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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Nedarim

Folio 62a

A Tanna taught: If most of the knives have been put away, they [the remaining figs] are permitted [to strangers] as far as theft is concerned, and are exempt from tithes.1

Rabbi and R. Jose son of K. Judah came to a certain place when most of the knives had been folded. Rabbi ate;2  R. Jose son of R. Judah did not. Their owner came and said to them, 'Why do the Rabbis not eat? most of the knives have been folded!' Nevertheless R. Jose son of R. Judah did not eat, believing that the man had spoken [sarcastically] in a grudging spirit.

R. Mama son of R. Hanina came to a place when most of the knives had been folded. He ate; but [when] he offered [some] to his attendant, he would not eat. 'Eat,' said he; 'thus did R. Ishmael son of R. Jose tell me on his father's authority: When most of the knives have been folded, they [the remaining figs] are permitted [to strangers] as far as theft is concerned 'and are exempt from tithes'.

R. Tarfon was found by a man eating [of the figs] when most of the knives had been folded, [whereupon] he threw him into a sack and carried him, to cast him in the river. 'Woe to Tarfon,' he cried out, 'whom this man is about to murder!' When the man heard this,3  he abandoned him and fled. R. Abbahu said on the authority of R. Hananiah b. Gamaliel: All his lifetime that pious man grieved over this, saying. 'Woe is me that I made [profane] use of the crown of the Torah!'4  For Rabbah b. Bar Hanah said in R. Johanan's name: Whoever puts the crown of the Torah to [profane] use, is uprooted from the world.5  This follows a fortiori. If Belshazzar, who used the holy vessels which had become profaned, as it is written, For the robbers shall enter into it, and profane it:6  [teaching], since they had broken in, they were profaned; yet he was uprooted from the world, as it is written, In that night was Belshazzar slain:7  how much more so he who makes [profane] use of the crown of the Torah, which endureth for ever!

Now since R. Tarfon ate when most of the knives were folded, why did that man ill-treat him? — Because someone had been stealing his grapes all the year round, and when he found R. Tarfon, he thought that it was he. If so, why was he grieved [at revealing his identity]?8  — Because R. Tarfon, being very wealthy, should have pacified him with money.9

It was taught: That thou mayest love the Lord thy God and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him:10  [This means] that one should not say, I will read Scripture that I may be called a Sage.' I will study, that I may be called Rabbi, I will study,11  to be an Elder, and sit in the assembly [of elders];12  but learn out of love, and honour will come in the end, as it is written, Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart,'13  and it is also said, Her ways are ways of pleasantness;14  also, She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is everyone that retaineth her.15

R. Eliezer son of R. Zadok said: Do [good] deeds for the sake of their Maker,16  and speak of them17  for their own sake. Make not of them a crown wherewith to magnify thyself, nor a spade to dig with.18  And this follows a fortiori. If Belshazzar, who merely used the holy vessels which had been profaned, was driven from the world; how much more so one who makes use of the crown of the Torah!

Raba said: A man may reveal his identity where he is unknown, as it is said, but I thy servant fear the Lord from my youth.19  But as for the difficulty of R. Tarfon,20  — he was very wealthy, and should have pacified him with money.

Raba opposed [two verses]: It is written, But I thy servant fear the Lord for in my mouth,' whilst it is also written, Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth?21  One refers to a place where he is known; the other, to where he is unknown.

Raba said: A rabbinical scholar may assert, I am a rabbinical scholar; let my business receive first attention;22  as it is written, And David's sons were priests,'23  just as a priest receives [his portion] first, So does the scholar too. And whence do we know this of a priest? — Because it is written, Thou shalt sanctify him therefore, for he offereth the bread of thy God:24  whereon the School of R. Ishmael taught: 'Thou shalt sanctify him' — in all matters pertaining to holiness:

