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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Yebamoth

Folio 63a

and lends a sela'1  to a poor man in the hour of his need, Scripture says, Then shalt thou call, and the Lord will answer; thou shalt cry and He will say: 'Here I am'.2

(Mnemonic: Woman and land help this two shoots, tradesmen inferior.)3

R. Eleazar said: Any man who has no wife is no proper man; for it is said, Male and female created He them and called their name Adam.4

R. Eleazar further stated: Any man who owns no land is not a proper man; for it is said, The heavens are the heavens of the Lord; but the earth hath he given to the children of men.5

R. Eleazar further stated: What is the meaning of the Scriptural text, I will make him a help meet for him?6  If he was worthy she is a help to him;7  if he was not worthy she is against him.8

    Others say: R. Eleazar pointed out a contradiction: It is written kenegedo9  but we read kenegedo!10  — If he was worthy she is meet for him;10  if he was not worthy she chastises him.9

R. Jose met Elijah and asked him: It is written, I will make him a help;11  how does a woman help a man? The other replied: If a man brings wheat, does he chew the wheat? If flax, does he put on the flax?12  Does she not, then, bring light to his eyes and put him on his feet!

R. Eleazar further stated: What is meant by the Scriptural text, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh?13  This teaches that Adam had intercourse with every beast and animal but found no satisfaction until he cohabited with Eve.

R. Eleazar further stated: What is meant by the text, And in thee shall the families of the earth be blessed?14  The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Abraham, 'I have two goodly shoots to engraft15  on you: Ruth the Moabitess and Naamah the Ammonitess'.16  All the families of the earth,14  even the other families who live on the earth are blessed only for Israel's sake. All the nations of the earth,17  even the ships that go from Gaul to Spain are blessed only for Israel's sake.

R. Eleazar further stated: There will be a time when all craftsmen will take up agriculture;18  for it is said, And all that handle the oar, the mariners, and all the pilots of the sea, shall come down from their ships; they shall stand upon the land.19

R. Eleazar further stated: No20  occupation is inferior to that of agricultural labour; for it is said, And they shall come down.21

R. Eleazar once saw a plot of land that was ploughed across its width.22  'Wert thou to be ploughed along thy length also',23  he remarked, 'engaging in business would still be more profitable'. Rab once entered among growing ears of corn. Seeing that they were swaying24  he called out to them, 'Swing as you will,25  engaging in business brings more profit than you can do'.

Raba said: A hundred zuz26  in business means meat and wine every day; a hundred zuz in land, only salt and vegetables.27  Furthermore it causes him to sleep on the ground28  and embroils him in strife.29

R. Papa said, 'Sow30  but do not buy,31  even if the cost is the same; there is a blessing in the former. Sell out32  to avoid disgrace;33  but only mattresses, [not] however, a cloak, [since one] might not always again obtain [a suitable one].34  Stop up35  and you will need no repair;36  repair37  and you will not need to rebuild; for whosoever engages in building grows poor. Be quick in buying land; be deliberate in taking a wife. Come down a step in choosing your wife;38  go up a step in selecting your shoshbin.39

R. Eleazar b. Abina40  said: Punishment comes into the world only on Israel's account; for it is said, I have cut off nations, their corners are desolate; I have made their streets waste,41  and this is followed by the text, 'I said: Surely thou wilt fear Me, thou wilt receive correction'.42

Rab was once taking leave of R. Hiyya. The latter said to him, 'May the All Merciful deliver you from that which is worse than death'. 'But is there' [Rab wondered] 'anything that is worse than death'? When he went out he considered the matter and found [the following text]: And I find more bitter than death the woman etc.43

