R. Judah b. Bizna lectured: When Moses was lax in the perform ance of circumcision, Af and Hemah6 came and swallowed him up, leaving nought but his legs. Thereupon immediately Zipporah 'took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son';7 straightway he let him alone.8 In that moment Moses desired to slay them, as it is written, Cease from Af and forsake Hemah.9 Some say that he did slay Hemah, as it is written, I have not Hemah.10 But is it not written, for I was afraid of Af and Hemah?11 — There were two [angels named] Hemah. An alternative answer is this: [he slew] the troop commanded by Hemah, [but not Hemah himself].
It was taught: Rabbi sand, Great is circumcision, for none so ardently busied himself with [God's] precepts as our Father Abraham, yet he was called perfect only in virtue of circumcision, as it is written, Walk before me and be thou perfect,12 and it is written, And I will make my covenant between me and thee.13 Another version [of Rabbi's teaching] is this: Great is circumcision, for it counterbalances all the [other] precepts of the Torah, as it is written, For after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.14 Another version is: Great is circumcision, since but for it heaven and earth would not endure, as it is written, [Thus saith the Lord,] But for my covenant by day and night,15 I would not have appointed the ordinances of Heaven and earth.16 Now this [statement]17 conflicts with R. Eleazar's: for R. Eleazar18 said, Great is the Torah, since but for it heaven and earth could not endure, as it is written, But for my covenant by day and night, I would not have appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth.19
Rab Judah sand in Rab's name: When the Holy One, blessed be He, said to our Father Abraham, 'Walk before me and be thou perfect',20 he was seized with trembling. 'Perhaps,' he said, 'there is still aught shameful in me!' But when He added, 'And I will make my covenant between me and thee', his mind was appeased.21
Aid he brought him forth abroad.22 Now Abraham had said unto him, 'Sovereign of the Universe! I have gazed at the constellation which rules my destiny, and seen that I am not fated to beget children.' To which [God] replied: 'Go forth from thy astrological speculations: Israel is not subject to planetary influences.'
R. Isaac said: He who perfects himself, the Holy One, blessed be He, deals uprightly with him, as it is written, With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful, and with the upright thou wilt shew thyself upright.23 R. Hoshaia said: If one perfects himself, good fortune will be his,24 as it is written, Walk before me and be thou perfect;25 and it is further written, And thou shalt be a father of many nations.26
Rabbi33 said: He who practises enchantment will be harassed by witchcraft, as it is written, For against him, of [the seed of] Jacob, there is enchantment.28 But surely it is written with lamed aleph?29 — But he is thus punished as measure for measure.30
Ahabah the son of R. Zera learnt: He who does not practice enchantment is brought within a barrier [i.e., in proximity to God] which not even the Ministering Angeis may enter, as it is written, For there is no enchantment in Jacob, neither is there any divination in Israel: now it shall be asked [by the angels] of Jacob and Israel, What hath God wrought?31
R. Abbahu said in R. Eleazar's name: Why was our Father Abraham punished and his children doomed to Egyptian servitude for two hundred and ten years? Because he pressed scholars into his service, as it is written, He armed his dedicated servants32 born in his own house.33 Samuel34 said: Because he went too far in testing the attributes [i.e., the promises] of the Lord, as it is written, [And he sand, Lord God,] whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?35 R. Johanan sand: Because he prevented men from entering beneath the wings of the Shechinah, as it is written, [And the king of Sodom said it to Abraham,] Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.36
And he armed his trained servants, born in his own house.37 Rab said, he equipped them38 by [teaching them] the Torah.39 Samuel sand, he made them bright with gold [i.e., rewarded them for accompanying him]. Three hundred and eighteen:40 R. Ammi b. Abba sand: Eliezer outweighed them all. Others say, It was Eliezer, for this is the numerical value of his name.41
R. Ammi b. Abba also said: Abraham was three years old when he acknowledged the Creator, for it is written, Because [Heb. 'ekeb] that Abraham obeyed my voice:42 the numerical value of [H] is one hundred seventy two.43 R. Ammi b. Abba also said:
Nedarim 32bThe numerical value of ha-satan [Satan] is three hundred sixty four.1
R. Ammi b. Abba also said: [First] Abram is written, then Abraham:2 at first God gave him mastery over two hundred forty three limbs, and later over two hundred forty eight, the additional ones being the two eyes, two ears, and the membrum.3
R. Ammi b. Abba also said: What is the meaning of, There is a little city. etc.?4 'A little city' refers to the body; and 'a few men within' to the limbs; 'and there came a great king against it and besieged [it]' to the Evil Urge;5 'and built great bulwarks against it', to sin; 'Now there was found in it a poor wise man, to the Good Urge; and he by his wisdom delivered the city, to repentance and good deeds; yet no man remembered that same poor man, for when the Evil Urge gains dominion, none remember the Good Urge.
Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty ones which are in the city.6 'Wisdom strengtheneth the wise' refers to repentance and good deeds; 'more than ten mighty ones,' viz., the two eyes, two ears, two hands, two feet, membrum and mouth.7
R. Zechariah said on R. Ishmael's authority: The Holy One, blessed be He, intended to bring forth the priesthood from Shem, as it is written, And he [sc. Melchizedek] was the priest of the most high God.8 But because he gave precedence in his blessing to Abraham over God, He brought it forth from Abraham; as it is written, And he blessed him and said. Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth, and blessed be the most high God.9 Said Abraham to him, 'Is the blessing of a servant to be given precedence over that of his master?' Straightway it [the priesthood] was given to Abraham, as it is written, The Lord said unto my Lord,10 Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool;11 which is followed by, The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek,'12 meaning, 'because of the words of Melchizedek.'13 Hence it is written, And he was a priest of the most High God, [implying that] he was a priest, but not his seed.14
MISHNAH. THE ONLY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ONE WHO IS UNDER A VOW NOT TO BENEFIT AUGHT FROM HIS NEIGHBOUR, AND ONE WHO IS FORBIDDEN TO EAT OF HIS FOOD, IS IN RESPECT OF WALKING [OVER HIS PROPERTY] AND [THE USE OF] UTENSILS NOT EMPLOYED IN THE PREPARATION OF FOOD.15 IF A MAN IS UNDER A VOW [NOT TO EAT] OF HIS NEIGHBOURS FOOD, THE LATTER MAY NOT LEND HIM A SIFTER, SIEVE, MILL-STONE OR OVEN,16 BUT HE MAY LEND HIM A SHIRT, RING, CLOAK, AND EARRINGS.17
GEMARA. Which Tanna [is the authority of the Mishnah]?18 — R. Adda b. Ahabah said, It is R. Eliezer. For it was taught: R. Eliezer said: Even the extra [given by a vendor to his customer] is forbidden to him who is under a vow not to benefit [by his neighbour].19
IF A MAN IS UNDER A VOW NOT TO [EAT] OF HIS NEIGHROUR'S FOOD, THE LATTER MAY NOT LEND HIM etc.
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