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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate ‘Abodah Zarah

Folio 7a

R. Meir says: The dyer should refund to the owner the value of his wool.1  R. Judah says: If the increase in value [through the dyeing] exceeds the outlay thereon, the owner may refund the outlay, or if the outlay exceeds the increased value, he may offer him the increase in value.2  Thereupon R. Joseph turned his face away [and remarked]: It was right and necessary [to state] that the halachah is according to R. Joshua b. Karha.3  We might indeed have applied the principle:4  '[Where the opinions of] an individual and of a majority [conflict] the halachah is according to the majority', so we are given to understand that here the halachah is according to the individual. But wherefore state that the law is according to R. Judah? It is a commonplace that where differing opinions [are quoted, and one of these is] subsequently quoted anonymously, the law is decided according to the anonymous opinion.5  Now, these differing opinions are quoted in Baba Kamma, and there is the subsequent anonymous opinion in Baba Mezi'a,6  where we learn that the party which changes [an agreement] has the lesser right, likewise whichever party alters his mind has the lesser right!7

And as to R. Huna?8  — [His statement is necessary] because the Mishnah has not [retained its original] order,9  so that it might be said that the anonymous statement was quoted earlier and the differing opinions later. But if that were so, you can apply to every case of differing opinions followed by an anonymous one the argument that the Mishnah has not retained its original order!10  R. Huna, however, [could reply thus]: The argument that the Mishnah has not its original order could not be admitted in regard to the same Tractate, but it could be used in regard to two Tractates.11  And as to R. Joseph?12  — He holds that all [those dealing with] torts13  are to be regarded as one tractate; or, if you wish, it could be said, because this rule is included among legal and fixed decisions, thus: 'The party which changes an agreement has the lesser right; and whichever party alters his mind has the lesser right.14

Our Rabbis taught:15  One should not say to another [on the Sabbath], 'We shall see whether you will stay on with me [to do work] this evening.'16  R. Joshua b. Karha says: One may say to another, 'We shall see whether you will stay on with me this evening.' Said Rabbah b. Bar-Hana in the name of R. Johanan, the halachah is according to R. Joshua b. Karha.

Our Rabbis taught: If one consulted a sage who declared [the person or article] as unclean, he should not consult another sage who might declare it as clean; if one sage declared as forbidden, one should not consult another sage who might declare as permitted. If of two sages present one declares as unclean and the other as clean, one forbids and the other permits, then if one of them is superior to the other in learning and in point of number17  his opinion should be followed, otherwise, the one holding the stricter view should be followed. R. Joshua b. Karha says: In laws of the Torah18  follow the stricter view, in those of Soferim19  follow the more lenient view.20  Said R. Joseph: The halachah is according to R. Joshua b. Karha.

Our Rabbis taught: If they21  reverted [to their usual practices] none of them should ever be accepted.22  This is the opinion of R. Meir. R. Judah says: If they reverted in secret matters, they should not be accepted,23  but if in things done in public they should be accepted.24  Some say that, if they observed [in their penitent state] even secret things, they should be accepted,

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. In the undyed state, and he has the right to retain the dyed wool, however much its value may have increased.
  2. And claim the wool; since, in the case of the dyed wool being worth more than undyed wool plus the cost of dyeing, the dyer will benefit by miscarrying the order.
  3. That a loan made on a verbal understanding may be recovered from idolaters, contrary to the opinion of the Rabbis of our Mishnah.
  4. Ber. 9a.
  5. Yeb. 42b.
  6. 15a.
  7. And since here the dyer, by miscarrying the order, changed the agreement, it might be taken for granted that he would be placed at a disadvantage in accordance with the ruling of R. Judah.
  8. What was the object of his assertion?
  9. In which it was originally propounded.
  10. And since this principle is generally accepted (v. Yeb 42) R. Huna's explanation is inadmissible.
  11. And in this case the differing opinions and the anonymous one are each in a separate Tractate; R. Huna's statement was therefore necessary.
  12. Why did he then disapprove of R. Huna's statement?
  13. Baba Kamma, Baba Mezi'a, and Baba Bathra.
  14. It was therefore too obvious to be stated that the decision is according to R. Judah.
  15. Shab. 150a.
  16. Since he engages him, even though by mere insinuation, on the Sabbath to do work.
  17. I.e., of disciples or followers.
  18. Laws explicitly stated in Scripture.
  19. Laws enacted by the Scribes (sofer-scribe) from the time of Ezra onward.
  20. V. Tosef. 'Eduy. I.
  21. I.e., 'amme ha-arez — people who are ignorant and careless about religious observances, particularly those relating to the tithe which they would generally withhold from the Levite — their utensils and food articles were consequently held by the Haber (v. note 7) in Levitical uncleanliness. This made them unacceptable to the Haber's society. And the discussion that follows is whether they could be accepted again.
  22. Regarded as Haberim (plural of Haber), those particular about religious observances and the giving of the tithe. On Haber v. Weinberg and Krauss, Jeshurun 1929, 1930.
  23. They prove themselves hypocrites and are not to be trusted.
  24. Their frankness may be taken to show that they give an undertaking to act rightly and will stand by it.
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‘Abodah Zarah 7b

