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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Berakoth
Because it says, And whom I have wronged.1
R. Hama said in the name of R. Hanina: But for these three texts,2 the feet of Israel's enemies3 would have slipped. One is Whom I have wronged; a second, Behold as the clay in the potter's hand, so are ye in My hand, O house of Israel;4 the third, And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.5 R. papa said: We learn it from here: And I will put My spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes.6
R. Eleazar also said: Moses spoke insolently towards heaven, as it says, And Moses prayed unto the Lord.7 Read not el [unto] the Lord, but 'al [upon] the Lord, for so in the school of R. Eliezer alefs were pronounced like 'ayins and 'ayins like alefs. The school of R. Jannai learnt it from here: And Di-Zahab.8 What is 'And Di-Zahab'? They said in the school of R. Jannai: Thus spoke Moses before the Holy One, blessed be He: Sovereign of the Universe, the silver and gold [zahab] which Thou didst shower on Israel until they said, Enough [dai], that it was which led to their making the Calf. They said in the school of R. Jannai: A lion does not roar over a basket of straw but over a basket of flesh. R. Oshaia said: It is like the case of a man who had a lean but large-limbed cow. He gave it lupines to eat and it commenced to kick him. He said to it: What led you to kick me except the lupines that I fed you with? R. Hiyya b. Abba said: It is like the case of a man who had a son; he bathed him and anointed him and gave him plenty to eat and drink and hung a purse round his neck and set him down at the door of a bawdy house. How could the boy help sinning? R. Aha the son of R. Huna said in the name of R. Shesheth: This bears out the popular saying: A full stomach is a bad sort, as It says, When they were fed they became full, they were filled and their heart was exalted; therefore they have forgotten Me.9 R. Nahman learnt it from here: Then thy heart be lifted up and thou forget the Lord.10 The Rabbis from here: And they shall have eaten their fill and waxen fat, and turned unto other gods.11 Or, if you prefer, I can say from here. But Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked.12 R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Jonathan. Whence do we know that the Holy One, blessed be He, in the end gave Moses right? Because it says, And multiplied unto her silver and gold, which they used for Baal.13
And the Lord spoke unto Moses, Go, get thee down.14 What is meant by 'Go, get thee down'? R. Eleazar said: The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses: Moses, descend from thy greatness. Have I at all given to thee greatness save for the sake of Israel? And now Israel have sinned; then why do I want thee? Straightway Moses became powerless and he had no strength to speak. When, however, [God] said, Let Me alone that I may destroy them,15 Moses said to himself: This depends upon me, and straightway he stood up and prayed vigorously and begged for mercy. It was like the case of a king who became angry with his son and began beating him severely. His friend was sitting before him but was afraid to say a word until the king said, Were it not for my friend here who is sitting before me I would kill you. He said to himself, This depends on me, and immediately he stood up and rescued him.
Now therefore let Me alone that My wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them, and I will make of thee a great nation.16 R. Abbahu said: Were it not explicitly written, it would be impossible to say such a thing: this teaches that Moses took hold of the Holy One, blessed be He, like a man who seizes his fellow by his garment and said before Him: Sovereign of the Universe, I will not let Thee go until Thou forgivest and pardonest them.
And I will make of thee a great nation etc. R. Eleazar said: Moses said before the Holy One, blessed be He: Sovereign of the Universe, seeing that a stool with three legs17 cannot stand before Thee in the hour of Thy wrath, how much less a stool with one leg! And moreover, I am ashamed before my ancestors, who will now say: See what a leader he has set over them! He sought greatness for himself, but he did not seek mercy for them!
And Moses besought [wa-yehal] the Lord his God.18 R. Eleazar said: This teaches that Moses stood in prayer before the Holy One, blessed be He, Until he [so to speak] wearied Him [hehelahu]. Raba said: Until he remitted His vow for Him. It is written here wa-yehal, and it is written there [in connection with vows], he shall not break [yahel] his word;19 and a Master has said: He [himself] cannot break, but others may break for him.20 Samuel says: It teaches that he risked his life for them,21 as it says, And if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written.22 Raba said in the name of R. Isaac: It teaches that he caused the Attribute of Mercy to rest [hehelah] on them. The Rabbis say: It teaches that Moses said before the Holy One, blessed be He: Sovereign of the Universe, it is a profanation [hullin] for Thee to do this thing.
