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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Mezi'a

Baba Mezi'a 87a

And he pressed upon them greatly?1  — R. Eleazar said: This teaches that one may shew unwillingness to an inferior person,2  but not to a great man.

It is written, And I will fetch a morsel of bread;3  but it is also written, And Abraham ran unto the herd:4  Said R. Eleazar: This teaches that righteous men promise little and perform much; whereas the wicked promise much and do not perform even little. Whence do we know [the latter half]? — From Ephron. At first it is written, The land is worth four hundred shekels of silver;5  but subsequently, And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant;6  indicating that he refused to accept anything but centenaria,7  for there is a place where shekels are called centenaria.8

Scripture writes, [ordinary] meal, and [it is then written], fine meal!9  — Said R. Isaac: This shews that a woman looks with a more grudging eye upon guests than a man.10

It is written, Knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth;11  but it is also written, And he took butter and milk, and the calf;12  yet he brought no bread before them! — Ephraim Maksha'ah,13  a disciple of R. Meir, said in his teacher's name: Our Patriarch Abraham ate hullin14  only when undefiled,15  and that day our mother Sarah had her menstrual period.16

And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, She is in the tent:17  this is to inform us that she was modest.18  Rab Judah said in Rab's name: The Ministering Angels knew that our mother Sarah was in the tent, but why [bring out the fact that she was] in her tent? In order to make her beloved to her husband.19  R. Jose son of R. Hanina said: In order to send her the wine-cup of Benediction.20

It has been taught on the authority of R. Jose: Why are the letters ejw in elajw dotted?21  The Torah thereby taught etiquette, that a man must enquire of his hostess [about his host].22  But did not Samuel say: One must not inquire at all after a woman's well-being?23  — [When enquiry is made] through her husband, it is different [and permitted].

After I have waxed old, I have had youth.24  R. Hisda said: After the flesh is worn and the wrinkles have multiplied, the flesh was rejuvenated, the wrinkles were smoothed out, and beauty returned to its place.

It is written, And my lord is old;25  but it is also written, [And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child,] seeing that I am old?26  the Holy One, blessed be He, not putting the question in her words! — The School of Ishmael taught: Peace is a precious thing, for even the Holy One, blessed be He, made a variation for its sake, as it is written, Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old, shall I have pleasure, my Lord being old also; whereas it is further written, And the Lord said unto Abraham etc…seeing that I am old.27

And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck?28  How many children then did Sarah suckle?29  — R. Levi said: On the day that Abraham weaned his son Isaac, he made a great banquet, and all the peoples of the world derided him, saying, 'Have you seen that old man and woman, who brought a foundling from the street, and now claim him as their son! And what is more, they make a great banquet to establish their claim!' What did our father Abraham do? — He went and invited all the great men of the age, and our mother Sarah invited their wives. Each one brought her child with her, but not the wetnurse, and a miracle happened unto our mother Sarah, her breasts opened like two fountains, and she suckled them all. Yet they still scoffed, saying, 'Granted that Sarah could give birth at the age of ninety, could Abraham beget [child] at the age of a hundred?' Immediately the lineaments of Isaac's visage changed and became like Abraham's, whereupon they all cried out, Abraham begat Isaac.30

Until Abraham there was no old age;31  whoever wished to speak to Abraham would speak to Isaac, and the reverse.32  Thereupon he prayed, and old age came into existence, as it is written, And Abraham was old and well-stricken in age.33  Until Jacob there was no illness:34  then Jacob came and prayed, and illness came into being, as it is written, And one told Joseph, Behold, thy father is sick.35  Until Elisha no sick man ever recovered, but Elijah came and prayed, and he recovered, for it is written, Now Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he died,'36  thus proving that he had been sick on previous occasions too,37  [but had recovered].

