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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Bathra

Folio 9a

and stipulate [with the townspeople] that it may be used for both,' he also kept only one purse and made this stipulation. R. Ashi said: I do not even need to stipulate, since whoever comes [to give me money for charity] relies on my judgment, and leaves it to me to give to whom I will.

There were two butchers who made an agreement with one another that if either killed on the other's day, the skin of his beast should be torn up. One of them actually did kill on the other's day, and the other went and tore up the skin. Those who did so were summoned before Raba, and he condemned them to make restitution. R. Yemar b. Shelemiah thereupon called Raba's attention to [the Baraitha which says] that the towns-people may inflict penalties for breach of their regulations. Raba did not deign to answer him. Said R. Papa: Raba was quite right not to answer him; this regulation holds good only where there is no distinguished man in the town, but where there is a distinguished man, they certainly have not the power to make such stipulations.

Our Rabbis taught: The collectors for charity are not required to give an account of the moneys entrusted to them for charity, nor the treasurers of the Sanctuary of the moneys given for holy purposes. There is no actual proof of this [in the Scriptures], but there is a hint of it in the words, They reckoned not with the men into whose hand they delivered the money, to give to them that did the work, for they dealt faithfully.1

R. Eleazar said: Even if a man has in his house a steward on whom he can rely, he should tie up and count out [any money that he hands to him], as it says, They put in bags and told the money.2  R. Huna said: Applicants for food are examined3  but not applicants for clothes. This rule can be based, if you like on Scripture, or if you prefer, on common sense. 'It can be based if you like on common sense', because the one [who has no clothing] is exposed to contempt, but not the other. 'Or if you prefer on Scripture' — on the verse, Is it not to examine [paros]4  the hungry before giving him thy bread [for so we may translate since] the word paros is written with a sin,5  as much as to say, 'Examine and then give to him:' whereas later it is written, When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him,6  that is to say, immediately. Rab Judah, however, said that applicants for clothes are to be examined but not applicants for food. This rule can be based if you like on common sense or if you prefer on Scripture. 'If you like on common sense' — because the one [without food] is actually suffering but not the other. 'Or if you prefer on Scripture' — because it says, Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, that is, at once7  whereas later it is written, When thou seest the naked, that is to say, 'When you shall have seen [that he is deserving]'. It has been taught in agreement with Rab Judah: If a man says, 'Clothe me,' he is examined, but if he says, 'Feed me,' he is not examined.

We have learnt in another place: The minimum to be given to a poor man who is on his way from one place to another is a loaf which costs a pundion when four se'ahs of wheat are sold for a sela'.8  If he stays overnight, he is given his requirements for the night. What is meant by 'requirements for the night'? — R. Papa said: A bed and a pillow. If he stays over Sabbath, he is given food for three meals.9

A Tanna taught: If he is a beggar who goes from door to door, we pay no attention to him.10  A certain man who used to beg from door to door came to R. Papa [for money], but he refused him. Said R. Samma the son of R. Yeba to R. Papa: If you do not pay attention to him, no one else will pay attention to him; is he then to die of hunger? But, [replied R. Papa,] has it not been taught, If he is a beggar who goes from door to door, we pay no attention to him? — He replied: We do not listen to his request for a large gift, but we do listen to his request for a small gift.11  R. Assi said: A man should never neglect to give the third of a shekel [for charity] in a year, as it says, Also we made ordinances for us, to charge ourselves yearly with the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our Lord.12  R. Assi further said: Charity is equivalent to all the other religious precepts combined; as it says, 'Also we made ordinances': it is not written, 'an ordinance', but 'ordinances'.

R. Eleazar said: He who causes others to do good is greater than the doer, as it says, And the work13  of righteousness [zedakah] shall be peace,14  and the effect of righteousness quiet and confidence for ever.15  If a man is deserving, then shalt thou not deal thy bread to the hungry,16  but if he is not deserving, then thou shalt bring the poor that are cast out to thy house.17  Raba said to the townsfolk of Mahuza: I beg of you, hasten [to the assistance of] one another, so that you may be on good terms with the Government. R. Eleazar further said: When the Temple stood, a man used to bring his shekel and so make atonement. Now that the Temple no longer stands, if they give for charity, well and good, and if not, the heathens will come and take from them forcibly. And even so it will be reckoned to them as if they had given charity, as it is written, [I will make] thine exactors righteousness18  [zedakah].

