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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Bathra

Folio 8a

to the students of the Torah?1  — Resh Lakish, however, adopts the exposition [of this verse] given [also] by Raba, viz. that 'I am a wall' refers to the community of Israel,2  and 'my breasts are like towers', to synagogues and houses of study.

R. Nahman b. R. Hisda3  levied a poll tax on the Rabbis. Said R. Nahman b. Isaac to him: You have transgressed against the Law, the prophets, and the Holy Writings. Against the Law, where it says, Although4  he loveth the peoples, all his saints are in thy hand.5  Said Moses to the Holy One, blessed be He: Sovereign of the Universe, even at the time when Thou fondlest [other] peoples,6  let all [Israel's] saints be in Thy hand. [The verse proceeds,] And they are cut7  at thy feet.8  R. Joseph learned: These are the students of the Torah who cut their feet in going from town to town and country to country to learn the Torah. He shall receive of thy words:9  alluding to their discussing the utterances of God.10  You have transgressed against the Prophets, where it says, Yea, though they study11  among the nations, now I shall gather them, and a few of them shall be free12  from the burden of king and princes.13  This verse, 'Ulla has told us, is written [partly] in Aramaic,14  [and is to be expounded thus:] If they all study, I will gather them even now, and if only a few of them study, they [those few] shall be free from the burden of king and princes.15  You have transgressed against the Holy Writings, as it is written, It shall not be lawful to impose upon them [the priests and Levites etc.] minda, belo, and halak16  and Rab Judah has explained that minda means the king's tax, belo the poll tax, and halach denotes annona.17

R. Papa levied an impost for the digging of a new well on orphans [also]. Said R. Shesheth the son of R. Idi to R. Papa: perhaps no water will be found there?18  — He replied: I will collect the money from them in any case. If water is found, well and good, and if not, I will refund them the money. Rab Judah said: All must contribute to the building of doors in the town gates, even orphans; not, however, the Rabbis, [since] they do not require protection. All must contribute to the digging of a well19  [for a public fountain], including the Rabbis. This, however, is only when there is no corvee,20  but when the digging is done by corvee, we do not expect the Rabbis to participate.

Rabbi once opened his storehouse [of victuals] in a year of scarcity, proclaiming: Let those enter who have studied the Scripture, or the Mishnah, or the Gemara, or the Halachah, or the Aggada; there is no admission, however, for the ignorant.21  R. Jonathan b. Amram pushed his way in and said, 'Master, give me food.' He said to him, 'My son, have you learnt the Scripture?' He replied, 'No.' 'Have you learnt the Mishnah?' 'No.' 'If so,' he said, 'then how can I give you food?' He said to him, 'Feed me as the dog and the raven are fed.'22  So he gave him some food. After he went away, Rabbi's conscience smote him and he said: Woe is me that I have given my bread to a man without learning! R. Simeon son of Rabbi ventured to say to him: Perhaps it is Jonathan b. Amram your pupil, who all his life has made it a principle not to derive material benefit from the honour paid to the Torah. Inquiries were made and it was found that it was so; whereupon Rabbi said: All may now enter. Rabbi [in first refusing admission to the unlearned] was acting in accordance with his own dictum. For Rabbi said: It is the unlearned who bring misfortune on the world. A typical instance was that of the crown23  for which the inhabitants of Tiberias were called upon to find the money. They came to Rabbi and said to him, 'Let the Rabbis give their share with us.' He refused. 'Then we will run away,' they said. 'You may,' he replied. So half of them [the 'am ha-ares] ran away. Half of the sum demanded was then remitted. The other half then came to Rabbi and asked him that the Rabbis might share with them. He again refused. 'We will run away,' they said. 'You may,' he replied. So they all ran away, leaving only a certain fuller. The money was then demanded of him, and he ran away, and the demand for the crown was then dropped. Thereupon Rabbi said: I see that trouble comes on the world only on account of the unlearned.24

HOW LONG MUST HE BE IN THE TOWN TO BE COUNTED AS ONE OF THE TOWNSMEN, etc. Does not this conflict with the following: 'If a caravan of asses or camels on its way from one place to another stays there25  overnight and goes astray with the population, the members of the caravan are condemned to be stoned26  but their property is left untouched; if, however, they have stayed there thirty days, they are condemned to death by the sword and their property is also destroyed'?27  — Raba replied: There is no contradiction. The one period [twelve months is required], in order to make a man a full member28  of the town, the other [makes him] only an inhabitant29  of the town, as it was taught: If a man vows that he will derive no benefit from the men of a certain town, he must derive no benefit from anyone who has resided there twelve months, but he may derive benefit from one who has resided there less then twelve months. If he vows to derive no benefit from the inhabitants of the town, he may derive none from anyone who has resided there thirty days, but he may from one who has resided there less than thirty days.

But is twelve months' residence required for all imposts? Has it not been taught: '[A man must reside in a town] thirty days to become liable for contributing to the soup kitchen,30  three months for the charity box,31  six months for the clothing fund, nine months for the burial fund, and twelve months for contributing to the repair of the town walls'? — R. Assi replied in the name of R. Johanan: Our Mishnah also in specifying the period of twelve months was thinking of the repair of the town walls.