Rab was constantly tormented by his wife. If he told her, 'Prepare me lentils', she would prepare him small peas; [and if he asked for] small peas, she prepared him lentils. When his son Hiyya grew up he gave her [his father's instruction] in the reverse order.44  'Your mother', Rab once remarked to him, 'has improved'!45  'It was I', the other replied, 'who reversed [your orders] to her'. 'This is what people say', the first said to him, 'Thine own offspring teaches thee reason';46  you, however, must not continue to do so' for it is said, They have taught their tongue to speak lies, they weary themselves etc'.47

R. Hiyya was constantly tormented by his wife. He, nevertheless, whenever he obtained anything suitable wrapped it up in his scarf and brought it to her. Said Rab to him, 'But, surely, she is tormenting the Master!' — 'It is sufficient for us', the other replied, 'that they rear up our children and deliver us

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. A coin. V. Glos.
  2. Isa. LVIII, 9. This refers to the preceding text: If then thou seest the naked, that thou cover him (ibid. 7), i.e., helping the poor at the hour of his need; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh (ibid.) implies benefiting relatives including the marriage of a sister's daughter and loving one's neighbours who are regarded as relatives.
  3. The words in the mnemonic correspond to terms outstanding in the respective statements of R. Eleazar, that follow.
  4. Gen. V, 2. Adam = man. Only when the male and female were united were they called Adam.
  5. Ps. CXV, 16, emphasis on man and earth.
  6. Gen. II, 18.
  7. [H], 'help'.
  8. [H], meet for him may also be rendered 'against him'.
  9. [H] (rt. [H], 'to strike').
  10. [H] meet for him.
  11. Gen. II, 18.
  12. Obviously not. His wife grinds the wheat and spins the flax.
  13. Gen. II, 23, emphasis on This is now.
  14. Ibid. [Genesis] XII, 3, [H].
  15. [H] in Hif. is of the same rt. ([H]) as [H] in Nif.
  16. Both belonged to idolatrous nations and were 'grafted' upon the stock of Israel. The former was the ancestress of David (V. Ruth IV, 13ff), and the latter the mother of Rehoboam (v. I Kings XIV, 31) and his distinguished descendants Asa, Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah.
  17. Gen. XVIII, 18.
  18. Lit., 'they shall stand upon the land'.
  19. Ezek. XXVII, 29.
  20. Lit., 'not to thee'.
  21. V. supra note 11, emphasis on down.
  22. Apparently as a measure of economy.
  23. I.e., were it to be ploughed ever so many times.
  24. Suggestive of a swaggering motion; pride.
  25. Other readings and interpretations: 'Eh! thou desirest to be winnowed with the fan'; 'Thou swingest thyself like a swing'; 'Swing thyself' i.e., 'be as proud as thou wilt' (v. Aruk and Jast.).
  26. A coin. V. Glos.
  27. [H] may be compared with Arab. hafire 'the beginning of a thing', hence the first stage in the ripening of the corn (cf. Levy), 'unripe ears' (v. Rashi); 'grass' (Golds.); 'common vegetables' (Jast.).
  28. Since he must remain in his field during the night to watch the crops.
  29. With the owners of adjoining fields.
  30. Crops for the requirements of one's household.
  31. Corn in the market.
  32. Possessions or household goods.
  33. Of starvation or begging (v. Rashi). Other readings and interpretations: 'Buy ready-made cloth and do not wind skeins' (read [H], for [H], ); 'Buy etc. and do not spin' (v. Jast. and Aruk).
  34. V. BaH. a.l.
  35. A small hole in a building.
  36. Cf., 'a stitch in time saves nine' (Eng. prov.).
  37. If it is too late to stop up the cracks.
  38. A wife of superior position or rank might put on airs. or not be contented with her husband's social or financial position.
  39. The bridegroom's best man. By associating with superior men one has a good example to emulate.
  40. The last two words are missing in Yalkut.
  41. Zeph. III, 6.
  42. Ibid, 7.
  43. Eccl. VII, 26.
  44. So that when his mother, as usual, did the reverse of what she was requested by Hiyya in the name of his father, Rab had exactly what he had wished for.
  45. Lit., 'improved for you', (dative of advantage).
  46. The expedient had not occurred to him before his son had thought of it.
  47. Jer. IX, 4.
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Yebamoth 63b

from sin'.

