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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin

Folio 101a

who is of a petty nature; but he that is of a merry heart hath a continuous feast, to a contented mind.

R. Joshua b. Levi also said: All the days of the poor are evil: but are there not the Sabbaths and festivals? — it is as Samuel said, viz., Change of diet is the first step to indigestion.1



Our Rabbis taught: He who recites a verse of the Song of Songs and treats it as a [secular] air,2  and one who recites a verse at the banqueting table3  unseasonably,4  brings evil upon the world. Because the Torah girds itself in sackcloth, and stands before the Holy One, blessed be He, and laments before Him, 'Sovereign of the Universe! Thy children have made me as a harp upon which they frivolously play.' He replies, 'My daughter, when they are eating and drinking, wherewith shall they occupy themselves?' To which she rejoins, 'Sovereign of the Universe! if they possess Scriptural knowledge, let them occupy themselves with the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings; if they are students of the Mishnah, with Mishnah, halachoth, and haggadoth;5  if students of the Talmud, let them engage in the laws of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles on the respective Festivals. R. Simeon b. Eleazar testified on the authority of R. Simeon b. Hanina: He who reads a verse in season [as just defined] brings good to the world, as it is written, and a word spoken in season, how good is it.6

ALSO ONE WHO WHISPERS OVER A WOUND etc. R. Johanan said: But only if he expectorates in doing so, because the Divine Name may not be expressed in conjunction with expectoration.7

It has been said, Rab declared: Even [the verse], When the plague of leprosy [etc.];8  R. Hanina said: Even, And he called unto Moses.9

Our Rabbis taught: One may oil and massage the bowels [of an

    invalid] on the Sabbath,10  and snakes and serpents may be charmed [to render them tame and harmless] on the Sabbath, and an article may be placed over the eye on the Sabbath [to protect it]. R. Simeon b. Gamaliel said: This applies only to articles which may be handled;11  but those which may not be handled12  are forbidden; nor may demons be consulted on the Sabbath. R. Jose said: This is forbidden even on week-days. R. Huna said: The halachah is not13  as R. Jose, and even he said it only on account of its danger, as in the case of R. Isaac b. Joseph, who was swallowed up in a cedar tree, but a miracle was wrought for him, the cedar splitting and casting him forth.14

Our Rabbis taught: The bowels may be oiled and massaged on the Sabbath, providing this is not done as on week-days.15  How then shall it be done? — R. Hama son of R. Hanina said: They must first be oiled, and then massaged.16  R. Johanan said: The oiling and massaging must be done simultaneously.

Our Rabbis taught: It is permitted to consult by a charm the spirits of oil or eggs,17  but that they give false answers. Incantations are made over oil contained in a vessel, but not in the hand;18  therefore one may anoint with the latter, but not with the former.19

R. Isaac b. Samuel b. Martha chanced upon a certain inn. Some oil was brought to him in a vessel, with which he rubbed himself, whereupon blisters broke out on his face. He then went out to the market place, and was seen by a woman who observed: 'I see here the blast of Hamath.'20

R. Abba said to Rabbah b. Mari: it is written, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians, for I am the Lord that healeth thee.21  But since He hath brought no [disease], what need is there of a cure? — He replied: Thus hath R. Johanan said: This verse is self-explanatory, because the whole reads, And he said, if thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God: thus, if thou wilt hearken, I will not bring [disease upon thee], but if thou wilt not, I will; yet even so, I am the Lord that healeth thee.

