One part of this regulation is rather hard and should surely be abolished; that, viz, which ordains a woman shall not come between two men or a man pass between two women. The compiler of this Miscellany was once witness to a case which illustrates its inconvenience: it occurred at Tiberias. A pious young Jew who had to traverse a narrow road to pass from the lake to the town was kept standing for a very considerable time under a broiling sun, simply because two young women, to tease him, guarded the entrance, and dared him to pass between them. Of course he dared not accept the challenge, otherwise he would have incurred the penalty of death, according to the judgment of the Talmud; for "Whosoever transgresses any of the words of the Scribes is guilty of death." (Eiruvin, fol. 21, col. 2.)
These three will inherit the world to come:—He who dwells in the land of Israel; he who brings up his sons to the study of the law; and he who repeats the ritual blessing over the appointed cup of wine at the close of the Sabbath.
P'sachim, fol. 113, col. 1.
There are three whom the Holy One—blessed be He!—Himself proclaims virtuous:—The unmarried man who lives in a city and does not sin; the poor man who restores a lost thing which he has found to its owner; and the rich man who pays the tithes of his increase unostentatiously. Rav Saphra was a bachelor, and he dwelt in a large city. A disciple of the wise once descanted upon the merits of a celibate life in the presence of Rava and this Rav Saphra, and the face of the latter beamed with delight. Remarking which, Rava said to him, "This does not refer to such a bachelor as thou art, but to such as Rabbi Chanena and Rabbi Oshaia." They were single men, who followed the trade of shoemakers, and dwelt in a street mostly occupied by meretrices, for whom they made shoes; but when they fitted these on, they never raised their eyes to look at their faces. For this the women conceived such a respect for them, that when they swore, they swore by the life of the holy Rabbis of the land of Israel.
Psachim, fol. 113, cols, 1, 2.
There are three whom the Holy One—blessed be He!—abhorreth: He who says one thing but thinks another; he who might bear witness in favor of his neighbor but refrains from doing so; and he who, having seen his neighbor act disgracefully, goes and appears singly as a witness against him (thus only condemning, but not convicting, him, as the law requires two witnesses). As, for example, when Toviah transgressed and Zigud appeared against him singly before Rav Pappa, and Rav Pappa ordered this witness to receive forty stripes save one in return. "What!" said he, "Toviah has sinned, and should Zigud be flogged?" "Yes," replied the Rabbi, "for by testifying singly against him thou bringest him only into bad repute." (See Deut. xix. 15.)
P'sachim fol. 113, col. 2.
"Toviah has sinned and Zigud is flogged," has long been a proverb among Jews.
There are three whose life is no life:—The sympathetic, the irascible, and the melancholy.
P'sachim, fol. 113, col. 2.
There are three which despise their fellows:—Dogs, cocks, and sorcerers. Some say strange women also, and some the disciples of the Babylonian Rabbis.
These three love their fellows:—Proselytes, slaves, and ravens.
These three are apt to strut:—Israel among the nations, the dog among animals, the cock among birds. Some say also the goat among small cattle, and some the caper shrub among trees.
Ibid., fol. 25, col. 2.
There are three whose life is no life:—He who lives at another's table; he whose wife domineers over him; and he who suffers bodily affliction. Some say also he who has only a single shirt in his wardrobe.
Ibid., fol. 32, col. 2.
Three things are said respecting the finger-nails:—He who trims his nails and buries the parings is a pious man; he who burns these is a righteous man; but he who throws them away is a wicked man, for mischance might follow, should a female step over them.
Moed Katan, fol. 18, col. 1.
The orthodox Jews in Poland are to this day careful to bury away or burn their nail parings.
Three classes appear on the day of judgment:—The perfectly righteous, who are at once written and sealed for eternal life; the thoroughly bad, who are at once written and sealed for hell; as it is written (Dan. xii. 2), "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt;" and those in the intermediate state, who go down into hell, where they cry and howl for a time, whence they ascend again; as it is written (Zech. xiii. 9), "And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried; they shall call on my name, and I will hear them." It is of them Hannah said (1 Sam. ii. 6), "The Lord killeth and maketh alive; He bringeth down to hell and bringeth up."
Rosh Hashanah, fol. 16, col. 2.
Our Rabbis have taught that there are three voices which can be heard from one end of the world to the other:—The sound emitted from the sphere of the sun; the hum and din of the city of Rome; and the voice of anguish uttered by the soul as it quits the body; … but our Rabbis prayed that the soul might be spared this torture, and therefore the voice of its terrors has not since been heard.
Yoma, fol. 20, col. 2.
In three particulars is benevolence superior to almsgiving:—Almsgiving is only the bestowment of money, but benevolence can be exercised by personal service as well. Alms can be given only to the poor, but benevolence can be shown no less to the rich. Alms are confined to the living, but benevolence may extend to both the dead and the living.
Succah, fol. 49, col. 2.
Three marks characterize the nation of Israel:—They are compassionate, they are modest, and they are benevolent. Compassionate, as it is written (Deut. xiii. 18), "And show thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee, and multiply thee." Modest, as it is written (Exod. xx. 20), "That his fear may be before your faces." Benevolent, as it is written (Gen. xviii. 19), "For I know him," etc.
Yevamoth, fol. 79, col. 1.
Dates are good after meals in the morning and in the evening, but hurtful in the afternoon; on the other hand, at noon they are most excellent, and an antidote to these three maladies:—Evil thought, constipation, and hemorrhoids.
Kethuboth, fol. 10, col. 2.
Beware of these three things:—Do not sit too much, for it brings on hemorrhoids; do not stand too much, for it is bad for the heart; do not walk too much, for it is hurtful to the eyes. But sit a third, stand a third, and walk a third.
Ibid., fol. 111, col. 1.
He who holds his household in terror tempts to the commission of three sins:—Fornication, murder, and Sabbath breaking.
Gittin, fol. 6, col. 2.
Three things weaken the strength of man:—Fear, travel, and sin. Fear, as it is written (Ps. xxxviii. 10), "My heart palpitates, my strength faileth me." Travel, as it is written (Ps. cii. 23), "He hath weakened my strength in the way." … Sin, as it is written (Ps. xxxi. 10), "My strength faileth me, because of my iniquity."
Ibid., fol. 70, col 2.
Abraham was three years old when he first learned to know his Creator; as it is said (Gen. xxvi. 5), "Because Abraham obeyed my voice."
Nedarim, fol. 32, col. 1.
The conclusion arrived at here is founded on interpreting the Hebrew letters of the word rendered "because" numerically, in which the value of the letters gives a total of one hundred and seventy-two; so that the sense of the text is, "Abraham obeyed my voice" one hundred and seventy-two years. Now Abraham died when he was a hundred and seventy-five, therefore he must have been only three when he began to serve the Lord.
As Abraham plays so important a part both in the history and the imagination of the Jewish race, we may quote here a score or so of the Talmudic traditions regarding him. The traditions, as is like, contributed quite as much, if not more, to give character to his descendants as his actual personality and that spirit of faith which was the central fact in his history. Races and nations often draw more inspiration from what they fancy about their ancestry and early history than from what they know; their fables therefore are often more illuminative than the facts.
Abraham was Ethan the Ezrahite, who is mentioned in Ps. lxxxvii. 1.
Bava Bathra, fol. 15, col. 1.
Abraham's mother was Amathlai, the daughter of Karnebo.
Bava Bathra, fol. 91, col. 1.
Abraham was the head of a seminary for youth, and kept both laws, the written and the oral.
Yoma, fol. 28, col. 2.
Abraham observed the whole ceremonial law, even before it was given on Sinai.
Kiddushin, fol. 82, col. 1.
From the day Abraham was compelled to leave the idolatrous worship and country of his fathers, it is reasonable to suppose that his tent would become a rendezvous for his neighbors who shrunk like himself from the abominations around them. There, from his character, by which he recommended himself as the friend of God, he might very naturally be looked upon as a religious teacher, and men might gather together to learn from his lips or profit by his example. Hence, making due allowance for Eastern hyperbole, the statement of the Book of Jasher (chap. xxvi. verse 36) is not undeserving of credit, where it is said that "Abraham brought all the children of the land to the service of God, and he taught them the ways of the Lord." The same remark applies to what is said in Targ. Yerushalmi (Gen. xxi.), that Abraham's guests went not away until "he had made them proselytes, and had taught them the way everlasting." His son Isaac, says the Targ. of Ben Uzziel, went to school at the "Beth Medrasha de Shem Rabba."
Though Abraham kept all the commandments, he was not perfect till he was circumcised.
Nedarim, fol. 31, col. 2.
In whatever sense this may have been written, and whatever the interpretation that may be put upon it, there is one sense in which it is absolutely and eternally true, and that is, that, in order to be perfect, a man's life must be as pronounced on the negative side as the positive, in its denials as in its affirmations, and that it is futile to attempt to obey God unless one at the same time renounce all co-partnery with the devil. Circumcision is the symbol of this renunciation, and it is only as such it has any radical spiritual significance. Till he was circumcised, it is said, God did not speak to Abraham in Hebrew. Not till then is sacredness of speech, any more than sacredness of life, possible. Doubtless among the Jews circumcision was the symbol of their separation from the ethnic religions; and hence the jealousy with which their prophets looked upon any compromise with idolatry. Hatred of that, utter and intense, was the one essential negative pole of genuine Judaism, and circumcision was its sign and seal.
Abraham was the first of the proselytes.
Succah, fol. 49, col. 2.
Abraham it was that ordained the form of prayer for morning worship, which is extant to this very day.
Berachoth, fol. 26, col. 2.
As he himself was pious, so were his very camels, for they would not enter into a place where there were idols; as it is written (Gen. xxiv. 31), "I have prepared," i.e., removed the idols from, "the house and room for the camels."
Avoth d' Rabbi Nathan, chap. 8.
Abraham had a daughter, and her name was Bakol.
Ibid., fol. 16, col. 2.
Abraham was free from evil passion.
Bava Bathra fol. 17, col. 1.
He was also free from the Angel of Death.
Ibid., fol. 17, col. 1.
He delivered to the children he had by Keturah a secret name, with which they learned to practice witchcraft and do the works of the devil.
Sanhedrin, fol. 91, col. 1.
Though great, he personally waited on his guests, who had the appearance of Arabs and not of angels.
Kiddushin, fol. 32, col. 2.
Rabbi Yehudah says Abraham planted an ornamental garden with all kinds of choice fruits in it, and Rabbi Nehemiah says he erected an inn for travelers in order to make known the name of God to all who sojourned in it.
Soteh, fol. 10, col. 1.
Both the Targum of Ben Uzziel and the Yerushalmi say that Abraham planted a paradise at Beersheba for the entertainment and delectation of his guests; and in Jasher (chap, xxvii. verse 37) it is said that "Abraham formed a grove and planted a vineyard there, and had always ready in his tent meat and drink for those that passed through the land, so that they might satisfy themselves in his house."
He ranked as one of the seven shepherds of Israel (Micah v. 5). In this group David was the central figure, with Adam, Seth, and Methusaleh on his right hand, and Abraham, Jacob, and Moses on his left.
Succah, fol. 52, col. 2.
