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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Berakoth
R. Jeremiah b. Eleazar said: When Babylon was cursed, her neighbours were also cursed; but when Samaria was cursed, her neighbours were blessed. 'When Babylon was cursed her neighbours were cursed', as it is written: I will also make it a possession for the bittern and pools of water.1 'When Samaria was cursed her neighbours were blessed', as it is written: Therefore I will make Samaria a heap in the field, a place for the planting of vineyards.2
Our Rabbis taught: If one sees a crowd of Israelites, he says, Blessed is He who discerneth secrets, for the mind of each is different from that of the other, just as the face of each is different from that of the other. Ben Zoma once saw a crowd on one of the steps of the Temple Mount. He said, Blessed is He that discerneth secrets, and blessed is He who has created all these to serve me. [For] he used to say: What labours Adam had to carry out before he obtained bread to eat! He ploughed, he sowed, he reaped, he bound [the sheaves], he threshed and winnowed and selected the ears, he ground [them], and sifted [the flour], he kneaded and baked, and then at last he ate; whereas I get up, and find all these things done for me. And how many labours Adam had to carry out before he obtained a garment to wear! He had to shear, wash [the wool], comb it, spin it and weave it, and then at last he obtained a garment to wear; whereas I get up and find all these things done for me. All kinds of craftsmen5 come early to the door of my house, and I rise in the morning and find all these before me.
He used to say: What does a good guest say? 'How much trouble my host has taken for me! How much meat he has set before me! How much wine he has set before me! How many cakes he has set before me! And all the trouble he has taken was only for my sake!' But what does a bad guest say? 'How much after all has mine host put himself out? I have eaten one piece of bread, I have eaten one slice of meat, I have drunk one cup of wine! All the trouble which my host has taken was only for the sake of his wife and his children!' What does Scripture say of a good guest? Remember that thou magnify his works, where of men have sung.6 But of a bad guest it is written: Men do therefore fear him; [he regardeth not any that are wise of heart].7
And the man was an old man in the days of Saul, stricken in years among men.8 Raba (or, as some say, R. Zebid; or again, as some say, R. Oshaia) said: This is Jesse, the father of David, who went out with a crowd and came in with a crowd, and expounded [the Torah] to a crowd. 'Ulla said: We have a tradition that there is no crowd9 in Babylon. It was taught: A multitude is not less than sixty myriads.
Our Rabbis taught: On seeing the Sages of Israel one should say: Blessed be He who hath imparted of His wisdom to them that fear Him. On seeing the Sages of other nations, one says, Blessed be He who hath imparted of His wisdom to His creatures. On seeing kings of Israel, one says: Blessed be He who hath imparted of His glory to them that fear Him. On seeing non-Jewish kings, one says: Blessed be He who hath imparted of His glory to His creatures. R. Johanan said: A man should always exert himself and run to meet an Israelitish king; and not only a king of Israel but also a king of any other nation, so that if he is deemed worthy,10 he will be able to distinguish between the kings of Israel and the kings of other nations.
R. Shesheth was blind. Once all the people went out to see the king, and R. Shesheth arose and went with them. A certain Sadducean11 came across him and said to him: The whole pitchers go to the river, but where do the broken ones go to?12 He replied: I will show you that I know more than you. The first troop passed by and a shout arose. Said the Sadducean: The king is coming. He is not coming, replied R. Shesheth. A second troop passed by and when a shout arose, the Sadducean said: Now the king is coming. R. Shesheth replied: The king is not coming. A third troop passed by and there was silence. Said R. Shesheth: Now indeed the king is coming. The Sadducean said to him: How did you know this? — He replied: Because the earthly royalty is like the heavenly. For it is written: Go forth and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.13 When the king came, R. Shesheth said the blessing over him. The Sadducean said to him: You, you say a blessing for one whom you do not see? What happened to that Sadducean? Some say that his companions put his eyes out; others say that R. Shesheth cast his eyes upon him and he became a heap of bones.
R. Shila administered lashes to a man who had intercourse with an Egyptian14 woman. The man went and informed against him to the Government, saying: There is a man among the Jews who passes judgment without the permission of the Government. An official was sent to [summon] him. When he came he was asked: Why did you flog that man? He replied: Because he had intercourse with a she-ass. They said to him: Have you witnesses? He replied: I have. Elijah thereupon came in the form of a man and gave evidence. They said to him: If that is the case he ought to be put to death! He replied: Since we have been exiled from our land, we have no authority to put to death; do you do with him what you please. While they were considering his case, R. Shila exclaimed, Thine, Oh Lord, is the greatness and the power.15 What are you saying? they asked him. He replied: What I am saying is this: Blessed is the All-Merciful Who has made the earthly royalty on the model of the heavenly, and has invested you with dominion, and made you lovers of justice. They said to him: Are you so solicitous for the honour of the Government? They handed him a staff16 and said to him: You may act as judge. When he went out that man said to him: Does the All-Merciful perform miracles for liars? He replied: Wretch! Are they not called asses? For it is written: Whose flesh is as the flesh of asses.17 He noticed that the man was about to inform them that he had called them asses. He said: This man is a persecutor, and the Torah has said: If a man comes to kill you, rise early and kill him first.18 So he struck him with the staff and killed him. He then said: Since a miracle has been wrought for me through this verse, I will expound it. 'Thine, Oh Lord, is the greatness': this refers to the work of creation; and so it says: Who doeth great things past finding out.19 'And the power': this refers to the Exodus from Egypt, as it says: And Israel saw the great work, etc.20 'And the glory': this refers to the sun and moon which stood still for Joshua, as it says: And the sun stood still and the moon stayed.21 'And the victory [nezah]': this refers to the fall of Rome,22 as it says: And their life-blood [nizham] is dashed against my garments.23 'And the majesty': this refers to the battle of the valleys of Arnon, as it says, Wherefore it is said in the book of the wars of the Lord: Vaheb in Supah, and the valleys of Arnon.24 'For all that is in heaven and earth': this refers to the war of Sisera, as it says: They fought front heaven, the stars in their courses fought against Sisera.25 'Thine is the kingdom, O Lord': this refers to the war against Amalek. For so it says: The hand upon the throne of the Lord, the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.26 'And Thou art exalted': this refers to the war of Gog and Magog; and so it says: Behold I am against thee, Oh Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.27 'As head above all': R. Hanan b. Raba said in the name of R. Johanan: Even a waterman28 is appointed from heaven. It was taught in a Baraitha in the name of R. Akiba: 'Thine, oh Lord, is the greatness': this refers to the cleaving of the Red Sea. 'And the power': this refers to the smiting of the first-born. 'And the glory': this refers to the giving of the Torah. 'And the victory': this refers to Jerusalem. 'And the majesty': this refers to the Temple.
Our Rabbis taught: On seeing the houses of Israel, when inhabited one says: Blessed be He who sets the boundary of the widow;1 when uninhabited, Blessed be the judge of truth. On seeing the houses of heathens, when inhabited, one says: The Lord will pluck up the house of the proud;2 when uninhabited he says: O Lord, thou God, to whom vengeance belongeth, thou God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shine forth.3
Once when 'