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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Kethuboth

Folio 105a


GEMARA. I Would point out an Inconsistency: 'Three judges in cases of robbery5  were [administering justice] in Jerusalem. Admon b. Gadai,6  Hanan the Egyptian and Hanan b. Abishalom'. Is there not an inconsistency between 'three'7  and 'TWO', and an inconsistency between 'CIVIL'8  and 'robbery'?9  One might well admit that there is no [real] inconsistency between the 'three' and the 'TWO' since he10  may be enumerating [only those] whom he con siders important11  and omitting12  [the one] whom he does not consider important. Does not, however, the inconsistency between 'CIVIL' and 'robbery' remain? — R. Nahman b. Isaac replied: [Both terms may be justified on the grounds] that they13  imposed fines14  for acts of robbery;15  as it was taught: If [a beast] nipped off a plant, said R. Jose. the Judges of Civil Law in Jerusalem ruled that if the plant was in its first year [the owner of the beast pays as compensation] two silver pieces.16  if it was in its second year [he pays as compensation] four silver pieces.17

I point out [another] contradiction: Three judges of Civil Law were [administering justice] in Jerusalem. Admon, and Hanan and Nahum?18  — R. Papa replied: He who mentioned Nahum was R. Nathan;19  for it was taught: R. Nathan stated, 'Nahum the Mede also was one of the Judges of Civil Law in Jerusalem', but the Sages did not agree with him.

Were there, however, no more [judges]? [Did not] R. Phinehas. in fact, state on the authority of R. Oshaia that there were three hundred and ninety four courts of law20  in Jerusalem, and an equal number of Synagogues. of Houses of Study21  and of schools?22  — Judges there were many, but we were speaking of Judges of Civil Law only.

Rab Judah stated in the name of R. Assi: The Judges of Civil Law in Jerusalem received their salaries out of the Temple funds23  [at the rate of] ninety-nine maneh.24  If they were not satisfied is they were given an increase.

[You say] 'They were not satisfied'?25  Are we dealing with wicked men?26  The reading in fact is,27  [If the amount was] not Sufficient28  an increase was granted to them even if they objected.29

Karna30  used to take one istira31  from the innocent32  party and one istira from the guilty party and then informed them of his decision.33  But how could he34  act in such a manner? Is it not written in Scripture, And thou shalt take no gift?35  And should you reply that this applies only where he does not take from both [litigants] since he might [in consequence] wrest judgment, but Karna, since he took [the same amount] from both parties, would not come to wrest judgment, [it can be retorted:] Is this permitted even where one would not come to wrest judgment? Was it not in fact taught: What was the purpose of the statement And thou shalt take no gift?35  If to teach that one must not acquit the guilty or that one must not condemn the innocent [the objection Surely could be raised]. It was already specifically stated elsewhere in Scripture, Thou shalt not wrest judgement.36  Consequently it must be concluded that even [where the intention is] to acquit the innocent or to condemn the guilty the Torah laid down, And thou shalt take no gift?37  — This37  applies only where [the judge] takes [the gift] as a bribe,38  but Karna took [the two istira] as a fee.39  But is it permissible [for a judge to take money] as a fee.39  Have we not in fact learned: The legal decisions of one who takes a fee for acting as judge are null and void?40  — This40  applies only to a fee for pronouncing judgment, while Karna was only taking compensation for loss of work.41

But [is a judge] permitted to take compensation for loss of work? Was it not in fact taught: Contemptible is the judge who takes a fee for pronouncing judgment; but his decision is valid?42  Now, what is to be understood [by fee]. If it be suggested [that it means] a fee for acting as judge [the objection would arise: How could be said,] 'his decision is valid', when in fact we have learned:43  The legal decisions of one who takes a fee for acting as judge are null and void? Consequently it must mean44  a fee for loss of work,45  and yet it was stated, was it not, 'Contemptible is the judge etc.'? — This applies only to a loss of work that cannot be proved, but Karna received [compensation for] loss of work that could be proved. for he was [regularly occupied in] smelling tests46  at a wine store,47  and for this he was paid a fee.48  This is similar to the case49  of R. Huna. When a lawsuit was brought to him, he used to say to the [litigants]. 'Provide me with a man who will draw the water50  in my place51  and I will pronounce judgment for you'.