The coin of Jerusalem had the impress of David and Solomon on the one side, and the holy city of Jerusalem on the other. But the impress on the coin of our father Abraham was an old man and an old woman on one side, and a young man and a damsel on the other.
Bava Kama, fol. 37, col. 2.
This, it is to be presumed, must be taken in some symbolical sense, for coins cannot be traced back to a date so early as this; and when Abraham purchased the cave to bury Sarah in from the sons of Heth, we read that he weighed to Ephron the silver.
Abraham pleaded with God on the behalf of Israel and said, "While there is a Temple they will get their sins atoned for, but when there shall be no Temple, what will become of them?" God, in answer to his prayer, assured him that He had prepared a prayer for them, by which, as often as they read it, He would be propitiated and would pardon all their sins.
Meggillah, fol. 31, col. 2.
He was punished by his posterity being compelled to serve the Egyptians two hundred and ten years, because he had pressed the Rabbis under his tuition into military service in the expedition he had undertaken to recover Lot from those who had carried him off captive; for it is written (Gen. xiv. 14), "He armed his instructed." Samuel says Abraham was punished because he perversely distrusted the assurance of God; as it is written (Gen. xv. 8), "Whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?"
Nedarim, fol. 31, col. 2.
Abraham was thrown into a fiery furnace by Nimrod, and God would not permit Gabriel to rescue him, but did so Himself; because God is One and Abraham was one, therefore it behooved the One to rescue the one.
P'sachim, fol. 118, col. 1.
The fire from which Abraham is here said to be delivered may simply refer to his deliverance by the hand of God from Ur of the Chaldees; Ur meaning "fire," and being the name of a place celebrated for fire worship. The Midrash (p. 20) says, "When the wicked Nimrod cast Abraham into the furnace, Gabriel said, 'Lord of the universe! permit me to deliver this holy one from the fire!' But the Lord made answer, 'I am the One Supreme in my world, and he is supreme in his; it is fitting therefore that the Supreme should rescue the supreme.'"
Abraham was a giant of giants; his height was as that of seventy-four men put together. His food, his drink, and his strength were in the proportion of seventy-four men's to one man's. He built an iron city for the abode of his seventeen children by Keturah, the walls of which were so lofty that the sun never penetrated them: he gave them a bowl full of precious stones, the brilliancy of which supplied them with light in the absence of the sun.
Sophrim, chap. 21.
Abraham our father had a precious stone suspended from his neck, and every sick person that gazed upon it was immediately healed of his disease. But when Abraham died, God hung up the stone on the sphere of the sun.
Bava Bathra, fol. 16, col. 2.
Till Abraham's time there was no such thing as a beard; but as many mistook Abraham for Isaac, and Isaac for Abraham, they looked so exactly alike, Abraham prayed to God for a beard to enable people to distinguish him from his son, Isaac, and it was granted him; as it is written (Gen. xxiv. 1), "And to Abraham a beard came when he was well stricken in age."
Sanhedrin, fol. 107, col. 2.
Here the word which the translators of the English version render "was old," is taken in another of its cognate meanings as a beard. The Midrash is a trifle more modest in this legendary assertion. There we read, "Before Abraham there was no special mark of old age," and that for distinction's sake "the beard was made to turn gray."
When he died, all the chiefs of the nations of the world stood in a line and exclaimed, "Alas for the world that has lost its leader! Alas for the ship that has lost its helmsman!"
Bava Bathra, fol. 91, col. 2.
As Rabbi Banna went about to measure and to mark off the outward and inward dimensions of the different caves, when he came to the cave of Machpelah he found Eliezar, Abraham's servant, at the entrance, and asked him, "What is Abraham doing?" The answer he received was, "He is asleep in the arms of Sarah."
Ibid., fol. 58, col. 1.
Abraham being greater than Moses, for while the latter is only called by God "My Servant" (Mal. iv. 4), the former is called "My Friend" (Isa. xli. 8), we devote a little more space for a few more extracts from other Jewish sources than the Talmud, in order to make the picture they supply of Abraham's character a little more complete.
Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri says:—"The Holy One—blessed be He!—took Shem and separated him to be a priest to Himself, that he might serve before Him. He also caused His Shechinah to rest with him, and called his name Melchizedek, priest of the Most High and king of Salem. His brother Japheth even studied the law in his school, until Abraham came and also learned the law in the school of Shem, where God Himself instructed Abraham, so that all else he had learned from the lips of man was forgotten. Then came Abraham and prayed to God that His Shechinah might ever rest in the house of Shem, which also was promised to him; as it is said (Ps. ex. 4), 'Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.'"
Avodath Hakkodesh, part 3, chap. 20.
Wherever Jacob resided he studied the law as his fathers did. How is this, seeing the law had not yet been given, it is nevertheless written of Abraham (Gen. xxvi. 5), "And he kept my charge"? Whence then did Abraham learn the law? Rabbi Shimon says his reins (literally kidneys) were made like two water-jars, from which the law flowed forth. Where do we learn that it was so? From what is said in Ps. xvi. 7, "My reins also instruct me in the night season."
Bereshith Rabba, chap. 95.
The masters of the Kabbalah, of blessed memory, say that Abraham's Rabbi, i.e., teacher, was the angel Zadkiel.
Rabbi Menachem's comment on the Pent., Exod. iii. 5.
Adam's book, which contained celestial mysteries and holy wisdom, came down as an heirloom into the hands of Abraham, and he by means of it was able to see the glory of his Lord.
Zohar Parashah Bereshith.
Abraham was the author of a treatise on the subject of different kinds of witchcraft and its unholy workings and fruits, as also of the Book of Creation, through holy names (by means of which, namely, anything could be created).
Nishmath Chayim, chap. 29.
The whole world once believed that the souls of men were perishable, and that man had no pre-eminence above a beast, till Abraham came and preached the doctrine of immortality and transmigration.
Ibid., fol. 171, col. 1.
A good son delivers his father from the punishment of hell, for thus we find that Abraham our father delivered Terah, as it is said in Gen. xv. 15, "And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace." This implies that God had communicated to him the tidings that his father had a portion in the world to come and was now "in peace" there.
Pesikta Zotarta, fol. 3, col. 2.
Before Abraham was circumcised God spake to him in the Chaldee language, that the angels should not understand it. (This is proved from Gen. xv. 1.)
Yalkut Chadash, fol. 117.
Rabbi Levi said Abraham sits at the gate of hell and does not permit any circumcised Israelite to enter. But if any appear who happen to have sinned unduly, these he (by an indescribable contrivance) causes to become uncircumcised and lets pass without scruple into the region of torment; and this is what is said in Ps. lv. 20, "He hath put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him: he hath broken his covenant."
Yalkut Shimoni, fol. 33, col. 2, sec. 18.
Abraham was circumcised on the Day of Atonement, and God looks that day annually on the blood of the covenant of our father Abraham's circumcision as atoning for all our iniquities, as it is said in Lev. xvi. 30, "For on that day shall he make an atonement for you, to cleanse you from all your sins."
Yalkut Chadash, fol. 121, col. 1, sec. 3.
"And it came to pass that when Abram was come into Egypt" (Gen. xii. 14). And where was Sarah? He confined her in a chest, into which he locked her, lest any one should gaze on her beauty. When he came to the receipt of custom, he was summoned to open the chest, but declined, and offered payment of the duty. The officers said, "Thou carriest garments;" and he offered duty for garments. "Nay, it is gold thou carriest;" and he offered the impost laid on gold. Then they said, "It is costly silks, belike pearls, thou concealest;" and he offered the custom on such articles. At length the Egyptian officers insisted, and he opened the box. And when he did so, all the land of Egypt was illumined by her beauty.
Bereshith Rabba, chap. 40.
The question may naturally be asked why Abraham hid his wife from the gaze of others first then and not before. The reply is to be deduced from the following double rendering of Gen. xii. 11:—"Behold now I know that thou art a fair woman." As if to say, "Usually people lose their good looks on a long journey, but thou art as beautiful as ever." The second explanation is this:—Abraham was so piously modest that in all his life he never once looked a female in the face, his own wife not excepted. As he approached Egypt and was crossing some water, he saw in it the reflection of her face, and it was then that he exclaimed, "Behold now I know that thou art a fair woman." As the Egyptians are swarthy, Abraham at once perceived the magnitude of the danger, and hence his precaution to hide her beauty in a chest.
Zeenah Ureenah (1877 in Russia), fol. 28, col. 1.
When Abraham came to the cave of Machpelah to bury Sarah, Adam and Eve rose from their grave and protested against his committing her to the dust in that receptacle. "For," said they, "we are ever ashamed in the presence of the Holy One—blessed be He!—on account of the sin which we committed, and now comest thou to add to our shame by the contrast therewith of the good works which ye two have done." On Abraham's assurance that he would intercede with God on their behalf that they should not bear the shame any longer, Adam immediately retired to his sepulchre, but Eve being still unwilling to do so, Abraham took her by the hand and led her back to the side of Adam; and then he buried Sarah.
Yalkut Chadash, fol. 14, col. 3, sec. 68.
Abraham's father, Terah, was both an idolater, a manufacturer of idols, and a dealer in them. Once when Terah had some engagement elsewhere he left his son Abraham to attend to his business. When a customer came to purchase an idol, Abraham asked him, "How old art thou?" "Lo! so many years," was the ready reply. "What," exclaimed Abraham, "is it possible that a man of so many years should desire to worship a thing only a day old?" The customer, being ashamed of himself, went his way; and so did all other customers, who underwent a similar inquisition. Once an old woman brought a measure of fine flour and wished to present it as an offering to the gods. This so enraged Abraham that he took a staff and broke all the images, excepting the largest, into whose hands he fixed the staff. When his father came and questioned him about the destruction of the gods, he replied, "An old woman placed an offering of flour before them, which immediately set them all by the ears, for every one was hungrier than another, but the biggest god killed all the rest with this staff which thou now seest he still holds in his hands." Superstition, especially when combined with mercenary motives, knows neither reason nor human affection, therefore the father handed over his son Abraham to the inquisition of Nimrod, who threw him into the fiery furnace, as recorded elsewhere in this Miscellany. This is an historical fact, to the truth of which the whole orthodox Jewish world will bear testimony, and is solemnly recorded in Shalsheleth Hakkabalah fol. 2, col 1.
There are three graces:—The grace of a place in the eyes of its inhabitants; the grace of a woman in the eyes of her husband; the grace of a purchase in the eyes of the buyer.
Soteh, fol. 47, col. 1.
A man should divide his capital into three parts, and invest one-third in land, employ one-third in merchandise, and reserve one-third in ready money.
Bava Metzia, fol. 42, col. 1.
All who go down to hell shall come up again, except these three:—He who commits adultery; he who shames another in public; and he who gives another a bad name.
Ibid., fol. 58, col. 2.
These three complain, but no one sympathizes with them:—He who lends money without witnesses; he who buys to himself a master; and he who is lorded over by his wife.
Ibid., fol. 75, col. 2.
There are three things on which the world stands:—The law, the temple service, and benevolence.
Avoth, chap. 1.
If three eat at one table and do not converse together on the law of the Lord, it is as if they ate from the sacrifices for the dead; but they, on the contrary, are as if they partook from a table of the Lord's own furnishing who, while they sit down to meat, season their talk with its holy precepts.
Avoth, chap. 3.