R. Assi further said in the name of R. Johanan: All are required to contribute to the repair of the town walls, including orphans, but not the Rabbis, because the Rabbis do not require protection. R. Papa said: For the repair of the walls, for the horse-guard32  and for the keeper of the armoury33  even orphans have to contribute, but the Rabbis [do not, since they] do not require protection. The general principle is that even orphans have to contribute for any public service from which they derive benefit. Rabbah levied a contribution for charity on the orphans of the house of Bar Merion; whereupon Abaye said to him: Has not R. Samuel b. Judah laid down that money for charity is not to be levied on orphans even for the redemption of captives? — He replied: I collect from them In order to give them a better standing.

Ifra Hormizd the mother of King Shapur34  sent a chest of gold coins to R. Joseph, with the request that it should be used for carrying out some really important religious precept. R. Joseph was trying hard to think what such a precept could be, when Abaye said to him: Since R. Samuel b. Judah has laid down that money for charity is not to be levied from orphans even for the redemption of captives, we may conclude

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Who therefore require no protection.
  2. Which as it were walls itself round against heathen influence.
  3. [As head of Daraukart where R. Nahman b. Isaac also lived. V. Hyman. Toledoth, II, 471.]
  4. Heb. [H] E.V. 'Yea'.
  5. Deut. XXXIII, 3.
  6. Allowing them to have dominion over Israel.
  7. E.V. 'nestle'.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. I.e., the Torah.
  11. E.V.'hire.
  12. E.V. 'begin' or 'sorrow'. [H] is taken as from [H], 'to break', 'to be exempt', hence 'to be free'.
  13. Hos. VIII, 10.
  14. That is to say, the word [H] is to be understood as if it were an Aramaic and not a Hebrew word.
  15. Hence you transgress against the Prophets in levying a tax on the students of the Torah.
  16. E.V. 'tribute, custom, or toll'. Ezra VII, 24.
  17. 'Produce tax'. The rabbis are the upholders of the Law, like the priests and Levites; hence to levy imposts on them is to transgress against the Holy Writings.
  18. And though other persons may excuse the waste of their money, the trustees of orphans are not allowed to do so.
  19. [ [H] lit. 'a drinking vessel', hence by metonymy 'well'.]
  20. I.e., when the inhabitants are not called on to go out en masse to perform the work, but can make a money contribution.
  21. Heb. 'am ha-ares, lit., 'people of the land', generally denoting 'the ignorant', 'the boor'.
  22. Apparently he was referring to the verse, He giveth to the beast his food, to the young ravens which cry (Ps. CXLVII, 9), and what he meant was: 'As God can feed these, so you can feed me.'
  23. For the Emperor of Rome (Rashi). [Others: Aurum coronarium, a special tax which the Jews had to pay to the Roman Emperor. v. Kohut, Aruch, s.v. [H] On the nature of this tax, v. Juster, Les Juifs dans l'Empire Romain, I, 385.]
  24. I.e., that it was only through them that the crown was demanded in the first instance.
  25. In a city which is seduced into idolatry. V. Deut, XIV, 12 seq.
  26. Like any other individuals who are guilty of idolatry.
  27. Like the inhabitants of the doomed city (v. Sanh. 111b). This would show that thirty days' residence is sufficient to enroll a man among the inhabitants of a town.
  28. Lit., 'a son of the town'.
  29. And the verse in Deut. speaks of inhabitants.
  30. Tamhui, a kind of dish wherein food was collected.
  31. Kuppah, basket, bag.
  32. A horseman whose function it was to ride round the walls to see that they were in proper condition.
  33. The superintendent of the town armoury, which was kept near the gate (Rashi). [Krauss, TA. 1,525, renders 'the treasury'.]
  34. [Shapur II, king of Persia, son of King Hormizd; lived (and reigned) 310-379 C.E.]

Baba Bathra 8b

that the redemption of captives is a religious duty of great importance.

Raba asked Rabbah b. Mari: Whence is derived the maxim of the Rabbis that the redemption of captives is a religious duty of great importance? — He replied: From the verse, And it shall come to pass when they say unto thee, Whither shall we go forth, then thou shalt tell them, Thus saith the Lord, Such as are for death, to death, and such as are for the sword, to the sword, and such as are for famine, to the famine, and such as are for captivity, to captivity:1  and [commenting on this] R. Johanan said: Each punishment mentioned in this verse is more severe than the one before. The sword is worse than death; this I can demonstrate either from Scripture, or, if you prefer, from observation. The proof from observation is that the sword deforms but death does not deform; the proof from Scripture is in the verse, Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his saints.2  Famine again is harder than the sword; this again can be demonstrated either by observation, the proof being that the one causes [prolonged] suffering but the other not, or, if you prefer, from the Scripture, from the verse, They that be slain with the sword are better than they that be slain with hunger.3  Captivity is harder than all, because it includes the sufferings of all.4

