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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Berakoth

Folio 55a

If one draws out his prayer and expects therefore its fulfilment, he will in the end suffer vexation of heart, as it says, Hope deferred maketh the heart sick;1  and R. Isaac also said: Three things cause a man's sins to be remembered [on high], namely, [passing under] a shaky wall,2  expectation of [the fulfilment of] prayer, and calling on heaven to punish his neighbour?3  — There is no contradiction; one statement speaks of a man who expects the fulfilment of his prayer, the other of one who does not count upon it. What then does he do? — He simply utters many supplications. 'He who draws out his meal', because perhaps a poor man will come and he will give him something, as it is written, The altar of wood three cubits high … and he said to me, This is the table that is before the Lord4  [Now the verse] opens with 'altar' and finishes with 'table'? R. Johanan and R. Eleazar both explain that as long as the Temple stood, the altar atoned for Israel, but now a man's table atones for him. 'To draw out one's stay in a privy', is this a good thing? Has it not been taught: Ten things bring on piles; eating the leaves of reeds, and the leaves of vines, and the sprouts of vines, and the rough parts of the flesh of an animal,5  and the backbone of a fish, and salted fish not sufficiently cooked, and drinking wine lees, and wiping oneself with lime, potters' clay or pebbles which have been used by another. Some add, to strain oneself unduly in a privy! — There is no contradiction: one statement refers to one who stays long and strains himself, the other to one who stays long without straining himself. This may be illustrated by what a certain matron said to R. Judah b. R. Ila'i: Your face is [red] like that of pig-breeders and usurers,6  to which he replied: On my faith, both [occupations] are forbidden me, but there are twenty-four privies between my lodging and the Beth ha-Midrash, and when I go there I test myself in all of them.7

Rab Judah also said:8  Three things shorten a man's days and years: To be given a scroll of the Law to read from and to refuse, to be given a cup of benediction to say grace over and to refuse, and to assume airs of authority. 'To be given a scroll of the Law to read from and to refuse', as it is written: For that is thy life and the length of thy days.9  'To be given a cup of benediction to say grace over and to refuse', as it is written: I will bless them that bless thee.10  'To assume airs of authority', as R. Hama b. Hanina said: Why did Joseph die before his brethren?11  Because he assumed airs of authority.

Rab Judah also said in the name of Rab: There are three things for which one should supplicate: a good king, a good year, and a good dream.12  'A good king', as it is written: A king's heart is in the hands of the Lord as the water-courses.13  'A good year', as it is written: The eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.14  'A good dream', as it is written; Wherefore cause Thou me to dream15  and make me to live.16

R. Johanan said: There are three things which the Holy One, blessed be He, Himself proclaims, namely, famine, plenty, and a good leader. 'Famine', as it is written: The Lord hath called for a famine.17  'Plenty', as it is written: I will call for the corn and will increase it.18  'A good leader', as it is written: And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, See I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri.19

R. Isaac said: We must not appoint a leader over a Community without first consulting it, as it says: See, the Lord hath called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri.20  The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses: Do you consider Bezalel suitable? He replied: Sovereign of the Universe, if Thou thinkest him suitable, surely I must also! Said [God] to him: All the same, go and consult them. He went and asked Israel: Do you consider Bezalel suitable? They replied: If the Holy One, blessed be He, and you consider him suitable, surely we must!

R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Johanan: Bezalel was so called on account of his wisdom. At the time when the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses; Go and tell Bezalel to make me a tabernacle, an ark and vessels,21  Moses went and reversed the order, saying, Make an ark and vessels and a tabernacle. Bezalel said to him: Moses, our Teacher, as a rule a man first builds a house and then brings vessels into it; but you say, Make me an ark and vessels and a tabernacle. Where shall I put the vessels that I am to make? Can it be that the Holy One, blessed be He, said to you, Make a tabernacle, an ark and vessels? Moses replied: Perhaps you were in the shadow of God22  and knew!