There are three crowns:—The crown of the law, the crown of the priesthood, and the crown of royalty; but the crown of a good name surpasses them all.
Ibid., chap. 4.
He who possesses these three virtues is a disciple of Abraham our father, and he who possesses the three contrary vices is a son of Balaam the wicked. The disciples of our father Abraham have a kindly eye, a loyal spirit, and a lowly mind. The disciples of Balaam the wicked have an evil eye, a proud spirit, and a grasping soul.
Ibid., chap. 5.
Three things are said respecting the children of men:—He who gives alms brings a blessing on himself; he who lends does better; he who gives away half of what he hath to spare does best of all.
Avoth d'Rab. Nathan, chap. 41.
There are three classes of disciples, and among them three grades of worth:—He ranks first who asks and answers when asked; he who asks but does not answer ranks next; but he who neither asks nor answers ranks lowest of all.
Over these three does God weep every day:—Over him who is able to study the law but neglects it; over him who studies it amid difficulties hard to overcome; and over the ruler who behaves arrogantly toward the community he should protect.
Chaggigah, fol. 5, col. 2.
Rabbi Yochanan says there are three keys in the hands of the Holy One!—blessed be He!—which He never intrusts to the disposal of a messenger, and they are these:—(1.) The key of rain, (2.) the key of life, and (3.) the key of reviving the dead. The key of rain, for it is written (Deut. xxviii. 12), "The Lord shall open unto thee His good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in season;" the key of life, as it is written (Gen. xxx. 22), "God hearkened unto her, and opened her womb;" the key of reviving the dead, for it is written (Ezek. xxxvii. 13), "When I have opened your graves, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live," etc.
Taanith, fol. 2, cols, 1, 2.
A disciple of the wise who makes light of the washing of hands is contemptible; but more contemptible is he who begins to eat before his guest; more contemptible is that guest who invites another guest; and still more contemptible is he who begins to eat before a disciple of the wise; but contemptible before all these three put together is that guest which troubles another guest.
Derech Eretz Zuta, chap. viii.
A roll of the law which has two mistakes to a column should be corrected; but if there be three, it should be stowed away altogether.
Menachoth, fol. 29, col. 2.
The wolf, the lion, the bear, the leopard, the panther, the elephant, and the sea-cat, each bear three years.
Rav Yehudah says, in the name of Rav, "The butcher is bound to have three knives; one to slaughter with, one for cutting up the carcass, and one to cut away the suet. Suet being as unlawful for food as pork."
Chullin, fol. 8, col. 2.
Three classes of ministering angels raise a song of praise every day. One class says, Holy! the second responds, Holy! and the third continues, Holy is the Lord of hosts! But in the presence of the Holy One—blessed be He!—Israel is more beloved than the ministering angels; for Israel reiterates the song every hour, while the ministering angels repeat it only once a day, some say once a week, others once a month, others once a year, others once in seven years, others once in a jubilee, and others only once in eternity. Again, Israel mentions The Name after two words, as it is said (Deut. vi. 4), "Hear Israel, Yehovah," but the ministering angels do not mention The Name till after three, as it is written (Isa. vi. 3), "Holy! holy! holy! Yehovah Zebaoth." Moreover, the ministering angels do not take up the song above till Israel has started it below; for it is said (Job xxxviii. 7), "When the morning stars sang together, then all the sons of God shouted for joy."
Chullin, fol. 91, col. 2.
The Rabbis have taught, a man should not sell to his neighbor shoes made from the hide of a beast that has died of disease, as if of a beast that had been slaughtered in the shambles, for two reasons: first, because he imposes on him (for the skin of a beast that dies of itself is not so durable as the hide of a slaughtered animal); second, because there is danger (for the beast that died of itself might have been stung by a serpent, and the poison remaining in the leather might prove fatal to the wearer of shoes made of that leather). A man should not send his neighbor a barrel of wine with oil floating upon its surface; for it happened once that a man did so, and the recipient went and invited his friends to a feast, in the preparation of which oil was to form a chief ingredient; but when the guests assembled, it was found out that the cask contained wine, and not oil; and because the host had nothing else in preparation for a worthy feast, he went and committed suicide. Neither should guests give anything from what is set before them to the son or daughter of their host, unless the host himself give them leave to do so; for it once happened during a time of scarcity that a man invited three of his friends to dine, and he had nothing but three eggs to place before them. Meanwhile, as the guests were seated at the board, the son of the host came into the room, and first one of the guests gave him his share, and then the other two followed his example. Shortly afterward the host himself came in, and seeing the child with his mouth full and both hands, he knocked him down to the ground, so that he died on the instant. The mother, seeing this, went and threw herself headlong, from the housetop, and the father followed her example. Thus Rabbi Eliezar ben Yacob said, "There perished in this affair three souls of Israel."
Ibid., fol. 94, col. 1.
Once the Roman Government issued a decree that the Israelites should neither observe the Sabbath nor circumcise their sons. Thereupon Reuben the son of Istrubli trimmed his hair as a Gentile, and went among the Roman senators and plied them with wise remonstrance. "If one," said he, "has an enemy, does he wish him to be poor or rich?" "To be poor," was the reply. "Then," he argued, "won't he be poorer if you prohibit him from working on the Sabbath?" "It is well said," observed the senators; and they at once abolished their decree respecting the Sabbath. Again he asked, "If one has an enemy, does he wish him to be weak or strong?" "Why, weak, to be sure," was the inevitable answer. "Then," said he, "let the Jews circumcise their children, then will they be weakened." "The argument is good," said they, and the decree against circumcision was rescinded. Again he asked, "If one has an enemy, does he wish him to increase or decrease?" "To decrease, of course," said they. In response to his argument the decree against catamenia was accordingly abolished. When, however, they found out that he was a Jew, they at once re-enacted the decrees they had canceled. Upon this the question arose who should go to Rome and appeal against these enactments. It was resolved that Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, who was reputed experienced in miracles, should go, accompanied by Rabbi Elazar, the son of Rabbi Yossi.... As they journeyed along, the question was proposed to them, "Whence is it proved that the blood of a reptile is unclean?" Rabbi Elazar replied with a curl of the lip, and quoted Lev. ii. 29. "And these shall be unclean unto you." Rabbi Shimon said unto him, "By the curl of thy lip art thou recognizable as a disciple of the wise! May the son never return to his father!" for he was annoyed that he should presume to teach a Halachah in his presence, and then and there he condemned him to death. (See Berachoth, fol. 31, col. 2.) Thereupon Ben Temalion (an evil sprite or imp) came, and greeting him, said, "Do ye wish me to accompany you?" Rabbi Shimon wept and said, "Alas! a maid-servant of my ancestor (Abraham) was assisted by three angels, and I have not one to attend me! However, let a miracle be worked for us anyhow." Then the evil spirit entered into the Emperor's daughter, and when the Rabbi was called in to cure the princess, he exorcised the spirit by saying, "Depart, Ben Temalion! Ben Temalion, depart!" and the evil spirit left her. By way of reward the Rabbis were bidden to ask whatsoever they pleased, and admitted into the imperial treasury that they might choose what seemed good to them. Espying there the edict against Israel, they chose it, and tore it to pieces.
Meyilah, fol. 17, col. 1, 2.
At the time when the high priest enters to worship, three acolytes take hold of him, one by the right hand and another by the left, while the third lifts the gems attached to the train of his pontifical vestment.
Tamid, chap. 7; Mishna, 1.
"I once, when a grave-digger," says Abba Shaul, as the Rabbis relate, "chased a roe which had entered the shinbone of a dead man; and though I ran three miles after it, I could not overtake it, nor reach the end of the bone. When I returned, I was told that it was a bone of Og, king of Bashan."
Niddah, fol. 24, col. 2.
The Rabbis have taught that during the first three months (of pregnancy) the child lies in the lower part (of the uterus); during the next three it occupies the middle part; and during the last three it is in the upper part; and that when the time of parturition comes, it turns over first, and this causes the birth-pains. We are also taught that the pains caused by a female child are greater than those caused by a male. Rabbi Elazar said, "What Scripture is there for this? 'When I was made in secret and curiously wrought, in the lowest parts of the earth' (Ps. cxxxix. 15). It is not said, 'I abode,' but, 'I was curiously wrought.' Why the difference? Why are the pains caused by a girl greater than those caused by a boy?"
Ibid., fol. 31, col. 1.
The Rabbis teach there are three that have a share in a man; God, and his father and mother. The father's part consists of all that is white in him—the bones, the veins, the nails, the brain, and the white of the eye. The mother's part consists of all that is red in him—the skin, the flesh, the hair, and the black part of the eye. God's part consists of the breath, the soul, the physiognomy, sight and hearing, speech, motive power, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. And when the time comes that the man should depart from the world, God takes away His part, and leaves those which belong to the father and mother. Rav Pappa says, "This is the meaning of the proverb, 'Shake off the salt and throw the flesh to the dogs.'"
Niddah, fol. 31. col. 1.
Rashi's explanatory note is this: "Shake off the salt from the flesh and it becomes fit only for dogs. The soul is the salt which preserves the body; when it departs, the body putrefies."
Four things require fortitude in the observance:—The law, good works, prayer, and social duties. Respecting the law and good works it is written (Josh. i. 7), "Be thou strong and firm, that thou mayest observe to do all the law;" in which the word "strong" refers to the law, and the word "firm" to good works. Of prayer it is written, "Wait on the Lord; be strong, and He shall make thine heart firm; wait, I say, upon the Lord" (Ps. xxvii. 14). In respect to social duties it is written (2 Sam. x. 2), "Be strong, and let us strengthen ourselves for our people, and for the cities of our God."
Berachoth, fol. 32, col. 2.
There are four signs which tell tales:—Dropsy is a sign of sin; jaundice is a sign of hatred without a cause; poverty is a sign of pride; and quinsy is a sign of slander.
Shabbath, fol. 33, col. 1.
"Unto Mamre, unto the city of Arbah," i.e., four (Gen. xxxv. 27). Rabbi Isaac calls it the city of four couples, i.e., Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah. These four couples being buried in Mamre, it was therefore called "the city of four."
Eiruvin, fol. 53, col. 1.
The sun makes four quarterly circuits. In April, May, and June, i.e., Nisan, Iyar, and Sivan, his circuit is between the mountains, in order to dissolve the snow; in July, August, and September, i.e., Tamuz, Ab, and Ellul, his circuit is over the habitable parts of the earth, in order to ripen the fruits; in October, November, and December, i.e., Tishri, Marcheshvan, and Kislev, his circuit is over the seas, to evaporate the waters; in January, February, and March, i.e., Tebeth, Shebat, and Adar, his circuit is over the deserts, in order to protect the seed sown from being scorched.
Psachim, fol. 94, col. 2.
Four persons are intolerable:—A poor man who is proud, a rich man who is a liar, an old man who is incontinent, and a warden who behaves haughtily to a community for whom he has done nothing. To these some add him who has divorced his wife once or twice and married her again.
Ibid., fol. 113, col. 2.
