It has been taught: R. Eliezer said: The days of the Messiah will last forty years, as it is written, Forty years long shall I take hold of the generation.4 R. Eleazar b. Azariah said: Seventy years, as it is written, And it shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king.5 Now, who is the one [uniquely distinguished] king? The Messiah, of course. Rabbi said: Three generations; for it is written, They shall fear thee with the sun, and before the moon [they shall fear thee], a generation and generations.6
R. Hillel7 said: There shall be no Messiah for Israel,8 because they have already enjoyed him in the days of Hezekiah. R. Joseph said: May God forgive him [for saying so]. Now, when did Hezekiah flourish? During the first Temple. Yet Zechariah, prophesying in the days of the second, proclaimed, Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion, shout, O daughter of Jerusalem, behold, thy king cometh unto thee! he is just, and having salvation, lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.9
Another [Baraitha] taught: R. Eliezer said: The days of the Messiah will be forty years. Here it is written, And he afflicted thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna;10 whilst elsewhere it is written, Make us glad, according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us.11 R. Dosa said: Four hundred years. It is here written, And they shall serve them,' and they shall afflict them four hundred years;12 whilst elsewhere it is written, Make us glad, according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us. Rabbi said: Three hundred and sixtyfive years, even as the days of the solar year, as it is written, For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redemption is come.13 What is meant by 'the day of vengeance is in mine heart'? — R. Johanan said: I have [so to speak] revealed it to my heart, but not to my [outer] limbs.14 Abimi the son of R. Abbahu learned: The days of Israel's Messiah shall be seven thousand years, as it is written, And as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.15 Rab Judah said in Samuel's name: The days of the Messiah shall endure as long as from the Creation until now, as it is written, [That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give to them,] as the days of heaven upon the earth.16 R. Nahman b. Isaac said: As long as from Noah's days until our own, as it is written, For this is as the waters of Noah, which are mine, so I have sworn etc.17
R. Hiyya b. Abba said in R. Johanan's name: All the prophets prophesied [all the good things] only in respect of the Messianic era; but as for the world to come 'the eye hath not seen, O Lord, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.'18 Now, he disagrees with Samuel, who said: This world differs from [that of] the days of the Messiah only in respect of servitude to [foreign] powers.
R. Hiyya b. Abba also said in R. Johanan's name: All the prophets prophesied only for repentant sinners; but as for the perfectly righteous [who had never sinned at all], 'the eye hath not seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.' Now he differs from R. Abbahu, who said: The place occupied by repentant sinners cannot be attained even by the completely righteous, for it is written, Peace, peace, to him that is far off and to him that is near:19 thus, first he that is 'far off', then he that is 'near'. Now what is meant by 'far off'? — originally far off;20 and what is meant by 'near'? — originally near [and still so].21 But R. Johanan interprets: 'him that is far off' — that is [and has been] far from sin; 'him that is near' — that was near to sin, but is now far off.
R. Hiyya b. Abba also said in R. Johanan's name: All the prophets prophesied only in respect of him who marries his daughter to a scholar, or engages in business on behalf of a scholar,22 or benefits a scholar with his possessions; but as for scholars themselves, — 'the eye hath not seen, O God, beside thee etc.' What does 'the eye hath not seen' refer to? — R. Joshua b. Levi said: To the wine that has been kept [maturing] with its grapes since the six days of Creation. Resh Lakish said: To Eden, which no eye has ever seen; and should you demur, Where then did Adam live? in the Garden. And should you object, The Garden and Eden are one: therefore Scripture teaches, And a river issued from Eden to water the garden.23
AND HE WHO MAINTAINS THAT THE TORAH WAS NOT DIVINELY REVEALED. Our Rabbis taught: Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off:24 this refers to him who maintains that the Torah is not from Heaven. Another rendering: Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, refers to an epikoros. Another rendering: Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, refers to one who gives an interpretation of the Torah25 [not according to the halachah]. And hath broken his commandment: this means one who abolishes the covenant of flesh.26 That soul shall utterly be cut off [hikkareth tikkareth]: 'hikkareth' [to be cut off] implies in this world; 'tikkareth' [it shall be cut off], in the next.27 Hence R. Eliezer of Modi'im taught: He who defiles the sacred food, despises the festivals,28 abolishes the covenant of our father Abraham,29 gives an interpretation of the Torah not according to the halachah, and publicly shames his neighbour, even if he hath learning and good deeds to his credit, hath no portion in the future world.30
Another [Baraitha] taught: Because he hath despised the word of the Lord — this refers to him who maintains that the Torah is not from Heaven. And even if he asserts that the whole Torah is from Heaven, excepting a particular verse, which [he maintains] was not uttered by God but by Moses himself, he is included in 'because he hath despised the word of the Lord.' And even if he admits that the whole Torah is from Heaven, excepting a single point, a particular ad majus deduction or a certain gezerah shawah, — he is still included in 'because he hath despised the word of the Lord'.
