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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Shabbath

Folio 152a

and the privy1  are harmful; those caused by chemicals, laughter, or plants2  are beneficial.

In the day when the keeper of the house shall tremble; and the strong men shall bow themselves, etc.3  In the day when the keeper of the house shall tremble' — these are the flanks [sides] and the ribs; 'and the strong men shall bow themselves' — the legs; 'and the grinders cease' — the teeth; 'and those that look out of the windows darkened' — the eyes. The emperor asked R. Joshua b. Hanania,4  'Why did you not attend the Be Abedan?'5  'The mountain is snowy, it is surrounded by ice,6  the dog does not bark and the grinders do not grind,' he replied.7  The School of Rab was wont to say: 'What I did not lose I seek.'8

It was taught, R. Jose b. Kisma said: Two are better than three,9  and woe for the one thing that goes and does not return. What is that? Said R. Hisda: One's youth. When R. Dimi came,10  he said: Youth is a crown of roses; old age is a crown of willowrods.11  It was taught in R. Meir's name: Chew well with your teeth, and you will find it in your steps, as it is said, for then we had plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.12  Samuel said to Rab Judah: O keen scholar!13  open your mouth14  and let your food enter. Until the age of forty food is more beneficial; thenceforth drink is more beneficial.

A certain eunuch [gawzaah] said to R. Joshua b. Karhah [Baldhead]: 'How far is it from here to Karhina [Baldtown]? 'As far as from here to Gawzania [Eunuchtown],' he replied.15  Said the Sadducee to him, 'A bald buck is worth four denarii.' 'A goat, if castrated, is worth eight,' he retorted. Now, he [the Sadducee] saw that he [R. Joshua] was not wearing shoes, [whereupon] he remarked, 'He [who rides] on a horse is a king, upon an ass, is a free man, and he who has shoes on his feet is a human being; but he who has none of these, one who is dead16  and buried is better off.' 'O eunuch, O eunuch,' he retorted, 'you have enumerated three things to me, [and now] you will hear three things: the glory of a face is its beard; the rejoicing of one's heart is a wife; the heritage of the Lord is children;17  blessed be the Omnipresent, Who has denied you all these!' 'O quarrelsome baldhead,' he jeered at him. 'A castrated buck and [you will] reprove!'18  he retorted.

Rabbi asked R. Simeon b. Halafta: 'Why were we not permitted to receive you on the Festival, as my ancestors used to receive your ancestors?' 'The rocks have grown tall, the near have become distant, two have turned into three, and the peacemaker of the home has ceased, he replied.19

And the doors shall be shut in the streets:20  this refers to the apertures of man; 'when the sound of the grinding is low' — on account of the stomach's failing to digest;21  'and one shall rise up at the voice of a bird', — even a bird will awake him from sleep; 'and all the daughters of the music shall be brought low — even the voices of male singers and female singers sound to him like a whisper. And thus too did Barzillai the Gileadite say to David: 'I am this day fourscore years old: can I discern between good and bad'? This shows that the opinions of old men are changeable [changed]; 'can thy servant taste what I eat or drink'? this shows that the lips of old men grow slack;22  'can I hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women'?23  this proves that the ears of old men are heavy.24  Rab said: Barzillai the Gileadite was a liar. For there was a servant in Rab's house, ninety-two years old, who could taste the dish[es]. Raba said: Barzillai the Gileadite was steeped in lewdness, and whoever is steeped in lewdness, old age hastens upon him. It was taught, R. Ishmael son of R. Jose said: As for scholars, the older they grow the more wisdom they acquire, for it is said, With aged men is wisdom, and in length of days understanding.25  But the ignorant, as they wax older, become more foolish, for it is said, He removeth the speech of the trusty, and taketh away the understanding of the elders.26

Yea, they shall be afraid of that which is high27  — even a small knoll looks to him like the highest of mountains; 'and terrors shall be in the way' — when he walks on a road his heart is filled with fears;28  and the almond tree shall blossom' — that refers to the coccyx29  'and the grasshopper shall be a burden'30  — the rump; 'and desire shall fail' the passions. R. Kahana was expounding a portion [of scripture]31  before Rab. When he came to this verse, he [Rab] uttered a long sigh. This shows that Rab's desires have ceased, observed he. R. Kahana said: What is meant by, 'For he decreed, and it was':32  this refers to a woman;33  'he commanded; and it did stand' — this refers to children. A Tanna taught: Though a woman be as a pitcher full of filth and her mouth be full of blood, yet all speed after her.

