I designated you the first;1 wherefore I commanded you concerning the first.2 The soul which I placed in you is called a lamp, wherefore I commanded you concerning the lamp.3 If ye fulfil them, 'tis well; but if not, I will take your souls.
And why particularly in childbirth? — Raba said, When the ox is fallen, sharpen the knife. Abaye said, Let the bondmaid increase her rebellion: it will all be punished by the same rod. R. Hisda said, Leave the drunkard alone: he will fall of himself. Mar 'Ukba said, When the shepherd is lame, and the goats are fleet, at the gate of the fold are words, and in the fold there is the account. R. Papa said, At the gate of the shop there are many brothers and friends; at the gate of loss4 there are neither brothers nor friends.5
And when are men examined? — Said Resh Lakish: When they pass over a bridge.6 A bridge and nothing else? — Say, that which is similar to a bridge. Rab would not cross a bridge where a heathen was sitting; said he, Lest judgment be visited upon him, and I be seized together with him. Samuel would cross a bridge only when a heathen was upon it, saying, Satan has no power over two nations [simultaneously]. R. Jannai examined [the bridge] and then crossed over. R. Jannai [acted] upon his views, for he said, A man should never stand in a place of danger and say that a miracle will be wrought for him, lest it is not. And if a miracle is wrought for him, it is deducted from his merits.7 R. Hanin said, Which verse [teaches this]? I am become diminished8 by reason of all the deeds of kindness and all the truth.9 R. Zera would not go out among the palm-trees on a day of the strong south wind.10
R. Isaac the son of Rab Judah said: Let one always pray for mercy not to fall sick; for the falls sick he is told, Show thy merits [rights] and be quit.11 Said Mar 'Ukba, Which verse [teaches this]? If any man fall mimmenu;12 It is from him [mimmenu] that proof must be brought.13 The School of R. Ishmael taught: 'If any man [hanofel] fall from thence': this man was predestined to fall since the six days of Creation, for lo! he has not [yet] fallen, and the Writ [already] calls him nofel [a faller].14 But reward [zekut] is brought about through a person of merit [zakkai], and punishment [hobah] through a person of- guilt.15
Our Rabbis taught: if one falls sick and his life is in danger,16 he is told, Make confession, for all who are sentenced to death make confession. When a man goes out into the street, let him imagine that he is given in charge of an officer;17 when he has a headache, let him imagine that he is put in irons; when he takes to bed, let him imagine that he ascended the scaffold to be punished. For whoever ascends the scaffold to be punished, if he has great advocates he is saved, but if not he is not saved. And these are man's advocates: repentance and good deeds. And even if nine hundred and ninety-nine argue for his guilt, while one argues in his favour, he is saved, for it is said, If there be with him an angel, an advocate, one among a thousand, To shew unto man what is right for him; Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit, etc.18 R. Eliezer the son of R. Jose the Galilean said: Even if nine hundred and ninety-nine parts of that angel are in his disfavour and one part is in his favour, be is saved, for it is said, 'an advocate, one part in a thousand'.
Our Rabbis taught: For three sins women die in childbirth. R. Eleazar said: women die young.19 R. Aha said, As a punishment for washing their children's napkins20 on the Sabbath. Others say, Because they call the holy ark a chest.
It was taught, R. Jose said: Three death scrutineers were created in woman; others state: Three causes23 of death: niddah, hallah, and the kindling of the [Sabbath] lights. One agrees with R. Eleazar, and the other with the Rabbi's.24
It was taught, R. Simeon b. Gamaliel said: The laws of hekdesh, terumoth25 and tithes are indeed essential parts of the law,
and they were entrusted to the ignorant.1
It was taught, R. Nathan said: A man's wife dies in punishment for [his unfulfilled] vows, for it is said. If thou, hast not wherewith to pay [thy vows], why should he take away thy bed [i.e., wife]from under thee?2 Rabbi said, For the sin of [unfulfilled] vows one's children die young, for it is said, Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin, neither say thou, before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands.3 What is the work of a man's hands? Say, it is a man's sons and daughters.
Our Rabbis taught: Children die as a punishment for [unfulfilled] vows: this is the view of R. Eleazar b. R. Simeon. R. Judah the Nasi said: For the sin of neglect of Torah [study]. As for the view that it is for the sin of vows, it is well, even as we have said. But on the view that it is for the sin of neglect of Torah, what verse [teaches this]? — For it is written, Have I smitten your children for nought? They received no instruction!4 R. Nahman b. Isaac said: The view that it is for the sin of vows is also [deduced] from this: For vain [utterance] have I smitten your children, i.e., on account of vain (neglected] vows.5 Consider: R. Judah the Nasi is identical with Rabbi, whereas Rabbi said that is it for the sin of vows? — He said that after he had heard it from R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon.6
R. Hiyya b. Abba and R. Jose7 differ therein: one maintained: It is for the sin of [neglect of] mezuzah;8 while the other held that it is for the sin of neglect of Torah. On the view that it is for the sin of mezuzah: a verse is interpreted with its precedent, but not with its ante-precedent verse. While on the view that it is for the sin of neglect of Torah: a verse is interpreted with its precedent and its ante-precedent.9
R. Meir and R. Judah differ therein: One maintains, It is for the neglect of mezuzah, while the other holds that it is for the neglect of fringes.10 Now, as for the view that it is for the neglect of mezuzah, it is well, for it is written, 'and thou shalt write them upon the door posts [mezuzoth] of thine house', which is followed by, 'that your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children'. But what is the reason of the view that it is for the neglect of fringes? — Said R. Kahana-others state, Shila Mari: because it is written, Also in thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the innocent poor.11 R. Nahman b. Isaac said, The view that it is for the neglect of mezuzah is also [learnt] from this: did I not find them like caves?12 [which means] that they made their entrances like caves.13
Resh Lakish said: He who is observant of fringes will be privileged to be served by two thousand eight hundred slaves, for it is said, Thus saith the Lord of hosts: In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold, out of all the languages of the nations shall even take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you, etc.14
(Mnemonic: Hate, Hallah, Terumah, Robbed, Law, Oath, Shedding, Uncovering, Folly.)15 It was taught, R. Nehemiah said: As a punishment for causeless hate strife multiplies in a man's house, his wife miscarries, and his sons and daughters die young.
R. Eleazar b. R. Judah said: Because of the neglect of hallah there is no blessing in what is stored, a curse is sent upon prices,16 and seed is sown and others consume it, for it is said, I also will do this unto you: I will visit you with terror [behalah], even consumption and fever, that shall consume the eyes, and make the soul to pine away. and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it:17 read not behalah but be-hallah.18 But if they give it, they are blessed, for it is said, ye shall also give unto the priest the first of your dough, to cause a blessing to rest on thine house.19
As a punishment for the neglect of terumoth and tithes the heavens are shut up from pouring down dew and rain, high prices are prevalent, wages are lost, and people pursue a livelihood but cannot attain it,20 for it is written: Drought [ziyyah] and heat [hom] consume the snow waters: So doth the grave those which have sinned.21 How does this imply it? — The School of R. Ishmael taught: On account of the things which I commanded you in summer22 but ye did them not, the snowy waters shall rob you in winter.23 But if they render them, they are blessed, for it is said, Bring ye the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it ['ad beli day].24 What is meant by 'ad beli day? — Said Rami b. Hama: Until your lips are exhausted25 through saying, 'Enough!' [day].
For the crime of robbery locusts make invasion, famine is prevalent, and people eat the flesh of their sons and daughters, for it is said, Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy.26 (Said Raba, E.g., these women of Mahoza,27
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