Our Rabbis taught: The charity fund is collected by two persons [jointly] and distributed by three. It is collected by two, because any office conferring authority over the community5  must be filled by at least two persons. It must be distributed by three, on the analogy of money cases6  [which are tried by a Beth din of three]. Food for the soup kitchen is collected by three and distributed by three, since it is distributed as soon as it is collected.7  Food is distributed every day, the charity fund every Friday. The soup kitchen is for all comers, the charity fund for the poor of the town only. The townspeople, however, are at liberty to use the soup kitchen like the charity fund and vice versa, and to apply them to whatever purposes they choose.8  The townspeople are also at liberty to fix weights and measures, prices, and wages, and to inflict penalties for the infringement of their rules.9

The Master said above: 'Any office conferring authority over the community must be filled by at least two persons.' Whence is this rule derived? — R. Nahman said: Scripture says, And they shall take the gold10  etc. This shows that they were not to exercise authority over the community, but that they were to be trusted.11  This supports R. Hanina, for R. Hanina reported [with approval] the fact that Rabbi once appointed two brothers to supervise the charity fund.12

What authority is involved [in collecting for charity]? — As was stated by R. Nahman in the name of Rabbah b. Abbuha, because the collectors can take a pledge for a charity contribution even on the eve of Sabbath.13  Is that so? Is it not written, I will punish all that oppress them,14  even, said R. Isaac b. Samuel b. Martha in the name of Rab, the collectors for charity? — There is no contradiction. The one [Rab] speaks of a well-to-do man, the other of a man who is not well-to-do; as, for instance, Raba compelled R. Nathan b. Ammi to contribute four hundred zuz for charity.

[It is written], And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament:15  this applies to a judge who gives a true verdict on true evidence.16  And they that turn many to righteousness [zedakah] as the stars for ever and ever:17  these are the collectors for charity [zedakah]. In a Baraitha it was taught: They that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament: this applies to a judge who gives a true verdict on true evidence and to the collectors for charity: and they that turn many to righteousness like the stars for ever and ever: this applies to the teachers of young children.18  Such as who, for instance? — Said Rab: To such as R. Samuel b. Shilath. For Rab once found R. Samuel b. Shilath in a garden, whereupon he said to him, 'Have you deserted your post'?19  He replied, 'I have not seen this garden for thirteen years, and even now my thoughts are with the children.' And what does Scripture say of the Rabbis? — Rabina answered: They that love him shall be as the sun when he goeth forth in his night.20

Our Rabbis taught: The collectors of charity [when collecting] are not permitted to separate from one another, though one may collect at the gate while the other collects at a shop [in the same courtyard].21  If one of them finds money in the street, he should not put it into his purse but into the charity box,22  and when he comes home he should take it out. In the same way, if one of them has lent a man a mina and he pays him in the street, he should not put the money into his own purse but into the charity box, and take it out again when he comes home.

Our Rabbis taught: If the collectors [still have money but] no poor to whom to distribute it, they should change the small coins into larger ones23  with other persons, but not from their own money.24  If the stewards of the soup kitchen [have food over and] no poor to whom to distribute it, they may sell it to others but not to themselves. In counting out money collected for charity, they should not count the coins two at a time,25  but only one at a time.

Abaye said: At first the Master26  would not sit on the mats in the synagogue;27  but when he heard that it had been taught that 'the townspeople can apply it to any purpose they choose,'28  he did sit on them. Abaye also said: At first the Master used to keep two purses, one for the poor from outside and one for the poor of the town. When, however, he heard of what Samuel had said to R. Tahalifa b. Abdimi, 'Keep one purse only

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Jer. XV, 2.
  2. Ps. CXVI, is.
  3. Lam. IV, 9.
  4. Since the captors can inflict on the captives what suffering they wish.
  5. V. infra.
  6. The collectors having to adjudge the merits of various claimants.
  7. Hence if a third had to be found to assist in the distribution, delay might be caused.
  8. Tosaf. mentions that in virtue of this rule Rabbenu Tam diverted money collected for charity to the payment of the town guard, since it had been collected on this condition.
  9. Lit., 'to remove (those who infringe) their regulations.'
  10. Ex. XXVIII, 5. The emphasis is on 'they', denoting a minimum of two.
  11. The gold was brought as a free-will offering, but each of the 'wise men' took what he required without rendering account.
  12. As treasurers, although two brothers count only as one person.
  13. When the householder may plead that he is busy preparing for Sabbath.
  14. Jer. XXX, 20.
  15. Dan. XII, 3.
  16. Lit., 'true to its own truth', v. Tosaf. s.v. ihs
  17. Ibid.
  18. Because they also turn their pupils to righteousness.
  19. Lit., 'your faith' or 'trustworthiness'.
  20. Judges V, 31.
  21. As they are still in sight of one another.
  22. So that people should not be able to say that he was appropriating charity funds.
  23. For fear the small coins should rust.
  24. Lest people should say that they do not give full value.
  25. Lest people should say that they take two and only count one.
  26. Rabbah.
  27. Because they were bought out of the charity funds.
  28. Supra p. 37