Our Rabbis taught: On three occasions did Elisha fall sick: once when he repulsed Gehazi with both hands;38  a second time when he incited bears against children;39  and a third with the sickness whereof he died, as it is written, Now Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he died.36


R. Aha, the son of R. Joseph, said to R. Hisda: Did we learn, 'Bread [made] of pulse,' or 'bread and pulse'? — He replied: In very truth, a waw ['and'] is necessary40  as large as a rudder on the Libruth.41

R. SIMEON B. GAMALIEL SAID: IT WAS UNNECESSARY [TO STIPULATE THUS]: EVERYTHING DEPENDS ON LOCAL CUSTOM. What does EVERYTHING add?42  — It adds that which has been taught: If one engages a labourer, and stipulates, '[I will pay you] as one or two townspeople [are paid],' he must remunerate him with the lowest wage [paid]: this is R. Joshua's view. But the Sages say: An average must be struck.43


To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Ibid. XIX, 3.
  2. In declining his invitation.
  3. Ibid. XVIII, 5.
  4. Ibid. 7 — very much more than he offered.
  5. Ibid. XXIII, 15.
  6. Ibid. 16.
  7. Centenarius = 100 manehs; a maneh = 100 zuz = 25 shekels.
  8. Hence he gave him 400 centenaria, instead of ordinary shekels as he demanded at first: this is deduced from the phrase 'current money with the merchant', implying that it was recognised everywhere as a shekel.
  9. Ibid. XVIII, 6: And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of [H]; the two words being apparently mutually exclusive.
  10. [Thus Abraham had to give her clear and specific instructions to provide fine meal; v. Meklenburg, J.Z. [H] a.l.]
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid. 8.
  13. Probably the disputant. [Or perhaps name of a place; v. Klein, MGWJ, 1920, P. 192.]
  14. V. Glos.
  15. I.e., he treated hullin as consecrated food, which may not he eaten when defiled.
  16. And so defiled the bread she had baked. As she was already old, the phenomenon was an earnest of the rejuvenation which was to make the birth of Isaac possible.
  17. Ibid. 9.
  18. And therefore kept herself secluded.
  19. By impressing him with her modesty.
  20. [The wine-cup over which the Grace after meals is recited and which is partaken by all the guests. V. Ber. 51a.]
  21. And they said unto him, [H], is written [H]; [H] means, 'where is he?'
  22. Thus they asked Sarah, Where is he (sc. Abraham)' just as they asked him about her (Tosaf.). [Rashi interprets: that a man should enquire (of the host) about the hostess. On dotted letters, v. Sanh. (Sonc. ed.) p. 285, n. 3.]
  23. According to Tosaf.'s interpretation of the preceding dictum, this question cannot refer to it, but to the literal meaning of the verse, that they enquired after Sarah.
  24. Ibid. 12.
  25. Ibid. 12.
  26. Ibid. 13.
  27. [I.e., God did not report that part of her statement which referred to Abraham's old age, [H], a.l.]
  28. Ibid. XXI, 7.
  29. Seeing that she had only one.
  30. Ibid. XXV, 19.
  31. I.e., old age did not mark a Person.
  32. Because they looked exactly alike.
  33. Gen. XXIV, 1. He is the first mentioned to have been ill.
  34. One lived his allotted years in full health and then died suddenly.
  35. Ibid. XLVIII, 1; v. preceding note.
  36. II Kings XIII, 14.
  37. Lit., 'with a different sickness'.
  38. V. Sanh. 107b.
  39. V. II Kings II, 23f.
  40. I.e., bread and beans.
  41. Libruth, a river or canal, unidentified. [For various attempts to explain the phrase. v. Perles, J. Beitrage z. rab. Sprach u. Alter., 1893, p. 6.]
  42. V. p. 496, n. 3.
  43. And R. Simeon b. Gamaliel's principle teaches the view of the Sages.
  44. I.e., when it is removed from the soil.
  45. I.e., before it reaches the stage of being liable to tithes or the 'separation of dough'.
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Baba Mezi'a 87b


