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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin

Folio 68a

But did R. Akiba learn this from R. Joshua? Surely it has been taught: When R. Eliezer fell sick, R. Akiba and his companions went to visit him. He was seated in his canopied four-poster, whilst they sat in his salon.1  That day was Sabbath eve, and his son Hyrcanus went in to him to remove his phylacteries.2  But his father rebuked him, and he retreated crestfallen. 'It seems to me,' said he to them, 'that my father's mind is deranged'.3  But R. Akiba said to them, 'his mind is clear, but his mother's [sc. of Hyrcanus] is deranged:4  how can one neglect a prohibition which is punished by death, and turn his attention to something which is merely forbidden as a shebuth?'5  The Sages, seeing that his mind was clear, entered his chamber and sat down at a distance of four cubits.6  'Why have ye come?' said he to them. 'To study the Torah', they replied; 'And why did ye not come before now', he asked? They answered, 'We had no time'. He then said, 'I will be surprised if these die a natural death'. R. Akiba asked him, 'And what will my death be?' and he answered, 'Yours will be more cruel than theirs'. He then put his two arms over his heart, and bewailed them, saying, 'Woe to you, two arms of mine, that have been like two Scrolls of the Law that are wrapped up.7  Much Torah have I studied, and much have I taught.8  Much Torah have I learnt, yet have I but skimmed from the knowledge of my teachers as much as a dog lapping from the sea. Much Torah have I taught, yet my disciples have only drawn from me as much as a painting stick from its tube. Moreover, I have studied three hundred laws on the subject of a deep bright spot,9  yet no man has ever asked me about them. Moreover, I have studied three hundred, (or, as others state, three thousand laws) about the planting of cucumbers [by magic] and no man, excepting Akiba b. Joseph, ever questioned me thereon. For it once happened that he and I were walking together on a road, when he said to me, "My master, teach me about the planting of cucumbers". I made one statement, and the whole field [about us] was filled with cucumbers. Then he said, "Master, you have taught me how to plant them, now teach me how to pluck them up". I said something and all the cucumbers gathered in one place'. His visitors then asked him, 'What is the law of a ball, a shoemaker's last, an amulet, a leather bag containing pearls, and a small weight?'10  He replied, 'They can become unclean, and if unclean, they are restored to their uncleanliness just as they are.'11  Then they asked him, 'What of a shoe that is on the last?'12  He replied, 'It is clean;' and in pronouncing this word his soul departed. Then R. Joshua arose and exclaimed, 'The vow is annulled, the vow is annulled!'13  On the conclusion of the Sabbath R. Akiba met his bier being carried from Caesarea to Lydda. [In his grief] he beat his flesh until the blood flowed down upon the earth — Then R. Akiba commenced his funeral address, the mourners being lined up about the coffin, and said: 'My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof;14  I have many coins, but no money changer to accept them.'15  Thus from this story we see that he learned this [sc. the producing of cucumbers by magic] from R. Eliezer? — He learned it from R. Eliezer, but did not grasp it, then he learned it from R. Joshua, who made it clear to him.

But how might R. Eliezer do so?16  Did we not learn, IF HE ACTUALLY PERFORMS MAGIC, HE IS LIABLE? — If it is only to teach, it is different. For it has been said, Thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of these nations:17  thou mayest not learn in order to practise, but thou mayest learn in order to understand.18

