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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Berakoth
If he is a scholar, then it is not necessary. Abaye says: Even a scholar should recite one verse of supplication, as for instance: Into Thy hand I commit my spirit. Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, Thou God of truth.1
R. Levi b. Hama says in the name of R. Simeon b. Lakish: A man should always incite the good impulse [in his soul]2 to fight against the evil impulse. For it is written: Tremble and sin not.3 If he subdues it, well and good. If not, let him study the Torah. For it is written: 'Commune with your own heart'.4 If he subdues it, well and good. If not, let him recite the Shema'. For it is written: 'Upon your bed'. If he subdues it, well and good. If not, let him remind himself of the day of death. For it is written: 'And be still, Selah'.
R. Levi b. Hama says further in the name of R. Simeon b. Lakish: What is the meaning of the verse: And I will give thee the tables of stone, and the law and the commandment, which I have written that thou mayest teach them?5 'Tables of stone': these are the ten commandments; 'the law': this is the Pentateuch; 'the commandment': this is the Mishnah; 'which I have written': these are the Prophets and the Hagiographa; 'that thou mayest teach them': this is the Gemara.6 It teaches [us] that all these things were given to Moses on Sinai.
R. Isaac says: If one recites the Shema' upon his bed, it is as though he held a two-edged sword in his hand.7 For it is said: Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand.8 How does it indicate this? — Mar Zutra, (some say, R. Ashi) says: [The lesson is] from the preceding verse. For it is written: Let the saints exult in glory, let them sing for joy upon their beds,9 and then it is written: Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand. R. Isaac says further: If] one recites the Shema' upon his bed, the demons keep away from him. For it is said: And the sons of reshef10 fly ['uf] upward.11 The word 'uf refers only to the Torah, as it is written: Wilt thou cause thine eyes to close [hata'if]12 upon it? It is gone.13 And 'reshef' refers only to the demons, as it is said: The wasting of hunger, and the devouring of the reshef [fiery bolt] and bitter destruction.14 R. Simeon b. Lakish says: If one studies the Torah, painful sufferings are kept away from him. For it is said: And the sons of reshef fly upward. The word 'uf refers only to the Torah, as it is written: 'Wilt thou cause thine eyes to close upon it? It is gone'. And 'reshef' refers only to painful sufferings, as it is said: 'The wasting of hunger, and the devouring of the reshef [fiery bolt]. R. Johanan said to him: This15 is known even to school children.16 For it is said: And He said: If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in His eyes, and wilt give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon thee which I have put upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord that healeth thee.17 Rather [should you say]: If one has the opportunity to study the Torah and does not study it, the Holy One, blessed be He, visits him with ugly and painful sufferings which stir him up. For it is said: I was dumb with silence, I kept silence from the good thing, and my pain was stirred up.18 'The good thing' refers only to the Torah, as it is said: For I give you good doctrine; forsake ye not My teaching.19
R. Zera (some say, R. Hanina b. Papa) says: Come and see how the way of human beings differs from the way of the Holy One, blessed be He. It is the way of human beings that when a man sells20 a valuable object to his fellow, the seller grieves and the buyer rejoices. The Holy One, blessed be He, however, is different. He gave the Torah to Israel and rejoiced. For it is said: For I give you good doctrine; forsake ye not My teaching.