GEMARA. Whence do we know these things? — It is written, When thou comest into thy neighbour's vineyard, then thou mayest eat.3  We have found [this law to be true of] a vineyard: whence do we know it of all [other] things? We infer [them] from the vineyard: just as the vineyard is peculiar in that it [sc. its products] grow from the earth, and at the completion of its labour4  the labourer may eat thereof; so everything which grows from the soil, the labourer may eat thereof at the completion of its work. [But, might it not be argued:] As for a vineyard, [the worker's privilege may be due to the fact] that it is liable to [the law of] gleanings, [which other cereals are not]? — We, deduce it5  from the standing corn. But how do we know it of standing corn itself? — Because it is written, When thou comest into the kamath [standing corn] of thy neighbour, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand.6  But [may you not argue:] as for standing corn, that is because it is liable to hallah?7  (And how do you know that this kamah means [only] such standing crops as are liable to hallah: perhaps Scripture means all standing crops?8  — That is derived from the use of kamah in two places. Here it is written, When thou comest into the kamath [standing corn of] thy neighbour; whilst elsewhere it is written, from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the kamah [corn]:9  just as there, a kamah which is liable to hallah is meant, so here too.) [Hence, repeating the difficulty] one may refute [the analogy drawn from standing corn]: as for standing corn, that is because it is liable to hallah! — Then let the vineyard prove it. As for a vineyards that is because it is liable to [the law of] gleanings! — Let the standing corn prove it. And thus the argument revolves: the peculiarity of one is not that of the other, and vice versa. The feature common to both is, they grow from the soil, and the worker may [thus] eat of them when their labour is being finished; so also, everything which grows from the soil, when at the completion of its labour, the worker may eat of it. [No, this does not follow, as it might be argued that] their common feature is that both are used in connection with the altar;10  and so olives will be inferred too, since they also are thus used?11  (But are olives inferred through [partaking of] a common feature? They themselves are designated kerem,12  as it is written, And he burnt up both the shocks and the standing corn, and also the olive kerem.13  — R. Papa said: It is designated olive kerem, but not simply kerem.) But still, the difficulty remains!14  — Samuel answered: Scripture saith, and a sickle [thou shalt not move unto thy neighbour's standing corn], which [i.e., the 'and'] extends the law to everything which requires a sickle. But this word 'sickle' is needed [to intimate that] when the sickle [is used] you may eat, but not otherwise!15  — That follows from, but thou shalt not put any in thy vessel.16  Now, this [deduction] is satisfactory in respect of that which requires the sickle, but what of that which does not?17  — But, said R. Isaac, the Writ says, kamah,18  to extend the law to everything which stands upright [from the soil].19  But have you not employed the analogy of kamah, written twice, to shew that it means [only] such standing crops as are liable to hallah?20  — That was only before the word 'sickle' was adduced: now, however, that 'sickle' has been quoted, everything which needs a sickle is embraced, even if not liable to hallah; hence, what is the purpose of kamah? To include everything which stands upright.

But now that we infer [these laws] from 'sickle' and kamah, what is the need of, 'When thou comest into thy neighbour's vineyard'?21  — To teach its [detailed] laws, replied Raba. As it has been taught: When thou comest — 'coming' is mentioned here; and elsewhere too it is said, [Thou shalt not oppress a hired servant … At this day thou shalt give him his hire,] neither shall the sun come down upon it:22  just as there Scripture refers to an employee, so here too. 'Into thy neighbour's vineyard', but not into a heathen's vineyard.23  Now, on the view that the robbery of a heathen is forbidden, it is well: but if it be held permitted — does an employee need [a verse to grant him permission]!24  — He interprets 'into thy neighbour's vineyard', as excluding a vineyard of hekdesh.25

'Then thou mayest eat', but not suck out [the juice]; 'grapes', but not grapes and something else;26  'as thine own person', as the person of the employers, so the person of the employee: just as thou thyself27  mayest eat [thereof] and art exempt [from tithes], so the employee too may eat and is exempt.28  'To thy satisfaction': but not gluttonously; 'but thou shalt not put any in thy vessel': [only] when thou canst put it into thine employer's baskets, thou mayest eat, but not otherwise.29