Said R. Abbahu: Come and see how blind are the eyes of those who take a bribe. If a man has pain in his eyes he pays away money to a medical man and he may be cured or he nay not be cured, yet these take what is only worth one perutah52  and blind their eyes [therewith]. for it is said in Scripture. For a gift blindeth them that have sight.53

Our Rabbis taught: For a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise,54  and much more so those of the foolish; And pervert the words of the righteous,54  and much more so those of the wicked. Are then fools and wicked men capable of acting as judges?55  — But it is this that is meant: 'For a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise', even a great Sage who takes bribes will not depart from the world without [the affliction of] a dullness of the mind,56  'And pervert the words of the righteous',

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. That she has no property of her husband's in her possession.
  2. Sc. when her husband dies and she claims her kethubah.
  3. I.e., during his lifetime when she claims her maintenance.
  4. [H] A similar description occurs in Oh. XVII, 5. Cf. supra p. 64, n. 6, [H] 'Priestly Court' or 'Court of Priests'.
  5. Or any damage.
  6. I.e., Admon mentioned in our Mishnah.
  7. In the Baraitha cited.
  8. Cf. supra note 1.
  9. In the Baraitha cited.
  10. The author of our Mishnah.
  11. On the admissibility of another rendering v. Tosaf. s.v., [H], a.l.
  12. Lit., 'did not teach'.
  13. The judges mentioned.
  14. Lit., 'decreed decrees'. Hence the term 'CIVIL' [H]: (v. supra p. 672, n. 1) in our Mishnah.
  15. [H] (cf. supra p. 672, nn. 1 and 8). Hence the justification for the use of this term in the Baraitha.
  16. A silver piece = one ma'ah or a third of a denar, v. Glos.
  17. B.K. 58b.
  18. Inconsistent with our Mishnah which mentions only TWO. V., however, Tosaf s.v.[H].
  19. [Who considered Nahum important, v. Maharsha].
  20. Each consisting of twenty-three judges.
  21. For Mishnah and Talmud.
  22. For children.
  23. [H], lit., 'heave-offering of the (people) to the (Temple treasure) chamber'.
  24. V. Glos.
  25. [H]. lit., 'did not want.'
  26. Who expect from the public funds more than is required for a decent living. A judge's salary most not exceed the actual cost of his living (v. Rashi).
  27. Lit., 'but'.
  28. To provide for a decent living.
  29. V. supra p. 673, n. 15.
  30. A judge if the Exile. Cf Sanh. 17b, Sonc. ed. p. 88, n. 5.
  31. V. Glos.
  32. A the party in whose favour judgment was to be given.
  33. Lit., 'and judged for them the law'.
  34. Karna.
  35. Ex. XXIII. 8.
  36. Deut. XVI, 19.
  37. Ex. XXIII, 8.
  38. Sc. with the intention of perverting judgment.
  39. For his professional services.
  40. Kid. 58, Bek. 29a.
  41. Lit., 'idleness'.
  42. Lit., 'his Judgment is judgment'.
  43. So BaH. Cur. edd. 'it was taught'.
  44. Lit., 'but'.
  45. Lit., 'idleness'.
  46. To advise the owner as to which wine could be stored for longer and which only for shorter periods.
  47. [H] Rashi reads the noun in the pl., stores'.
  48. Lit., 'and they gave him a zuz' (v. Glos.). When acting as judge he was entitled to demand compensation for his loss.
  49. Lit., 'like that'.
  50. 'For the irrigation of my land'.
  51. [H], cf. supra p. 364. n. 4
  52. The smallest coin, v.Glos.
  53. Ex. XXIII, 8.
  54. Deut. XVI, 19.
  55. Obviously not; how then is it likely that anyone would offer them any bribe
  56. Lit., 'blindness of heart'.
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Kethuboth 105b

even one who is righteous in every respect and takes bribes will not depart from this world without [the affliction of] confusion of mind.