Raba (some say, R. Hisda) says: If a man sees that painful sufferings visit him, let him examine his conduct. For it is said: Let us search and try our ways, and return unto the Lord.21 If he examines and finds nothing [objectionable], let him attribute it to the neglect of the study of the Torah. For it is said: Happy is the man whom Thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest out of Thy law.22 If he did attribute it [thus], and still did not find [this to be the cause], let him be sure that these are chastenings of love. For it is said: For whom the Lord loveth He correcteth.23
Raba, in the name of R. Sahorah, in the name of R. Huna, says: If the Holy One, blessed be He, is pleased with a man, he crushes him with painful sufferings. For it is said: And the Lord was pleased with [him, hence] he crushed him by disease.24 Now, you might think that this is so even if he did not accept them with love. Therefore it is said: To see if his soul would offer itself in restitution.25 Even as the trespass-offering must be brought by consent, so also the sufferings must be endured with consent. And if he did accept them, what is his reward? He will see his seed, prolong his days.26 And more than that, his knowledge [of the Torah] will endure with him. For it is said: The purpose of the Lord will prosper in his hand.27
R. Jacob b. Idi and R. Aha b. Hanina differ with regard to the following: The one says: Chastenings of love are such as do not involve the intermission of study of the Torah. For it is said: Happy is the man whom Thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest out of Thy law.28 And the other one says: Chastenings of love are such as do not involve the intermission of prayer. For it is said: Blessed be God, Who hath not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me.29 R. Abba the son of R. Hiyya b. Abba said to them: Thus said R. Hiyya b. Abba in the name of R. Johanan: Both of them are chastenings of love. For it is said: For whom the Lord loveth He correcteth.30 Why then does it say: 'And teachest him out of Thy law'? Do not read telammedennu, [Thou teachest him] but telammedenu, [Thou teachest us]. Thou teachest us this thing out of Thy law as a conclusion a fortiori from the law concerning tooth and eye.31 Tooth and eye are only one limb of the man, and still [if they are hurt], the slave obtains thereby his freedom. How much more so with painful sufferings which torment the whole body of a man! And this agrees with a saying of R. Simeon b. Lakish. For R. Simeon b. Lakish said: The word 'covenant' is mentioned in connection with salt, and the word 'covenant' is mentioned in connection with sufferings: the word 'covenant' is mentioned in connection with salt, as it is written: Neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking.32 And the word 'covenant' is mentioned in connection with sufferings, as it is written: These are the words of the covenant.33 Even as in the covenant mentioned in connection with salt, the salt lends a sweet taste to the meat, so also in the covenant mentioned in connection with sufferings, the sufferings wash away all the sins of a man.
It has been taught: R. Simeon b. Yohai says: The Holy One, blessed be He, gave Israel three precious gifts, and all of them were given only through sufferings. These are: The Torah, the Land of Israel and the world to come. Whence do we know this of the Torah? — Because it is said: Happy is the man whom Thou chastenest, o Lord, and teachest him out of Thy law.34 Whence of the Land of Israel? — Because it is written: As a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee,35 and after that it is written: For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land.36 Whence of the world to come? — Because it is written: For the commandment is a lamp, and the teaching is light, and reproofs of sufferings are the way of life.37
A Tanna recited before R. Johanan the following: If a man busies himself in the study of the Torah and in acts of charity
and [nonetheless] buries his children,1 all his sins are forgiven him. R. Johanan said to him: I grant you Torah and acts of charity, for it is written: By mercy and truth iniquity is expiated.2 'Mercy' is acts of charity, for it is said: He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, prosperity and honour.3 'Truth' is Torah, for it is said: Buy the truth and sell it not.4 But how do you know [what you say about] the one who buries his children? — A certain Elder [thereupon] recited to him in the name of R. Simeon b. Yohai: It is concluded from the analogy in the use of the word 'iniquity'. Here it is written: By mercy and truth iniquity is expiated. And elsewhere it is written: And who recompenseth the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children.5
R. Johanan says: Leprosy and [the lack of] children are not chastisements of love. But is leprosy not a chastisement of love? Is it not taught: If a man has one of these four symptoms of leprosy,6 it is nothing else but an altar of atonement? — They are an altar of atonement, but they are not chastisements of love. If you like, I can say: This [teaching of the Baraitha] is ours [in Babylonia], and that [saying of R. Johanan] is theirs [in Palestine].7 If you like, I can say: This [teaching of the Baraitha] refers to hidden [leprosy], that [saying of R. Johanan] refers to a case of visible [leprosy]. But is [the lack of] children not a chastisement of love? How is this to be understood? Shall I say that he had children and they died? Did not R. Johanan himself say: This is the bone of my tenth son?8 — Rather [say then] that the former saying refers to one who never had children, the latter to one who had children and lost them.
