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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Shabbath

Folio 115a

the trimming of vegetables is permitted. Nuts may be cracked and pomegranates scraped from the [time of] minhah and onwards, on account of one's vexation.1  The household of Rab Judah trimmed cabbage. Rabbah's household scraped pumpkins. Seeing that they were doing this [too] early,2  he said to them, A letter has come from the west in R. Johanan's name [to the elect] that this is forbidden.3



GEMARA. It was stated: If they are written in Targum10  or in any [other] language, — R. Huna said: They must not be saved from a fire; while R. Hisda ruled: They may be saved from a fire. On the view that it is permissible to read them,11  all agree that they must be saved. They differ only according to the view that they may not be read. R. Huna says: We may not save [them], since they may not be read. R. Hisda says: We must save [them], because of the disgrace to Holy Writings.12  We learnt: ALL SACRED WRITINGS MAY BE SAVED FROM THE FIRE, WHETHER WE READ THEM OR NOT, and even if they are written in any language. Surely WHETHER WE READ THEM refers to the Prophets, whilst OR NOT refers to the Writings, AND EVEN IF THEY ARE WRITTEN IN ANY LANGUAGE, though they may not be read [publicly], yet he [the Tanna] teaches that they MAY BE SAVED, which refutes R. Huna? — R. Huna can answer you: Is that logical? Consider the second clause: THEY MUST BE HIDDEN: seeing that they must be saved,13  need hiding be mentioned?14  But R. Huna explains it in accordance with his view, while R. Hisda explains it according to his. R. Huna explains it in accordance with his view. WHETHER WE READ THEM, [i.e.] the Prophets; OR NOT, [i.e.,] the Writings. That is only if they are written in the Holy Tongue [Hebrew], but if they are written in any [other] language, we may not save them, yet even so they must be hidden. R. Hisda explains it according to his view: WHETHER WE READ THEM, [i.e.,] the Prophets, OR NOT, [i.e.,] the Writings; EVEN IF THEY ARE WRITTEN IN ANY LANGUAGE, we must still save them. And this is what he states: And [even] their worm-eaten [material] MUST BE HIDDEN.

An objection is raised: If they are written in Targum or in any [other] language, they may be saved from the fire: this refutes R. Huna? — R. Huna answers you: This Tanna holds, They may be read. Come and hear: If they are written in Egyptian,15  Median, a trans[-Euphratean]16  Aramaic, Elamitic,17  or Greek, though they may not be read, they may be saved from a fire: this refutes R. Huna? — R. Huna can answer you: It is [a controversy of] Tannaim. For it was taught: If they are written in Targum or in any language, they may be saved from a fire. R. Jose said: They may not be saved from a fire. Said R. Jose: It once happened that my father Halafta visited R. Gamaliel Berabbi18  at Tiberias and found him sitting at the table of Johanan b. Nizuf with the Targum of the Book of Job in his hand19  which he was reading. Said he to him, 'I remember that R. Gamaliel, your grandfather, was standing on a high eminence on the Temple Mount, when the Book of Job in a Targumic version was brought before him, whereupon he said to the builder, "Bury it under the bricks."20 He [R. Gamaliel II] too gave orders, and they hid it.'21  R. Jose son of R. Judah said: They overturned a tub of mortar upon it. Said Rabbi: There are two objections to this: Firstly, how came mortar on the Temple Mount?22  Moreover, is it then permitted to destroy them with one's own hands? For they must be put in a neglected place to decay of their own accord.23  Which Tannaim [differ on this question]?24

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Lit., 'grief of the soul'. It would be very vexing if the breaking of the Fast had to be delayed whilst these are prepared (Baal Ha-Ma'or V. Marginal Gloss.; Rashi explains it differently)
  2. Before the time of minhah.
  3. Such letters afford examples of early Rabbinic Responsa.
  4. E.g., the Torah, Prophets, and Writings.
  5. In this connection 'may' is the equivalent of 'must', and similarly in the Gemara.
  6. By being moved from one domain to another on the Sabbath. V. next Mishnah.
  7. The reference is to public readings. There was (and is) public reading from the Prophets but not from the Writings (Hagiographa). Rashi quotes another explanation: even private individuals did not read the Writings (on the Sabbath), because public lectures were given on that day, which left no time for private reading.
  8. If they become unfit for use. V. p. 429, n. 5.
  9. The public lectures would be neglected. For a general discussion on the manner, etc. of these lectures v. Zunz, G. V. Ch. 20.
  10. The Aramaic translation of the Pentateuch and other portions of the Bible are called Targum — the translation par excellence. But v. Kaplan, op. cit. pp. 283 seq.
  11. publicly; v. Meg. 8b.
  12. It disgraces them if they are allowed to be burnt like something worthless.
  13. On your hypothesis.
  14. Obviously if they have sufficient sanctity to be saved on the Sabbath they must not be simply thrown away when no longer fit for use.
  15. Or, Coptic.
  16. [H] so Jast.: perhaps the reference is to Hebrew in transliteration.
  17. Of Elam, south of Assyria.
  18. A title of scholars most frequently applied to disciples of R. Judah ha-Nasi and his contemporaries, but also to some of his predecessors (as here), and sometimes to the first Amoraim (Jast.). V. Naz., Sonc. ed., p. 64, n. 1.
  19. This shows that a Targum of Job existed already in the middle of the first century C.E. This is not identical with the extant Targum, which on internal evidence must have been composed later; v. J.E. art. Targum, Vol. XII, p. 62; Zunz, G. V. 64 seq.
  20. Lit., 'the course (of stones)'.
  21. The spread of words inimical to Judaism, both through the rise of Christianity and false claimants to the Messiahship, caused the Rabbis to frown upon books other than those admitted to the Holy Scriptures, even such as were not actually inimical thereto. — Weiss, Dor, I, 212, 236.
  22. A mixture of lime and sand was used, but not mortar, which is made of earth and water.
  23. The objection to writing down the Targum was probably due to the fear that it might in time be regarded as sacred. V. also Kaplan, op. cit., p. 285.
  24. Sc. whether they may be rescued from a fire.
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Shabbath 115b

Shall we say the first Tanna and R. Jose, — but perhaps they differ in this: one Master holds, It is permitted to read them; while the other holds, It is not permitted to read them?1  Rather [they are] R. Jose and the Tanna [who taught the law] about the Egyptian [script].