Rab Judah was reading with his son R. Isaac the Scriptural text, And I find more bitter than death the woman. When the latter asked him, 'Who, for instance'? — 'For instance, your mother'. But,1  surely, Rab Judah taught his son R. Isaac, 'A man finds happiness2  only with his first wife; for it is said, Let thy fountain be blessed and have joy of the wife of thy youth';3  and when the latter asked him, 'Who for instance?' [he answered:] 'For instance, your mother'!4  — She was indeed irascible but could be easily appeased with a kindly word.5

How is one to understand the term a 'bad wife'? Abaye said: One who prepares for him6  a tray7  and has her tongue8  also ready for him. Raba said: One who prepares for him6  the tray and turns her back upon him.9

R. Hama b. Hanina stated: As soon as a man takes a wife his sins are buried;10  for it is said: Whoso findeth a wife findeth a great good and obtaineth11  favour of the Lord.12

In the West,13  they used to ask a man who married, 'findeth or find?'14  Findeth, because it is written, Whoso findeth a wife, findeth a great good;12  Find, because it is written, And I find more bitter than death the woman.15

Raba said: [If one has] a bad wife it is a meritorious act to divorce her,16  for it is said, Cast out17  the scoffer, and contention will go out; yea, strife and shame will cease.18

Raba further stated: A bad wife, the amount of whose kethubah19  is large,20  [should be given] a rival at her side; as people say, 'By her partner rather than by a thorn'.21

Raba further stated: A bad wife is as troublesome as a very rainy day; for it is said, A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.22

Raba further stated: Come and see how precious is a good wife and how baneful is a bad wife. 'How precious is a good wife', for it is written: Whoso findeth a wife findeth a great good.12  Now, if Scripture speaks of the woman herself, then how precious is a good wife whom Scripture praises. If Scripture speaks of the Torah, then how precious is a good wife with whom the Torah is compared. 'How baneful is a bad wife', for it is written, And I find more bitter than death the woman.23  Now, if Scripture speaks of herself, then how baneful is a bad wife whom Scripture censures. If Scripture speaks of Gehenna, then how baneful is a bad wife with whom Gehenna is compared.

Behold I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape.24  R. Nahman said in the name of Rabbah b. Abbuha: This refers to a bad wife, the amount of whose kethubah25  is large.26

The Lord has delivered me into their hands against whom I am not able to stand.27  R. Hisda said in the name of Mar 'Ukba b. Hiyya: This refers to a bad wife the amount of whose kethubah25  is large.26  In the West28  it was said: This refers to one whose maintenance depends on his money.29

Thy sons and thy daughter's shall be given unto another people.30  R. Hanan b. Raba stated in the name of Rab: This refers to one's father's wife.31

I will provoke them with a vile32  nation.33  R. Hanan b. Raba stated in the name of Rab: This refers to a bad wife the amount of whose kethubah25  is large.34  R. Eliezer stated: This refers to the Sadducees;35  for so it is said, The fool32  has said in his heart: 'There is no God' etc.36  In a Baraitha it was taught: This refers to the people of Barbaria37  and the people of Mauretania38  who go naked in the streets; for there is nothing more objectionable and abominable to the Omnipresent than the man who goes naked in the streets. R. Johanan said: This refers to the Parsees.39

When R. Johanan was informed that the Parsees40  had come to Babylon, he reeled and fell.41  When however he was told that they accepted bribes he recovered42  and sat down again.43

They44  issued three decrees as a punishment for three [transgressions]:45  They decreed against [ritually prepared] meat,46  because the priestly gifts47  [were neglected]. They decreed against the use of baths, because ritual bathing [was not observed]. They exhumed the dead,48  because rejoicings were held on the days of their49  festivals; as it is said, Then shall the hand of the Lord be against you, and against your fathers,50  and Rabbah b. Samuel said that that51  referred to the exhumation of the dead, for the Master said, 'For the sins of the living the dead are exhumed'.