Because man goeth to his long home.34  R. Isaac observed: This teaches that every righteous person is given a habitation as befits his honour. This may be compared to a king who enters a town together with his servants. They all enter through the same gate, [yet] when they spend the night [there] each is given a lodging as befits his honour.

R. Isaac also said: What means the verse, For youth and the prime of life are vanity?35  The things a man does in his youth blacken his face36  in his old age.37

R. Isaac also said: Worms are as painful to the dead as a needle in the flesh of the living, for it is said, But his flesh upon him hath pain.38  R. Hisda said: A man's soul mourns for him [after death] seven whole [days]. for it is said, And his soul mourneth for him;39  and it is written, and he made a mourning for his father seven days.40

Rab Judah said: If there are none to be comforted for a dead person.41  ten people go and sit in his place.42  A certain man died in the neighbourhood of Rab Judah. As there were none to be comforted,

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. I.e., through internal disorders.
  2. E.g., onions or mustard.
  3. Eccl. XII. 2.
  4. V. p. 587. n. 2.
  5. V. supra 116a and notes a.l.
  6. Lit., 'its surroundings are ice'.
  7. My head is snowy white, my beard likewise, my voice feeble and my teeth do not function. — I am too old to attend.
  8. This was their description of old age. One goes about bent and stooping, appearing to seek an article which he has not lost.
  9. The two legs in youth are better than the three — i.e., the additional stick — of old age.
  10. V. p. 12, n. 9.
  11. Heavy to bear.
  12. Jer. XLIV, 17.
  13. Or, man of long teeth.
  14. Lit., 'thy sack'.
  15. Both fictitious places, of course, playfully formed from their names and persons.
  16. Lit., 'one for whom a grave is dug'.
  17. Ps. CXXVII, 3.
  18. Rashi. R. Han.: O castrated goat. I do but rebuke, not quarrel with thee.
  19. I.e., I have grown old, even those near are as difficult to visit as those at a distance, my two legs need an additional stick for walking, and I can no longer exercise a man's functions.
  20. Eccl. XII, 4.
  21. Lit., 'grind'.
  22. I.e., fall apart and cannot enjoy the taste of food.
  23. II Sam. XIX, 35.
  24. They are hard of hearing.
  25. Job XII. 12.
  26. Ibid. 20.
  27. Eccl. XII, 5.
  28. Yalkut Koheleth 989 reads: it (the road) becomes for him full of terrors.
  29. The lowest end of the vertebrae — the extreme weakness of old age causes it to 'blossom', i.e., protrude and be moved from its place.
  30. Or, shall drag itself along.
  31. [H], v. supra p. 572, n. 1.
  32. Ps. XXXIII, 9.
  33. It is God's decree that man shall desire woman.
  34. Eccl. XII, 5.
  35. Ibid. XI. 10.
  36. Rashi: weaken him, the reference being to sexual indulgence. The passage may also refer to actions in general for which one in old age feels himself blackened with shame.
  37. He derives shaharuth (E.V. prime of life) from shahor, black, and translates: 'for youth and the blackening (of old age) are vanity'.
  38. Job XIV, 22.
  39. Job XIV, 22.
  40. Gen. L, 10.
  41. I.e., there are no mourners. Lit., 'a dead person for whom there are no comforters'.
  42. Where he died, and engage in religious exercises such as prayer and study.
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Shabbath 152b

Rab Judah assembled ten men every day and they sat in his place. After seven days he [the dead man] appeared to him in a dream and said to him, 'Thy mind be at rest, for thou hast set my mind at rest.' R. Abbahu said: The dead man knows all that is said in his presence until the top-stone [golel] closes [the grave].1  R. Hiyya and R. Simeon b. Rabbi differ therein: one maintains, until the top-stone closes [the grave]; whilst the other says, until the flesh rots away. He who says, until the flesh rots away. — because it is written, But his flesh upon him hath pain and his soul within him mourneth.2  He who says, until the top-stone closes [the grave]. — because it is written, and the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit return unto God.3