Rabbah b. Bar Hana said: When R. Eliezer fell sick, his disciples entered [his house] to visit him. He said to them, 'There is a fierce wrath in the world.'22  They broke into tears, but R. Akiba laughed. 'Why dost thou laugh?' they enquired of him 'Why do ye weep?' he retorted. They answered, 'Shall the Scroll of the Torah23  lie in pain, and we not weep?' — He replied, 'For that very reason I rejoice. As long as I saw that my master's wine did not turn sour, nor was his flax smitten, nor his oil putrefied, nor his honey become rancid,24  I thought, God forbid, that he may have received all his reward in this world [leaving nothing for the next]; but now that I see him lying in pain, I rejoice [knowing that his reward has been treasured up for him in the next].' He [R. Eliezer] said to him, 'Akiba, have I neglected anything of the whole Torah?'25  — He replied, 'Thou, O Master, hast taught us, For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good and sinneth not.'26

Our Rabbis taught: When R. Eliezer fell sick, four elders went to visit him, viz., R. Tarfon, R. Joshua, R. Eleazar b. Azariah, and R. Akiba. R. Tarfon observed, 'Thou art more valuable to Israel than rain; for rain is [precious] in this world, whereas thou art [so] for this world and the next.'27  R. Joshua observed, 'Thou art more valuable to Israel than the sun's disc: the sun's disc is but for this world, whilst my master is for this world and the next.' R. Eleazar b. Azariah observed, 'Thou art better to Israel than a father and a mother: these are for this world, whereas my master is for this world and the next. But R. Akiba observed, 'Suffering is precious.' Thereupon he [the sick man] said to them, 'Support me, that I may hear the words of Akiba, my disciple, who said, "Suffering is precious."28  Akiba,' queried he, 'whence dost thou know this?' — He replied, 'I interpret a verse: Mannasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem etc. and he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.29  Now it is [elsewhere] written,

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Lit., 'disease of the bowels'. So that the poor man does not enjoy even the lordly fare of these days.
  2. I.e., not with its traditional cantillation (Rashi).
  3. Lit., 'in the house of banquet.'
  4. Making it the subject of a jest or secular amusement.
  5. V. Glos.
  6. Prov. XV, 23.
  7. In uttering a charm one generally expectorated, the charm itself being usually a Biblical verse containing the Name of God. Thus the actual enchantment was done by means of the Biblical verse; a similar kind of enchantment was practised by the Essenes. In the opinion of some scholars, expectoration was the essential part of the charm, and L. Blau maintains that [H] (expectorates) belongs to the original text of the Mishnah (Krauss, Sanh.-Mak. p. 220).
  8. Lev: XIII, 9: though not containing the Divine Name its use as a magical formula is forbidden.
  9. Lev. I, 1. Though this contains no mention of illness or disease, and is whispered only that one may be saved from illness through the merit of reading the Torah, it is still forbidden.
  10. Though a medicine is forbidden on that day.
  11. E.g., a key, food-knife, and a ring.
  12. E.g., every tool used in work which is forbidden on the Sabbath.
  13. The Wilna Gaon deletes 'not'.
  14. He consulted a demon, which turned itself into a tree and swallowed him; it was only through a miracle that he escaped.
  15. To maintain a distinction between the Sabbath and the rest of the week.
  16. On week-days massage preceded oiling (Rashi).
  17. Every plant in the vegetable kingdom was believed to have its own presiding genius, which could be provoked by incantations; v. Gen. Rab. X, 6. Both eggs and oil were used for purposes of magic and in folk-medicine; cf. A. Marmorstein in MGWJLXXII, p. 395. It is noteworthy from the present passage that the Talmud had no faith in these charms.
  18. This states the practice, not a ruling.
  19. Since it may have been used as a charm.
  20. The name of a demon.
  21. Ex. XV, 26.
  22. He referred to himself-God must be very angry with him so to have afflicted him. So Rashi. Graetz Geschichte IV. p. 47 conjectures that his death took place shortly before Trajan's attack upon the Jews of many countries (c. 116-117 C.E.), to which he was alluding in this remark, as the storm was already brewing.
  23. I.e., R. Eliezer.
  24. He was prosperous in everything.
  25. That thou sayest that I now suffer for my sins, so that I may have nothing but reward in the world to come.
  26. Ecc. VII, 20.
  27. For as a result of his teaching Israel would enjoy a reward in the next world too.
  28. Because they make atonement for the sufferer.
  29. II Kings XXI, 1f.
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Sanhedrin 101b

These are also the proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out.1  Now, would Hezekiah king of Judah have taught the Torah to the whole world, yet not to his own son Manasseh? But all the pains he spent upon him, and all the labours he lavished upon him did not bring him back to the right path, save suffering alone, as it is written, And the Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people: but they would not hearken unto him. Wherefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon.2  And it is further written, And when he was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And prayed unto him, and he was entreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem unto his kingdom, and Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God.3  Thus thou learnest how precious is suffering.'

