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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Berakoth
There is a contradiction between R. Meir [of one Baraitha]1 and R. Meir [of the last Baraitha]?2 — Yes, two Tannaim transmit different versions of R. Meir's opinion. There is a contradiction between R. Eliezer [of the last Baraitha]3 and R. Eliezer [of the Mishnah]?4 — Yes, two Tannaim5 transmit two different versions of R. Eliezer's opinion. If you wish I can say: The first clause of the Mishnah6 is not R. Eliezer's.7
UNTIL THE END OF THE FIRST WATCH. What opinion does R. Eliezer hold? If he holds that the night has three watches, let him say: Till four hours [in the night]. And if he holds that the night has four watches, let him say: Till three hours? — He holds indeed, that the night has three watches, but he wants to teach us that there are watches in heaven8 as well as on earth. For it has been taught: R. Eliezer says: The night has three watches, and at each watch the Holy One, blessed be He, sits and roars like a lion. For it is written: The Lord does roar from on high, and raise His voice from His holy habitation; 'roaring He doth roar'9 because of his fold. And the sign of the thing is:10 In the first watch, the ass brays; in the second, the dogs bark; in the third, the child sucks from the breast of his mother, and the woman talks with her husband. What does R. Eliezer understand [by the word watch]? Does he mean the beginning of the watches? The beginning of the first watch needs no sign, it is the twilight! Does he mean the end of the watches? The end of the last watch needs no sign, it is the dawn of the day! He, therefore, must think of the end of the first watch, of the beginning of the last watch, and of the midst of the middle watch. If you like I can say: He refers to the end of all the watches. And if you object that the last watch needs no sign, [I reply] that it may be of use for the recital of the Shema', and for a man who sleeps in a dark room11 and does not know when the time of the recital arrives. When the woman talks with her husband and the child sucks from the breast of the mother, let him rise and recite.
R. Isaac b. Samuel says in the name of Rab: The night has three watches, and at each watch the Holy One, blessed be He, sits and roars like a lion and says: Woe to the children, on account of whose sins I destroyed My house and burnt My temple and exiled them among the nations of the world.
It has been taught: R. Jose says, I was once travelling on the road, and I entered into one of the ruins of Jerusalem in order to pray. Elijah of blessed memory appeared and waited for me at the door till I finished my prayer.12 After I finished my prayer, he said to me: Peace be with you, my master! and I replied: Peace be with you, my master and teacher! And he said to me: My son, why did you go into this ruin? I replied: To pray. He said to me: You ought to have prayed on the road. I replied: I feared lest passers-by might interrupt me. He said to me: You ought to have said an abbreviated prayer.13 Thus I then learned from him three things: One must not go into a ruin; one may say the prayer on the road; and if one does say his prayer on the road, he recites an abbreviated prayer. He further said to me: My son, what sound did you hear in this ruin? I replied: I heard a divine voice, cooing like a dove, and saying: Woe to the children, on account of whose sins I destroyed My house and burnt My temple and exiled them among the nations of the world! And he said to me: By your life and by your head! Not in this moment alone does it so exclaim, but thrice each day does it exclaim thus! And more than that, whenever the Israelites go into the synagogues and schoolhouses and respond: 'May His great name be blessed!'14 the Holy One, blessed be He, shakes His head and says: Happy is the king who is thus praised in this house! Woe15 to the father who had to banish his children, and woe to the children who had to be banished from the table of their father!
Our Rabbis taught: there are three reasons why one must not go into a ruin: because of suspicion,16 of falling debris and of demons. — [It states] 'Because of suspicion'.17 It would be sufficient to say, because of falling debris'? —
When the ruin is new.1 But it would be sufficient to say: 'because of demons'? — When there are two people.2 If there are two people, then there is no suspicion either? — When both are licentious [there is suspicion]. — [It states] 'Because of falling debris'. It would be sufficient to say: 'because of suspicion and demons'? — When there are two decent people. [It states] 'Because of demons'. It would be sufficient to say; 'because of suspicion and falling debris'? — When there are two decent people going into a new ruin. But if there are two, then there is no danger of demons either? — In their haunt there is danger. If you like I can say, indeed the reference is to one man and to a new ruin which was situated in the fields; in which case there is no suspicion, for a woman would not be found in the fields, but the danger of demons does exist.