Four things cancel the decrees of Heaven:—Alms, prayer, change of name, and reformation of conduct. Alms, as it is written (Prov. x. 2), "But alms (more correctly, righteousness) delivereth from death." Prayer as it is written (Ps. cvii. 6). "Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses." Change of name, as it is said (Gen. xvii. 15, 16), "As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name." And after this change of name it is written, "And I will bless her, and give thee a son of her." Reformation of conduct, as it is written (Jonah iii. 10), "And God saw their works," and "God repented of the evil," etc. Some say also change of residence has the effect of turning back the decree of Heaven (Gen. xii. 1), "And the Lord said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country;" and then it is said, "I will make of thee a great nation."
Rosh Hashanah, fol. 16, col. 2.
Four things cause an eclipse of the sun:—When a chief magistrate dies and is not mourned over with the due lamentation; when a betrothed damsel calls for help and no one comes to the rescue; when the people commit the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah; and when brother murders brother.
Succah, fol. 29, col. 1.
Four things cause an eclipse among the luminaries of heaven: The writing of false documents; the bearing false witness; the breeding of small cattle, such as sheep and goats, in the land of Israel; and the cutting down of fruit-trees.
Ibid., fol. 29, col. 1.
There are four things God repents of having created:—The Captivity, the Chaldeans, the Ishmaelites, and the evil passion in man. The Captivity, as it is written (Isa. lii. 5), "What have I here, saith the Lord, that my people are taken away for nought?" etc. The Chaldeans, as it is written (Isa. xxiii. 13), "Behold the land of the Chaldeans: this people was not." The Ishmaelites, as it is written (Job xii. 6), "The tents of robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure, into whose hand God bringeth abundance." The evil passion, as it is written (Micah iv. 6), "And whom I have caused to be evil."
Succah, fol. 52, col. 2.
There have been four beautiful women in the world:—Sarah, Abigail, Rahab, and Esther.
Meggillah, fol. 15, col. 1.
Tosephoth asks, "Why was not Eve numbered among these beauties, since even Sarah, in comparison with Eve, was an ape compared to a man?" The reply is, "Only those born of woman are here enumerated."
In fol. 13, col. i, of the same treatise from which the above is quoted, we are informed by Ben Azai that Esther was like the myrtle-tree, neither tall nor short statured, but middle-sized. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha states that Esther's complexion was of a yellow or gold color.
One cup of wine is good for a woman, two are disgraceful, three demoralizing, and four brutalizing.
Kethuboth, fol. 65, col. 1.
He who traverses so much as four ells in the land of Israel is sure of everlasting life.
Ibid., fol. III, col. 1.
To walk even four ells without bowing the head is an offense to Heaven; for it is written (Isa. vi. 3), "The whole earth is full of His glory."
Kiddushin, fol. 31, col. 1.
There are four who are accounted as dead:—The pauper, the leper, the blind man, and he who has no male children.
Nedarin, fol. 64, col. 2.
Four things mark the characters of men:—He who says what is mine is mine, and what is thine is thine, is, according to some, a moderate man, but, according to others, a child of Sodom; he who says what is mine is thine, and what is thine is mine, is an ignorant man; he who says what is mine is thine and what is thy own is also thine, is a pious man; he who says mine and thine are both my own, is a wicked man.
Avoth, chap. 5, sec. 16.
There are four kinds of men, according to their degrees of passionateness:—He who is easily provoked and as readily pacified, and who loses more than he gains; he whom it is difficult to rouse and as difficult to appease, and who gains more than he loses; he who is not readily provoked, but easily pacified, who is a pious man; he who is easily provoked and with difficulty appeased, who is a wicked man.
Ibid., chap. 5, sec. 19.
There are four classes of men who give alms, and they are thus distinguished:—He who is willing to give, but unwilling that others should do so, he has an evil eye toward others; he who wishes others to give, but does not do so himself, he has an evil eye toward himself; he who gives, and induces others to give, he is pious; he who gives not, nor wishes others to give he is wicked.
Avoth, chap 5, sec. 19.
There are four marks by which one disciple differs from another:—One learns and does not teach, one teaches and does not learn, one learns and teaches, and one neither learns nor teaches.
Avoth d'Rab. Nathan, chap. 29.
Four things, if kept in view and gravely pondered over, deter from sin:—That a man consider whence he cometh, whither he goeth, who the judge will be, and what the future will bring to pass.
Derech Eretz, chap. 3.
What is the meaning of that which is written (Ps. lxxxvii 2), "The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob?" The answer is, The Lord loveth the gates that are marked with the Halachah more than the synagogues and the schools; and this agrees with what Rabbi Cheeya bar Ami has said, in the name of Ulla, that since the destruction of the Temple nothing else has remained to God in His world but four ells of the Halachah.
Berachoth, fol. 8, col. 1.
Whoso walks even four ells with a proud unbending gait is as though he spurned with his haughty head the feet of the Shechinah; for it is written (Isa. vi. 3), "The whole earth is full of His glory."
Ibid., fol. 43, col. 2.
Four are in duty bound to return thanks to God:—They that have returned from a voyage at sea (Ps. cvii. 23, 24, 31); those who have traveled in the desert (verses 4-8); they who have recovered from a serious illness (verses 17-21); and those that are liberated from prison (verses 10-15).
Berachoth, fol. 54, col. 2.
If one does not walk, say four cubits, before falling asleep after a meal, that which he has eaten, being undigestible, causes foulness of breath.
Shabbath, fol. 41, col. 1.
Four have died in consequence of the seduction of the serpent:—Benjamin, the son of Jacob; Amram, the father of Moses; Jesse, the father of David; and Chileab, the son of David.
Ibid., fol. 55, col. 2.
These four are reckoned to have died on account of original sin, and not solely because of actual transgression, which, says Rashi, they never committed.
The traveler who is overtaken with the approach of Sabbath-eve before he has completed his journey should hand over his purse to a Gentile to carry; and if there be no Gentile at hand, let him stow it away on his ass. As soon as the nearest halting-place is reached, those burdens which may be lifted on the Sabbath should then be removed, and then the cords should be slackened that the rest may slip off of its own accord.
Ibid., fol. 153, col. 1.
Here the Gemara very graciously appends a direction as to the disposal of the purse, in case the traveler should happen to be on foot and have no Gentile attendant. He may take care of it himself, provided he halt at every other step and deposit it on the ground, for at least a distance of four cubits.
A master is bound to rehearse a lesson to his pupil four times.
Eiruvin, fol. 54, col. 2.
Alas for the power which prepares a grave for its possessor, for there is not a prophet who hath not in his lifetime witnessed the decadence of four kings; as it is said (Isa. i. 1), "The vision of Isaiah … in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah" (see also Hosea i. 1).
P'sachim, fol. 87, col. 2.
Once Rav Pappa and Rav Hunnah partook together of a common meal, and as the latter ate only one morsel the former ate four. After this, when Rav Hunnah and Ravina ate together, the latter devoured eight portions to the other's one, upon which Rav Hunnah jocularly remarked, "A hundred (Rav) Pappas to one Ravina."
P'sachim, fol. 89, col. 2.
No food may be eaten on Passover-eve from the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice (in order, i.e. that abstinence may whet the appetite for the Matsoth). Even the poorest in Israel may not break his fast till the hour of reclining; nor is he to partake of less than four glasses of wine, even though he has been reduced so low as to subsist on the porridge doled out by public charity.
Ibid., fol. 99, col. 2.
There are four things the doing of which by man brings judgment upon his own head:—If he turn in between a wall and a date-palm; if he turn in between two date-palms; if he drink borrowed water; and if he step across spilt water, such even as his own wife may have thrown away. (All these doings, says Rashi, are bound to annoy the evil genii.)
Ibid., fol. 111, col. 1.
Four precepts did our holy Rabbi (Yehudah Hakadosh) urge upon his children:—Not to choose Shechentzia as a dwelling-place, for scoffers resided there; not to use the bed of a Syrian odalisque; not to shirk the payment of fiscal dues, lest the collector should confiscate all their property; not to face an ox when he came up (ruffled) from the cane-brake, for Satan sported betwixt his horns.
P'sachim, fol. 112, col. 2.
Whosoever prieth into the four things in the matter of the chariot in Ezekiel's vision—what is above, what is beneath, what is before, or what is behind—it were better for him if he had never been born.
Chaggigah, fol. 11, col. 2.
The work or matter of the chariot, the Rabbinic term for the Vision of Ezekiel, ranks among the Arcana Judaica, which are not to be told save to the initiated.
Four men entered Paradise—these are their names:—Ben Azai, Ben Zoma, Acher, and Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva thus warned his companions: "When you come across pavements of pellucid marble, do not cry out 'Water! water!' for it is said (Ps. ci. 7), 'He that uttereth falsehood shall not dwell in my sight.'" Ben Azai looked and died; concerning him the Scripture says (Ps. cxvi. 15), "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." Ben Zoma looked and went out of his mind; of him the Scripture says (Prov. xxv. 16), "Hast thou found honey? eat only so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith and vomit it." Acher cut the plants. Only Akiva departed in peace.
Chaggigah, fol. 14, col. 2.
Rashi explains this by saying these men went up to heaven; but Maimonides much more rationally teaches that the Paradise or garden here is merely the retreat of profound philosophic meditation. These five intuitions were;—(1.) To know that there is a God; (2.) to ignore every other beside Him; (3.) to feel His unity; (4.) to love His person; and (5.) to stand in awe of His Majesty (see Vad Hachaz, chap. 4, sec. 19). Deep thought in these matters was spoken of by the Rabbis as promenading in the garden.
Four times a year is the world subject to an ordeal of judgment:—At Passover, which is decisive of the fruits of the field; at Pentecost, which is decisive of the fruits of the garden; at the feast of Tabernacles, which is decisive in respect of rain; on New Year's Day, when all who come into the world pass before the Lord like sheep, as it is said (Ps. xxxiii. 15), "Who formed their hearts together; who understandeth all their works."
Rosh Hashanah, fol. 16, col. 1.
There are four varieties of cedar:—Erez, Karthom, Etz-Shemen, and Berosh.
Ibid., fol. 23, col. 1.
Ben Kamzar would not teach the art of writing, and yet it is related of him that he could, by taking four pens between his fingers, write off a word of four letters at one stroke.
Yoma, fol. 38, col. 2.
There are four kinds of quails:—Sichli, Kibli, Pisyoni, and the common quail. The first was of superior quality, and the last inferior.
Ibid., fol. 75, col. 2.
A man may obtain forgiveness after the third transgression, but if he repeat the offense a fourth time, he is not pardoned again; for it is said (Amos ii. 4), "For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof;" and again (Job xxxiii. 29), "Lo! all these things doth God two or three times" (and so inferentially not four times) "with man to bring back his soul from the pit."
Yoma, fol. 86, col. 2.
For four reasons does their property pass out of the hands of the avaricious:—Because they are backward in paying the wages of their hired servants; because they altogether neglect their welfare; because they shift the yoke from themselves and lay the burden upon their neighbors; and because of pride, which is of itself as bad as all the rest put together; whereas of the meek it is written (Ps. xxxvii. n), "The meek shall inherit the earth."
Succah, fol. 29, col. 2.
"And the Lord showed me four carpenters" (Zech. i, 20). Who are these four carpenters? Rav Ghana bar Bizna says that Rabbi Shimon Chassida said they were Messiah the son of David, Messiah the son of Joseph, Elijah, and the Priest of Righteousness.