Our Rabbis taught: Three came with a circuitous plea.4  viz., Cain, Esau and Manasseh. Cain — for it is written, [And Cain said unto the Lord.] is my sin too great to be forgiven?5  He pleaded thus before Him: 'Sovereign of the Universe! Is my sin greater than that of the six hundred thousand [Israelites] who are destined to sin before Thee, yet wilt Thou pardon them!' Esau — for it is written, [And Esau said unto his father,] Hast thou but one blessing, my father?6  Manasseh — he first called upon many deities, and [only] eventually called upon the God of his fathers.7

ABBA SAUL SAID: ALSO HE WHO PRONOUNCES THE DIVINE NAME AS IT IS SPELT etc. It has been taught: [This holds good] only in the country,8  and in the sense of [the Samaritan] aga [blaspheming].9

THREE KINGS AND FOUR COMMONERS etc. Our Rabbis taught: [The name] Jeroboam [denotes] that 'he debased the nation.'10  Another meaning is that 'he fomented strife amongst the nation.'11  Another explanation, that 'he caused strife between Israel and their Father in Heaven.'12  The son of Nebat denotes that 'he beheld, but did not see.'13

A Tanna taught: Nebat, Micah, and Sheba the son of Bichri are one and the same.14  [He was called] Nebat, because 'he beheld but did not see'; Micah, because 'he was crushed15  in the building';16  and what was his real name? — Sheba the son of Bichri.

Our Rabbis taught: Three beheld but did not see, viz., Nebat, Ahitophel, and Pharaoh's astrologers. Nebat — he saw fire issuing from him. He interpreted it [as signifying] that he would reign,17  yet that was not so, but that Jeroboam would issue from him. Ahitophel, — he beheld leprosy breaking out in him. He thought that it meant that he would reign,18  but it was not so, but referred to Bath Sheba, his daughter,19  from whom issued Solomon. Pharaoh's astrologers, — even as R. Hama son of R. Hanina said: What is meant by This is the water of Meribah?20  'This is' what Pharaoh's astrologers saw, but erred [in its interpretation]. They saw that Israel's Saviour would be smitten through water: therefore he [Pharaoh] ordered, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river;21  but they did not know that he was to be smitten [i.e., punished] on account of the water of Meribah.

Now whence do we know that he [Jeroboam] will not enter the future world? — Because it is written, And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam even to cut it off and to destroy it from off the face of the earth:22  'to cut it off' [implies] in this world; 'and to destroy it,' in the next.

R. Johanan said: Why did Jeroboam merit sovereignty? Because he reproved Solomon. And why was he punished? Because he reproved him publicly. As it is written, And this was the cause that he lifted up his hand against the king: Solomon built Millo, and repaired the breaches of the city of David his father.23  He said thus to him: Thy father David made breaches in the wall, that Israel might come up [to Jerusalem] on the Festivals; whilst thou hast closed them, in order to exact toll for the benefit of Pharaoh's daughter.24  What is meant by And this was the cause that he lifted up his hand against the king?25  — R. Nahman said: He took off his phylacteries in front of him.26

