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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate ‘Abodah Zarah

Folio 40a

floating in it. Since you declare it permitted when there is one kalbith-fish in it, is there any need of mentioning two? — There is no difficulty; in open barrels [two are necessary],1  but in closed [one suffices].

It has been stated: R. Huna said: [Pickled herring is not considered as minced] so long as the head and backbone are recognisable. R. Nahman said: Either the head or the backbone. R. 'Ukba b. Hama objected: [We learnt] with regard to fish, only such as have fins and scales [may be eaten]!2  — Abaye said: The Mishnah deals with the skate and pelamys3  the heads of which resemble those of unclean fish.4

Rab Judah said in the name of 'Ulla: The difference of opinion [between R. Huna and R. Nahman is over the permissibility] to dip [bread] in the brine, but as regards eating the chopped herring, all agree that it is prohibited unless both the head and backbone are recognisable. R. Zera said: At first I used to dip [bread] in the brine;5  but when I heard the statement of Rab Judah in the name of 'Ulla, viz., the difference of opinion is over the permissibility to dip [bread] in the brine but as regards eating the chopped herring all agree that it is prohibited unless both the head and backbone are recognisable, I would not also dip in it.6

R. Papa said: The legal decision is that both the head and backbone of each fish must be recognisable. An objection is raised: Pieces of fish are all permitted so long as a mark [that the fish was of the clean species] is found in the whole of it or a portion of it, even a hundredth part of it. And it once happened that a heathen brought a barrel containing pieces of fish and a mark [of the clean species] was found in one of them; thereupon Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel declared the whole barrel to be permitted! — R. Papa gave this explanation: [Such a decision is correct] when the pieces are alike.7  If this be so, why mention it!8  — You might argue that we are concerned lest [that fish which had the mark of cleanness] happened [to fit in] by chance;9  so he informs us [that we need have no such fear].

A boat-load of zahanta once came to Sikara.10  R. Huna b. Hinnena went to inspect it and, noticing scales [on the sides of the boat], declared the fish to be permitted. Raba said to him: How is it possible to give permission in a place where [fish with] scales are common!11  So Raba issued an announcement prohibiting the fish, whereupon R. Huna b. Hinnena issued an announcement that they were permitted. R. Jeremiah of Difti12  said: R. Papi told me that R. Huna b. Hinnena only allowed the brine but not the eating of the fish. R. Ashi said: R. Papa told me that R. Huna b. Hinnena even allowed the fish to be eaten; but as for myself, I cannot prohibit it after what R. Papa told me, nor can I permit it in view of what Rab Judah declared in the name of 'Ulla,13  viz., the difference of opinion is over the permissibility to dip [bread] in the brine, but as regards eating the fish all agree that it is prohibited unless both the head and backbone are recognisable in each one.

R. Hinnena b. Idi was sitting in the presence of R. Adda b. Ahabah; and while sitting there he said: If a heathen brought a boat laden with barrels [of fish-brine] and a kalbith-fish is found in one of them, should they be open barrels they are all permitted,14  but if closed that barrel is permitted and the rest are prohibited. [R. Adda] asked him: Whence have you this? — [He replied:]I heard it from three eminent scholars,15  viz., Rab, Samuel and R. Johanan.

R. Berona said in the name of Rab: Fish-entrails and roe should only be bought of a reliable man. 'Ulla remarked to R. Dosthai of Berai:16  Since Rab mentioned that fish-entrails and roe should only be bought of a reliable man, it follows that unclean fish have roe; but against this I quote: Unclean fish are viviparous, whereas clean fish eject eggs! — [He replied:] Then strike out the word roe'! R. Zera said to him: Do not strike out the word because they both eject eggs; but whereas [the clean species] breed [by ejecting eggs which mature in the sand of the river-bed] the other is actually viviparous. Why, however, is it necessary [to buy the roe] from a reliable man? Surely we could examine the marks [which differentiate the clean and unclean species]; for it has been taught: The marks of [clean birds'] eggs are the same as those of [clean] fish.17  But how can such a thought enter your mind since Scripture mentions fins and scales as the marks of [clean] fish!18  The meaning is: The marks of [clean birds'] eggs are the same as those of fish-roe [which may be eaten]; and the following are the marks of [clean] birds' eggs: Such as are arched and rolling, I.e., one end is rounded and the other pointed, are clean; if both ends are pointed or round ed 'they are unclean; if the yolk is outside and the white inside the egg is unclean; if the white is outside and the yolk inside the egg is clean; if the white and yolk are mixed up it is a reptile's egg! — Raba said: [Rab's statement that it must only be bought of a reliable person refers to when the roe] has been pressed.19  But as for R. Dosthai of Berai who said that the word 'roe' should be struck out,

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. If there was only one, it might be thought that the fish fell into it after the brine had been prepared.
  2. Hul. 59a. So how can the head or backbone be used as the criterion?
  3. A species of tunny fish.
  4. In which case the head or backbone is no criterion, but generally it is.
  5. When either the head or backbone could be recognised, on the supposition that the two Rabbis only differed with regard to eating the herring.
  6. He adopted R. Huna's view that both the head and backbone must be capable of identification.
  7. I.e., they can be joined together so that it is possible to see that they are all pieces of the same fish.
  8. There being a sign of cleanness, the fish may obviously be eaten.
  9. And the remainder were of the unclean species.
  10. A town on the Tigris near Mahoza.
  11. The boat might contain a mixture of clean and unclean fish.
  12. Identified with Dibtha on the lower Tigris.
  13. V. supra, p. 197.
  14. It is assumed that each barrel had such a fish in it, and if not there at that time it may have fallen out.
  15. The word really denotes 'a scholar of the Scriptures'. Rashi explains: They are so eminent that they may be relied upon as upon the Scriptures.
  16. A town in Babylonia. It was also the birth-place of 'Ulla (Jast.). [There was a Biri also in Galilee, with which the place mentioned here is rather to be identified.]
  17. Hul. 63b.
  18. Lev. XI, 9. This is an interjection.
  19. And the shape of the eggs cannot be ascertained.
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‘Abodah Zarah 40b