When R. Dimi came1  he related that R. Nahman b. Kohen made the following exposition: What was meant by the Scriptural text, The King by justice establisheth the land, but he that loveth gifts overthroweth it? If the judge is like a king who is not in need of anything2  he establisheth the land, but if he is like a priest who moves to and fro among the threshing floors,3  he overthroweth it.4

Rabbah b. R. Shila stated: Any judge who is in the habit of borrowing5  is unfit to pronounce judgment. This, however, applies only where he possesses nothing to lend to others, but where he possesses things to lend [his borrowing] does not matter.6  This, however, cannot surely be correct;7  for did not Raba borrow things from the household of Bar Merion, although they did not borrow anything from him? — There he desired to give them better standing.8

Raba stated: What is the reason for [the prohibition9  against taking] a gift?10  Because as soon as a man receives a gift from another he becomes so well disposed towards him11  that he becomes like his own person, and no man sees himself in the wrong.12  What [is the meaning of] shohad?13  She-hu had.14

R. Papa said: A man should not act as judge either for one whom he loves or for one whom he hates; for no man can see the guilt of one whom he loves or the merit of one whom he hates.

Abaye said: If a scholar15  is loved by the townspeople [their love] is not due to his superiority but [to the fact] that he does not rebuke them for [neglecting] spiritual16  matters.

Raba remarked: At first I thought that all the people of Mahuza17  loved me. When I was appointed judge18  I thought that some19  would hate me and others20  would love me. Having observed, however, that the man who loses21  to-day22  wins tomorrow I came to the conclusion that if I am loved they all love me and if I am hated they must all hate me.

Our Rabbis taught: And thou shalt take no gift;23  there was no need to speak of [the prohibition of] a gift of money, but [this was meant:] Even a bribe of words24  is also forbidden, for Scripture does not write, And thou shalt take no gain.25  What is to be understood by 'a bribe of words'?24  — As the bribe offered to Samuel.26  He was once crossing [a river] on a board27  when a man came up and offered him his hand.28  'What', [Samuel] asked him, 'is your business here?' — 'I have a lawsuit', the other replied. 'l', came the reply, 'am disqualified from acting for you in the suit'.

Amemar was once engaged in the trial of an action,29  when a bird flew down upon his head and a man approached and removed it. 'What is your business here?' [Amemar] asked him. 'I have a lawsuit', the other replied. 'I', came the reply, 'am disqualified from acting as your judge'.

Mar 'Ukba once ejected some saliva30  and a man approached and covered it. 'What is your business here?' [Mar 'Ukba] asked him. 'l have a lawsuit', the man replied. 'I', came the reply, 'am disqualified from acting as your judge'.

R. Ishmael son of R. Jose, whose aris31  was wont to bring him a basket full of fruit32  every Friday33  but on one occasion34  brought it to him on a Thursday, asked the latter, 'Why the present change?' I have a lawsuit', the other replied, 'and thought that at the same time35  I might bring [the fruit] to the Master'. He did not accept it from him [and] said,'I am disqualified to act as your judge'. He thereupon appointed a couple of Rabbis to try the case for him. As he was arranging the affair36  he [found himself] thinking, 'If he37  wished he could plead thus, or if he preferred he might plead thus'.38  'Oh', he exclaimed, 'the despair that waits for those who take bribes'!39  If I, who have not taken [the fruit at all], and even if I had taken I would only have taken what is my own, am In such [a state of mind], show much more [Would that40  be the state of] those who accept bribes'.

A man once brought to R. Ishmael b. Elisha41  [a gift of] the firstfleece.42  'Whence', the latter asked him, 'are you?' — 'From such and such a place', the other replied. 'But', [R. Ishmael] asked, 'was there no priest to whom to give it [in any of the places] between that place and this?'43  — 'I have a lawsuit', the other replied, 'and thought that at the same time44  I would bring [the gift] to the Master'.He said to him, 'I am unfit to try your action', and refused to receive [the gift] from him. [Thereupon] he appointed two Rabbis to try his action. As he was arranging this affair45  he [found himself] thinking, 'If he46  wished he could plead thus, or if he preferred he might plead thus'.47  'Oh', he exclaimed, 'the despair that awaits those who take bribes! If I, who did not take [the gift], and even if I had taken it I would only have accepted that which is my due, am in such [a state of mind], how much more [would that be the case with] those who accept bribes'.