Said Raba to Rabbah b. Mari: It is written, They shall not be gathered, nor be buried, they shall be for dung upon the face of the earth,52  but it is also written,53  And death shall be chosen rather than life!54  — The other replied: 'Death shall be chosen' for the wicked, in order that they may not live in this world and thus sin and fall into Gehenna.55

It is written in the book of Ben Sira: —56

A good wife is a precious gift;57  she will be put in the bosom of the God-fearing man.58  A bad wife is a plague to her husband. What remedy has he? — Let him give her a letter of divorce and be healed of his plague.

A beautiful wife is a joy to her husband;59  the number of his days shall be double.60

Turn away thy eyes from [thy neighbour's] charming wife lest thou be caught in her net. Do not turn in to her husband to mingle with him wine and strong drink; for, through the form of a beautiful woman, many were destroyed and a mighty host are all her slain.61

Many were the wounds of the spice-peddler,62  which lead him on to lewdness like a spark that lights the coal.63

As a cage is full of birds so are [the harlots'] houses full of deceit.64

Do not worry about to-morrow's trouble, for thou knowest not what the day may beget. To-morrow may come and thou65  wilt be no more and so thou hast worried about a world which is not thine.66

Keep away many from thy house; and do not bring everyone into thy house.

Many be they that seek thy welfare; reveal thy secret only to one of a thousand.

R. Assi stated: The son of David67  will not come before all the souls in Guf68  are disposed of; since it is said, For the spirit that enwrappeth itself is from Me, and the souls which I have made.69

It was taught: R. Eliezer stated, He who does not engage in propagation of the race is as though he sheds blood; for it is said, Whoso sheddeth man's blood by man shall his blood be shed,70  and this is immediately followed by the text, And you, be ye fruitful and multiply.71  R. Jacob said: As though he has diminished the Divine Image; since it is said, For in the image of God made he man,72  and this is immediately followed by, And you, be ye fruitful etc.71  Ben 'Azzai said: As though he sheds blood and diminishes the Divine Image; since it is said,73  And you, be ye fruitful and mutltiply.71

They said to Ben 'Azzai: Some preach well and act well, others act well but do not preach well; you. however, preach well but do not act well!74  Ben 'Azzai replied: But what shall I do, seeing that my soul is in love with the Torah; the world can be carried on by others.

Another [Baraitha] taught: R. Eliezer said, Anyone who does not engage in the propagation of the race is as though he sheds blood; For it is said, Whoso sheddeth mans's blood,72  and close upon it follows, And you, be ye fruitful etc.71  R. Eleazar b. Azariah said: As though he diminished the Divine Image. Ben 'Azzai said etc.75  They said to Ben 'Azzai: Some preach well etc.75

Our Rabbis taught: And when it rested, he said: 'Return O Lord unto the ten thousands and76  thousands of Israel',77

