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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin

Folio 109a

whom shall we send it? We will send it by Nahum of Gimso, who is well versed in miracles.' On arriving at a certain inn, he wished to lodge there. 'What hast thou with thee,' they asked him? He replied. 'I am bearing tribute to the Emperor.' So they arose at night, untied his box, removed all its contents, and refilled it with earth. When he arrived there1  it was found to be earth. 'The Jews mock me!' he exclaimed. So they led him out to execution. 'This too is for good.' said he. Then Elijah came, disguised as one of theirs [the Romans], and suggested to them, 'Perhaps this is the earth of Abraham, the patriarch, who threw earth which turned to swords, and chaff which became arrows!' So they examined it, and found it to be even so: and a district which they had been unable to conquer, they threw this earth at it and conquered it. Thereupon they led him to the treasury and said to him, 'Take what thou pleasest!' So he filled his box with gold. On his return, the inmates [of the inn where he had previously been robbed] asked him, 'What didst thou take to the king?' 'What I took away from here I carried there,' was his reply. So they took [the same] and brought it there, [as a result of which] these folk were executed.

THE GENERATION OF THE DISPERSION HAVE NO PORTION IN THE WORLD TO COME etc. What did they do? — The scholars of R. Shila taught: They said, 'Let us build a tower, ascend to heaven, and cleave it with axes, that its waters might gush forth.' In the West [sc. Palestine academies]2  they laughed at this: If so, they should have built it on a mountain!3

R. Jeremiah b. Eleazar said: They split up into three parties. One said, 'Let us ascend and dwell there;' the second, 'Let us ascend and serve idols;' and the third said, 'Let us ascend and wage war [with God].' The party which proposed, 'Let us ascend, and dwell there' — the Lord scattered them: the one that said, 'Let us ascend and wage war' were turned to apes, spirits, devils, and night-demons; whilst as for the party which said, 'Let us ascend and serve idols' — 'for there the Lord did confound the language of all the earth.'4

It has been taught. R. Nathan said: They were all bent on idolatry. [For] here it is written, let us make us a name;5  whilst elsewhere it is written, and make no mention of the name of other gods:6  just as there idolatry is meant, so here too. R. Jonathan said: A third of the tower was burnt, a third sunk [into the earth], and a third is still standing.7  Rab said: The atmosphere of the tower causes forgetfulness. R. Joseph said: Babylon and Borsif8  are evil omens for the Torah.9  What is the meaning of Borsif? — R. Assi said: An empty [shafi] pit [bor].10

THE MEN OF SODOM HAVE NO PORTION IN THE WORLD TO COME etc. Our Rabbis taught: The men of Sodom have no portion in the future world, as it is written, But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly:11  wicked — in this world, and sinners — in respect of the world to come.12  Rab Judah said: [They were] wicked — with their bodies [i.e., immoral] and sinners — with their money [i.e.. uncharitable]. 'Wicked — with their bodies,' as it is written, How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?13  'And sinners — with their money,' as it is written, and it be sin unto thee.14  'Before the Lord' refers to blasphemy; 'exceedingly' — that they intentionally sinned. A Tanna taught: Wicked — with their money; and sinners — with their bodies 'Wicked — with their. money,' as it is written, And thine eye be wicked against thy poor brother;15  'and sinners — with their bodies,' as it is written, and I will sin against God.16  Before the Lord — this refers to blasphemy. Exceedingly — this refers to bloodshed, as it is written, Moreover, Manasseh shed innocent blood exceedingly.17

Our Rabbis taught: The men of Sodom waxed haughty only on account of the good which the Holy One, blessed be He, had lavished upon them. What is written concerning them? — As for the earth, out of it cometh bread: and under it it is burned up as it were with fire. The stones of it are the place of sapphires: and it hath dust of gold. There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen: The lion's whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lions passed by it.18  They said: Since there cometh forth bread out of [our] earth, and it hath the dust of gold, why should we suffer wayfarers, who come to us only to deplete our wealth. Come, let us abolish19  the practice of travelling20  in our land, as it is written, The flood breaketh out from the inhabitants,' they are forgotten of the foot; they are dried up, they are gone away from men.21

