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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Mezi'a

Baba Mezi'a 90a

or thresh terumah and tithes,1  there is no prohibition of, Thou shalt not muzzle [the ox when he treadeth out — i.e., threshes — his corn];2  but for the sake of appearances3  he must bring a handful of that species and hang it on the nosebag at its mouth. R. Simeon b. Yohai said: He must bring vetches and hang them up for it, because these are better for it than anything else. Now the following contradicts it: When cows are stamping on grain, there is no prohibition of, Thou shalt not muzzle; but when they thresh terumah or tithes, there is. When a heathen threshes with an Israelite's cow, that prohibition is not transgressed;4  but if an Israelite threshes with a heathen's beast, he does. Thus the rulings on terumah are contradictory, and likewise those on tithes. Now, as for the rulings on terumah, it is well, and there is no difficulty: the one refers to terumah [itself]; the other to the produce of terumah;5  but as for the rulings on tithes, these are certainly difficult. And should you answer, there is no contradiction in the rulings on tithes either, one referring to tithes and the other to the produce of tithes6  — as for the produce of terumah, the answer is fitting, since it is terumah;7  but the produce of tithes is hullin. For we learnt: The produce of tebel and the produce of the second tithe8  are hullin!9  — But there is no difficulty: the one refers to the first tithe; the other to the second.10  Alternatively, both refer to the second tithe, yet there is no difficulty: the one [sc. the first Baraitha] agrees with R. Meir; the other with R. Judah. [Thus:] The one agrees with R. Meir, who maintained that the second tithe is sacred property;11  the other with R. Judah, who held it secular property.12  [And] how is it conceivable?13  — E.g., if he [the owner] anticipated [the tithing] whilst it was yet in ear. But [even] on R. Judah's view, does it not require the wall [of Jerusalem]?14  — He threshed it within the walls of Beth Pagi.15  Another alternative is this: there is no difficulty: one refers to a certain tithe, the other to a doubtful tithe.16  Now that you have arrived at this [solution], there is no contradiction between the two rulings on terumah too: the one refers to certain terumah, the other to doubtful terumah. Now, that is well with respect to a doubtful tithe, which exists. But is there a doubtful terumah? Has it not been taught: He17  also abolished the widuy18  and enacted the law of demai. Because he sent [messengers] throughout the territory of Israel, and saw that only the great terumah was rendered!19  — But there is no difficulty: the one refers to terumah of the certain tithe; the other to terumah of the doubtful tithe.

The scholars put a problem to R. Shesheth: What if it ate and excreted?20  Is it [sc. the prohibition of muzzling] because it [the crops] benefits her, whereas here it does not; or because it sees and is distressed [through inability to eat], and here too it is distressed [if muzzled]? — R. Shesheth replied: We have learnt it: R. Simeon b. Yohai said: He must bring vetches and hang them up for her, because these are better for her than anything else. This proves that the reason is that it benefits her. This proves it.

The scholars propounded: May one say to a heathen, 'Muzzle my cow and thresh therewith'? Do we say, the principle that an instruction to a heathen is a shebuth21  applies only to the Sabbath, [work] being forbidden on pain of stoning;22  but not to muzzling, which is prohibited merely by a negative precept: or perhaps there is no difference? — Come and hear: If a heathen threshes with the cow of an Israelite, he [the Israelite] does not infringe the precept, Thou shalt not muzzle! [This implies,] He merely does not infringe it,23  yet it is forbidden!24  — Actually, it is not even forbidden; but because the second clause states that if an Israelite threshes with a heathen's cow, he does infringe;25  the first clause too teaches that he does not infringe.

Come and hear: For they [the scholars] sent to Samuel's father: What of those oxen