Ibid., fol. 52, col. 2.
No Synagogue is to be sold except on condition that there be power of re-purchase. These are the words of Rabbi Meir; but the sages say it may be sold unconditionally, except in these four particular cases: that it be not turned into a bath-house, a tannery, a wash-house, or a laundry.
Meggillah, fol. 27, col. 2.
Rabbi Yochanan ben Zachai was once asked by his disciples how he had attained such length of days. "Never once," he said, "in my life have I acted irreverently within four cubits of a place where prayer is offered; never have I called a person by a wicked name; nor have I ever failed to sanctify the Sabbath over a cup of wine. Once my aged mother sold her head-dress to buy the consecration wine for me."
Ibid., fol. 27, col. 2.
When a sage is approaching, one should rise up before he gets within four ells' distance, and remain standing until he has gone as far past. When a chief magistrate is about to pass, one must rise as soon as he comes in sight, and not resume the seat until he has passed four ells. When a prince passes, one must stand up whenever he appears, and not sit down again until the prince himself is seated; for it is said (Exod. xxxiii, 8), "All the people rose up, … and looked after Moses until he was gone into the tabernacle."
Kiddushin, fol. 33, col. 2.
When Nero came to the Holy Land, he tried his fortune by belemnomancy thus:—He shot an arrow eastward, and it fell upon Jerusalem; he discharged his shafts towards the four points of the compass, and every time they fell upon Jerusalem. After this he met a Jewish boy, and said unto him, "Repeat to me the text thou hast learned to-day." The boy repeated, "I will lay my vengeance upon Edom (i.e., Rome) by the hand of my people Israel" (Ezek. xxv. 14). Then said Nero, "The Holy One—blessed be He!—has determined to destroy His Temple and then avenge Himself on the agent by whom its ruin is wrought." Thereupon Nero fled and became a Jewish proselyte, and Rabbi Meir is of his race.
Gittin, fol. 56, col. 1.
They whose banquet is accompanied with four kinds of instruments of music bring five calamities on the world; as it is said (Isa. v. 11-15), "Woe unto those that get up early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink; and continue until late at night, till flushed with wine. And the harp and psaltery, tambourine and flute, and wine are at their carousals."
Soteh, fol. 48, col. 1.
Let him carry the purse, and halt every time he accomplishes less than four cubits forward.
Shabbath, fol. 153, cols, 1, 2.
Rav Yitzchak here explains how the good Jew, belated on Sabbath-eve, may carry his purse himself, and so save his conscience. The traveler is to halt at about every other step, and so measure off the journey in four-cubit stages.
Though ever since the destruction of the Temple the Sanhedrin has ceased to exist, the four kinds of capital punishment have not failed to assert themselves. If a man incurs the penalty of death by stoning, he is in the course of Providence either punished by a fatal fall from a roof or slain by some beast of prey; if he has exposed himself to the penalty of death by burning, it happens that he is either burned to death in the end or mortally stung by a serpent; if the penalty of the law is that he should be beheaded for his offense, he meets his death either from the Government officer or by the hand of an assassin; if the penalty be strangulation, he is sure to be drowned or suffocated.
Sanhedrin, fol. 37, col. 2.
When a person is in a state of apprehension and cannot make out the cause of it (the star that presided at his birth and his genii know all about it), what should he do? Let him jump from where he is standing four cubits, or else let him repeat, "Hear, O Israel," etc. (Deut. vi. 4); or if the place be unfit for the repetition of Scripture, let him mutter to himself, "The goat at the butcher's is fatter than me."
Ibid., fol. 94, col. 1.
It is written in 2 Chron. xxxiii. 7, "A carved image;" and again it is written in verse 19, "Graven images." Rabbi Yochanan said, "At first he made the image with one face, but afterwards he made it with four—four, so that the Shechinah might see it from every point, and thus be exasperated."
Ibid., fol. 103, col. 2.
Moses uttered four judgments upon Israel, but four prophets revoked them:—(1.) First Moses said (Deut. xxxiii. 28), "Israel then shall dwell in safety alone;" then came Amos and set it aside (Amos vii. 5), "Cease, I beseech thee," etc.; and then it is written (verse 6), "This shall not be, saith the Lord." (2.) First Moses said (Deut. xxviii. 65), "Among these nations thou shalt find no ease;" then came Jeremiah and set this saying aside (Jer. xxxi. 2), "Even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest." (3.) First Moses said (Exod. xxxiv. 7), "Visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children;" then came Ezekiel and set this aside (Ezek. xviii. 4), "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." (4.) First Moses said (Lev. xxvi. 38), "And ye shall perish among the heathen;" then came Isaiah and reversed this (Isa. xxvii. 13), "And it shall come to pass in that day that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish."
Maccoth, fol. 24, col. 1.
When Akavyah ben Mahalalel appeared to four halachahs contradicting the judgment of the wise on a certain important point of law, "Retract," they said, "and we will promote thee to be president of the tribunal." To which he replied, "I would rather be called a fool all the days of my life than be judged wicked for one hour before Him who is omnipresent."
Edioth, chap. 5, mish. 6.
Let thy house be open wide toward the south, the east, the west, and the north, just as Job, who made four entrances to his house, in order that the poor might find entrance without trouble from whatever quarter they might come.
Avoth d'Rav. Nathan, chap. 7,
Rabbah once saw a sea-monster on the day it was brought forth, and it was as large as Mount Tabor. And how large is Mount Tabor? Its neck was three miles long, and where it laid its head a mile and a half. Its dung choked up the Jordan, till, as Rashi says, its waters washed it away.
Bava Bathra, fol. 73, col. 2.
Shemuel said, "We know remedies for all maladies except three:—That induced by unripe dates on an empty stomach; that induced by wearing a damp linen rope round one's loins; and that induced by falling asleep after meals without having first walked a distance of at least four cubits."
Bava Metzia, fol. 113, col. 2.
The five times repeated "Bless the Lord, O my soul" (Ps. ciii. civ.), were said by David with reference both to God and the soul. As God fills the whole world, so does the soul fill the whole body; as God sees and is not seen, so the soul sees and is not seen; as God nourishes the whole world, so does the soul nourish the whole body; as God is pure, so also is the soul pure; as God dwelleth in secret, so does the soul dwell in secret. Therefore let him who possesses these five properties praise Him to whom these five attributes belong.
Berachoth, fol. 10, col. 1.
Five things have in them a sixtieth part of five other things:—Fire, honey, the Sabbath, sleep, and dreams. Fire is a sixtieth of hell, honey a sixtieth of manna, the Sabbath a sixtieth of the rest in the world to come, sleep the sixtieth of death, and a dream the sixtieth of prophecy.
Berachoth, fol. 57, col. 2.
There are five weak things that are a source of terror to the strong:—The mosquito is a terror to the lion, the gnat is a terror to the elephant, the ichneumon-fly is a terror to the scorpion, the flycatcher is a terror to the eagle, and the stickleback is a terror to the leviathan.
Shabbath, fol. 77, col. 2.
These five should be killed even on the Sabbath:—The fly of Egypt, the wasp of Nineveh, the scorpion of Hadabia, the serpent of the land of Israel, and the mad dog anywhere and everywhere.
Ibid., fol. 121, col. 2.
Five things did Canaan teach his children:—To love one another, to perpetrate robbery, to practice wantonness, to hate their masters, and not to speak the truth.
P'sachim, fol. 113, col. 2.
Five things were in the first Temple which were not in the second:—The ark and its cover, with the cherubim; the fire; the Shechinah; the Holy Spirit; and the Urim and Thummim.
Yoma, fol. 21, col. 2.
Five things are said respecting the mad dog:—Its mouth gapes wide, it drops its saliva, its ears hang down, its tail is curled between its legs, and it slinks along the side of the road. Rav says that a dog's madness is caused by witches sporting with it. Samuel says it is because an evil spirit rests upon it.
Ibid., fol. 83, col. 2.
When a man has betrothed one of five women, and does not remember which of the five it is, while each of them claims the right of betrothment, then he is duty bound to give to each a bill of divorcement, and to distribute the dowry due to one among them all. This decision is according to Rabbi Tarphon, but Rabbi Akiva holds that he must not only divorce each, but give to each the legal dowry, otherwise he fails in his duty.
Yevamoth, fol. 118, col. 2.
When a person having robbed one of five does not remember which of the five it was he had robbed, and each claims to have been the victim of the robbery, then he is to part the stolen property (or the value of it) among them all, and go his way. So says Rabbi Tarphon, but Rabbi Akiva argues that the defaulter does not in this way fully exonerate himself; he must restore to each and all the full value of the plunder.
Yevamoth, fol. 118, col. 2.
These things are said concerning garlic:—It nourishes, it glows inwardly, it brightens the complexion, and increases virility. Some say that it is a philtre for love, and that it exterminates jealousy.
Bava Kama, fol. 82, col. 1.
Five things cause forgetfulness:—Partaking of what has been gnawed by a mouse or a cat, eating bullock's heart, habitual use of olives, drinking water that has been washed in, and placing the feet one upon the other while bathing.
Horayoth, fol. 13, col. 2.
Five things restore the memory again:—Bread baked upon coals, soft-boiled eggs without salt, habitual use of olive oil, mulled wine, and plenty of salt.
He who does not cheer the bridegroom whose wedding breakfast he has enjoyed transgresses against the five voices (mentioned in Jer. xxxiii. II):—"The voice of joy, the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say 'Praise ye the Lord of Hosts.'"
Berachoth, fol. 6, col. 2.
Mount Sinai had five names:—(1.) Wilderness of Zin, because on it the Israelites were commanded to observe the law; (2.) Wilderness of Kadesh, because on it the Israelites were consecrated to receive the law; (3.) Wilderness of Kedemoth, because precedence was there given to Israel over all other nations; (4.) Wilderness of Paran, because there the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied; (5.) Wilderness of Sinai, because from it enmity came to be cherished to the Gentiles. It was denominated Horeb according to Rabbi Abhu, because from it came down destruction to the Gentiles.
Shabbath, fol. 89, cols, 1, 2.
Mar (the master) has said, "From dawn to the appearance of the sun is five miles." How is this proved? It is written (Gen. xix. 15), "When the dawn arose the angels hurried Lot;" and it is added (verse 25), "The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar." And Rabbi Chanena said, "I myself have seen that place, and the distance is five miles."
P'sachim, fol. 93, col. 2.
He that cooks in milk the ischiadic sinew on an annual festival is to be scourged five times forty stripes save one:—For cooking the sinew, for eating the sinew, for cooking flesh in milk, for eating flesh cooked in milk, and for lighting the fire.
Baitza, fol. 12, col. 1.
To this very day this sinew is extracted from the hind quarters of all animals before it is allowable for a Jew to eat them. This operation, in popular parlance, is termed porging.
The mysteries of the law are not to be communicated except to those who possess the faculties of these five in combination:—"The captain of fifty, and the honorable man, and the counselor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator" (see Isa. iii. 3).
Chaggigah, fol. 13, col. 1.
"Captain of fifty." This should be read, not captain of fifty, but captain of five, that is, such as knew how to manage the five-fifths of the law (or Pentateuch).
Ibid., fol. 14, col. 1.