Raba gave the following exposition: What is meant by the verse, How long will ye imagine mischief against a man? ye shall be slain all of you: ye are all as a bowing wall, and as a tottering fence?22  This teaches that they used to cast [envious] eyes at wealthy men, place them by a leaning wall, thrust it upon them, then go and take their wealth. Raba expounded: What is meant by the verse, In the dark they dig through houses, which they had marked for themselves in the daytime: they know not the light?23  This teaches that they used to cast [envious] eyes at wealthy men, and entrust balsamum into their keeping, which they placed in their storerooms. In the evening they would come and smell it out like dogs, as it is written, They return at evening: they make a noise like a dog, and go round about the city.24  Then they would go, burrow in, and steal the money, [and as for their victim —] They cause him to go naked without clothing,25  that they have no covering in the cold.26  They lead away the ass of the fatherless, they take the widow's ox for a pledge.27  They remove the landmarks; they violently take away flocks, and feed them.28  And he [the victim] shall be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb.29  R. Jose taught this in Sepphoris. That night [after his lecture] three hundred [houses] were broken into in Sepphoris. So they came and harassed him. Said they to him, 'Thou hast shown30  a way to thieves!' He replied, 'Could I have known that thieves would come?'31  When R. Jose died, the gutters of Sepphoris ran with blood.32

[Reverting to the misdeeds of the Sodomites] they ruled: He who has [only] one ox must tend [all the oxen of the town] for one day; but he who has none must tend [them] two days.33  Now a certain orphan, the son of a widow, was given oxen to tend. He went and killed then' and [then] said to them [the Sodomites],

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. In the Emperor's presence.
  2. V, supra 17b.
  3. And not in a valley.
  4. Gen. XI, 9.
  5. Ibid. 4.
  6. Ex. XXIII, 13.
  7. [Identified by Obermeyer. op. cit. 314, as the Borsippa Tower, near Babylon. V. next note]
  8. [G] A city frequently identified with Babel. Neubauer, op. cit., pp. 327, 346, observes that Borsif was not far from Borsippon. A sect of Chaldean astrologers had their locale there, for which reason the Talmud says that the place is unfavourable for study.
  9. Because one's learning is soon forgotten there.
  10. I.e., a pit emptied of its waters — a place where all knowledge is forgotten.
  11. Gen. XIII, 13.
  12. I.e., they are excluded therefrom on account of sin.
  13. Ibid. XXXIX, 9 — the reference is to adultery.
  14. Deut. XV, 9 — the reference is to the withholding of financial assistance from the poor.
  15. Ibid. V. previous note.
  16. V, supra n. 3.
  17. II Kings XXI, 16.
  18. Job XXVIII, 5-8.
  19. Lit., 'cause to be forgotten.'
  20. Lit., 'the law of the foot.'
  21. Ibid. 4.
  22. Ps. LXII, 4.
  23. Job XXIV, 16.
  24. Ps. LIX, 7.
  25. Job XXIV, 10.
  26. Ibid. 7.
  27. Ibid. 3.
  28. Ibid. 2.
  29. Ibid. XXI, 32.
  30. Lit., 'given'.
  31. Or, 'Did I then know that ye are thieves' — i.e., that there are so many thieves amongst you (Rashi)
  32. An expression denoting the great loss that was felt. — This is really irrelevant here, but that R. Jose has just been mentioned (Rashi).
  33. This was a measure of oppression against the poor.
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Sanhedrin 109b

'He who has an ox, let him take one hide; he who has none, let him take two hides.' 'What is the meaning of this?' they exclaimed. Said he, 'The final usage [i.e., the disposal of the ox when dead] must be as the initial one; just as the initial usage is that he who possesses one ox must tend for one day, and he who has none must tend two days; so should be the final usage: he who has one ox should take one hide, and he who has none should take two.' [Likewise, they ruled,] He who crosses with the ferry must pay one zuz [for the privilege], but he who does not, [entering by another way] must give two. If one had rows of bricks every person came and took one, saying, 'I have taken only one.' If one spread out garlic or onions [to dry them], every person came and took one, saying, 'I have taken only one.'