Dilling discussion of highlighted text
    Rab Judah said in the name of Rab: Bezalel knew how to combine the letters by which the heavens and earth were created.23  It is written here, And He hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom and in understanding, and in knowledge,24  and it is written elsewhere, The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding He established the heavens,25  and it is also written, By His knowledge the depths were broken up.26

R. Johanan said: The Holy One, blessed be He, gives wisdom only to one who already has wisdom, as it says, He giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding.27  R. Tahlifa from the West28  heard and repeated it before R. Abbahu. He said to him: You learn it from there, but we learn it from this text, namely, In the hearts of all that are wise-hearted I have put wisdom.29

R. Hisda said: Any dream rather than one of a fast.30  R. Hisda also said: A dream which is not interpreted is like a letter which is not read.31  R. Hisda also said: Neither a good dream nor a bad dream is ever wholly fulfilled. R. Hisda also said: A bad dream is better than a good dream.32  R. Hisda also said: The sadness caused by a bad dream is sufficient for it and the joy which a good dream gives is sufficient for it.33  R. Joseph said: Even for me34  the joy caused by a good dream nullifies it. R. Hisda also said: A bad dream is worse than scourging, since it says, God hath so made it that men should fear before Him,35  and Rabbah b. Bar Hanah said in the name of R. Johanan: This refers to a bad dream.

A prophet that hath a dream let him tell a dream: and he that hath My word let him speak My word faithfully. What hath the straw to do with the wheat, saith the Lord.36  What is the connection of straw and wheat with a dream? The truth is, said R. Johanan in the name of R. Simeon b. Yohai, that just as wheat cannot be without straw, so there cannot be a dream without some nonsense. R. Berekiah said: While a part of a dream may be fulfilled, the whole of it is never fulfilled. Whence do we know this? From Joseph, as it is written, And behold the sun and the moon [and eleven stars bowed down to me,]37  and

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Prov, XIII, 12. Cf. 32b, p. 200.
  2. Which is, as it were, tempting Providence.
  3. Which is a mark of selfrighteousness. Lit., 'surrendering the case against his fellow to heaven'.
  4. Ezek. XLI, 22.
  5. E.g., the palate. Lit., 'threshing-sledge'.
  6. Who were notoriously good livers.
  7. Cf. Ned. 49b.
  8. We should probably add, 'In the name of Rab'.
  9. Deut. XXX, 20.
  10. Gen. XII, 3. The one who says grace blesses his host.
  11. As we learn from Ex. I, 6: 'And Joseph died and (then) all his brethren'.
  12. These things depending directly upon the will of God.
  13. prov. XXI, 1.
  14. Deut. XI, 12.
  15. E.V. 'Recover Thou me'. The Talmud, however, connects the word in the text tahalimeni with halom, a dream.
  16. Isa. XXXVIII, 16.
  17. II Kings VIII, 1.
  18. Ezek. XXXVI, 29.
  19. Ex. XXXI, 1.
  20. Ibid. XXXV, 30.
  21. This is the order in Ex. XXXI, 7.
  22. Heb. bezel el.
  23. The Kabbalah assigns mystic powers to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
  24. Ibid. XXXV, 31.
  25. prov. III, 19.
  26. Ibid. 20.
  27. Dan. II, 21.
  28. I.e., palestine.
  29. Ex. XXXI, 6. It was preferable to learn it from a text of the Pentateuch.
  30. I.e., to dream oneself fasting. So Rashi. The Aruch, however, explains: There is reality in every dream save one that comes in a fast.
  31. Compare the dictum infra, 'A dream follows its interpretation
  32. Because it incites one to repentance.
  33. I.e., there is no need for them to be fulfilled.
  34. R. Joseph was blind, and consequently could not derive so much pleasure from a dream.
  35. Eccl. III, 14.
  36. Jer. XXIII, 28.
  37. Gen. XXXVII, 9.

Berakoth 55b

at that time his mother was not living. R. Levi said: A man should await the fulfilment of a good dream for as much as twenty-two years. Whence do we know this? From Joseph. For it is written: These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph being seventeen years old, etc.;1  and it is further written, And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh.2  How many years is it from seventeen to thirty? Thirteen. Add the seven years of plenty and two of famine,3  and you have twenty-two.