And Moses besought the Lord. It has been taught: R. Eliezer the Great says: This teaches that Moses stood praying before the Holy One, blessed be He, until an ahilu seized him. What is ahilu? R. Eleazar says: A fire in the bones. What is a fire in the bones? Abaye said: A kind of fever.
Remember Abraham, Isaac and Israel Thy servants, to whom Thou didst swear by Thyself.23 What is the force of 'by Thyself'? R. Eleazar said: Moses said before the Holy One, blessed be He: Sovereign of the Universe, hadst Thou sworn to them by the heaven and the earth, I would have said, Just as the heaven and earth can pass away, so can Thy oath pass away. Now, however, Thou hast sworn to them by Thy great name: just as Thy great name endures for ever and ever, so Thy oath is established for ever and ever.
And saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven and all this land that I have spoken of etc.24 'That I have spoken of'? It should be, 'That Thou hast spoken of'!25 — R. Eleazar said: Up to this point the text records the words of the disciple,26 from this point the words of the master.27 R. Samuel b. Nahmani, however, said: Both are the words of the disciple, only Moses spoke thus before the Holy One, blessed be He: Sovereign of the Universe, the things which Thou didst tell me to go and tell Israel in Thy name I did go and tell them in Thy name; now what am I to say to them?
Because the Lord was not able [yekoleth].28 It should be yakol!29 R. Eleazar said: Moses said before the Holy One, blessed be He: Sovereign of the Universe, now the nations of the world will say, He has grown feeble like a female and He is not able to deliver. Said the Holy One, blessed be He, to Moses: Have they not already seen the wonders and miracles I performed for them by the Red Sea? He replied: Sovereign of the Universe, they can still say, He could stand up against one king, He cannot stand up against thirty. R. Johanan said: How do we know that in the end the Holy One, blessed be He, gave Moses right? Because it says, And the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word.30 It was taught in the school of R. Ishmael: According to thy word: the nations of the world will one day say, Happy is the disciple to whom the master gives right!
R. Simlai expounded: A man should always first recount the praise of the Holy One, blessed be He, and then pray. Whence do we know this? From Moses; for it is written, And I besought the Lord at that time,33 and it goes on, O Lord God, Thou hast begun to show Thy servant Thy greatness and Thy strong hand; for what god is there in heaven and earth who can do according to Thy works and according to Thy mighty acts, and afterwards is written, Let me go over, I pray Thee, and see the good land etc.
(Mnemonic: Deeds, charity, offering, priest, fast, lock, iron.)34
R. Eleazar said: prayer is more efficacious even than good deeds, for there was no-one greater in good deeds than Moses our Master, and yet he was answered only after prayer, as it says, Speak no more unto Me,1 and immediately afterwards, Get thee up into the top of Pisgah.2
R. Eleazar also said: Fasting is more efficacious than charity. What is the reason? One is performed with a man's money, the other with his body.
R. Eleazar also said: Prayer is more efficacious than offerings, as it says, To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me,3 and this is followed by, And when ye spread forth your hands.4 R. Johanan said: A priest who has committed manslaughter should not lift up his hands [to say the priestly benediction], since it says [in this context], 'Your hands are full of blood'.
R. Eleazar also said: From the day on which the Temple was destroyed the gates of prayer have been closed, as it says, Yea, when I cry and call for help He shutteth out my prayer.5 But though the gates of prayer are closed, the gates of weeping are not closed, as it says, Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear unto my cry; keep not silence at my tears.6 Raba did not order a fast on a cloudy day because it says, Thou hast covered Thyself with a cloud so that no prayer can pass through.7
R. Eleazar also said: Since the day that the Temple was destroyed, a wall of iron has intervened between Israel and their Father in Heaven, as it says, And take thou unto thee an iron griddle, and set it for a wall of iron between thee and the city.8
R. Hanin said in the name of R. Hanina: If one prays long his prayer does not pass unheeded. Whence do we know this? From Moses our Master; for it says, And I prayed unto the Lord,9 and it is written afterwards, And the Lord hearkened unto me that time also.10 But is that so? Has not R. Hiyya b. Abba said in the name of R. Johanan: If one prays long and looks for the fulfilment of his prayer, in the end he will have vexation of heart, as it says, Hope deferred maketh the heart sick?11 What is his remedy? Let him study the Torah, as it says, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life;12 and the tree of life is nought but the Torah, as it says, She is a tree of life to them that lay hold on her!13 — There is no contradiction: one statement speaks of a man who prays long and looks for the fulfilment of his prayer, the other of one who prays long without looking for the fulfilment of his prayer.14 R. Hama son of R. Hanina said: If a man sees that he prays and is not answered, he should pray again, as it says, Wait for the Lord, be strong and let thy heart take courage; yea, wait thou for the Lord.15
