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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Berakoth
MISHNAH. IF ONE SEES A PLACE WHERE MIRACLES HAVE BEEN WROUGHT FOR ISRAEL, HE SHOULD SAY, BLESSED BE HE WHO WROUGHT MIRACLES FOR OUR ANCESTORS IN THIS PLACE. ON SEEING A PLACE FROM WHICH IDOLATRY HAS BEEN EXTIRPATED, HE SHOULD SAY, BLESSED BE HE WHO EXTIRPATED IDOLATRY FROM OUR LAND. [ON WITNESSING] SHOOTING STARS, EARTHQUAKES, THUNDERCLAPS, STORMS AND LIGHTNINGS ONE SHOULD SAY, BLESSED BE HE WHOSE STRENGTH AND MIGHT FILL THE WORLD. ON SEEING MOUNTAINS, HILLS, SEAS, RIVERS AND DESERTS HE SHOULD SAY, BLESSED BE HE WHO WROUGHT CREATION.1 R. JUDAH SAYS: IF ONE SEES THE GREAT SEA2 ONE SHOULD SAY, BLESSED BE HE WHO MADE THE GREAT SEA, [THAT IS] IF HE SEES IT AT [CONSIDERABLE] INTERVALS. FOR RAIN AND FOR GOOD TIDINGS ONE SAYS, BLESSED BE HE THAT IS GOOD AND BESTOWS GOOD. FOR EVIL TIDINGS ONE SAYS, BLESSED BE THE TRUE JUDGE. ONE WHO HAS BUILT A NEW HOUSE OR BOUGHT NEW VESSELS SAYS, BLESSED BE HE WHO HAS KEPT US ALIVE AND PRESERVED US AND BROUGHT US TO THIS SEASON. OVER EVIL A BLESSING IS SAID SIMILAR TO THAT OVER GOOD AND OVER GOOD A BLESSING IS SAID SIMILAR TO THAT OVER EVIL,3 BUT TO CRY OVER THE PAST IS TO UTTER A VAIN PRAYER. IF A MAN'S WIFE IS PREGNANT AND HE SAYS, [GOD] GRANT THAT MY WIFE BEAR A MALE CHILD, THIS A VAIN PRAYER. IF HE IS COMING HOME FROM A JOURNEY AND HE HEARS CRIES OF DISTRESS IN THE TOWN AND SAYS, [GOD] GRANT THAT THIS IS NOT IN MY HOUSE, THIS IS A VAIN PRAYER. ONE WHO [IN THE COURSE OF A JOURNEY] GOES THROUGH A CAPITAL CITY4 SHOULD SAY TWO PRAYERS, ONE ON ENTERING AND ONE ON LEAVING. BEN AZZAI SAYS, FOUR,5 TWO ON ENTERING AND TWO ON LEAVING- HE GIVES THANKS FOR PAST MERCIES AND SUPPLICATES FOR THE FUTURE. IT IS INCUMBENT ON A MAN TO BLESS [GOD] FOR THE EVIL IN THE SAME WAY AS FOR THE GOOD, AS IT SAYS, AND THOU SHALT LOVE THE LORD THY GOD WITH ALL THY HEART ETC.6 'WITH ALL THY HEART, MEANS WITH THY TWO IMPULSES, THE EVIL IMPULSE AS WELL AS THE GOOD IMPULSE; 'WITH ALL THY SOUL' MEANS, EVEN THOUGH HE TAKES THY SOUL [LIFE]; 'WITH ALL THY MIGHT' MEANS, WITH ALL THY MONEY. ANOTHER EXPLANATION OF 'WITH ALL THY MIGHT [ME'ODEKA]' IS, WHATEVER TREATMENT7 HE METES OUT TO THEE.
ONE SHOULD AVOID SHOWING DISRESPECT TO THE EASTERN GATE8 BECAUSE IT IS IN A DIRECT LINE WITH THE HOLY OF HOLIES.9 A MAN SHOULD NOT ENTER THE TEMPLE MOUNT WITH HIS STAFF OR WITH HIS SHOES ON OR WITH HIS WALLET OR WITH HIS FEET DUST-STAINED; NOR SHOULD HE MAKE IT A SHORT CUT [KAPPANDARIA], AND SPITTING [ON IT IS FORBIDDEN] A FORTIORI.
AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE BENEDICTIONS SAID IN THE TEMPLE THEY USED AT FIRST TO SAY SIMPLY, 'FOR EVER'.10 WHEN THE SADDUCEES PERVERTED THEIR WAYS AND ASSERTED THAT THERE WAS ONLY ONE WORLD, IT WAS ORDAINED THAT THE RESPONSE SHOULD BE, FROM EVERLASTING TO EVERLASTING.11 IT WAS ALSO LAID DOWN THAT GREETING SHOULD BE GIVEN IN [GOD'S] NAME,12 IN THE SAME WAY AS IT SAYS, AND BEHOLD BOAZ CAME FROM BETHLEHEM AND SAID UNTO THE REAPERS, THE LORD BE WITH YOU; AND THEY ANSWERED HIM, THE LORD BLESS THEE;13 AND IT ALSO SAYS, THE LORD IS WITH THEE, THOU MIGHTY MAN OF VALOUR;14 AND IT ALSO SAYS, AND DESPISE NOT THY MOTHER WHEN SHE IS OLD;15 AND IT ALSO SAYS, IT IS TIME TO WORK FOR THE LORD; THEY HAVE MADE VOID THY LAW.16 R. NATHAN SAYS: [THIS MEANS] THEY HAVE MADE VOID THY LAW BECAUSE IT IS TIME TO WORK FOR THE LORD.
GEMARA. Whence is this rule17 derived? — R. Johanan said: Because Scripture says, And Jethro said, Blessed be the Lord who hath delivered you, etc.18 And is a blessing said only for a miracle wrought for a large body, but not for one wrought for an individual? What of the case of the man Who was once travelling through Eber Yemina19 when a lion attacked him, but he was miraculously saved, and when he came before Raba he said to him, Whenever you pass that place say, Blessed be He who wrought for me a miracle in this place? There was the case, too, of Mar the son of Rabina who was once going through the valley of 'Araboth20 and was suffering from thirst and a well of water was miraculously created for him and he drank, and another time he was going through the manor of Mahoza21 when a wild camel attacked him and at that moment the wall of a house just by fell in and he escaped inside; and whenever thereafter he came to 'Araboth he used to say, Blessed be He who wrought for me miracles in 'Araboth and with the camel, and when he passed through the manor of Mahoza he used to say, Blessed be He who wrought for me miracles with the camel and in 'Araboth? — The answer [is that] for a miracle done to a large body it is the duty of everyone to say a blessing, for a miracle done to an individual he alone22 is required to say a blessing.
Our Rabbis taught: If one sees the place of the crossing of the Red Sea, or the fords of the Jordan, or the fords of the streams of Arnon, or hail stones [abne elgabish] in the descent of Beth Horon, or the stone which Og king of Bashan wanted to throw at Israel, or the stone on which Moses sat when Joshua fought with Amalek, or [the pillar of salt of] Lot's wife,23 or the wall of Jericho which sank into the ground,24 for all of these he should give thanksgiving and praise to the Almighty. I grant you the passage of the Red Sea, because it is written, And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground;25 also the fords of the Jordan, because it is written, And the priests that bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, while all Israel passed over on dry ground, until all the nation were passed clean over the Jordan.26 But whence is the title derived for the fords of the streams of Arnon? — Because it is written: Wherefore it is said in the book of the Wars of the Lord, Eth and Heb in the rear;27 [in explanation of which] a Tanna taught: 'Eth and Heb in the rear' were two lepers who followed in the rear of the camp of Israel, and when the Israelites were about to pass through [the valley of Arnon] the Amorites came
and made cavities [in the rocks] and hid in them, saying, When Israel pass by here we will kill them. They did not know, however, that the Ark Was advancing in front of Israel and levelling the hills before them. When the Ark arrived there, the mountains closed together and killed them, and their blood flowed down to the streams of Arnon. When Eth and Heb came they saw the blood issuing from between the rocks1 and they went and told the Israelites, who thereupon broke out into song. And so it is written, And he poured forth the streams2 [from the mountain] which inclined toward the seat of Ar3 and leaned upon the border of Moab.4
'Hailstones [abne elgabish]'. What are 'abne elgabish'? A Tanna taught: Stones [abanim] which remained suspended for the sake of a man ['al gab ish] and came down for the sake of a man. 'They remained suspended for the sake of a man': this was Moses, of whom it is written, Now the man Moses was very meek,5 and it is also written, And the soldiers and hail ceased, and the rain poured not upon the earth.6 'They came down for the sake of a man': this was Joshua, of whom it is written, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom there is spirit,7 and it is written, And it came to pass as they fled from before Israel, while they were at the descent of Beth-Horon, that the Lord cast down great stones.8
'The stone which Og, king of Bashan wanted to throw at Israel'. This has been handed down by tradition. He said: How large is the camp of Israel? Three parasangs. I will go and uproot a mountain of the size of three parasangs and cast it upon them and kill them. He went and uprooted a mountain of the size of three parasangs and carried it on his head. But the Holy One, blessed be He, sent ants which bored a hole in it, so that it sank around his neck. He tried to pull it off, but his teeth projected on each side, and he could not pull it off. This is referred to in the text, Thou hast broken the teeth of the wicked,9 as explained by R Simeon b. Lakish. For R. Simeon b. Lakish said: What is the meaning of the text, Thou hast broken the teeth of the wicked? Do not read, shibbarta [Thou hast broken], but shirbabta [Thou hast lengthened]. The height of Moses was ten cubits.10 He took an axe ten cubits long, leapt ten cubits into the air, and struck him on his ankle and killed him.