R. Nahman said: The conceit which possessed Jeroboam drove him out of the world,27  as it is written, Now Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: if this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn unto their Lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah.28  He reasoned thus: it is a tradition that none but the kings of the house of Judah may sit in the Temple Court.29  Now, when they [the people] see Rehoboam sitting and me standing, they will say, The former is the king and the latter his subject; whilst if I sit too, I am guilty of treason,30  and they will slay me, and follow him. Straightway, Wherefore the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, it is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.31  How did he 'take counsel'? — R Judah said: He set a wicked man by the side of the righteous [in the council chamber] and said to him, 'Will ye sign [your approval] of all that I may do?' They replied, 'Yes.' 'I wish to be king,' he went on; and they again said, 'Yes.' 'Will ye execute all my commands?' he asked. Again they replied 'Yes.' 'Even for the worship of idols?' Whereupon the righteous man rejoined, 'God forbid!' 'But,' urged the wicked upon the righteous, 'dost thou really think that a man like Jeroboam would serve idols? He only wishes to test us, to see whether we will give full acceptance to his orders?'32

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Prov. XXV, 1. This implies than they copied it out for general instruction. Cf. also supra 94a, that Hezekiah had the whole nation taught.
  2. II Chron. XXXIII, 10f.
  3. Ibid. 12f.
  4. Preferring their request as a right, not a favour.
  5. Gen. IV, 13.
  6. Ibid. XXVII, 38: thus he justified his demand for a blessing.
  7. This is deduced from, And when he was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God-implying that he had prayed to other deities before. 'If thou wilt not hearken to my prayer, he pleaded, 'of what profit was my turning to thee?'
  8. As opposed to the Temple.
  9. [So Levy, who quotes J. Sanh. X, 28b [H] in a way as those Samaritans swear: [H] 'he blasphemed', Lev. XXIV, 11, is rendered by the Samaritan Targum [H]. S. Krauss, Sanh-Mak. p. 271, translates: 'in a corrupt, barbarous language,' debasing thereby the Holy Name; cf. Rashi.]
  10. [H]
  11. By his introduction of calf worship.
  12. The latter two connect Jeroboam with [H] rib, strife.
  13. He beheld a vision, but did not understand (see) its true significance. The vision is stated below. — Nebat is here connected with root [H], nabat, to see.
  14. Micah was a resident of Mount Ephraim who established a private idolatrous shrine and engaged a Levite to minister therein. — Judges XVII, 1-5. This image was subsequently stolen and set up in Dan; Ibid. XVIII. Sheba the son of Bichri was an Ephraimite who revolted against David immediately after the collapse of Absalom's insurrection; II Sam. XX, 1 et seqq.
  15. [H] with which [H] is connected.
  16. According to legend, when the Israelites in Egypt did not complete their tale of bricks, their children were built into the walls instead. On Moses' complaining thereof to God, He answered him that he was thus weeding out the destined wicked. As proof, he was empowered to save Micah, who had already been built in, but only to become an idolater on his reaching manhood. Rashi also gives an alternative rendering: he became impoverished (Cf. Lev. XXV, 25; XXVII, 8) through building — presumably his idolatrous shrine.
  17. And hence he raised the standard of revolt.
  18. According to legend (infra 107a), David was smitten with leprosy for six months on account of his sin with Bath Sheba. Ahitophel therefore interpreted the outbreak on his own person as shewing that David's leprosy would bring him to the throne.
  19. I.e., his granddaughter. Her father Eliam (II Sam. XI, 3) being identified with the son of Ahitophel (II Sam. XXIII, 34).
  20. Num. XX, 13.
  21. Ex. I, 22.
  22. I Kings. XIII, 34.
  23. Ibid. XI, 27.
  24. Very few openings were left, so that visitors to Jerusalem could be checked and taxed for the privilege.
  25. I.e., what did he actually do?
  26. This was regarded as a mark of disrespect. Another version: he removed his phylacteries, so as to be unconstrained in his abuse of Solomon, which he would not wish to do with these religious symbols upon him.
  27. I.e., led him into destruction.
  28. I Kings XII, 26f.
  29. This was a special prerogative of Davidic kings. V. Kid. 78a, and cf. Josephus Ant. VIII, 4, 2.
  30. Lit., 'a rebel against royal authority.'
  31. Ibid. 28.
  32. Thus he received the signature of the righteous under false pretences, and it could not be subsequently withdrawn.

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