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Because once the knives are put away, the owner has, in effect, shewn that the remaining figs are unwanted by him and free to all, i.e., hefker, from which there are no priestly dues; cf. p. 139, n. 2.
  2. Of the figs left on the fields.
  3. That he was R. Tarfon.
  4. I.e., over saving his life by revealing his identity.
  5. This is in accordance with the general view held that one should derive no benefit whatsoever from the Torah. Cf supra 37a and Aboth, IV, 5. (Sonc. ed.) p. 47, n. 3.
  6. Ezek. VII, 22.
  7. Dan. V, 30.
  8. His grief would have been justified had the keeper been angry on account of R. Tarfon's action alone: For instead of saving himself by disclosing his name, he should have told him the law on the subject and offered to pay for what he had eaten, but if he was mistaken for an habitual thief, what else could he have done: should he have offered to make good the depredations of the whole year!
  9. Precisely so.
  10. Deut. XXX, 20.
  11. [So BaH. cur. edd.: [H] 'I will teach.' I.e. he teaches others, so that his fame may spread and he may obtain a seat in the Academy.]
  12. 'Elder' may simply mean scholar (cf. Kid. 32b), or more exactly a member of the Sanhedrin; cf. Joseph. Ant. XII, 111, p. 3.
  13. Prov. VII, 3: i.e., make it an integral part of thyself, not as something outside thee, cherished only for its worldly advantages.
  14. Ibid. III, 17.
  15. Ibid. 18: this is quoted to shew that honour comes eventually.
  16. I.e., God Who decreed them (Ran.). [Or. 'the performance of them', i.e., for the sake of doing good (Bahja Ibn Pakuda, Duties of the Heart, Introduction.]
  17. Viz., the words of the Torah.
  18. In I Sam. XIII, 20. and Ps. LXXIV, 5, kardom means an axe. Possibly it was a two-sided tool, one side serving as a spade and the other as an axe.
  19. I Kings XVIII, 12
  20. V. supra.
  21. Prov. XXVII, 2.
  22. Lit., 'dismiss my case first'. E g., in a shop or market place. cf. the story in Kid. 70a.
  23. II Sam. VIII, 18. They were not priests, of course; hence the verse means that as scholars they were entitled to certain priestly privileges.
  24. Lev. XXI, 8.
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Nedarim 62b

to be the first to commence [the reading of the Law],1  the first to pronounce the blessing,2  and first to receive a good portion.3

Raba said: A rabbinical scholar may declare, I will not pay poll-tax, for it is written, [also we certify to you, that touching any of the priests … or ministers of this house of God,] it shall not be lawful to impose mindah [tribute,] belo [custom,] or halak [toll,] upon them:4  whereon Rab Judah said: 'mindah' is the king's portion [of the crops]; 'belo' is a capitation tax, and 'halak' is arnona.5  Raba also said: A Rabbinical scholar may assert, 'I am a servant of fire, and will not pay poll-tax.'6  What is the reason? Because it is [only] said in order to drive away a lion.7  R. Ashi owned a forest, which he sold to a fire-temple. Said Rabina to R. Ashi: But there is [the injunction]. Thou shalt not put a tumbling-block before the blind!8  — He replied: Most wood is used for [ordinary] heating.9


GEMARA. It was taught: He who vows in Galilee, 'until the fruit-harvest,' and then descends to the valleys, though the fruit harvest has begun in the valley, he is forbidden [by his vow] until the fruit-harvest in Galilee.

[IF HE VOWS,] 'UNTIL THE RAINS,' [OR] 'UNTIL THE RAINS SHALL BE,' [IT MEANS] UNTIL THE SECOND RAINFALL DESCENDS. R. SIMEON B. GAMALIEL SAID, etc. R. Zera said: The dispute is only if he said, 'until the rains';16  but if he declared, until the rain,' he [certainly] meant, until the time of the [first] rain.17

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. In ancient times the public reading of the Law was done by those 'called up'. The priest was to be called to read the first portion. v. Git. 59a.
  2. I.e., the blessing for bread prior to the meal, and grace after the meal.
  3. At a meal he must be served first. — Asheri: when sharing anything with an Israelite, the latter must divide the thing to be shared in two equal portions and give choice of pick to the priest.
  4. Ezra VII, 24.
  5. Or 'annona', produce tax. Jast. conjectures that [H] probably means a tax for the sustenance of marching troops.
  6. To the Persian it would suggest a fire worshipper, who was free from poll-tax. But the scholar making (his assertion should mean that he worships the Lord, who is designated 'consuming fire' in Deut. IV, 24. (Under Chapter II, fire worship became the national and state-aided religion of the Persians, and in order to win converts to that religion fire worshippers enjoyed exemption from poll-tax: v. Funk, S. Die Juden in Babylonien II. p. 3.)
  7. I.e., in self-defence, against irregular extortion. Ran states that Raba's dictum means that even a Rabbinical student may act thus, and it is not regarded as an untruth; the ordinary person may certainly do so.
  8. Lev. XIX. 14: i.e., nothing must be done to aid idolatry.
  9. Not for idolatrous service,
  10. Which is earlier.
  11. I.e., though normally 'harvest', unspecified, means the wheat harvest, if in a particular place one refers thus to the barley harvest it means until then. Likewise, as the Mishnah proceeds to explain.
  12. Harvesting is later in a hill-country than in a plain.
  13. I.e., until it commences. There are three winter rainfalls in Palestine. Their times are discussed on 63a. When he states, 'until the rainfall', without specifying which, it is assumed that he means the middle one, as he would have defined the first or last by name.
  14. Even if it does not rain then. Since the times of the rainfalls are not exact, he must have meant when the rainfall commences.
  15. The first month in the Jewish year, corresponding to March-April.
  16. The first Tanna maintains that the plural implies, until there shall have been at least two rainfalls; whilst in R. Simeon b. Gamaliel's opinion the terms of the vow are fulfilled when the time for the second rainfall comes, even though it did not actually rain.
  17. So Rashi.
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