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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Berakoth
'Benaiah the son of Jehoiada', this means the Sanhedrin. 'And Abiathar',1 these are the Urim and Tummim. And so it says: And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Kerethi and Pelethi.2 Why are they3 called 'Kerethi' and 'Pelethi'? Kerethi, because their words are decisive [korethim]; Pelethi, because they are distinguished [mufla'im] through their words. And then it comes 'the captain of the King's host Joab'. R. Isaac b. Adda says: (Some say, R. Isaac the son of Addi says) Which verse?4 Awake, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp; I will awake the dawn.5
R. Zera says:6 Moses certainly knew and David, too, knew [the exact time of midnight]. Since David knew, why did he need the harp? That he might wake from his sleep. Since Moses knew, why did he say 'about midnight'? — Moses thought that the astrologers of Pharaoh might make a mistake, and then they would say that Moses was a liar. For so a Master said: Let thy tongue acquire the habit of saying, 'I know not', lest thou be led to falsehoods [lying]. R. Ashi says: It7 was at midnight of the night of the thirteenth passing into the fourteenth [of Nisan], and thus said Moses to Israel: The Holy One, blessed be He, said: Tomorrow [at the hour] like8 the midnight of to-night, I will go out into the midst of Egypt.
A prayer of David … Keep my soul, for I am pious.9 Levi and R. Isaac:10 The one says, Thus spoke David before the Holy One, blessed be He; Master of the world, am I not pious? All the kings of the East and the West sleep to the third hour [of the day], but I, at midnight I rise to give thanks unto Thee.11 The other one says: Thus spoke David before the Holy One, blessed be He: Master of the world, am I not pious? All the kings of the East and the West sit with all their pomp among their company, whereas my hands are soiled with the blood [of menstruation], with the foetus and the placenta, in order to declare a woman clean for her husband.12 And what is more, in all that I do I consult my teacher, Mephibosheth, and I say to him: My teacher Mephibosheth, is my decision right? Did I correctly convict, correctly acquit, correctly declare clean, correctly declare unclean? And I am not ashamed [to ask]. R. Joshua, the son of R. Iddi, says Which verse [may be cited in support]? And I recite Thy testimonies before kings and am not ashamed.13 A Tanna taught: His name was not Mephibosheth. And why then was he called Mephibosheth? Because he humiliated14 David in the Halachah. Therefore was David worthy of the privilege that Kileab15 should issue from him. R. Johanan said: His name was not Kileab but Daniel. Why then was he called Kileab? Because he humiliated [maklim] Mephibosheth [ab]16 in the Halachah. And concerning him Solomon said in his wisdom: My son, if thy heart be wise, my heart will be glad, even mine.17 And he said further: My son, be wise, and make my heart glad, that I may answer him that taunteth me.18
But how could David call himself pious? It is not written: I am not sure [lule] to see the good reward of the Lord in the land of the living;19 and a Tanna taught in the name of R. Jose: Why are there dots upon the world 'lule'?20 David spoke before the Holy One, blessed be He: 'Master of the world, I am sure that you will pay a good reward to the righteous in the world to come, but I do not know whether I shall have a share in it'?21 [He was afraid that] some sin might cause [his exclusion].22 This conforms to the following saying of R. Jacob b. Iddi. For R. Jacob b. Iddi pointed to a contradiction. One verse reads: And behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee whithersoever thou goest,23 and the other verse reads: Then Jacob was greatly afraid!24 [The answer is that] he thought that some sin might cause [God's promise not to be fulfilled]. Similarly it has been taught: Till Thy people pass over, O Lord, till the people pass over that Thou hast gotten.25 'Till Thy people pass over, O Lord': this is the first entry [into the Land]. 'Till the people pass over that Thou hast gotten': this is the second entry. Hence the Sages say: The intention was to perform a miracle for Israel26 in the days of Ezra, even as it was performed for them in the days of Joshua bin Nun,27 but sin caused [the miracle to be withheld].28
THE SAGES SAY: UNTIL MIDNIGHT. Whose view did the Sages adopt?29 If it is R. Eliezer's view, then let them express themselves in the same way as R. Eliezer?