but if only things done in public they should not be accepted. R. Simeon and R. Joshua b. Karha say: Whether in the one case or in the other they should be accepted, for it is said, Return, O backsliding children.1  Said R. Isaac, the native of Kefar Acco, in the name of R. Johanan: The halachah is according to the latter pair.


GEMARA. Said R. Tahlifa b. Abdimi in the name of Samuel: According to R. Ishmael it should always be forbidden [to transact business with idolaters because of] Sunday.3

BUT THE SAGES SAY, BEFORE THEIR FESTIVITIES IT IS FORBIDDEN, BUT AFTER THEIR FESTIVITIES IT IS PERMITTED. Is not [the opinion of] the Sages identical with that of the first Tanna?4  — The exclusion of the festivals themselves is the point on which they differ. The first Tanna holds that the period is exclusive of the festival, but these latter Rabbis hold that it includes the festivals. Or it might probably be said that they differ on the question of business transactions carried out,5  the first Tanna holding that [the proceeds of] such transactions are permissible, while our latter Rabbis hold that [the proceeds of] these transactions are forbidden. It might also be said that this ruling of Samuel is a matter on which they differ. For Samuel said:6  In the Diaspora7  the prohibition is limited to their festival day only. The first Tanna accepts Samuel's ruling, while our last Rabbis do not hold with Samuel. You may further say that they differ in the ruling of Nahum the Mede. For it is taught:8  Nahum the Mede says, The prohibition applies to only one day before their Festivals. The first Tanna does not accept the ruling of Nahum the Mede, and our latter Rabbis do agree with Nahum the Mede's ruling.

To revert to [the above text]: 'Nahum the Mede says: The prohibition applies to only one day before their festivals.' Thereupon they said to him: 'This matter ought to be suppressed and left unsaid.'9  But are there not our latter Rabbis who hold the same opinion?10  — Our latter Rabbis may be none other than Nahum the Mede.11

Another [Baraitha] taught: Nahum the Mede says, One may sell [to idolaters] a male or old horse in war time.12  Whereupon they said to him: This matter ought to be suppressed and left unsaid. But is there not Ben Bathyra who holds the same opinion; for we learnt: Ben Bathyra permits [the sale of] a horse?13  — Ben Bathyra makes no distinction between the sale of horses and mares, whereas Nahum the Mede, who does make that distinction will share the opinion of the Rabbis;14  but according to the Rabbis: This matter ought to be suppressed and left unsaid.15

It is [further] taught: Nahum the Mede says: The dill plant is subject to tithe whether [in its state of] seeds, or vegetables, or pods.16  Whereupon he was told: This matter ought to be suppressed and left unsaid. But is there not R. Eliezer who holds the same opinion; for we learnt: R. Eliezer said: The dill plant is subject to tithe whether in its state of seeds, or vegetable, or pods?17  — There the garden variety is meant.18