surely it has been taught: The marks of [clean birds'] eggs are the same as those of fish-roe [which may be eaten]!1  — Must not [this Baraitha at all events] be explained?2  Read, therefore, thus:3  'Are the same as fish entrails.' But where is it found that the marks of fish-entrails are rounded and pointed?4  — This is actually found with the fish-bladder.

If there be no reliable man,5  what then? — Rab Judah said: So long as he declares, 'I salted the fish,'6  it is permitted — R. Nahman said: He must be able to declare, 'These are the fish and these their entrails.'7  Rab Judah instructed Adda, the attendant, 'So long as he declares, "I salted the fish," it is permitted.'

A LEAF OF ASAFOETIDA. Obviously [it may be eaten]!8  It would not have been necessary to mention it except for the drops which may be attached to the leaf. You might argue that we must be concerned lest [a heathen] bring [other drops of asafoetida which he had cut from the root with his knife] and mix them with it. Hence he informs us that [the drops which are found on the leaf] detached themselves [without cutting] and came off together with it.

AND ROLLED OLIVE-CAKES. Obviously they may be eaten! — No, it is necessary to mention [that they may be eaten] even when they are very soft. For you might argue that [the heathen] put wine on them.9  Hence he informs us that their softness is due to the oil.

R. JOSE SAYS: THOSE OLIVES HAVING STONES READY TO DROP OUT [SHELAHIN] ARE PROHIBITED. What is to be understood by shelahin! — R. Jose b. Hanina said: Those olives whose kernels drop out as soon as one takes them in his hand.

LOCUSTS WHICH COME etc. Our Rabbis taught: Locusts, capers and leeks10  which come from the warehouse, the stock or from a ship are permitted; but those sold on the counter in front of a shop are prohibited because [the shopkeeper] sprinkles wine upon them. Similarly the apple-cider of a heathen taken from the warehouse, the stock or a basket is permitted; but if it is sold on the counter it is prohibited because they mix wine with it.

Our Rabbis taught: Rabbi once suffered from a disorder of the bowels and said, 'Does anyone know whether apple-cider of a heathen is prohibited or permitted?' R. Ishmael son of R. Jose replied, 'My father once had the same complaint and they brought him apple-cider of a heathen which was seventy years old; he drank it and recovered.' He said to him, 'You had this information all this time and let me suffer!' They made inquiry and found a heathen who possessed three hundred jars of apple-cider seventy years old. [Rabbi] drank some of it and recovered; whereupon he exclaimed, 'Blessed be the All-present Who delivered His Universe into the keeping of guardians!'11

THE SAME RULE APPLIES TO THE HEAVE-OFFERING. How is this phrase to be understood? — R. Shesheth said: [It means that] the same rule applies to a priest who is suspected of selling his portion of the heave-offering12  as though it were common food. If it is in front of him, it is prohibited [to buy it]; but if it comes out of a warehouse or the stock or a basket,13  it is permitted because he would be afraid [to include the heave-offering among the wares] thinking that should the Rabbis hear of it they would deprive him of the lot.



GEMARA. If they are worshipped once a year, what is the reason of the Rabbis?16  — R. Isaac b. Joseph said in the name of R. Johanan: In the place where R. Meir lived, [the heathens] used to worship each image once a year; and since R. Meir takes a minority into consideration,17  he decreed [against the use of images] in the other places on account of the place [where they are worshipped]. The Rabbis, on the other hand, who do not take a minority into consideration, did not decree [against the use of images] in the other places on account of the place [where they are worshipped].

Rab Judah said in the name of Samuel: The teaching of the Mishnah refers to the royal statues.18  Rabbah b. Bar Hanah said in the name of R. Johanan: The teaching of the Mishnah only applies [to these statues] when they stand at the entrance of a city.19

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Consequently there is roe which may not be eaten; so how can he omit the word from Rab's statement?
  2. As above.
  3. [So Ms.M.]
  4. And its edibility is decided by this criterion.
  5. When the roe has been pressed.
  6. And can vouch that they were of the clean kind.
  7. He must be able to produce the fish from which the roe had been obtained.
  8. Since it was plucked and not cut with a knife.
  9. And this is the cause of their softness.
  10. Preserved by a heathen.
  11. He thanked God that the beverage which he required to cure his illness had been preserved for the seventy years necessary to make it effective.
  12. It should only be eaten by priests.
  13. Belonging to a priest.
  14. To he used for any purpose whatever.
  15. E.g., Hermes was often represented as holding a staff (caduceus). Zeus an eagle and the son-god (Helios) an orb.
  16. In allowing them to be used for a secular purpose, provided certain symbols are not in their hand.
  17. V. supra 34b. Although he knew that the custom practised in his own town was not generally followed, he decreed against all images lest, in the exceptional places where they were worshipped annually, they would be used by the Jews because they saw them in use elsewhere.
  18. Statues of kings which were reverenced by the populace, and not to ordinary idolatrous images.
  19. Only such are prohibited by R. Meir because they are erected in a conspicuous place to be worshipped.
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