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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sotah
AND READS [THEREIN] AFTER THE DEATH AND HOWBEIT ON THE TENTH DAY. I quote in contradiction: We may skip a passage in the Prophets but not in the Torah!2 — Abaye said: There is no contradiction; the latter teaching refers to a case where the passage skipped is sufficiently long to interrupt the translator, whereas [in the Mishnah] it is not sufficiently long to interrupt the translator.3 On this point, however, it has been taught: We may skip a passage in the Prophets but not in the Torah. How much may be skipped [in the reading of the Prophets]? A passage which is not sufficiently long to interrupt the translator. Consequently so far as the Torah is concerned nothing at all [may be skipped]! — But Abaye said: There is no contradiction; the teaching [that we may skip a passage in the reading of the Torah] applies to where there is one theme,4 the other teaching to where there are two themes. Thus it has been taught: We may skip [a passage] in the Torah where there is one theme and in the Prophets where there are two themes, but in either case only when it is not sufficiently long to interrupt the translator. We may not, however, skip from one Prophetical Book to another; but with a book of the Minor Prophets5 we may skip [from one to another] except that this may not be done from the end of the Book to its beginning.6
THEN HE ROLLS THE TORAH-SCROLL TOGETHER, PLACES IT IN HIS BOSOM etc. Why all this?7 — So as not to discredit the Torah-Scroll.8
THE PASSAGE 'ON THE TENTH DAY', WHICH IS IN THE BOOK OF NUMBERS, HE READS BY HEART. Let him roll up the Scroll and recite [the passage]!9 — R. Huna b. Judah said in the name of R. Shesheth: Because we do not roll up a Torah-scroll in the presence of a congregation.10 Then let another Torah-scroll be brought and read [it therein]! — R. Huna b. Judah said: [No], because it would discredit the first.11 R. Simeon b. Lakish said: Because we may not pronounce an unnecessary benediction.12 Do we, then, pay attention to [the reason that it would] discredit [the first Scroll]? Behold, R. Isaac the smith said: When the new moon of Tebeth13 falls on the Sabbath, three Scrolls are brought: the first for the lection of the [Sabbath] day, the second for [the portion of] the new moon, and the third for [the portion of] Hanukkah!14 — When three men [read] in three Scrolls, there is no fear about [a Scroll] being discredited, but when one man [reads] in two Scrolls there is this fear.
AND HE RECITES EIGHT BENEDICTIONS IN CONNECTION THEREWITH etc. Our Rabbis taught: [The High Priest] pronounces a benediction over the Torah just as we do in Synagogue;15 for the Temple-service for the thanksgiving,16 and for the pardon of sin as usual;17 over the Temple separately,18 over the priests separately, over the Israelites separately — and over Jerusalem separately.
AND THE REST OF THE PRAYER. Our Rabbis taught: The rest of the prayer consists of petitions song and supplication that Thy people Israel is in need of salvation; and he concludes with, '[Blessed art Thou, O Lord,] Who hearkenest unto prayer.' From this point onward,19 each individual brings a Torah-scroll from his house and reads therein. For what purpose is this done? To display its beauty in public.20
MISHNAH. WHAT WAS THE PROCEDURE IN CONNECTION WITH THE PORTION READ BY THE KING? AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE FIRST DAY OF THE FESTIVAL [OF TABERNACLES] IN THE EIGHTH,21 I.E., THE END OF THE SEVENTH,22 THEY ERECT A WOODEN DAIS IN THE TEMPLE COURT, UPON WHICH HE SITS; AS IT IS SAID, AT THE END OF EVERY SEVEN YEARS, IN THE SET TIME etc.23 THE SYNAGOGUE-ATTENDANT24 TAKES A TORAH-SCROLL AND HANDS IT TO THE SYNAGOGUE PRESIDENT,25 AND THE SYNAGOGUE-PRESIDENT HANDS IT TO THE [HIGH PRIEST'S] DEPUTY. HE HANDS IT TO THE HIGH PRIEST WHO HANDS IT TO THE KING. THE KING STANDS AND RECEIVES IT, BUT READS SITTING. KING AGRIPPA26 STOOD AND RECEIVED IT AND READ STANDING, FOR WHICH ACT THE SAGES PRAISED HIM. WHEN HE REACHED, THOU MAYEST NOT PUT A FOREIGNER OVER THEE,27 HIS EYES RAN WITH TEARS.28 THEY SAID TO HIM, 'FEAR NOT, AGRIPPA, THOU ART OUR BROTHER, THOU ART OUR BROTHER!' [THE KING] READS FROM THE BEGINNING OF DEUTERONOMY UP TO THE SHEMA',29 THE SHEMA', AND IT SHALL COME TO PASS IF YE HEARKEN,30 THOU SHALT SURELY TITHE,31 WHEN THOU HAST MADE AN END OF TITHING,32 THE PORTION OF THE KING,33 AND THE BLESSINGS AND CURSES, UNTIL HE FINISHES ALL THE SECTION. THE KING PRONOUNCES THE SAME BENEDICTIONS AS THE HIGH PRIEST, EXCEPT THAT HE SUBSTITUTES ONE FOR THE FESTIVALS INSTEAD OF ONE FOR THE PARDON OF SIN.