A man once brought to R. Anan a bale of small marsh fish.48  'What is your business here', the latter asked him. 'I have a lawsuit', the other replied. [R. Anan] did not accept it from him, and told him, 'I am disqualified to try your action'. 'I would not now request', the other said to him, 'the Master's decision [in my lawsuit]; will the Master, however, at least accept [the present] so that I may not be prevented from offering my first-fruit?49  For it was taught: And there came a man from Baal-shalishah, and brought the man of God bread of the first-fruits, twenty loaves of barley, and fresh ears of corn in his sack;50  but was Elisha51  entitled to eat first-fruit?52  This, however, was intended to tell you that one who brings a gift to a scholar [is doing as good a deed] as if he had offered first-fruits'. It was not my intention to accept [your gift', R. Anan] said to him, 'but now that you have given me a reason I will accept it' — Thereupon he sent him to R. Nahman to whom he also dispatched [the following message:] 'Will the Master try [the action of] this man, for I, Anan,53  am disqualified from acting as judge for him'. 'Since he has sent me such a message', [R. Nahman] thought, 'he must be his relative' — 54 An orphans' lawsuit was then in progress55  before him; and he reflected:

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. From Palestine to Babylon.
  2. Sc. is independent of other people's help or favours.
  3. Collecting his dues.
  4. Cf Sanh. 7b.
  5. Any objects. The verb [H], here used, does not apply to money.
  6. Lit., 'we have nothing against it'.
  7. Lit., 'Is it really so?'
  8. His borrowing was of no benefit to himself. Lit., 'to cause them to be important'. For a similar reason Rabbah levied a contribution for charity on the orphans of the house of Bar Merion (cf. B.B. 8a).
  9. Upon a judge.
  10. Even where the judge intended to act justly.
  11. Lit., 'his mind draws near to him'.
  12. Lit., 'guilt'.
  13. [H], 'gift', 'bribe'.
  14. [H], 'that he (the recipient) is one (with the giver)'. This is not intended as etymology but as a word play.
  15. Lit., 'one who has caught fire by (association with) Rabbis'.
  16. Lit., 'of heaven'.
  17. V. supra p. 319, n. 9'
  18. In that town.
  19. Who would lose their lawsuits.
  20. In whose favour judgment would be given.
  21. Lit., 'who is made guilty'.
  22. Lit., 'now'.
  23. Ex. XXIII, 8.
  24. Or 'acts'.
  25. [H] which would have meant a monetary bribe.
  26. Lit., 'as that of Samuel'.
  27. Or 'ferry'.
  28. To assist him.
  29. Lit., 'was sitting and deciding a law'.
  30. Lit., 'threw saliva before him'.
  31. Gardener-tenant (v. Glos.).
  32. As rent, from R. Ishmael's garden which he cultivated.
  33. [H], lit., 'entering of the Sabbath', sc. Sabbath Eve.
  34. Lit., 'day'.
  35. Lit., 'by the way'.
  36. Lit., 'went and came'.
  37. His aris.
  38. All possible pleadings in favour of the aris rose spontaneously to his mind.
  39. So Jast. [H], lit., 'may their ghost blow out', or 'be blown' (rt. [H] 'to blow').
  40. Cf. supra n. 3.
  41. Who was a priest and entitled to the priestly does.
  42. Cf. Deut. XVIII, 4.
  43. Lit., 'from there to here'.
  44. Lit., 'by the way'.
  45. Lit., 'went and came'.
  46. The man who offered him the priestly due.
  47. Cf. supra notes 1-5.
  48. [H] 'among the marshes'. Sc. that live among the reeds in the swamps ( Jast.). [Obermeyer p. 245. n. 1 suggests [H] to be the name of a place, Al Kil on the Tigris].
  49. Cf. Ex. XXIII, 19.
  50. II Kings IV, 42.
  51. Who was no priest. Tradition ascribes him to the tribe of Gad (cf. Pesah. 68a and Rosh. a.l.).
  52. Obviously not; why then did he accept 'first-fruits'?
  53. Wanting in MS.M.
  54. It is forbidden to act as judge or witness in a relative's lawsuit.
  55. Lit., 'was standing'.
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