Our Rabbis taught: 'And the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit return unto God who gave it': Render it back to him as He gave it to thee, [viz.,] in purity, so do thou [return it] in purity. This may be compared to a mortal king4  who distributed royal apparel to his servants. The wise among them folded it up and laid it away in a chest, whereas the fools among them went and did their work in them. After a time the king demanded his garments: the wise among them returned them to him immaculate, [but] the fools among them returned them soiled. The king was pleased with the wise but angry with the fools. Of the wise he said, 'Let my robes be placed in my treasury and they can go home in peace'; while of the fools he said, 'Let my robes be given to the fuller, and let them be confined in prison.' Thus too, with the Holy One, blessed be He: concerning the bodies of the righteous He says, He entereth into peace, they rest in their beds;5  while concerning their souls He says, yet the soul of my Lord shall be bound up in the bundle of life with the Lord thy God.6  But concerning the bodies of the wicked He says, There is no peace saith the Lord, unto the wicked;7  while concerning their souls He says, and the souls of thine enemies, them shall he sling out, as from the hollow of a sling.8

It was taught, R. Eliezer said: The souls of the righteous are hidden under the Throne of Glory, as it is said, yet the soul of thine Lord shall be bound up in the bundle of life.8  But those of the wicked continue to be imprisoned,9  while one angel stands at one end of the world and a second stands at the other end, and they sling their souls to each other, for it is said, and the souls of thine enemies, them shall he sling out, as from the hollow of a sling. Rabbah asked R. Nahman: What about those who are intermediate? Had I died I could not have told you this, he replied. Thus did Samuel say: Both these and those [the wicked and the intermediate] are delivered to Dumah;10  these enjoy rest, whereas the others have no rest. R. Mari said: [Even] the righteous are fated to be dust, for it is written, 'and the dust return to the earth as it was'. Certain diggers were digging in R. Nahman's ground, [when] R. Ahai b. Josiah11  snorted at them. So they went and told R. Nahman, 'A man snorted at us.' He went and asked him, 'Who are you?' 'I am Ahai b. Josiah.' 'But did not R. Mari say. [Even] the righteous are fated to be dust?' said he. 'But who is Mari,' he retorted 'I do not know him.' Yet surely a verse is written, 'and the dust returns to the earth as it was'? he urged. 'He who taught you Ecclesiastes did not teach you Proverbs,' he answered, 'for it is written, But envy is the rottenness of the bones:12  he who has envy in his heart, his bones rot away. [but] he who has no envy in his heart, his bones do not rot away.' He then felt him and perceived that there was substance in him. 'Let my master arise [and come] to my house,' he invited him. 'You have thus disclosed that you have not even studied the prophets, for it is written, And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves,'13  said he to him, 'But it is written, for dust art thou, and unto dust thou shalt return?'14  'That means one hour before the resurrection of the dead', replied he.

A certain Sadducee said to R. Abbahu:15  You maintain that the souls of the righteous are hidden under the Throne of Glory: then how did the bone [- practising] necromancer bring up Samuel by means of his necromancy?16  — There it was within twelve months [of death], he replied. For it was taught: For full [twelve months] the body is in existence and the soul ascends and descends; after twelve months the body ceases to exist

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. R. Tam. Rashi: until the coffin-lid is closed, v. Nazir, Sonc. ed., p. 302, n. 5'
  2. I.e., he suffers pain and grief — a sign of consciousness — as long as his flesh is upon him.
  3. Eccl. XII, 7. I.e., immediately the dust — sc. the body — returns to the earth, the spirit returns to God, and there is no further consciousness of earthly matters.
  4. Lit., 'a king of flesh and blood'.
  5. Isa. LVII, 2.
  6. I Sam. XXV, 29.
  7. Isa. XLVIII, 22.
  8. Sam. ibid.
  9. Lit., 'muzzled'. Marginal translation: are eternally pressed down — sc. in the sling of destruction.
  10. The guardian angel of the deceased. [The name is probably Silence, which is the meaning of Dumah, personified.]
  11. Who was buried there.
  12. Prov. XIV, 30.
  13. Ezek. XXXVII, 13; i.e., God alone can free men from their graves.
  14. Gen. 111, 19.
  15. MS.M. min (v. Glos.). This is preferable as there were no Sadducees in the time of R. Abbahu; cf. Sanh., Sonc. ed., p, 706, n. 8.
  16. v. i Sam, XXVIII, 7. Bones were used in necromancy.
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