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Though stated above that at the stage of threshing there is no liability of tithes, yet the owner can separate the terumah and the tithes, if he wishes, whilst the grain is in the ear; in that case the cows thresh ears of corn that are actually terumah or tithes.
  2. Deut. XXV, 4; stamping, because that is a later stage. With respect to terumah, (v. Glos.) etc., two reasons are given: (i) Since threshing of terumah is not usual, the injunction could not have applied to it (Rashi); (ii) … when he treadeth out his corn, excludes terumah, which is entirely prohibited to an Israelite (i.e., not a priest), and tithes, which are considered as sacred property, though not forbidden, and therefore not 'his' (Tosaf.).
  3. That one who sees it should not think he is transgressing.
  4. I.e., the Jew does not transgress by permitting the Gentile to muzzle his cow.
  5. With respect to the former there is no prohibitions as explained on p. 516, n. 7. But if it were sown and produced a further crop, Biblically speaking it is not terumah at all, but ordinary hullin, though by a Rabbinical enactment it ranks as such. Since the Rabbis cannot nullify a Scriptural prohibition, the injunction, Thou shalt not muzzle, remains in force. The reason for this Rabbinical measure was that otherwise the Israelite might evade his obligations by separating terumah and then resowing it. Also, should a priest possess defiled terumah, which may not be eaten, he might keep it for resowing, when likewise it reverts to hullin by Scriptural law; but whilst keeping it he might forget its defiled nature and eat it.
  6. As in the case of terumah.
  7. I.e., by Rabbinical law, and therefore it is necessary to teach that in this respect the Scriptural law applies.
  8. Two tithes were separated; the first, given to the Levite, and the second, which was retained by the Israelite and eaten in Jerusalem, v. Deut. XIV, 22ff.
  9. As stated above, p. 516, n. 3, the crops are called tebel only when the stage of liability to this has been reached. Before that it is permissible to make a light meal thereof even without tithing, but not after. Now, if the stage of liability was reached, so that it became tebel, and it was resown, the produce is not tebel but hullin, and one may enjoy a light meal thereof before tithing. As for the second tithe, the Rabbis did not enact that its produce shall be second tithe too, as in the case of terumah, because there was no fear that the Israelite would keep and resow it, in order to evade his obligations, since the second tithe might be redeemed and eaten outside palestine, v. Ter. IX. 4.
  10. The first tithe is regarded as his corn, since an Israelite may eat it too, and without restriction of place, hence the prohibition of muzzling applies. But the second tithe, since it must be eaten in Jerusalem, is regarded as sacred property, and so not included in the prohibition (Tosaf.).
  11. Lit., 'property of the (Most) High.'
  12. Kid. 24a.
  13. That it should be a tithe before threshing: — The bracketed 'and' ([H]) is absent from our text and Rashi's, but given in Tosaf.
  14. I.e., since he tithed the crops in ear, nothing thereof is to be consumed — not even by beasts — outside the walls of Jerusalem. How then may the animal thresh it unmuzzled?
  15. The outer wall of Jerusalem, added to the original limits of the town; v. Sanh. (Sonc. ed.) p. 67, n. 9.
  16. Heb. [H]. Corn purchased from the ignorant peasants, who were very lax in their rendering of tithes, had to be tithed by the purchaser, for fear that the vendor had not done so. This was called a doubtful tithe, and required only by Rabbinical law; therefore the prohibition of muzzling applies; v. p. 517, n. 2.
  17. Sc. John Hyrcanus.
  18. Lit., 'confession'; v. Deut. XXVI, 1-15. The declaration referred to is called widuy. But John Hyrcanus abolished it, because of the verse, I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, 'Them' refers to the first tithe, but according to the Talmud, after the return from Babylon Ezra enacted that it should be given to the priests, as a punishment to the Levites for their reluctance to return to the Holy Land. Since one could not truthfully say, I have given them unto the Levite, the recital was abolished.
  19. Because of the dread of the penalty involved — death at the hands of Heaven. The separation of terumah made by the Israelites and given to the priests was called 'the great terumah', to distinguish it from 'the terumah of the tithe', i.e., a tenth part given by the Levite, of the tithe he received, to the priest, and which had the higher sanctity of terumah. Since, then, even the irreligious rendered the great terumah, the law of demai would not have been enacted in respect thereto.
  20. Through suffering with diarrhoea.
  21. Lit., 'rest, abstention from work', and is mainly applied to types of work which, though not falling within the definition of labour forbidden on the Sabbath, are nevertheless prohibited as being out of keeping with its sacredness. To instruct a Gentile to work on the Sabbath is a shebuth, i.e., not actual labour, yet interdicted as not harmonising with the Sabbath. This is an instance where one may not instruct a Gentile to do what is forbidden to oneself, and the problem here is whether this prohibition applies to all forbidden acts.
  22. Hence it is unseemly to bid a Gentile do it.
  23. In the sense that he incurs punishment.
  24. For an Israelite to bid him to do this.
  25. And is punished.

Baba Mezi'a 90b

which Arameans1  steal [at the instance of the owners] and castrate?2  He replied: Since an evasion was committed with them, turn the evasion upon them [their owners], and let them be sold!3  — R. Papa replied: The Palestinian scholars4  hold with R. Hidka, viz., that the Noachides are themselves forbidden to practise castration, and hence he [the Israelite, in instructing the heathen to do it,] violates, Ye shall not put a stumbling block before the blind.5  Now, Raba thought to interpret: They must be sold for slaughter.6  Thereupon Abaye said to him: It is sufficient that you have penalised them to sell.7

Now, it is obvious that an adult son is as a stranger;8  but what of a minor son? — R. Ahi forbade it;9  whilst R. Ashi permitted it. Meremar and Mar Zutra — others state, certain two hasidim — 10 interchanged with each other.11