'The stone on which Moses sat'. As it is written, But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone and put it under hint and he sat thereon.11 'Lot's wife'. As it says, But his wife looked back from behind him and she became a pillar of salt.12
'And the wall of Jericho which sank into the ground'. As it is written, And the wall fell down flat.13
We understand [why this blessing should be said over] all the others, because they are miracles, but the transformation of Lot's wife was a punishment. One should say on seeing it, Blessed be the true Judge,14 yet [the Baraitha] says: 'Thanksgiving and praise'? — Read: 'For Lot and his wife two blessings are said. For his wife we say, "Blessed be the true Judge", and for Lot we say, "Blessed be He who remembereth the righteous"'. R. Johanan said: Even in the hour of His anger the Holy One, blessed be He, remembers the righteous, as it says, And it came to pass when God destroyed the cities of the Plain, that God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow.15
'And the wall of Jericho which sank [into the ground]'. But did the wall of Jericho sink [into the ground]? Surely it fell, as it says, And it came to pass when the people heard the sound of the horn, that the people shouted with a great shout and the wall fell down flat?16 — Since its breadth and its height were equal, it must have sunk [into the ground].17
Rab Judah said in the name of Rab: There are four [classes of people] who have to offer thanksgiving: those who have crossed the sea, those who have traversed the wilderness, one who has recovered from an illness, and a prisoner who has been set free. Whence do we know this of those who cross the sea? — Because it is written, They that go down to the sea in ships … these saw the works of the Lord … He raised the stormy wind … they mounted up to the heaven, they went down to the deeps … they reeled to and fro and staggered like a drunken man … they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses. He made the storm a calm … then were they glad because they were quiet … Let them give thanks unto the Lord for His mercy, and for His wonderful works to the children of men.18 Whence for those who traverse the desert? — Because it is written: They wandered in the wilderness in a desert way; they found no city of habitation … Then they cried unto the Lord … and He led them by a straight way … Let them give thanks unto the Lord for His mercy.19 Whence for one who recovers from an illness? — Because it is written: Crazed because of the way of their transgressions and afflicted because of their iniquities, their soul abhorred all manner of food … They cried unto the Lord in their trouble. He sent His word unto them … Let them give thanks unto the Lord for His mercy.20 Whence for a prisoner who was set free? — Because it is written: Such as sat in darkness and in the shadow of death … Because they rebelled against the words of God … Therefore He humbled their heart with travail … They cried unto the Lord in their trouble … He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death … Let them give thanks unto the Lord for His mercy.21 What blessing should he say? Rab Judah said: 'Blessed is He who bestows lovingkindnesses'. Abaye said: And he must utter his thanksgiving in the presence of ten, as it is written: Let them exalt Him in the assembly of the people.22 Mar Zutra said: And two of them must be rabbis, as it says, And praise Him in the seat of the elders.23 R. Ashi demurred to this: You might as well say [he remarked], that all should be rabbis! — Is it written, 'In the assembly of elders'? It is written, 'In the assembly of the people'! — Let us say then, in the presence of ten ordinary people and two rabbis [in addition]? — This is a difficulty.
Rab Judah was ill and recovered. R. Hanna of Bagdad and other rabbis went to visit him. They said to him: 'Blessed be the All Merciful who has given you back to us and has not given you to the dust'. He said to them: 'You have absolved me from the obligation of giving thanks'. But has not Abaye said that he must utter his thanksgiving in the presence of ten! — There were ten present. But he did not utter the thanksgiving? — There was no need, as he answered after them, Amen.
Rab Judah said: Three persons require guarding,24 namely, a sick person, a bridegroom, and a bride. In a Baraitha it was taught: A sick person, a midwife, a bridegroom and a bride; some add, a mourner, and some add further, scholars at night-time.
Rab Judah said further: There are three things the drawing out of which prolongs a man's days and years; the drawing out of prayer, the drawing out of a meal, and the drawing out of [easing in] a privy. But is the drawing out of prayer a merit? Has not R. Hiyya b. Abba said in the name of R. Johanan:
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