Our Rabbis taught: The night has four watches. These are the words of Rabbi. R. Nathan says: Three. What is the reason of R. Nathan? — It is written: So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came into the outermost part of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch.3 And one taught: Under 'middle' is to be understood only something which is preceded by one and followed by one. And Rabbi?4 — 'The middle' means: one of the middle ones. And R. Nathan? — Not 'one of the middle ones' is written, but 'the middle' is written. What is Rabbi's reason? — R. Zerika, in the name of R. Joshua b. Levi, says: One verse reads, At midnight do I rise to give thanks unto Thee because of Thy righteous ordinances.5 And another verse reads: Mine eyes forestall the watches.6 How is this?7 — [This is possible only if] the night has four watches. And R. Nathan? — He is of the opinion of R. Joshua, as we have learnt: R. Joshua says: until the third hour, for such is the custom of kings, to rise in the third hour.8 Six hours of the night and two hours of the day amount to two watches.9 R. Ashi says: One watch and a half are also spoken of as 'watches'. (R. Zerika further said, in the name of R. Ammi in the name of R. Joshua b. Levi: One may discuss in the presence of a dead body only things relating to the dead. R. Abba b. Kahana says: This refers only to religious matters,10 but as for worldly matter there is no harm. Another version is: R. Abba b. Kahana says: This refers even to religious matters. How much more so to worldly matters!)
But did David rise at midnight? [Surely] he rose with the evening dusk? For it is written: I rose with the neshef and cried.11 And how do you know that this word neshef means the evening? It is written: In the neshef, in the evening of the day, in the blackness of night and the darkness!12 — R. Oshaia, in the name of R. Aha, replies: David said: Midnight never passed me by in my sleep. R. Zera says: Till midnight he used to slumber like a horse,13 from thence on he rose with the energy of a lion. R. Ashi says: Till midnight he studied the Torah, from thence on he recited songs and praises. But does neshef mean the evening? Surely neshef means the morning? For it is written: And David slew them from the 'neshef' to the evening 'ereb of the next day,14 and does not this mean, from the 'morning dawn' to the evening? — No. [It means:] from the [one] eventide to the [next] eventide. If so, let him write: From neshef to neshef, or from 'ereb to 'ereb? — Rather, said Raba: There are two kinds of neshef: [the morning neshef], when the evening disappears [nashaf] and the morning arrives,15 [and the evening neshef], when the day disappears [nashaf] and the evening arrives.16
But did David know the exact time of midnight? Even our teacher Moses did not know it! For it is written: About midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt.17 Why 'about midnight'? Shall we say that the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: 'About midnight'? Can there be any doubt in the mind of God?18 Hence we must say that God told him 'at midnight', and he came and said: 'About midnight'. Hence he [Moses] was in doubt; can David then have known it? — David had a sign. For so said R. Aha b. Bizana in the name of R. Simeon the Pious: A harp was hanging above David's bed. As soon as midnight arrived, a North wind came and blew upon it and it played of itself. He arose immediately and studied the Torah till the break of dawn. After the break of dawn the wise men of Israel came in to see him and said to him: Our lord, the King, Israel your people require sustenance! He said to them: Let them go out and make a living one from the other.19 They said to him: A handful cannot satisfy a lion, nor can a pit be filled up with its own clods.20 He said to them: Then go out in troops and attack [the enemy for plunder]. They at once took counsel with Ahithofel and consulted the Sanhedrin and questioned the Urim and Tummim.21 R. Joseph says: What verse [may be cited in support of this]? And after Ahithofel was Jehoiada, the son of Benaiah,22 and Abiathar; and the captain of the King's host was Joab.23 'Ahithofel', this was the counsellor. And so it is said: Now the counsel of Ahithofel, which he counselled in those days, was as if a man inquired of the word of God.24
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