Rami b. Hama propounded: What if one put a thorn in its [sc. the animal's] mouth?12  [You ask, What] if one put [a thorn in its mouth]? Surely that is real muzzling!13  — But [the problem is], what if a thorn stuck in its mouth?14  [Similarly,] What if one caused a lion to lie down outside [the field in which the ox was threshing]?15  'What if one caused a lion to lie down?' Surely that is actual muzzling! — But [the problem is], What if a lion lay down outside [of its own accord]?16  What if one placed its [sc. the animal's] young outside the field?17  What if it thirsted for water [and so could not eat]? What if he spread a leather cover over the grain to be threshed?18  — Solve one of these problems from the following [Baraitha]. For it has been taught: The owner of the cow19  may let it go hungry, that it should eat much of the grain it threshes; whilst on the other hand, the landowner may untie a bundle of [trodden] sheaves before the cow, that it should not eat much of the threshing!20  — There it is different, because it does eat nevertheless. Alternatively [it means], the field owner may untie a bundle of [trodden] sheaves in front of the cow before the commencement [of the threshing], so that it should not eat much of the corn that is threshed.21

R. Jonathan asked R. Simai: What if he muzzled it outside?22  Does Scripture mean, [Thou shalt not muzzle] an ox when [i.e., at the time that] it thresheth, href="#90b_23">23  whilst this is not [done] when it thresheth? Or perhaps Scripture meant, Thou shalt not thresh with a muzzled ox? — He replied: You may learn from your father's house.24  Do not drink wine or strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye enter [into the tabernacle etc.].25  Now, is it forbidden only when ye enter, yet one may drink before and then enter? But Scripture saith, And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy!26  Hence, just as there, when the priest has entered there must be no drunkenness, so here too: when threshing, the ox must not be in a muzzled state.

Our Rabbis taught: He who muzzles an ox or harnesses together [two] heterogeneous animals27  is exempt [from punishment], and only he who threshes or drives them is flagellated.28

It has been stated: If one frightened it off29  with his voice, or drove them [sc. the yoke of heterogeneous animals] with his voice: R. Johanan held him liable to punishment, the movement of the lips being an action; Resh Lakish ruled that he is not, because [the use of] the voice is not an action.30  R. Johanan raised an objection to Resh Lakish:

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. [From the third century onward the Babylonian heathens, the Mandeans or Sabeans, were designated Arameans, v. Obermeyer, op. cit. p. 75.]
  2. [This was a device resorted to by Jewish owners in order to evade the relevant prohibition; Lev. XXII, 24.]
  3. This proves that one may not even instruct a heathen to perform that which is forbidden merely by a negative precept, as castration.
  4. Lit., 'children of the West'.
  5. Lev. XIX, 14. But muzzling is not forbidden to heathens.
  6. Which brings less than when sold for work.
  7. Without insisting that they lose part of their value.
  8. To whom it may be sold.
  9. To sell them to him.
  10. Lit., 'pious men', a designation of men known for their extreme piety.
  11. I.e., their oxen having been castrated without their knowledge (Tosaf.).
  12. To prevent it from eating; is it the equivalent of muzzling or not?
  13. Surely there can be no doubt that it is forbidden.
  14. Is the owner bound to remove it or not?
  15. Thereby frightening off the animal from eating.
  16. Is the owner bound to chase it away or not?
  17. And the mother in her yearning toward it could not eat. Here the Talmud does not object that this is actual muzzling, because yearning is not as strong a preventive as terror. But other texts read: what if its young stationed itself, etc.? (Tosaf.)
  18. So that it might not see the grain.
  19. Who hires it out.
  20. Thus, one may do something to prevent the cow from eating, and it is assumed that this is analogous to spreading a leather over the grain.
  21. Whereas the problem is whether a leather may be spread when it is threshing.
  22. I.e., before it entered the field.
  23. I.e., the muzzling must be done then.
  24. I.e., from the law appertaining to priests, R. Jonathan being one. [The reference is to R. Jonathan b. Joseph, the Tanna, a disciple of R. Ishmael, and not to R. Jonathan. the disciple of R. Hiyya, who certainly was no priest; v. Sanh. 71a. The question he put to R. Simai who, as a younger contemporary of Rabbi was considerably his junior, would then be merely to test him. It is, however, preferable to read with MS. Venice, 'R. Simeon (b. Yohai)' instead of 'R. Simai'; v. Hyman Toledoth, II. p. 698.]
  25. Lev. X, 9.
  26. Ibid. 20; and for that it does not signify whether one drinks before entering or after.
  27. But leaves them for another to plough with.
  28. Tosef. Kel. V.
  29. Lit., 'muzzled it'.
  30. Punishment is incurred for the violation of a negative precept only when it entails a positive action, and R. Johanan and Resh Lakish dispute whether speech is such.