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. [H] triclinium.
  2. For the Sabbath was drawing near, when the phylacteries are not to be worn.
  3. Since he would not let me remove his phylacteries.
  4. (So BaH in his marginal glosses: printed texts read 'His mind and that of his mother's etc.]
  5. An occupation forbidden only by the Rabbis, not by the Bible, because it does not harmonize with the nature of the the Sabbath. R. Eliezer had observed that his wife had not yet kindled the Sabbath lights, nor put away the Sabbath meal to keep it hot. Both of these, if done on the Sabbath, are punishable by stoning, whereas the wearing of phylacteries indoors are forbidden merely by a Rabbinical ordinance, lest one forget himself and go out in the street with them, which is biblically forbidden. Therefore he rebuked his son and wife.
  6. Because R. Eliezer had been placed under the ban; v. B.M. 59b.
  7. So that they cannot be read. So had his knowledge been, none learning from it, because he had been under a ban.
  8. Before the ban.
  9. One of the forms of leprosy, Lev. XII, 2.
  10. All these were made of leather, stuffed with hair or cottonwool. No leathern utensil can become unclean unless it has a receptacle, i.e., a hollow in which something can be placed. Now, the Sages maintain that since the hollow in these is made in the first place in order to be filled up, it is not a receptacle, and hence cannot become unclean. But R. Eliezer held that as they do, in fact, contain a hollow, though now filled up, they can become unclean. There is another dispute, with respect to the first two, if their outer covering was torn. It is then admitted by all that they are liable to become unclean, but there is a conflict with respect to tebilah (i.e., immersion in a ritual bath to restore them to cleanliness. It is a general law that when anything is put into a ritual bath, no foreign matter may adhere to it, lest it prevent the water from getting to it. Now the Sages maintain that the stuffing is to he regarded as such, and hence must be removed before the immersion, which is otherwise ritually invalid. But R. Eliezer ruled that in this respect the stuffing is regarded as integrally part of themselves, and hence does not render the immersion invalid. Now that he was on his death-bed, thy asked him whether he still adhered to his ruling. The amulet was a charm, containing some mystic verses, worn about the neck to prevent or cure illness. A leather bag containing pearls (probably imitation, or of a very cheap kind) was worn by cattle for the same purpose. Small weights were inclosed in leather, to prevent from becoming worn.
  11. I.e., the filling is not to be regarded as foreign matter, which must be removed. Thus he told them that he adhered to his views.
  12. No utensil or garment could become unclean until it was quite ready for use. R. Eliezer and the Sages dispute with reference to a new shoe, ready for wear, but not yet removed from the last upon which it was made. The Rabbis maintained that it was a completely finished article, and hence liable to uncleanliness: whilst R. Eliezer held that until removed from its last it was not regarded as completely finished.
  13. I.e., the ban is now lifted from him. This declaration was made on account of the funeral, for had it not been annulled, a stone would have been placed upon his coffin. v. 'Ed. V, 6.
  14. II Kings II, 12.
  15. I.e., I have many questions on Torah, but no one to answer them.
  16. Cause cucumbers to grow by magic.
  17. Deut. XVIII, 9. This introduces the prohibitions of necromancy and witchcraft.
  18. R. Eliezer's action was likewise merely in order to teach.
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Sanhedrin 68b



GEMARA. Whence do we know that A MINOR IS EXEMPT? (Whence do we know? The Mishnah states the reason, viz that HE DOES NOT COME WITHIN THE SCOPE OF THE COMMANDMENTS. Moreover, where else do we find that Scripture prescribed a penalty [for a minor], that a verse should be necessary here to exempt him? — This is our question: Now, is then a 'STUBBORN AND REBELLIOUS SON' executed for his actual iniquity? Surely he is rather slain on account of his ultimate end;4  and that being so, even a minor should be executed? Moreover, [the interpretation,] 'a son', but not a man, implies a minor?) Rab Judah said in Rab's name: Scripture saith, If a man have a son [that is stubborn and rebellious], implying, a son near to the strength of manhood.5

UNTIL HE GROWS A BEARD RIGHT ROUND, etc. R. Hiyya taught: Until he grows a beard round the corona. When R. Dimi came,6  he explained it thus: It means, until the hair surrounds the membrum, but not until it grows round the testicles.7

R. Hisda said: If a minor begot a son, the latter does not come within the category of a stubborn and rebellious son, for it is written, If a man have a son, but not if a son [i.e., one who has not reached manhood] have a son. But is not that verse needed for the deduction made by Rab Judah in Rab's name?8  — If so, the verse should read, If there be a son to a man: why state, If a man have a son? — To teach R. Hisda's dictum.9  Then let us say that the entire verse teaches this?10  — If so, Scripture should have said, 'If there be the son of a man who [sc. the son] is stubborn,' etc.: Why state, If a man have a son etc.? Hence both are deduced.11

Now, R. Hisda's statement conflicts with Rabbah's. For Rabbah said: A minor cannot beget children, for it is written, But if the man hath no kinsman [to recompense the trespass unto].12  Now, is there any man in Israel that has no kinsman?13  Hence the Writ must refer to the robbery of a proselyte,14

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. This chapter continues the exposition of the Mishnah on 53a.
  2. Deut. XXI, 18.
  3. I.e., the stage of moral responsibility involved on reaching the age of 13 years and one day; v. Ab. V, 24.
  4. V. infra 72a.
  5. The interpretation is based on the fact that 'son' is stated (in the Heb.) in immediate proximity to 'man'__ [H].
  6. V. p. 390, n. 1.
  7. The other occurs much later. But once the former has taken place, he is a man, and no longer liable.
  8. v. supra.
  9. For if the verse merely teaches that the son must be just before the age of manhood, son should have immediately preceded man. By reversing the order, the manhood of the father (when begetting the son) is emphasized: only if a man beget a son but not if a minor beget one, though he is already a man when his son transgresses.
  10. Hence, how is Rab's dictum deduced?
  11. For if the verse wished to intimate only the manhood of the father, 'son' should have been in the weak, construct form ([H]) so that the entire emphasis should be upon 'man'. By putting son in the absolute form ([H]) and in immediate proximity to 'man', the manhood of both is emphasised, as taught in the dicta of Rab and b. Hisda.
  12. Num. V, 8.
  13. Since all Israel are related, being the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  14. Who died before it could he returned. A proselyte has no relationship whatever with his pre-conversion relations; v. p. 394. n. 1.
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