Five characteristics were ascribed to the fire upon the altar:—It crouched there like a lion, it shone as the sun, it was perceptible to the touch, it consumed liquids as though they were dry materials, it caused no smoke.
Yoma, fol. 21, col. 2.
How is it that the word signifying "And I will be glorified," occurs in Hag. i. 8 without the letter which is the symbol for five, though it is sounded as if that letter was there? It indicates the absence of five things from the second Temple which were to be found in the first, (1.) The ark, i.e., the mercy-seat of the cherubim; (2.) the fire from heaven upon the altar; (3.) the visible presence; (4.) the Holy Spirit (of prophecy, says Rashi); and (5.) the Urim and Thummim.
How then, it may be asked, if these five tokens of the Divine presence and favor which rendered the first Temple so glorious were wanting in the second could it be said (Hag. ii. 9), "The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former"? It is a question which it is natural to ask, and it should be ingenuously answered. Is it that these were tending to usurp the place of the spiritual, of which they were but the assurance and the symbol, and darken rather than reveal the eternal reality they adumbrated?
The Israelites relished any flavor they fancied in the manna except the flavor of these five things (mentioned in Num. xi. 59):—"Cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic."
Yoma, fol. 75, col. 1.
Five things happened to our forefathers on the 17th of Tammuz, and five on the 9th of Ab. On the 17th of Tammuz (1.) the tables of the covenant were broken; (2.) the daily sacrifice was done away with; (3.) the city walls were cleft asunder; (4.) Apostumes burned the roll of the law; (5.) and set up an idol in the temple. On the 9th of Ab (1.) the decree was uttered that our ancestors should not enter the land of Canaan; both the (2.) first and the (3.) second Temple were destroyed; (4.) Byther was subjugated and (5.) the city was plowed up.
Taanith, fol. 26, cols, 1, 2.
The Rabbis have taught where it is we learn that if one has five sons by five wives he is bound to redeem each and all of them. It is from what is taught in Exod. xxxiv. 20, where it is said, "All the first born of thy sons shalt thou redeem."
Kiddushin. fol. 29. col. 2.
If Israel had not sinned they would have had no other Scriptures than the five-fifths of the law (that is, the Pentateuch) and the book of Joshua, which last is indispensable, because therein is recorded how the land was distributed among the sons of Israel; but the remainder was added, "Because in much wisdom is much grief" (Eccles. i. 18).
Nedarim, fol. 22, col. 2.
"If a man steal an ox or a sheep and kill it or sell it, five oxen shall be given in restitution for one ox, and four sheep for one sheep" (Exod. xxii. 1). From this observe the value put upon work. For the loss of an ox, because it involves the loss of labor, the owner is recompensed with five oxen; but for the loss of a sheep, which does no work, he is only recompensed with four.
Bava Kama, fol. 79, col. 2.
"And Esau came from the field, and he was faint" (Gen. xxv. 29). Rabbi Yochanan said that wicked man committed on that day five transgressions:—He committed rape, committed murder, denied the being of God, denied the resurrection from the dead, and despised the birthright.
Bava Bathra, fol. 16, col. 2.
There are five celebrated idolatrous temples, and these are the names of them:—The Temple of Bel in Babylon, the Temple of Nebo in Chursi, the Temple of Thretha in Maphog, the Temple of Zeripha in Askelon, and the Temple of Nashra in Arabia. When Rabbi Dimmi came from Palestine to Babylon he said there were others, viz, the Temple of Yarid in Ainbechi, and that of Nadbacha in Accho.
Avodah Zarah, fol. 11, col. 2.
"And they also transgressed my covenant, which I have commanded them; and they also have taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and have also put it among their own stuff" (Josh. vii. 11). Rav Illaa says, in the name of Rav Yehudah ben Mispartha, the fivefold repetition of the particle also shows that Achan had trespassed against all the five books of Moses. The same Rabbi further adds that Achan had obliterated the sign of the covenant, for it is said in relation to him, "And they have also transgressed my covenant;" and with reference to circumcision, "He hath broken my covenant."
Sanhedrin, fol. 44, col. 1.
He who eats an ant is flogged five times with forty stripes save one.
Maccoth, fol. 16, col. 2.
Rabbi Akiva used to say there are five judgments on record each of twelve months' duration:—That of the deluge, that of Job, that of the Egyptians, that of Gog and Magog, and that of the wicked in hell. This last is said of those whose demerits outweigh their virtues, or those who have sinned against their bodies.
Edioth, chap. 2, mish. 10.
Five possessions hath the Holy One—blessed be He!—purchased for Himself in this world:—(1.) The law is one possession (Prov. viii. 22); (2.) Heaven and earth is one possession (Isa. lxvi. 1, Ps. civ. 24); (3.) Abraham is one possession (Gen. xiv. 9); (4.) Israel is one possession (Exod. xv. 16); (5.) the Temple is one possession, as it is said (Exod. xv. 17), "The sanctuary, O Lord, Thy hands have established." And it is also said (Ps. lxxviii. 54), "And He brought them to the border of His sanctuary, even to this mountain, which His right hand had purchased."
Avoth, chap. 6.
Rabbi Akiva says he who marries a woman not suited to him violates five precepts:—(1.) Thou shalt not avenge; (2.) thou shalt not bear a grudge; (3.) thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart; (4.) thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself; (5.) and that thy brother may live with thee. For if he hates her he wishes she were dead, and thus he diminishes the population.
Avoth d'Rab. Nathan, chap. 26.
Five have no forgiveness of sins:—(1.) He who keeps on sinning and repenting alternately; (2.) he who sins in a sinless age; (3.) he who sins on purpose to repent; (4.) he who causes the name of God to be blasphemed. The fifth is not given in the Talmud.
Ibid., chap. 39.
He who has no fringes to his garment transgresses five positive commands (see Num. xv. 38. etc.; Deut. xxii. 12).
Menachoth, fol. 44, col. 1.
A learner who, after five years, sees no profit in studying, will never see it. Rabbi Yossi says, after three years, as it is written (Dan. i. 4, 5), "That they should be taught the literature and the language of the Chaldeans," so educating them in three years.
Chullin, fol. 24, col. 1.
Any one who doeth any of these things sinneth against himself, and his blood is upon his own head:—He that (1.) eats garlic, onions, or eggs which were peeled the night before; (2.) or drinks water drawn over night; (3.) or sleeps all night in a burying-place; (4.) or pares his nails and throws the cuttings into the public street.
Niddah, fol. 17, col. 1.
Rabbi Yossi said:—"Never once in all my life have the walls of my house seen the hem of my shirt; and I have planted five cedars (sons are figuratively so termed, see Ps. xcii. 12) in Israel—namely, Rabbis Ishmael, Eliezar, Chalafta, Artilas, and Menachem. Never once in my life have I spoken of my wife by any other name than house, and of my ox by any other name than field."
Shabbath, fol. 118, col. 2.
Six things are a disgrace to a disciple of the wise:—To walk abroad perfumed, to walk alone by night, to wear old clouted shoes, to talk with a woman in the street, to sit at table with illiterate men, and to be late at the synagogue. Some add to these, walking with a proud step or a haughty gait.
Berachoth, fol. 43, col. 2.
A soft-boiled egg is better than six ounces of fine flour.
Ibid., fol. 44, col. 2.
Six things are a certain cure for sickness:—Cabbage, beetroot, water distilled from dry moss, honey, the maw and the matrix of an animal, and the edge of the liver.
These six things are good symptoms in an invalid:—Sneezing, perspiration, evacuation, seminal emission, sleep, and dreaming.
Ibid., fol. 57, col. 2.
Six things bear interest in this world and the capital remaineth in the world to come:—Hospitality to strangers, visiting the sick, meditation in prayer, early attendance at the school of instruction, the training of sons to the study of the law, and judging charitably of one's neighbors.
Shabbath, fol. 127, col. 1.
There are six sorts of tears, three good and three bad:—Those caused by smoke, or grief, or constipation are bad; and those caused by fragrant spices, laughter, and aromatic herbs are good.
Ibid., fol. 151, col. 2; fol. 152, col. 1.
Six things are said respecting the illiterate:—No testimony is to be borne to them, none is to be accepted from them; no secret is to be disclosed to them; they are not to be appointed guardians over orphans, nor keepers of the charity-box, and there should be no fellowship with them when on a journey. Some say also no public notice is to be given of their lost property.
P'sachim, fol. 49, col. 2.
The expression here rendered "illiterate" means literally "people of the land," and was, there is reason to believe, originally applied to the primitive inhabitants of Canaan, traces of whom may still be found among the fellahin of Syria. They appear, like the aboriginal races in many countries of Christendom in relation to Christianity, to have remained generation after generation obdurately inaccessible to Jewish ideas, and so to have given name to the ignorant and untaught generally. This circumstance may account for the harshness of some of the quotations which are appended in reference to them.
He who aspires to be a fellow of the learned must not sell fruit, either green or dry, to an illiterate man, nor may he buy fresh fruit of him. He must not be the guest of an ignorant man, nor receive such an one as his guest.
Demai, chap. 2, mish. 2.
Our Rabbis teach, Let a man sell all that he has and marry the daughter of a learned man. If he cannot find the daughter of a learned man, let him marry the daughter of one of the great men of his day. If he does not find such a one, let him marry the daughter of one of the heads of the congregation, or, failing this, the daughter of a charity collector, or even the daughter of a schoolmaster; but let him not marry the daughter of an illiterate man, for the unlearned are an abomination, as also their wives and their daughters.
P'sachim, fol. 49, col. 2.
It is said that Rabbi (the Holy) teaches that it is illegal for an unlearned man to eat animal food, for it is said (Lev. xi. 46), "This is the law of the beast and the fowl;" therefore he who studies the law may eat animal food, but he who does not study the law may not. Rabbi Eliezar said, "It is lawful to split open the nostrils of an unlearned man, even on the Day of Atonement which happens to fall on a Sabbath." To which his disciples responded, "Rabbi, say rather to slaughter him." He replied, "Nay, that would require the repetition of the usual benediction; but in tearing open his nostrils no benedictory formula is needed." Rabbi Eliezar has also said, "It is unlawful to travel with such a one, for it is said (Deut. xxx. 30), 'For it is thy life and the length of thy days.' The unlearned does not ensure his own life (since he has no desire to study the law, which would prolong life), how much less then will he regard the life of his neighbor?" Rabbi Samuel, son of Nachman, says on behalf of Rabbi Yochanan, that it is lawful to split open an unlearned man like a fish. "Aye," adds Rabbi Samuel, "and that from his back."
P'sachim, fol. 49, col. 2.
Rav Yehudah says it is good to eat the pulp of a pumpkin with beetroot as a remedy, also the essence of hemp seed in Babylonian broth; but it is not lawful to mention this in the presence of an illiterate man, because he might derive a benefit from the knowledge not meant for him.
Nedarim, fol. 49, col. 1.
No contribution or heave-offering should be given to an ignorant priest.
Sanhedrin, fol. 90, col. 2.
No boor can be pious, nor an ignorant man a saint.
Avoth, chap. 2, mish. 6.
Sleep in the morning, wine at mid-day, the idle talk of inexperienced youth, and attending the conventicles of the ignorant drive a man out of the world.
Ibid., chap. 3, mish. 16.