Said R. Aha b. Minyomi to Abaye: A great man has come from our place,19  but whatever he says he is told that it ought to be suppressed and left unsaid. He replied: There is one instance in which we do follow his ruling. It is taught: Nahum the Mede says: One may ask for one's own needs in the course of the Benediction [concluding with] 'Who heareth prayer.'20  — As to this ruling, he said, an exception had to be made, for it is hanging on strong ropes!21  It is taught: R. Eliezer says: One should first pray for his own needs and then recite The Prayer.22  as it is said; A prayer for the afflicted [himself] when he is overwhelmed, and [then] poureth forth his meditation before the Lord;23  and by 'meditation,' only prayer is meant, as it is said, And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide.24  But R. Joshua says: One should first recite The Prayer and then ask for his own needs, as it is said, I pour out my meditation25  before Him [then] I declare my [own] affliction before Him.26  Now, as to R. Eliezer, what of the verse, I pour out my meditation etc.? — He interprets it thus, 'I pour out my meditation before Him when I had already declared my [own] affliction.' And as to R. Joshua [how does he explain] the verse, A prayer for the afflicted when he is overwhelmed etc.? — He explains it thus: When is the [personal] 'prayer for the afflicted' offered? When he had poured forth his meditation before the Lord. Well now, as for these scriptural verses, they prove no more the statement of the one than they prove that of the other; is there any [principle] underlying their dispute? — It is the one explained by R. Simlai; for R. Simlai gave the following exposition:27  One should always recount the praises of the Omnipresent and then offer his supplications.28  Whence do we learn it? From [the prayer of] our Teacher Moses which is recorded thus: O Lord God, Thou hast begun to show Thy servant Thy greatness etc., and then only, Let me go over, I pray Thee, and see the good land.29

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Jer. III, 14. Thus repentant sinners are to be accepted unconditionally.
  2. The prohibitions enumerated in the preceding Mishnah (supra 2a) extend to three days before the idolaters' festivities and three days after them.
  3. V. p. 24, n. 9.
  4. Of the Mishnah supra 2a.
  5. Infra 18b.
  6. Infra 11b.
  7. Lit., 'exile', applied to all places outside Palestine in which Jews resided. Many restrictions as to idolaters were waived outside Palestine, since 'gentiles of the lands other than Palestine are not really idolaters' (Hul. 13b).
  8. Tosef. A.Z. I.
  9. 'Inadmissible', 'ruled out of court'.
  10. According to the reply given last.
  11. His opinion being recorded in the Mishnah anonymously in the form of 'the Sages say'.
  12. 'Er. 83a. The sale of big cattle to an idolater is forbidden (v. infra 14b) out of consideration for the animal: as, being used for labour, it would be deprived of its weekly day of rest. The sale, however, in war time, of a male horse, which is not easily disciplined (V.J. A.Z. I, 640a) or of an old one, to which the general objection of 'placing a weapon in the hand of a heathen' is not quite applicable, might be permitted as a matter of rare occurrence.
  13. Infra 17a. Since it is used chiefly for riding, and the carrying of a rider is not to be regarded as carrying a burden (on the Sabbath) according to the dictum 'a living being carries itself'.
  14. Who prohibit the sale of a horse, v. infra 14b and 16a.
  15. As the Rabbis prohibit the sale of all kinds of horses, and do not admit the distinction made by Nahum.
  16. Vegetables are only subject to tithe when reaching the state in which they are used as food; in the case of the dill plant, the seeds and the leaves, as well as the pods, are used as such.
  17. Ma'as. IV, 5. Bek. 2a.
  18. Which is eaten in the various forms mentioned; but generally, as grown in fields, it is only used as food in its seed-state.
  19. Media, whence Nahum hailed, was also their native place. Weiss Dor. I, 182, sees in this remark a bitter complaint against Palestinian authorities, who are alleged to take up a derogatory attitude towards Sages coming from other lands.
  20. The sixteenth of the Eighteen (now nineteen) Benedictions which are the main part of each of the three daily Services. P. B. p. 30.
  21. An idiom meaning. 'It is based on high authority'. Contrarily, that for which there is but slender authority is characterised as 'a mountain hanging on a hair;' v. Hag. 10a.
  22. I.e. the Eighteen Benedictions, also called Shemone-'Esre, or 'Amidah.
  23. Ps. CII, 1.
  24. Gen. XXIV, 63, which is interpreted that Isaac was then offering the now statutory afternoon Prayer (Minhah), the institution of which tradition ascribes to the second Patriarch (Ber. 26b).
  25. I.e., the statutory Prayer.
  26. Ps. CXLII, 3.
  27. Ber. 32b.
  28. praise is a higher form of Divine worship then supplication. A man should offer thanks for what he has, before he thinks of what he lacks.
  29. Deut. III, 24, 25.
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