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. BaH inserts, 'it is not so'.
  2. Or 'satisfaction', 'contentment'.
  3. Prov. V, 18.
  4. Sanh. 22b. Which is apparently contradictory to the former character attributed to her!
  5. Cf. Jast. and Golds.
  6. Her husband.
  7. His meal.
  8. Lit., 'mouth'.
  9. Euphemism.
  10. [H] lit., 'stopped up'.
  11. [H] regarded to have the same meaning as [H] supra n. 7.
  12. Prov, XVIII, 22.
  13. Palestine.
  14. Hebr. Moze or Maza.
  15. Eccl. VII, 26.
  16. [H] rt. [H] v. infra.
  17. [H] of the same rt. as supra n. 13.
  18. Prov. XXII, 10.
  19. V. Glos.
  20. Which the husband, should he desire to divorce her, cannot afford to pay.
  21. I.e., a bad wife is more easily corrected by subjecting her to the unpleasantness of a rival than by chastising her with thorns.
  22. Prov. XXVII, 15.
  23. Eccl, VII, 26.
  24. Jer. XI, 11.
  25. V. Glos.
  26. Which the husband, should he desire to divorce her, cannot afford to pay.
  27. Lam, I, 14.
  28. Palestine.
  29. Having no land of his own from which to obtain his food, he is subject to the extortionate prices of unscrupulous dealers upon whom he must depend for the supply of his daily food.
  30. Deut. XXVIII, 32.
  31. A stepmother.
  32. [H].
  33. Deut. XXXII, 21.
  34. Which the husband, should he desire to divorce her, cannot afford to pay.
  35. Bomberg ed., Minim, 'heretics'.
  36. Ps. XIV, 1.
  37. Tunis.
  38. Britannia? v. Jast.
  39. The followers of an expanded Zoroastrian ritual who, under the guidance of the Magians, in the reign of Ardashir I (226-241), severely oppressed the adherents of other creeds.
  40. V. p. 424, n. 17.
  41. Knowing as he did their intolerance and cruel religious fanaticism.
  42. Lit., 'made (himself) straight'.
  43. All hope, he felt, was not lost when concessions might be obtained by paying for them.
  44. The Parsees who were accepted by Israel as a visitation sent by the divine will for their neglect of the Torah and its commandments.
  45. Of Israel in Babylon.
  46. Under a decree that any animal killed for human consumption must not be eaten unless certain parts of it were first offered on the Parsee altars, Jews were practically excluded from the eating of meat.
  47. Prescribed in Deut. XVIII, 3.
  48. One of the religious laws of the Parsees forbade the pollution of the earth by the burial of corpses. As a result, the graves in the Jewish cemeteries were broken open, and the dead exhumed and thrown to the beasts and birds of prey.
  49. The idolaters'.
  50. I Sam, XII, 15.
  51. The hand of the Lord against the fathers who were no more alive.
  52. Jer. VIII, 2.
  53. Immediately following this text.
  54. Jer. VIII, 3. How could it be said that such an ignominious death as described (ibid. 2) would be chosen rather than life?
  55. The choice of death will not be made, as was assumed, by the sufferers. It is the prophet's oracle on the destiny of the wicked.
  56. Ecclesiasticus,
  57. So BaH. Cur. edd. add, 'to her husband; and it is written, good'.
  58. Cf. Ecclesiasticus XXVI, 3.
  59. Lit., 'happy is her husband'. Cf. Ps. I, 1.
  60. Cf. Ecclesiasticus XXVI, 1. Every happy day is as good as two (v. Rashi).
  61. Cf. Ben Sira (Ben Zeeb ed.) IX, 8, 10, 11.
  62. His business of selling spices and perfumes to women leads him to much temptation.
  63. Cf. Ben Sira (Ben Zeeb ed.) IX suppl. to v. 12.
  64. Cf. Jer. V, 27 and op. cit., second suppl. loc. cit,
  65. Lit., 'he'.
  66. Lit., 'his'. Cf. Ben Sira, op. cit., XXX, 23. 24.
  67. The Messiah,
  68. Lit., 'body', the region inhabited by the unborn souls.
  69. Isa LVII, 16. The previous section of the verse speaks of the redemption (Rashi). Hence the deduction that the redemption that is to come through the Messiah will not take place before all the unborn souls have been made, i.e., passed through the life of this world.
  70. Gen. IX, 6.
  71. Gen. IX, 7.
  72. Ibid. 6.
  73. After both Whoso sheddeth man's blood and In the image of God made he man. (Gen. IX, 6).
  74. He remained a bachelor.
  75. V. supra.
  76. E.V. 'of the'.
  77. Num. X, 36.
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