Rabbi Jonathan says, "Where do we learn that no present is to be made to an ignorant priest?" In 2 Chron. xxxi. 4, for there it is said Hezekiah "commanded that all the people that dwelt in Jerusalem should give a portion to the priests and to the Levites, that they might be strong in the law of the Lord." He who firmly lays hold of the law has a claim to a portion, otherwise he has none.
Chullin, fol. 130, col. 2.
The aged, if ignorant, grow weaker in intellect the older they become in years, for it is written (Job xii. 20), "He removeth away the speech of the trusty, and taketh away the understanding of the aged." But it is not so with them that are old in the study of the law, for the older they grow the more thoughtful they become, and the wiser, as it is said (Job xii. 12), "With the ancient is wisdom, and in length of days understanding."
Kinnin, chap. 3.
The salutation of the ignorant should be responded to quietly, and with a reluctant nod of the head.
Taanith, fol. 14, col. 2.
No calamities ever befall the world except such as are brought on by the ignorant.
Bava Bathra, fol. 8, col. 1.
Rav Hunna's widow once appeared before Rav Nachman as plaintiff in a lawsuit. "What shall I do?" he said. "If I rise before her (to honor her as the widow of a Rabbi), the defendant, who is an amhaaretz, will feel uneasy; and if I don't rise I shall break the rule which ordains that the wife of an associate is to be treated as an associate." So he said to his servant, "Loose a young goose over my head, then I'll get up."
Rav bar Sheravyah had a lawsuit with an amhaaretz before Rav Pappa, who bade him be seated, and also asked the other to sit down. When the officer of the court raised the amhaaretz with a kick, the magistrate did not request him to be seated again.
Shevuoth, fol. 30, col. 2.
Six things are said respecting demons. In three particulars they are like angels, and in three they resemble men. They have wings like angels; like angels they fly from one end of the world to the other, and they know the future, as angels do, with this difference, that they learn by listening behind the veil what angels have revealed to them within. In three respects they resemble men. They eat and drink like men, they beget and increase like men, and like men they die.
Chaggigah, fol. 16, col. 1.
The Talmud is particularly rich in demonology, and many are the forms which the evil principle assumes in its pages. We have no wish to drag these shapes to the light, and interrogate them as to the part they play in this intricate life. Enough now if we mention the circumstance of their existence, and introduce to the reader the story of Ashmedai, the king of the demons. The story is worth relating, both for its own sake and its historical significance.
In Ecclesiastes ii. 8, we read, "I gat me men singers and women singers, the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts." These last seven words represent only two in the original Hebrew, Shiddah-veshiddoth. These two words in the original Hebrew translated by the last seven in this verse, have been a source of great perplexity to the critics, and their exact meaning is matter of debate to this hour. They in the West say they mean severally carriages for lords and carriages for ladies, while we, says the Babylonish Talmud, interpret them to signify male demons and female demons. Whereupon, if this last is the correct rendering, the question arises, for what purpose Solomon required them? The answer is to be found in 1 Kings vi. 7, where it is written, "And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither," etc. For before the operation commenced Solomon asked the Rabbis, "How shall I accomplish this without using tools of iron?" and they remembering of an insect which had existed since the creation of the world, whose powers were such as the hardest substances could not resist, replied, "There is the Shameer, with which Moses cut the precious stones of the Ephod." Solomon asked, "And where, pray, is the Shameer to be found?" To which they made answer, "Let a male demon and a female come, and do thou coerce them both; mayhap they know and will reveal it to thee." He then conjured into his presence a male and a female demon, and proceeded to torture them, but in vain, for said they, "We know not its whereabouts and cannot tell; perhaps Ashmedai, the king of the demons, knows." On being further interrogated as to where he in turn might be found, they made this answer: "In yonder mount is his residence; there he has dug a pit, and, after filling it with water, covered it over with a stone, and sealed with his own seal. Daily he ascends to heaven and studies in the school of wisdom there, then he comes down and studies in the school of wisdom here; upon which he goes and examines the seal, then opens the pit, and after quenching his thirst, covers it up again, re-seals it, and takes his departure."
Solomon thereupon sent Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, provided with a magic chain and ring, upon both of which the name of God was engraved. He also provided him with a fleece of wool and sundry skins with wine. Then Benaiah went and sank a pit below that of Ashmedai, into which he drained off the water and plugged the duct between with the fleece. Then he set to and dug another hole higher up with a channel leading into the emptied pit of Ashmedia, by means of which the pit was filled with the wine he had brought. After leveling the ground so as not to rouse suspicion, he withdrew to a tree close by, so as to watch the result and wait his opportunity. After a while Ashmedai came, and examined the seal, when, seeing it all right, he raised the stone, and to his surprise found wine in the pit. For a time he stood muttering and saying, it is written, "Wine is a mocker: strong drink is raging, and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise." And again, "Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart." Therefore at first he was unwilling to drink, but being thirsty, he could not long resist the temptation. He proceeded to drink therefore, when, becoming intoxicated, he lay down to sleep. Then Benaiah, came forth from his ambush, and stealthily approaching, fastened the chain round the sleeper's neck. Ashmedai, when he awoke, began to fret and fume, and would have torn off the chain that bound him, had not Benaiah warned him, saying, "The name of thy Lord is upon thee." Having thus secured him, Benaiah proceeded to lead him away to his sovereign master. As they journeyed along they came to a palm-tree, against which Ashmedai rubbed himself, until he uprooted it and threw it down. When they drew near to a hut, the poor widow who inhabited it came out and entreated him not to rub himself against it, upon which, as he suddenly bent himself back, he snapt a bone of his body, and said, "This is that which is written (Prov. xxv. 15), 'And a gentle answer breaketh the bone.'" Descrying a blind man straying out of his way, he hailed him and directed him aright. He even did the same service to a man overcome with wine, who was in a similar predicament. At sight of a wedding party that passed rejoicing along, he wept; but he burst into uncontrollable laughter when he heard a man order at a shoemaker's stall a pair of shoes that would last seven years; and when he saw a magician at his work he broke forth into shrieks of scorn.
On arriving at the royal city, three days were allowed to pass before he was introduced to Solomon. On the first day he said. "Why does the king not invite me into his presence?" "He has drunk too much," was the answer, "and the wine has overpowered him." Upon which he lifted a brick and placed it upon the top of another. When this was communicated to Solomon, he replied "He meant by this, go and make him drunk again." On the day following he asked again, "Why does the king not invite me into his presence?" They replied, "He has eaten too much." On this he removed the brick again from the top of the other. When this was reported to the king, he interpreted it to mean, "Stint him in his food."
After the third day, he was introduced to the king; when measuring off four cubits upon the floor with the stick he held in his hand, he said to Solomon, "When thou diest, thou wilt not possess in this world (he referred to the grave) more than four cubits of earth. Meanwhile thou has conquered the world, yet thou wert not satisfied until thou hadst overcome me also." To this the king quietly replied, "I want nothing of thee, but I wish to build the Temple and have need of the Shameer." To which Ashmedai at once answered, "The Shameer is not committed in charge to me, but to the Prince of the Sea, and he intrusts it to no one except to the great wild cock, and that upon an oath that he return it to him again." Whereupon Solomon asked, "And what does the wild cock do with the Shameer?" To which the demon replied, "He takes it to a barren rocky mountain, and by means of it he cleaves the mountain asunder, into the cleft of which, formed into a valley, he drops the seeds of various plants and trees, and thus the place becomes clothed with verdure and fit for habitation." This is the Shameer (Lev. xi. 19), Nagger Tura, which the Targum renders Mountain Splitter.
They therefore searched for the nest of the wild cock, which they found contained a young brood. This they covered with a glass, that the bird might see its young, but not be able to get at them. When accordingly the bird came and found his nest impenetrably glazed over, he went and fetched the Shameer. Just as he was about to apply it to the glass in order to cut it, Solomon's messenger gave a startling shout, and this so agitated the bird that he dropped the Shameer, and Solomon's messenger caught it up and made off with it. The cock thereupon went and strangled himself, because he was unable to keep the oath by which he had bound himself to return the Shameer.
Benaiah asked Ashmedai why, when he saw the blind man straying, he so promptly interfered to guide him? "Because," he replied, "it was proclaimed in heaven that that man was perfectly righteous, and that whosoever did him a good turn would earn a title to a place in the world of the future." "And when thou sawest the man overcome with wine wandering out of his way, why didst thou put him right again?" Ashmedai said, "Because it was made known in heaven that that man was thoroughly bad, and I have done him a good service that he might not lose all, but receive some good in the world that now is." "Well, and why didst thou weep when thou sawest the merry wedding-party pass?" "Because," said he, "the bridegroom was fated to die within thirty days and the bride must needs wait thirteen years for her husband's brother, who is now but an infant" (see Deut. xxv. 5-10). "Why didst thou laugh so when the man ordered a pair of shoes that would last him seven years?" Ashmedai replied, "Because the man himself was not sure of living seven days." "And why," asked Benaiah, "didst thou jeer when thou sawest the conjuror at his tricks?" "Because," said Ashmedai, "the man was at that very time sitting on a princely treasure, and he did not, with all his pretension, know that it was under him."
Having once acquired a power over Ashmedai, Solomon detained him till the building of the Temple was completed. One day after this, when they were alone, it is related that Solomon, addressing him, asked him, "What, pray, is your superiority over us, if it be true, as it is written (Num. xxiii. 22), 'He has the strength of a unicorn,' and the word 'strength,' as tradition alleges, means 'ministering angels,' and the word 'unicorn' means 'devils'?" Ashmedai replied, "Just take this chain from my neck, and give me thy signet-ring, and I'll soon show thee my superiority." No sooner did Solomon comply with this request, than Ashmedai, snatching him up, swallowed him; then stretching forth his wings—one touching the heaven and the other the earth—he vomited him out again to a distance of four hundred miles. It is with reference to this time that Solomon says (Eccl. i. 3; ii. 10), "What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun? This is my portion of all my labor." What does the word this mean? Upon this point Rav and Samuel are at variance, for the one says it means his staff, the other holds that it means his garment or water-jug; and that with one or other Solomon went about from door to door begging; and wherever he came he said (Eccl. i. 12), "I, the preacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem." When in his wanderings he came to the house of the Sanhedrin, the Rabbis reasoned and said, if he were mad he would not keep repeating the same things over and over again; therefore what does he mean? They therefore inquired of Benaiah, "Does the king ask thee into his presence?" He replied, "No!" They then sent to see whether the king visited the hareem. And the answer to this was, "Yes, he comes." Then the Rabbis sent word back that they should look at his feet, for the devil's feet are like those of a cock. The reply was, "He comes to us in stockings." Upon this information the Rabbis escorted Solomon back to the palace, and restored to him the chain and the ring, on both of which the name of God was engraven. Arrayed with these, Solomon advanced straightway into the presence-chamber. Ashmedai sat at that moment on the throne, but as soon as he saw Solomon enter, he took fright and raising his wings, flew away, shrieking back into invisibility. In spite of this, Solomon continued in great fear of him; and this explains that which is written (Song of Songs, iii. 7, 8), "Behold the bed which is Solomon's; threescore valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel; they all hold swords, being expert in war; every man has his sword upon his thigh, because of fear in the night." (See Gittin, fol. 68, cols, 1, 2.)