Our Rabbis taught: Four things require to be done with energy,16 namely, [study of] the Torah, good deeds, praying, and one's worldly occupation. Whence do we know this of Torah and good deeds? Because it says, Only be strong and very courageous to observe to do according to all the law:17 'be strong' in Torah, and 'be courageous in good deeds. Whence of prayer? Because it says, 'Wait for the Lord, be strong and let thy heart take courage, yea, wait thou for the Lord'. Whence of worldly occupation? Because it says, Be of good courage and let us prove strong for our people.18
But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and the Lord hath forgotten me.19 Is not 'forsaken' the same as 'forgotten'? Resh Lakish said: The community of Israel said before the Holy One, blessed be He: Sovereign of the Universe, when a man takes a second wife after his first, he still remembers the deeds of the first. Thou hast both forsaken me and forgotten me! The Holy One, blessed be He, answered her: My daughter, twelve constellations have I created in the firmament, and for each constellation I have created thirty hosts, and for each host I have created thirty legions, and for each legion I have created thirty cohorts, and for each cohort I have created thirty maniples, and for each maniple I have created thirty camps, and to each camp20 I have attached three hundred and sixty-five thousands of myriads of stars, corresponding to the days of the solar year, and all of them I have created only for thy sake, and thou sayest, Thou hast forgotten me and forsaken me! Can a woman forsake her sucking child ['ullah]?21 Said the Holy One, blessed be He: Can I possibly forget the burn-offerings ['olah] of rams and the firstborn of animals22 that thou didst offer to Me in the wilderness? She thereupon said: Sovereign of the Universe, since there is no forgetfulness before the Throne of Thy glory, perhaps Thou wilt not forget the sin of the Calf? He replied: 'Yea, "these "23 will be forgotten'. She said before Him: Sovereign of the Universe, seeing that there is forgetfulness before the Throne of Thy glory, perhaps Thou wilt forget my conduct at Sinai? He replied to her: 'Yet "the I"24 will not forget thee'. This agrees with what R. Eleazar said in the name of R. Oshaia: What is referred to by the text, 'yea, "these" will be forgotten'? This refers to the sin of the Calf. 'And yet "the I" will not forget thee': this refers to their conduct at Sinai.
THE PIOUS MEN OF OLD USED TO WAIT AN HOUR. On what is this based? — R. Joshua b. Levi said: On the text, Happy are they that dwell in Thy house.25 R. Joshua b. Levi also said: One who says the Tefillah should also wait an hour after his prayer, as it says, Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto Thy name, the upright shall sit in Thy presence.26 It has been taught similarly: One who says the Tefillah should wait an hour before his prayer and an hour after his prayer. Whence do we know [that he should wait] before his prayer? Because it says: 'Happy are they that dwell in Thy house'. Whence after his prayer? Because it says, 'Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto Thy name, the upright shall dwell in Thy presence'. Our Rabbis taught: The pious men of old used to wait for an hour and pray for an hour and then wait again for an hour. But seeing that they spend nine hours a day over prayer, how is their knowledge of Torah preserved and how is their work done? [The answer is] that because they are pious, their Torah is preserved27 and their work is blessed.28
EVEN IF A KING GREETS HIM HE SHOULD NOT ANSWER HIM. R. Joseph said: This was meant to apply only to Jewish kings, but for a king of another people he may interrupt. An objection was raised: If one was saying Tefillah and he saw a robber29 coming towards him or a carriage coming towards him, he should not break off but curtail it and clear off! — There Is no contradiction: where it is possible for him to curtail [he should curtail, otherwise he should break off].30
Our Rabbis taught: It is related that once when a certain pious man was praying by the roadside, an officer came by and greeted him and he did not return his greeting. So he waited for him till he had finished his prayer. When he had finished his prayer he said to him: Fool!31 is it not written in your Law, Only take heed to thyself and keep thy soul diligently,32 and it is also written, Take ye therefore good heed unto your souls?33 When I greeted you why did you not return my greeting? If I had cut off your head with my sword, who would have demanded satisfaction for your blood from me? He replied to him: Be patient and I will explain to you. If, [he went on], you had been standing before an earthly king and your friend had come and given you greeting, would you
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