R. Hiyya b. Abba fell ill and R. Johanan went in to visit him. He said to him: Are your sufferings welcome to you? He replied: Neither they nor their reward.9 He said to him: Give me your hand. He gave him his hand and he10 raised him.
R. Johanan once fell ill and R. Hanina went in to visit him. He said to him: Are your sufferings welcome to you? He replied: Neither they nor their reward. He said to him: Give me your hand. He gave him his hand and he raised him. Why could not R. Johanan raise himself?11 — They replied: The prisoner cannot free himself from jail.12
R. Eleazar fell ill and R. Johanan went in to visit him. He noticed that he was lying in a dark room,13 and he bared his arm and light radiated from it.14 Thereupon he noticed that R. Eleazar was weeping, and he said to him: Why do you weep? Is it because you did not study enough Torah? Surely we learnt: The one who sacrifices much and the one who sacrifices little have the same merit, provided that the heart is directed to heaven.15 Is it perhaps lack of sustenance? Not everybody has the privilege to enjoy two tables.16 Is it perhaps because of [the lack of] children? This is the bone of my tenth son! — He replied to him: I am weeping on account of this beauty17 that is going to rot in the earth. He said to him: On that account you surely have a reason to weep; and they both wept. In the meanwhile he said to him: Are your sufferings welcome to you? — He replied: Neither they nor their reward. He said to him: Give me your hand, and he gave him his hand and he raised him.
Once four hundred jars of wine belonging to R. Huna turned sour. Rab Judah, the brother of R. Sala the Pious, and the other scholars (some say: R. Adda b. Ahaba and the other scholars) went in to visit him and said to him: The master ought to examine his actions.18 He said to them: Am I suspect in your eyes? They replied: Is the Holy One, blessed be He, suspect of punishing without justice? — He said to them: If somebody has heard of anything against me, let him speak out. They replied: We have heard that the master does not give his tenant his [lawful share in the] vine twigs. He replied: Does he leave me any? He steals them all! They said to him: That is exactly what the proverb says:19 If you steal from a thief you also have a taste of it!20 He said to them: I pledge myself to give it to him [in the future]. Some report that thereupon the vinegar became wine again; others that the vinegar went up so high that it was sold for the same price as wine.
It has been taught: Abba Benjamin says, All my life I took great pains about two things: that my prayer should be before my bed and that my bed should be placed north and south. 'That my prayer should be before my bed'. What is the meaning of 'before my bed'? Is it perhaps literally in front of my bed? Has not Rab Judah said in the name of Rab (some say, in the name of R. Joshua b. Levi): How do you know that when one prays there should be nothing interposing between him and the wall? Because it says: Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed?21 — Do not read 'before my bed', but 'near22 my bed'. 'And that my bed should be placed north and south'. For R. Hama b. R. Hanina said in the name of R. Isaac: Whosoever places his bed north and south will have male children, as it says: And whose belly Thou fillest with Thy treasure,23 who have sons in plenty.24 R. Nahman b. Isaac says: His wife also will not miscarry. Here it is written: And whose belly Thou fillest with Thy treasure, and elsewhere it is written: And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold there were twins in her womb.25
It has been taught: Abba Benjamin says, When two people enter [a Synagogue] to pray, and one of them finishes his prayer first and does not wait for the other but leaves,26 his prayer is torn up before his face.27 For it is written: Thou that tearest thyself in thine anger, shall the earth be forsaken for thee?28 And more than that, he causes the Divine Presence to remove itself from Israel. For it says Or shall the rock be removed out of its place?29 And 'rock' is nothing else than the Holy One, blessed be He, as it says: Of the Rock that begot thee thou wast unmindful.30 And if he does wait, what is his reward? —
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