If it is R. Gamaliel's view, let them express themselves in the same way as R. Gamaliel? — In reality it is R. Gamaliel's view that they adopted, and their reason for saying, UNTIL MIDNIGHT is to keep a man far from transgression. For so it has been taught: The Sages made a fence for their words so that a man, on returning home from the field in the evening, should not say: I shall go home, eat a little, drink a little, sleep a little, and then I shall recite the Shema' and the Tefillah, and meanwhile, sleep may overpower him, and as a result he will sleep the whole night. Rather should a man, when returning home from the field in the evening, go to the synagogue. If he is used to read the Bible, let him read the Bible, and if he is used to repeat the Mishnah, let him repeat the Mishnah, and then let him recite the Shema' and say the Tefillah, [go home] and eat his meal and say the Grace. And whosoever transgresses the words of the Sages deserves to die. Why this difference that, in other cases, they do not say 'he deserves to die', and here they do say 'he deserves to die'? — If you wish, I can say because here there is danger of sleep overpowering him. Or, if you wish, I can say because they want to exclude the opinion of those who say that the evening prayer is only voluntary.1 Therefore they teach us that it is obligatory.
The Master said:2 'Let him recite Shema' and say the Tefillah'. This accords with the view of R. Johanan.3 For R. Johanan says: Who inherits the world to come? The one who follows the Ge'ullah4 immediately with the evening Tefillah. R. Joshua b. Levi says: The Tefilloth were arranged to be said in the middle.5 What is the ground of their difference? — If you like, I can say it is [the interpretation of] a verse, and if you like, I can say that they reason differently. For R. Johanan argues: Though the complete deliverance from Egypt took place in the morning time only,6 there was also some kind of deliverance in the evening;7 whereas R. Joshua b. Levi argues that since the real deliverance happened in the morning [that of the evening] was no proper deliverance.8 'Or if you like, I can say it is [the interpretation of] a verse'. And both interpret one and the same verse, [viz.,] When thou liest down and when thou risest up.9 R. Johanan argues: There is here an analogy between lying down and rising. Just as [at the time of] rising, recital of Shema' precedes Tefillah, so also [at the time of] lying down, recital of Shema' precedes Tefillah. R. Joshua b. Levi argues [differently]: There is here an analogy between lying down and rising. Just as [at the time of] rising, the recital of Shema' is next to [rising from] bed,10 so also [at the time of] lying down, recital of Shema' must be next to [getting into] bed.11
Mar b. Rabina raised an objection. In the evening, two benedictions precede and two benedictions follow the Shema'.12 Now, if you say he has to join Ge'ullah with Tefillah, behold he does not do so, for he has to say [in between], 'Let us rest'?13 — I reply: Since the Rabbis ordained the benediction, 'Let us rest', it is as if it were a long Ge'ullah. For, if you do not admit that, how can he join in the morning, seeing that R. Johanan says: In the beginning [of the Tefillah] one has to say: O Lord, open Thou my lips [etc.],14 and at the end one has to say: Let the words of my mouth be acceptable?15 [The only explanation] there [is that] since the Rabbis ordained that O Lord, open Thou my lips should be said, it is like a long Tefillah.16 Here, too, since the Rabbis ordained that 'Let us rest' should be said, it is like a long Ge'ullah.
R. Eleazar b. Abina says: Whoever recites [the psalm] Praise of David17 three times daily, is sure to inherit18 the world to come. What is the reason? Shall I say it is because it has an alphabetical arrangement? Then let him recite, Happy are they that are upright in the way,19 which has an eightfold alphabetical arrangement. Again, is it because it contains [the verse], Thou openest Thy hand [and satisfiest every living thing with favour]?20 Then let him recite the great Hallel,21 where it is written: Who giveth food to all flesh!22 — Rather, [the reason is] because it contains both.23 R. Johanan says: Why is there no nun in Ashre?24 Because the fall of Israel's enemies25 begins with it. For it is written: Fallen is26 the virgin of Israel, she shall no more rise.27 (In the West28 this verse is thus interpreted: She is fallen, but she shall no more fall. Rise, O virgin of Israel). R. Nahman b. Isaac says: Even so, David refers to it by inspiration29 and promises them an uplifting. For it is written: The Lord upholdeth all that fall.30
R. Eleazar b. Abina said furthermore: Greater is [the achievement] ascribed to Michael than that ascribed to Gabriel. For of Michael it is written: Then flew unto me one of the Seraphim,31 whereas of Gabriel it is written: The man Gabriel whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly in a flight etc.32 How do you know that this [word] 'one' [of the Seraphim] means Michael? — R. Johanan says: By an analogy from [the words] 'one', 'one'. Here it is written: Then flew unto me one of the Seraphim; and in another place it is written: But, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.33 A Tanna taught: Michael [reaches his goal] in one [flight], Gabriel in two, Elijah in four, and the Angel of Death in eight. In the time of plague, however, [the Angel of Death, too, reaches his goal] in one.
R. Joshua b. Levi says: Though a man has recited the Shema' in the synagogue, it is a religious act to recite it again upon his bed. R. Assi says: Which verse [may be cited in support]? Tremble and sin not; commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still, Selah.34 R. Nahman, however, says:
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