It has been taught: R. Meir used to say: He who studies the Torah but does not teach it is alluded to in 'he hath despised the word of the Lord'. R. Nathan said: [it refers to] whoever pays no heed to the Mishnah.31 R. Nehorai said: Whosoever can engage in the study of the Torah but fails to do so. R. Ishmael said: This refers to heathens. How is this implied? — Even as the school of Ishmael taught: Because he hath despised the word of the Lord — this applies to one who despises the words spoken to Moses at Sinai, viz., I am the Lord thy God … Thou shalt have no other gods before me.32
R. Joshua b. Karha said: Whosoever studies the Torah and does not revise it is likened unto one who sows without reaping. R. Joshua said: He who studies the Torah and then forgets it is like a woman who bears [a child] and buries [it.] R. Akiba said:
Sanhedrin 99b'Chant it every day, chant it every day.'1 Said R. Isaac b. Abudimi: What verse [supports this]? — He that laboureth laboureth for himself for his mouth craveth it of him:2 he toils in one place, the Torah toils for him in another.3
R. Eleazar said: Every man is born for toil, as it is written, Yet man is born for toil.4 Now, I do not know whether for toil by mouth or by hand, but when it is said, for his mouth craveth it of him, I may deduce that toil by mouth is meant.5 Yet I still do not know whether for toil in the Torah or in [secular] conversation, but when it is said, This book of the Torah shall not depart out of thy mouth,6 I conclude that one was created to labour in the Torah. And this coincides with Raba's dictum, viz., All human bodies are carriers; happy are they who are worthy of being receptacles of the Torah.
Whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding.7 Resh Lakish said: This alludes to one who studies the Torah at [irregular] intervals,8 as it is written, For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee; they shall withal be fitted in thy lips.9
Our Rabbis taught: But the soul that doeth aught presumptuously:10 this refers to Manasseh the Son of Hezekiah, who examined [Biblical] narratives to prove them worthless. Thus, he jeered, had Moses nothing to write but, And Lotan's sister was Timna,11 And Timna was concubine to Eliphaz,12 And Reuben went in the days of the wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field.13 Thereupon a Heavenly Voice cried out: Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother's son. These things hast thou done, and I kept silence, thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself' but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.14 And of him it is explicitly stated in the post-Mosaic Scriptures,15 Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope.16 What is meant by 'and sin as it were with a cart rope'? — R. Assi said: Temptation at first is like a spider's thread, but eventually like a cart rope.
À propos, what is the purpose of [writing], And Lotan's sister was Timna? — Timna was a royal princess, as it is written, alluf [duke] Lotan,17 alluf [duke] Timna;18 and by 'alluf' an uncrowned ruler is meant. Desiring to become a proselyte, she went to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but they did not accept her. So she went and became a concubine to Eliphaz the son of Esau, saying, 'I had rather be a servant to this people than a mistress of another nation.' From her Amalek was descended who afflicted Israel. Why so? — Because they should not have repulsed her.
And Reuben went in the days of the wheat harvest [and found mandrakes in the field]. Raba b. Isaac said in Rab's name: This shews that righteous men do not take what is not theirs.19 And found dudaim20 [mandrakes] in the field. What are dudaim? — Rab said: mandrakes;21 Levi said: violets; R. Jonathan said: mandrake flowers.
R. Alexandri said: He who studies the Torah for its own sake22 makes peace in the Upper Family23 and the Lower Family [men], as it is written, Or let him take hold of my strength [i.e., the Torah], that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me.24 Rab said: it is as though he built the heavenly and the earthly Temples, as it is written, And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people.25 R. Johanan said: He also shields the whole world [from the consequences of its sins], for it is written, and I have covered [i.e., protected] thee in the shadow of mine hand. Levi said: He also hastens26 the redemption, as it is written, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people.
Resh Lakish said: He who teaches Torah to his neighbour's son is regarded by Scripture as though he had fashioned him, as it is written, and the souls which they had made in Haran.27 R. Eleazar said: As though he himself had created the words of the Torah, as it is written, Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and make them.28 Raba said: As though he had made himself, for it is written, 'and make them': render not them but yourselves.29
R. Abbahu said: He who causes his neighbour to fulfil a precept is regarded by Scripture as though he had done it himself, for it is written, [The Lord said unto Moses … take …] thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river:30 did Moses then smite it? Aaron smote it! But, he who causes his neighbour to fulfil a precept, is regarded by Scripture as though he had done it himself.
AN EPIKOROS. Rab and R. Hanina both taught that this means one who insults a scholar. R. Johanan and R. Joshua b. Levi maintained that it is one who insults his neighbour in the presence of a scholar. Now on the view that he who insults his neighbour in the presence of a scholar is an epikoros, it is well; for then he who insults a scholar himself will be included in the expression, 'he who acts impudently against the Torah.'31 But on the view that he who insults a scholar himself is an epikoros, who is meant by 'she who acts impudently against the Torah'? — E.g., Manasseh b. Hezekiah.32 Others taught this [dispute] with reference to the second clause: 'he who acts impudently against the Torah.' Rab and R. Hanina both maintained that this means one who insults a scholar himself, whilst R. Johanan and R. Joshua b. Levi held that it is one who insults his neighbour in the presence of a scholar. Now, on the view that he who insults a scholar himself is denoted by the expression 'he who acts impudently against the Torah,' it is well, for then he who insults his neighbour in a scholar's presence is dubbed an epikoros; but on the view that he who insults his neighbour in the presence of a scholar 'is considered to have acted impudently against the Torah, who then is meant by epikoros? — R. Joseph said: E.g., Those who give, 'Of what use are the Rabbis to us? For their own benefit they read [the Scripture], and for their own benefit they study [post-Scriptural learning, particularly the Mishnah]'. Abaye said to him: But this too denotes acting impudently against the Torah, as it is written, Thus saith the Lord, But for my covenant [studied] day and night, I had not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth.33 R. Nahman b. Isaac said: it is also deduced from the verse, Then I will spare all the place for their sakes.34 But it means one, e.g., who was sitting before his teacher, when the discussion turned to some other subject, and the disciple remarked, 'We said so and so on that matter,' instead of 'Thou Master hast said.'35 Raba said: E.g., The family of Benjamin the doctor who say, 'Of what use are the Rabbis to us? They have never
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