R. Jannai said: Tebel30  is not liable to tithes

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. In the sense stated in n. 2.
  2. E.g., one who milks cows or makes cheeses may not partake of the milk or cheese.
  3. Deut. XXIII, 25. Further on it is explained that the verse refers to a labourer.
  4. I.e., when the grapes are vintaged.
  5. That the law applies to other products too.
  6. Ibid. 26.
  7. V. Glos.
  8. E.g., crops of beans, which are not liable to hallah.
  9. Ibid. XVI, 9. The reference is to the 'omer of barley brought on the second day of Passover. cf. Lev. XXIII, 10: barley is liable to hallah.
  10. Wine for libations and meal for meal offerings.
  11. Most of the meal offerings were mingled with oil.
  12. The word translated 'vineyard' in Deut. XXIII, 25.
  13. Judg. XV, 5.
  14. That the common feature is that they are employed in connection with the altar.
  15. I.e., when the cereals are ready to be cut off with the sickle.
  16. Deut. XXIII, 25. This shews that the reference is to those which can be put in a vessel. sc. removed from the soil.
  17. E.g., the harvesting of dates. How do we know that the labourer may eat of them?
  18. Lit., 'standing', E.V.: standing corn.
  19. I.e., all crops.
  20. V. supra.
  21. For the vineyard too may be deduced thus.
  22. Ibid. XXIV, 14, 15.
  23. The text has [H], Cuthean, but under the influence of the censorship this word was frequently substituted for Gentile. The deduction is, only in an Israelite's vineyard is the labourer enjoined, but thou shalt not put any in thy vessel, but not in a Gentile's.
  24. The robbery of a heathen, even if permitted, is only so in theory, but in fact it is forbidden as constituting a 'hillul hashem', profanation of the Divine Name. But the consensus of opinion is that it is Biblically forbidden too, i.e., even in theory; v. H.M. 348, 2, and commentaries a.l.; Yad, Genebah, 1, 2; 6, 8; v. however, n. 9.
  25. V. Glos. The labourer is not permitted to pluck and eat grapes from a vineyard belonging to the sanctuary. [The interpretation of the passage follows Rashi, who was driven to adopt it, having regard to the text he had before him. The difficulty of this interpretation is, however, evident. It not only involves a difference in the explanation of the same deduction as applying to a heathen (v. n. 7) and as applying to hekdesh, but it runs counter to the passage in Sanh. (v. Sonc. ed. pp. 388f), which makes it clear that robbery of a heathen was never condoned, hut always regarded as an offence, though it was non-actionable. Moreover, the condemnation of taking usury from a heathen (supra 70b) should be sufficient to dispel all doubt as to the Rabbinic attitude on the matter. A solution to the Problem is supplied by the variant (v. D.S. a.l.): 'Now on the view that the robbery of a heathen is forbidden, it is well; but if it is held to be permitted, what can be said?' The argument would accordingly run as follows: 'If it is held that the robbery of a heathen is forbidden (to be kept) and is then on all fours with that of an Israelite, it is understood that the Law has permitted the employee to pluck and eat the grapes only in an Israelite's vineyard, but not if the vineyard belonged to a heathen; but if the robbery of a heathen is permitted, i.e., to be kept, is it possible that the Law, whilst allowing a delinquent to enjoy the property stolen from a heathen, should forbid the employee to pluck the grapes from the employer's vineyard?']
  26. I.e., the labourer must not make a meal of bread and grapes.
  27. To whom the grapes belong.
  28. Until the grapes have been turned into wine and conducted into the pit, whither the expressed juice runs, their owner may eat of them without tithing. Should he, however, sell them before that, they are immediately subject to tithes, which must be rendered by the purchaser before eating. Now, I might think that since the employee eats them in part remuneration for his labour, they are as bought with his labour, and therefore may not be eaten without tithing. Therefore this word [H] (lit., 'as thy own soul,' 'person') intimates that he is on the same footing in this respect as the owner.
  29. V. supra p. 505, n. 9.
  30. V. Glos.
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