Raba said: The following was told me by the suckling

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. II Kings XII, 16. According to Tosaf., this is not a proof, because the men of that generatlon were exceptionally righteous.
  2. Ibid. Although they had perfect confidence in the workers, the priests before giving them the money first put it in bags and counted it.
  3. To see that they are not impostors.
  4. Isa. LVIII, 7. E.V. 'deal'.
  5. [H] = [H] = 'make plain', 'examine'. In our texts the word is written [H]. V. Tosaf. Shab. 55b, s.v. [H].
  6. Ibid.
  7. The word [H] being interpreted as it is read.
  8. Such a loaf would contain half a kab of wheat.
  9. Three meals being obligatory on the Sabbath.
  10. To give him money from the charity fund, v. Tosef. Pe'ah, IV.
  11. I.e., something less than a complete meal.
  12. Neh. x, 33. If for the repair of the Temple, a fortiori for charity.
  13. [H] taken in the sense of 'causing others to do righteousness'.
  14. And not righteousness (i.e., charity, or those who give charity) itself.
  15. Isa. XXXII, 17.
  16. Isa. LVIII, 7.
  17. Ibid. The reference is to tax-collectors, [H] (E.V. 'cast out') being connected with root [H] 'to rule', v. infra.
  18. Ibid. LX, 17.

Baba Bathra 9b

who perverted the way of his mother,1  in the name of R. Eleazar. What is the meaning of the verse, And he put on righteousness as a coat of mail?2  It tells us that just as in a coat of mail every small scale joins With the others to form one piece of armour, so every little sum given to charity combines with the rest to form a large sum. R. Hanina said: The same lesson may be learnt from here: And all our righteousness is as a polluted garment.3  Just as in a garment every thread unites with the rest to form a whole garment, so every farthing given to charity unites with the rest to form a large sum.

Why was he [R. Shesheth] called 'the suckling who perverted the way of his mother'? The reason is this. R. Ahadboi b. Ammi asked R. Shesheth: Whence do we infer that a leper while he is counting his days [for purification]4  renders unclean a man [who touches him]? He replied: Since he renders garments unclean,5  he renders a man unclean. But, he said, perhaps this only applies to clothes which he actually wears; for similarly we have the case of the lifting of a carcase which makes the garments unclean but not the man?6  — He replied: And whence do we know that a creeping thing makes a man unclean? Is it not from the fact that it makes garments unclean?7  — He replied: Of the creeping thing it is distinctly written, Or whosoever toucheth any creeping thing whereby he may be made unclean.8  — How then, he [R. Shesheth] said, do we know that [human] semen makes a man unclean? Do we not say that because it makes garments unclean, therefore it makes a man unclean? — He replied: The rule of semen is also distinctly stated, since it is written in connection with it, Or a man [whose seed goeth from him],9  where [the superfluous phrase 'or a man'] brings under the rule one who touches the seed.10  He [R. Ahadboi] made his objections in a mocking manner which deeply wounded R. Shesheth, and soon after R. Ahadhoi b. Abba lost his speech and forgot his learning. His11  mother came and wept before him,12  but in spite of all her cries he paid no attention to her. At length she said: Behold these breasts from which you have sucked. Then at last he prayed for him and he was healed.

But what is the answer to the question that has been raised?13  — As it has been taught: R. Simeon b. Yohai says: 'Washing of garments' is mentioned in connection with the period of the leper's counting,14  and 'washing of garments' is also mentioned in connection with the period of his definite uncleanness.15  Just as in the latter case he renders any man he touches unclean, so also in the former case.