Our Rabbis taught: Benedictions and amulets, though they contain letters of the [Divine] Name and many passages of the Torah, must not be rescued from a fire but must be burnt where they lie,2  they together with their Names. Hence it was said, They who write down Benedictions are as though they burnt a Torah.3  It happened that one was once writing in Sidon. R. Ishmael was informed thereof, and he went to question him [about it]. As he was ascending the ladder, he [the writer] became aware of him, [so] he took a sheaf of benedictions and plunged them into a bowl of water. In these words4  did R. Ishmael speak to him: The punishment for the latter [deed] is greater than for the former.

The Resh Galutha5  asked Rabbah son of R. Huna: If they are written with paint [dye], sikra,6  gum ink, or calcanthum,7  in Hebrew, may they be rescued from a fire or not? This is asked whether on the view that we may save8  or that we may not save. It is asked on the view that we may not save: that may be only if they are written in Targum or any [other] language; but here that they are written in Hebrew, we may rescue [them]. Or perhaps even on the view that we may save [them], that is only when they are written in ink, which is lasting; but here, since it [the writing] is not permanent, [we may] not [rescue them]? — We may not save [them], answered he. But R. Hamnuna recited, We may save [them]? — If it was taught, it was taught, replied he.9  Where was it taught? — Said R. Ashi, Even as it was taught: The only difference between the [other] Books10  and the Megillah11  is that the Books can be written in any language, whereas a Megillah must be written in Assyrian,12  on a Scroll, and in ink.13

R. Huna b. Halub asked R. Nahman: A Scroll of the Law in which eighty-five letters cannot be gathered,14  such as the section, And it came to pass when the Ark set forward [etc.],15  may it be saved from a fire or not? — Said he, Then ask about the section, 'and it came to pass, etc.,'itself!16  — If the section, 'And it came to pass, etc.,' is defective [through effacing], I have no problem, for since it contains the Divine Name, even if it does not contain eighty-five letters we must rescue it. My only problem is about a Scroll of the Law wherein [this number] cannot be gathered: what then? We may not save it, he answered.

He refuted him: If Targum is written as Mikra,17  or Mikra is written in Targum or in Hebrew characters,18  they must be saved from a fire, and the Targum in Ezra, Daniel and the Torah [the Pentateuch] go without saying. Now, what is the Targum in the Torah? [The words], Yegar sahadutha;19  and though it does not contain eighty-five letters [it must be saved]? — That was taught in respect of completing [the number].20

The scholars asked: These eighty-five letters, [must they be] together or [even] scattered? R. Huna said: [They must be] together; R. Hisda said: Even scattered. An objection is raised: If a Scroll of the Law is decayed, if eighty-five letters can be gathered therein, such as the section, 'and it came to pass when the ark set forward etc.,' we must save it; if not, we may not save it. This refutes R. Huna?21  — R. Hisda expounded it on the basis of R. Huna's [ruling as referring] to words.22

Our Rabbis taught: 'And it came to pass when the ark set forward that Moses said, [etc.]': for this section the Holy One, blessed be He, provided signs above and below,23  to teach

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. And the question whether they may be saved depends on whether they may be read.
  2. Lit., 'in their place'.
  3. Since should fire break out they may not be saved (Rashi).
  4. Lit., 'this language'.
  5. V. p. 217, n. 7.
  6. A red paint.
  7. Vitriol used as an ingredient of shoe-black and of ink (Jast.).
  8. Holy writings written in other languages.
  9. Then I am wrong.
  10. Comprising the Bible — i.e., the Torah, Prophets and Hagiographa.
  11. The Book of Esther.
  12. The modern square Hebrew characters, which superseded the older Hebrew, viz., Syriac or Samaritan form. V. Meg., Sonc. ed., p. 47 n. 4 and Sanh., Sonc., ed. p. 120, n. 4.
  13. Ri: this is only in respect of saving them from a fire. Other books even if not written on a scroll and in ink must be saved, whereas for a Megillah these conditions are necessary.
  14. I.e., the whole Scroll is effaced and eighty-five clear letters cannot be found in it. This is the minimum for a Scroll to retain its sanctity.
  15. Num. X, 35-36. That contains eighty-five letters, and as stated infra it is designated a separate 'Book'.
  16. If it is written separately upon a piece of parchment, and one or more of its letters are effaced.
  17. I.e., if the Biblical passages which are in Aramaic in the original are written in Hebrew, as practically the whole of the Pentateuch (mikra — lit., 'reading') is.
  18. Samaritan script. V. p. 66, n. 9.
  19. Gen. XXXI, 47 q.v.
  20. I.e., if the Scroll contains eighty-five uneffaced letters including yegar sahadutha, it must be saved.
  21. Because 'can be gathered' implies that they are scattered.
  22. It contains complete words scattered about which total to eighty-five letters. They differ where all the eighty-five letters are scattered, the Scroll containing no complete words at all.
  23. I.e., at the beginning and at the end. — In the Scrolls the section is preceded and followed by a reversed nun, which distinguishes and divorces it from the adjoining passages.
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