GEMARA. Does it enter your mind [that the Mishnah means] the eighth [day of the Festival]! — Read 'the eighth [year].34 But why all this?35 — It is all necessary; for if the All-Merciful had only written 'at the end', I might have thought that the reckoning was to be from then36 although they had not observed a year of release;37 therefore the All-Merciful wrote in 'the year of release', If the All-Merciful had only written 'the year of release', I might have thought that this means the end of the year of release;38 therefore the All-Merciful wrote 'in the set time.39 If He had only written 'in the set timeš, I might have thought that this means at the New Year festival; therefore the All-Merciful wrote 'in the feast of tabernacles'. And if the All-Merciful had only written 'in the feast of tabernacles', I might have thought that this means on the last day of the festival; therefore the All-Merciful wrote 'when all Israel is come'40
Sotah 41b, i.e., the beginning of the Festival.
THE SYNAGOGUE-ATTENDANT TAKES A TORAH-SCROLL AND HANDS IT TO THE SYNAGOGUE-PRESIDENT. Is it to be deduced from this that honour may be paid to a disciple in the presence of his master?1 — Abaye said: [No]; all this was done for the purpose of honouring the king.
THE KING STANDS AND RECEIVES IT, BUT READS SITTING. KING AGRIPPA STOOD AND RECEIVED IT AND READ STANDING. [Since it is stated that] he stands, it follows that he had been sitting. But a Master has said: In the Temple-court the kings of the House of David alone were allowed to sit; as it is said: Then David the king went in, and sat before the Lord, and he said etc.!2 — It is as R. Hisda declared: [This occurred] in the Court of Women, and here also [with the reading by the king] it was in the Court of Women. FOR WHICH ACT THE SAGES PRAISED HIM. Since they praised him, it follows that he acted rightly; but R. Ashi has said: Even according to him who maintains that when a Nasi3 forgoes the honour due to him one may avail himself of the permission, when a king forgoes the honour due to him one may not avail himself of the permission; as it is said: Thou shalt set a king over thee4 — that his authority5 may be over thee! — It is different [with the fulfilment of] a precept.6
WHEN HE REACHED 'THOU MAYEST NOT PUT [etc.]'. A Tanna taught in the name of R. Nathan: At that moment7 the enemies of Israel8 made themselves liable to extermination, because they flattered Agrippa. R. Simeon b. Halafta said: From the day the fist of flattery prevailed, justice became perverted, conduct deteriorated, and nobody could say to his neighbour, 'My conduct is better than yours'. R. Judah the Palestinian — another version, R. Simeon b. Pazzi — expounded: It is permitted to flatter the wicked in this world, as it is said: The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful9 — consequently it is allowed in this world. R. Simeon b. Lakish said: [It may be derived] from this text: As one seeth the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me.10 On this point he is at variance with R. Levi; for R. Levi said: A parable of Jacob and Esau: To what is the matter like? To a man who invited his neighbour to a meal, and the latter perceived that he wished to kill him. So he said to him, 'The taste of this dish of which I am partaking is like the dish I tasted in the king's palace'. The other said [to himself]. 'He is acquainted with the king!' So he became afraid and did not kill him.11 R. Eleazar said: Every man in whom is flattery brings anger upon the world: as it is said: But they that are flatterers at heart lay up anger.12 Not only that, but their prayer remains unheard; as it continues, They cry not for help when He chasteneth them.13 (Mnemonic:14 Anger, embryo, Gehinnom, in his hand, menstruant, exile).
R. Eleazar also said: As for any man in whom is flattery, even the embryos in their mothers' wombs curse him; as it is said: He that saith unto the wicked, Thou art righteous, peoples shall curse him, nations shall abhor him15 — the word kob ['abhor'] means nothing but 'curse', as it is said: Whom God hath not cursed;16 and le'om [nation] means nothing but 'embryo', as it is said: And the one le'om [nation] shall be stronger than the other nation.17 R. Eleazar also said: Every man in whom is flattery will fall into Gehinnom; as it is said: Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil etc.18 What is Written after that? Therefore as the tongue of fire devoureth the stubble, and as the dry grass sinketh down in the flame etc.19 R. Eleazar also said: Whoever flattereth his neighbour20 will finally fall into his hand; if he does not fall into his hand, he will fall into the hand of his sons; and if he does not fall into his sons' hand, he will fall into the hand of his grandsons; as it is stated: And Jeremiah said to Hananiah, Amen; the Lord do so; the Lord perform thy words,21 and it is written,
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