R. Huna said: A good man is not shown a good dream, and a bad man is not shown a bad dream.4  It has been taught similarly; David, during the whole of his lifetime, never saw a good dream and Ahitophel, during the whole of his lifetime, never saw a bad dream. But it is written, There shall no evil befall thee,5  and R. Hisda said, in the name of R. Jeremiah: this means that you will not be disturbed either by bad dreams or by evil thoughts, neither shall any plague come nigh thy tent5  … i.e., thou shalt not find thy wife doubtfully menstruous when thou returnest from a journey? — Though he does not see an evil dream, others see one about him. But if he does not see one, is this considered an advantage? Has not R. Ze'ira said: If a man goes seven days without a dream he is called evil, since it says, He shall abide satisfied, he shall not be visited by evil?6  — Read not sabe'a [satisfied] but [seven] sheba'.7  What he means is this: He sees, but he does not remember what he has seen.

R. Huna b. Ammi said in the name of R. Pedath who had it from R. Johanan: If one has a dream which makes him sad he should go and have it interpreted in the presence of three. He should have it interpreted! Has not R. Hisda said: A dream which is not interpreted is like a letter which is not read?8  — Say rather then, he should have a good turn given to it in the presence of three. Let him bring three and say to them: I have seen a good dream; and they should say to him, Good it is and good may it be. May the All-Merciful turn it to good; seven times may it be decreed from heaven that it should be good and may it be good. They should say three verses with the word hapak [turn], and three with the word padah [redeem] and three with the word shalom [peace]. Three with the word 'turn', namely (i) Thou didst turn for me my mourning into dancing, Thou didst loose my sackcloth and gird me with gladness;9  (ii) Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old together; for I will turn their mourning into joy and will comfort them and make them rejoice from their sorrow;10  (iii) Nevertheless the Lord thy God would not hearken unto Balaam; but the Lord thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee.11  Three verses with the word 'redeem', namely, (i) He hath redeemed my soul in peace, so that none came nigh me;12  (ii) And the redeemed of the Lord shall return and come with singing unto Zion … and sorrow and sighing shall flee away;13  (iii) And the people said unto Saul, Shall Jonathan die who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel? … So the people redeemed Jonathan that he died not.14  Three verses with the word 'peace', namely, (i) Peace, peace, to him that is far off and to him that is near, saith the Lord that createth the fruit of the lips; and I will heal him;15  (ii) Then the spirit clothed Amasai who was chief of the captains: Thine are we, David, and on thy side, thou son of Jesse: Peace, peace, be unto thee and peace be to thy helpers, for thy God helpeth thee;16  (iii) Thus ye shall say: All hail! and peace be both unto thee, and peace be to thy house, and peace be unto all that thou hast.17

Amemar, Mar Zutra and R. Ashi were once sitting together. They said: Let each of us say something which the others have not heard. One of them began: If one has seen a dream and does not remember what he saw, let him stand before the priests at the time when they spread out their hands,18  and say as follows: 'Sovereign of the Universe, I am Thine and my dreams are Thine. I have dreamt a dream and I do not know what it is. Whether I have dreamt about myself or my companions have dreamt about me, or I have dreamt about others, if they are good dreams, confirm them and reinforce them19  like the dreams of Joseph, and if they require a remedy, heal them, as the waters of Marah were healed by Moses, our teacher, and as Miriam was healed of her leprosy and Hezekiah of his sickness, and the waters of Jericho by Elisha. As thou didst turn the curse of the wicked Balaam into a blessing, so turn all my dreams into something good for me'.20  He should conclude his prayer along with the priests, so that the congregation may answer, Amen! If he cannot manage this,21  he should say: Thou who art majestic on high, who abidest in might, Thou art peace and Thy name is peace. May it be Thy will to bestow peace on us.

The second commenced and said: If a man on going into a town is afraid of the Evil Eye,22  let him take the thumb of his right hand in his left hand and the thumb of his left hand in his right hand, and say: I, so-and-so, am of the seed of Joseph over which the evil eye has no power, as it says: Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine by a fountain.23  Do not read 'ale 'ayin [by a fountain] but 'ole 'ayin [overcoming the evil eye]. R. Jose b. R. Hanina derived it from here: And let them grow into a multitude [weyidgu] in the midst of the earth;24  just as the fishes [dagim] in the sea are covered by the waters and the evil eye has no power over them so the evil eye has no power over the seed of Joseph.25  If he is afraid of his own evil eye, he should look at the side of his left nostril.