There were four judges in Sodom, [named] Shakrai, Shakurai, Zayyafi, and Mazle Dina.1  Now, if a man assaulted his neighbour's wife and bruised her, they would say [to the husband], 'Give her to him, that she may become pregnant for thee.' If one cut off the ear of his neighbour's ass, they would order, 'Give it to him until it grows again.' If one wounded his neighbour they would say to him [the victim], 'Give him a fee for bleeding thee.' He who crossed over with the ferry had to pay four zuzim, whilst he who crossed through the water had to pay eight. On one occasion, a certain fuller happened to come there. Said they to him, 'Give us four zuzim [for the use of the ferry].' But, protested he, 'I crossed through the water!' 'If so,' said they, 'thou must give eight zuzim for passing through the water.' He refused to give it, so they assaulted him. He went before the judge, who ordered, 'Give them a fee for bleeding and eight zuzim for crossing through the water. Now Eliezer, Abraham's servant, happened to be there, and was attacked. When he went before the judge, he said, 'Give them a fee for bleeding thee.' Thereupon he took a stone and smote the judge. 'What is this!' he exclaimed. He replied, 'The fee that thou owest me give to this man [who attacked me], whilst my money will remain in statu quo.' Now, they had beds upon which travellers slept. If he [the guest] was too long, they shortened him [by lopping off his feet]; if too short, they stretched him out. Eliezer, Abraham's servant, happened to go there. Said they to him, 'Arise and sleep on this bed!' He replied, 'I have vowed since the day of my mother's death not to sleep in a bed.' If a poor man happened to come there, every resident gave him a denar, upon which he wrote his name, but no bread was given him. When he died, each came and took back his. They made this agreement amongst themselves: whoever invites a man [a stranger] to a feast shall be stripped of his garment. Now, a banquet was in progress, when Eliezer chanced there, but they gave him no bread. Wishing to dine, he went and sat down at the end of them all. Said they to him, 'Who invited thee here?' He replied to the one sitting near him, 'Thou didst invite me.' The latter said to himself, 'Peradventure they will hear that I invited him, and strip me of my garments!' So he took up his raiment and fled without. Thus he [Eliezer] did to all, until they had all gone; whereupon he consumed the entire repast. A certain maiden gave some bread to a poor man, [hiding it] in a pitcher. On the matter becoming known, they daubed her with honey and placed her on the parapet of the wall, and the bees came and consumed her. Thus it is written, And the Lord said, The cry of Sodom and Gomorrah, because it is great:2  whereon Rab Judah commented in Rab's name: On account of the maiden [ribah].3



Our Rabbis taught: THE ASSEMBLY OF KORAH HAVE NO PORTION IN THE WORLD TO COME, for it is said, And the earth closed upon them; and they perished from among the congregation: this is R. Akiba's view. R. Judah b. Bathyra said: They are as a lost article, which is sought, for it is said, I have gone astray like a lost sheep: seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.7

Now Korah took …8  Resh Lakish said: He took a bad bargain for himself, being plucked out9  of Israel. The son of Izhar: a son who incensed10  the whole world with himself as the [heat of] noon.11  The son of Kohath,12  a son who set the teeth of his progenitors on edge.13  The son of Levi: a son who became an inmate14  of Gehenna. Then why not state too 'the son of Jacob', [implying] a son who marched15  himself into Gehenna? — R. Samuel b. R. Isaac answered: Jacob supplicated for himself [not to be enumerated amongst Korah's ancestors], as it is written, O my son, come not into their secret: unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united:16  'O my soul, come not unto their secret' — this refers to the spies;17  'unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united' — to the Assembly of Korah.

Dathan18  [denotes] that he violated God's law;19  Abiram20  — that he stoutly refused to repent;21  On22  — that he sat in lamentations;23  Peleth24  — that wonders were wrought for him;25  the son of Reuben — a son who saw and understood.26

Rab said: On, the son of Peleth, was saved by his wife. Said she to him, 'What matters it to thee? Whether the one [Moses] remains master or the other [Korah] becomes master, thou art but a disciple.' He replied, 'But what can I do? I have taken part in their counsel, and they have sworn me [to be] with them.' She said, 'I know that they are all a holy community, as it is written, seeing all the congregation are holy, everyone of them.27  [So,]' she proceeded, 'Sit here, and I will save thee.' She gave him wine to drink, intoxicated him and laid him down within [the tent]. Then she sat down at the entrance thereto

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. These are fictitious names meaning, Liar, Awful Liar, Forger, and Perverter of Justice.
  2. Heb, rabbah, [H], Gen. XVIII, 20.
  3. [H], a play on [H].
  4. Num. XIV, 37.
  5. Wilna Gaon deletes this whole passage, from 'THE SPIES… THE NEXT,' v. p. 738, n. 6.
  6. I Sam. II, 6. The Wilna Gaon deletes this whole passage.
  7. Ps. CXIX, 176: though gone astray, they will be found and restored to their share in the future world.
  8. Num. XVI, 1.
  9. A play on [H] and [H] 'baldness'.
  10. Lit., 'heated'.
  11. [H] is connected with [H] noon.
  12. [H] with which [H] is related.
  13. I.e., who disgraced his parents.
  14. Lit., 'company', 'escort', [H] a play of words on [H].
  15. Connecting [H] with [H] 'to trace', 'follow'.
  16. Gen. XLIX, 6.
  17. In no case is the genealogy of the spies traced to Jacob (Rashi).
  18. Korah's confederate. Num. XVI, 1.
  19. [H] a play on [H].
  20. V, note 12.
  21. [H], a play on [H].
  22. V. n. 12. On means also 'lamentation'.
  23. I.e., he repented for having joined them.
  24. On's father.
  25. Connecting the name with the root [H], 'wonder'. He abandoned the conspiracy, and was miraculously saved from its fate.
  26. [H] 'He saw and perceived' that the conspiracy was unjust, and therefore kept aloof from it.
  27. Ibid. 3.
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