R. Eleazar said: A man who gives charity in secret is greater than Moses our Teacher, for of Moses it is written, For I was afraid because of the anger aid the wrath,16  and of one who gives charity [secretly] it is written, A gift in secret subdues anger.17  In this he [R. Eleazar] differs from R. Isaac, for R. Isaac said that it subdues 'anger' but not 'wrath', since the verse continues, And a present in the bosom fierce wrath, [which we can interpret to mean], 'Though a present is placed in the bosom, yet wrath is still fierce.' According to others, R. Isaac said: A judge who takes a bribe brings fierce wrath upon the world; as it says, And a present etc. R. Isaac also said: He who gives a small coin to a poor man obtains six blessings, and he who addresses to him words of comfort obtains eleven blessings. 'He who gives a small coin to a poor man obtains six blessings' — as it is written, Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry and bring the poor to thy house etc., when thou seest the naked etc.18  'He who addresses to him comforting words obtains eleven blessings', as it is written, If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, they shall thy light rise in the darkness and thine obscurity be as the noonday, and the Lord shall guide thee continually and satisfy thy soul in drought … and they shall build from thee the old waste places and thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations, etc.19

R. Isaac further said: What is the meaning of the verse, He that followeth after righteousness20  and mercy findeth life, righteousness and honour?21  Because a man has followed after righteousness, shall he find righteousness?22  — The purpose of the verse, however, is to teach us that if a man is anxious to give charity, the Holy One, blessed be He, furnishes him money with which to give it. R. Nahman b. Isaac says: The Holy One, blessed be He, sends him men who are fitting recipients of charity, so that he may be rewarded for assisting them. Who then are unfit?23  — Such as those mentioned in the exposition of Rabbah, when he said: What is the meaning of the verse, Let them be made to stumble before thee; in the time of thine anger deal thou with them?24  Jeremiah said to the Holy One, blessed be He: Sovereign of the Universe, even at the time when they conquer their evil inclination and seek to do charity before Thee, cause them to stumble through men who are not fitting recipients, so that they should receive no reward for assisting them.

R. Joshua b. Levi said: He who does charity habitually will have sons wise, wealthy, and versed in the Aggadah.25  'Wise' as it is written,26

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. R. Shesheth. V. infra.
  2. Isa. LIX, 17.
  3. Ibid. LXIV, 5.
  4. In the seven days after he brings the birds, and before he brings his offering. V. Lev. XIV, 8.
  5. As we know because it is written, On the seventh day he shall wash his clothes. (Ibid. 9.)
  6. As it is written, Whosoever shall bear aught of the carcase of them shall wash his clothes (Lev. XI, 25). but it is not said that he renders other persons or garments unclean by his touch.
  7. Ibid. 31, 38.
  8. Ibid. XXII, 5.
  9. Ibid. 4.
  10. As the text might have run, 'Whoso toucheth anything unclean, and whose seed goeth etc.' V. Malbim, a.l.
  11. This is usually taken to refer to R. Shesheth. R. Hana, however, refers it to R. Ahadboi, whose mother he presumes to have nursed R. Shesheth. V. Tosaf. s.v. [H].
  12. To induce him to pray that R. Ahadboi should be healed.
  13. In regard to the leper. Lit., 'now that the subject has been discussed, whence do we know it?'
  14. I.e., at the end of the seven days. Lev. XIV, 9.
  15. I.e., when he first emerges from this into the seven day period. Lev. XIV, 8. The analogy is based on a similarity of expression, Gezerah Shawah, v. Glos.
  16. Deut. IX, 19.
  17. Prov. XXI, 14.
  18. Isa. LVIII, 7. The six blessings are to be found in the next two verses, Then shall thy light break forth etc.
  19. Ib. 10-12.
  20. The Hebrew is zedakah, which is taken in the Rabbinical sense of 'charity'.
  21. Prov. XXI, 21.
  22. I.e., because he gives charity, shall his reward be that he shall obtain charity when he requires it?
  23. Lit., 'to exclude what?'
  24. Jer. XVIII, 23.
  25. Possibly 'aggadah' has here its original meaning of 'telling', i.e., 'eloquence'.
  26. In the verse from Prov. XXI, quoted above.