The third commenced and said: If a man falls ill, the first day he should not tell anyone, so that he should not have bad luck; but after that he may tell. So when Raba fell ill, on the first day he did not tell anyone, but after that he said to his attendant: Go and announce that Raba is ill. Whoever loves him, let him pray for him, and whoever hates him, let him rejoice over him; for it is written: Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thy heart be glad when he stumbleth, lest the Lord see it and it displease Him and He turn away His wrath from him.26

When Samuel had a bad dream, he used to say, The dreams speak falsely.27  When he had a good dream, he used to say, Do the dreams speak falsely, seeing that it is written, I [God] do speak with him in a dream?28  Raba pointed out a contradiction. It is written, 'I do speak with him in a dream', and it is written, 'the dreams speak falsely'. — There is no contradiction; in the one case it is through an angel, in the other through a demon.

R. Bizna b. Zabda said in the name of R. Akiba who had it from R. Panda who had it from R. Nahum, who had it from R. Biryam reporting a certain elder — and who was this? R. Bana'ah: There were twenty-four interpreters of dreams in Jerusalem. Once I dreamt a dream and I went round to all of them and they all gave different interpretations, and all were fulfilled, thus confirming that which is said: All dreams follow the mouth.29  Is the statement that all dreams follow the mouth Scriptural?30  Yes, as stated by R. Eleazar. For R. Eleazar said: Whence do we know that all dreams follow the mouth? Because it says, and it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was.31  Raba said: This is only if the interpretation corresponds to the content of the dream: for it says, to each man according to his dream he did interpret.32  When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good.33  How did he know this? R. Eleazar says: This tells us that each of them was shown his own dream and the interpretation of the other one's dream.34

R. Johanan said: If one rises early and a Scriptural verse comes to his mouth,35  this is a kind of minor prophecy. R. Johanan also said: Three kinds of dream are fulfilled: an early morning dream, a dream which a friend has about one, and a dream which is interpreted in the midst of a dream. Some add also, a dream which is repeated, as it says, and for that the dream was doubled unto Pharoah twice, etc.36

R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Jonathan: A man is shown in a dream only what is suggested by his own thoughts, as it says, As for thee, Oh King, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed.37  Or if you like, I can derive it from here: That thou mayest know the thoughts of the heart.38  Raba said: This is proved by the fact that a man is never shown in a dream a date palm of gold, or an elephant going through the eye of a needle.39

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Ibid. 2.
  2. Gen. XLI, 46.
  3. After which Joseph saw his brothers.
  4. Rashi reads: A good man is shown a bad dream and a bad man is shown a good dream. The purpose is to turn the good man to repentance and to give the bad man his reward in this world.
  5. Ps. XCI, 10.
  6. Prov. XIX, 23.
  7. And translate: If he abides seven nights without being visited, it is evil.
  8. And therefore what harm can it do?
  9. Ps. XXX, 12.
  10. Jer. XXXI, 13.
  11. Deut. XXIII, 6.
  12. Ps, LV, 19.
  13. Isa. XXXV, 10.
  14. I Samuel XIV, 45.
  15. Isa. LVII, 19.
  16. I Chron. XII, 19.
  17. I Sam. XXV, 6.
  18. To say the priestly benediction.
  19. Var. lec. adds here the words: And may they be fulfilled.
  20. This prayer is included in the prayer books and recited in some congregations between each of the three blessings constituting the priestly benediction, whether they have dreamt or not.
  21. I.e., he is unable to finish it together with the priests. Var. lec.: When the priests (at the conclusion of the benediction) turn their faces (to the ark).
  22. I.e., his own sensual passions.
  23. Gen. XLIX, 22.
  24. Ibid. XLVIII, 16.
  25. V. supra p. 120, nn. 9 and 10.
  26. Prov. XXIV, 17.
  27. Zech. X, 2.
  28. Num. XII, 6.
  29. 'Mouth' here seems to have the sense of interpretation.
  30. As the formula 'thus confirming' etc., would seem to imply.
  31. Gen. XLI, 13.
  32. Ibid. 12.
  33. Ibid. XL, 16.
  34. R. Eleazar stresses the word 'saw'.
  35. I.e., either he spontaneously utters it, or he hears a child repeating it.
  36. Ibid. XLI, 32.
  37. Dan. II, 29.
  38. Ibid. 30.
  39. Because he never thinks of such things.