Ashmedai is the Asmodeus of the Book of Tobit, iii. 8, vi. 14, etc, The Shameer is mentioned in Jer. xvii. i; Ezek. iii. 9; Zech. vii. 12. The Seventy in the former passage and the Vulgate passim take it for the diamond.
Six things are said respecting the children of men, in three of which they are like angels, and in three they are like animals. They have intelligence like angels, they walk erect like angels, and they converse in the holy tongue like angels. They eat and drink like animals, they generate and multiply like animals, and they relieve nature like animals.
Chaggigah, fol. 16, col. 1.
Six months did the Shechinah hesitate to depart from the midst of Israel in the wilderness, in hopes that they would repent. At last, when they persisted in impenitence, the Shechinah said, "May their bones be blown;" as it is written (Job xi. 20), "The eyes of the wicked shall fail, they shall not escape, and their hopes shall be as the blowing out of the spirit."
Rosh Hashanah, fol. 31, col. 1.
Six names were given to Solomon:—Solomon, Jedidiah, Koheleth, Son of Jakeh, Agur, and Lemuel.
Avoth d'Rab. Nathan, chap. 39.
Six years old was Dinah when she gave birth to Asenath, whom she bore unto Shechem.
Sophrim, chap. 21.
"And the Lord blessed Obed-edom and all his household" (2 Sam. vi. 11). In what did the blessing consist? Rav Yehudah bar Zavidah says it consisted in this, that Hamoth, his wife, and her eight daughters-in-law gave birth each to six children at a time. (This is proved from 1 Chron. xxvi. 5, 8.)
Berachoth, fol. 63, col. 2.
Six things were done by Hezekiah the king, but the sages praised him for three only:—(1.) He dragged the bones of his father Ahaz on a hurdle of ropes, for this they commended him; (2.) he broke to pieces the brazen serpent, for this they commended him; (3.) he hid the Book of Remedies, and for this too they praised him. For three they blamed him:—(1.) He stripped the doors of the Temple and sent the gold thereof to the King of Assyria; (2.) he stopped up the upper aqueduct of Gihon; (3.) he intercalated the month Nisan.
P'sachim, fol. 56, col. 1.
The hiding of the Book of Remedies, harsh and inhuman as it might seem, was dictated by high moral considerations. It seemed right that the transgressor should feel the weight of his sin in the suffering that followed, and that the edge of judgment should not be dulled by a too easy access to anodyne applications. The reason for stopping the aqueduct of Gihon is given in 2 Chron. xxxii. 3, 4. The inhabitants of Jerusalem did the very same thing when the Crusaders besieged the city, A.D. 1099. Rashi tries to explain why this stratagem was not commended; the reason he gives is that Hezekiah ought to have trusted God, who had said (2 Kings xix. 34), "I will defend the city."
Six things are said of the horse:—It is wanton, it delights in the strife of war, it is high-spirited, it despises sleep, it eats much and it voids little. There are some that say it would fain kill its own master.
Ibid., fol. 113, col. 2.
The Rabbis have taught that there are six sorts of fire:—(1.) Fire that eats but drinks not, i.e., common fire; (2.) fire that drinks but does not eat, i.e., a fever; (3.) fire that eats and drinks, i.e., Elijah, as it is written (1 Kings xviii. 38), "And licked up the water that was in the trench;" (4.) fire that burns up moist things as soon as dry, i.e., the fire on the altar; (5.) fire that counteracts other fire, i.e., like that of Gabriel; (6.) fire that consumes fire, for the Master has said (Sanhed., fol. 38, col. 2), "God stretched out His finger among the angels and consumed them," i.e., by His own essential fire.
Yoma, fol. 21, col. 2.
For six months David was afflicted with leprosy; for it is said (Ps. li. 7), "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." At that time the Shechinah departed from him; for it is said (Ps. li. 12), "Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation;" and the Sanhedrin kept aloof from him, for it is said (Ps. cxix. 79), "Let those that fear thee turn unto me." That this ailment lasted six months is proved from 1 Kings ii. 11, where it is said, "And the days that David reigned over Israel were forty years; seven years he reigned in Hebron, and thirty-three years he reigned in Jerusalem;" whereas in 2 Sam. v. 5, it is said, "In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months." The reason why these six months are omitted in Kings is because during that period he was afflicted with leprosy.
Sanhedrin, fol. 107, col. 1.
The tables of stone were six ells long, six broad, and three thick.
Nedarim, fol. 38, col. 8.
It may help the reader to some idea of the strength of Moses if we work out arithmetically the size and probable weight of these stone slabs according to the Talmud. Taking the cubit or ell at its lowest estimate, that is eighteen inches, each slab, being nine feet long, nine feet wide, and four and a half feet thick, would weigh upward of twenty-eight tons, reckoning thirteen cubic feet to the ton,—the right estimate for such stone as is quarried from the Sinaitic cliff. The figures are 9 X 9 X 9/2 = 729/2 = 364.5 X 173.5 = 63240.75 = 28 tons, 4 cwt., 2 qrs., 16 lbs. avoirdupois.
The Rabbis have taught that these six things possess medicinal virtue:—Cabbage, lungwort, beetroot, water, and certain parts of the offal of animals, and some also say little fishes.
Avodah Zarah, fol. 29, col. 1.
Over six the Angel of Death had no dominion, and these were:—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. Respecting the first three it is written, "in all" (Gen. xxiv. 1), "of all" (Gen. xxvii. 33) "all" (A.V. "enough," Gen. xxxiii. 11). Respecting the last three it is written, "by the mouth of Jehovah" (see Num. xxxiii. 38, and Deut. xxxiv. 5).
Bava Bathra, fol. 17, col. i.
According to Jewish tradition, there are 903 kinds of death, as is elicited by a Kabbalistic rule called gematria, from the word outlets (Ps. lxviii. 20); the numeric value of the letters of which word is 903. Of these 903 kinds of death, the divine kiss is the easiest. God puts His favorite children to sleep, the sleep of death, by kissing their souls away. It was thus Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob fell asleep, as may be inferred from the word all; that is to say, they had all the honor God could confer upon them. Moses and Aaron fell asleep by the divine kiss, for it is plainly stated to have been "by the mouth of Jehovah." So also Miriam passed away, only the Scripture does not say lest the scoffer should find fault. We are also informed that quinsy is the hardest death of all. (See Berachoth, fol. 8, col. 1.)
"These six of barley gave he me." What does this mean? It cannot surely be understood of six barleycorns, for it could not be the custom of Boaz to give a present of six grains of barley. It must, therefore, have been six measures. But was it usual for a woman to carry such a load as six measures would come to? What he intended by the number six was to give her a hint that in process of time six sons would proceed from her, each of which would be blessed with six blessings; and these were David, the Messiah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. David, as it is written (1 Sam. xvi. 8), (1.) "Cunning in playing," (2.) "and a mighty and valiant man," (3.) "a man of war," (4.) "prudent in matters," (5.) "a comely person," (6.) and "the Lord is with him." The Messiah, for it is written (Isa. xi. 2), "And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him," viz, (1.) "The spirit of wisdom and (2.) understanding, (3.) the spirit of counsel and (4.) might, (5.) the spirit of knowledge, and (6.) the fear of the Lord." Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, for regarding them it is written (Dan. i. 4), (1.) "Young men in whom was no blemish," (2.) "handsome in looks," (3.) "intelligent in wisdom," (4.) "acquainted with knowledge," (5.) "and understanding science, and such as (6.) had ability to stand in the palace of the king," etc. But what is the meaning of unblemished? Rav Chama ben Chanania says it means that not even the scar of a lancet was upon them.
Sanhedrin, fol. 93, cols, 1, 2.
The words "not even the scar of a lancet was upon them," bespeak the prevalence of blood-letting in the East, and the absence of the scar of the lancet on the persons of Daniel and his companions is a testimony to their health of body and moral temperance and purity.
In Taanith (fol. 21, col. 2) mention is made of a certain phlebotomist—a noteworthy exception to the well-known rule (see Kiddushin, fol. 82, col. 2) that phlebotomists are to be regarded as morally depraved, and in the same class with goldsmiths, perfumers, hairdressers, etc.,—Abba Umna by name, who had a special mantle with slits in the sleeves for females, so that he could surgically operate upon them without seeing their naked arms, while he himself was covered over head and shoulders in a peculiar cloak, so that his own face could not by any chance be seen by them.
From Shabbath, fol. 156, col. 1, we learn that a person born under the influence of Maadim, i.e., Mars, will in one way or another be a shedder of blood, such as a phlebotomist, a butcher, a highwayman, etc., etc.
Six blasts of the horn were blown on Sabbath-eve. The first was to set free the laborers in the fields from their work; those that worked near the city waited for those that worked at a distance and all entered the place together. The second blast was to warn the citizens to suspend their employments and shut up their shops. At the third blast the women were to have ready the various dishes they had prepared for the Sabbath and to light the lamps in honor of the day. Then three more blasts were blown in succession, and the Sabbath commenced.
Shabbath, fol. 35, col. 2.
He who passes seven nights in succession without dreaming deserves to be called wicked.
Berachoth, fol. 14, col. 1.
Gehinnom has seven names:—Sheol (Jonah ii. 2), Avadon (Ps. lxxxviii. 11), Shachath (Ps. xvi. 2), Horrible pit (Ps. xl. 2), Miry clay (Ps. xl. 2), the Shadow of death (Ps. cvii. 14), the Subterranean land.
Eiruvin, fol. 19, col. 1.
A dog in a strange place does not bark for seven years.
Ibid., fol. 61, col. 1.
Seven things were formed before the creation of the world:—The Law, Repentance, Paradise, Gehenna, the Throne of Glory, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah.
P'sachim, fol. 54, col. 1.
The Midrash Yalkut (p. 7) enumerates the same list almost word for word, and the Targum of Ben Uzziel develops the tradition still further, while the Targum Yerushalmi fixes the date of the origin of the seven prehistoric wonders at "two thousand years before the creation of the world."
Seven things are hid from the knowledge of a man:—The day of death, the day of resurrection, the depth of judgment (i.e., the future reward or punishment), what is in the heart of his fellow-man, what his reward will be, when the kingdom of David will be restored, and when the kingdom of Persia will fall.
P'sachim, fol. 54, col. 2.
Seven are excommunicated before heaven:—A Jew who has no wife, and even one who is married but has no male children; and he that has sons but does not train them up to study the law; he who does not wear phylacteries on his forehead and upon his arm and fringes upon his garment, and has no mezuzah on his doorpost; and he who goes barefooted.
Ibid., fol. 113, col. 2.
There are seven skies:—Villon, Raakia, Shechakim, Zevul, Maaon, Maachon, and Aravoth.
Chaggigah, fol. 12, col. 2.
Seven days before the Day of Atonement they removed the high priest from his own residence to the chamber of the President, and appointed another priest as his deputy in case he should meet with such an accident as would incapacitate him from going through the service of the day. Rabbi Yehudah says they also had to betroth him to another woman lest his own wife should die meanwhile, for it is said, "And he shall make an atonement for himself and for his house,"—his house, that is, his wife. In reference to this precautionary rule it was observed, there might then be no end to the matter (Rashi), should this woman die also.
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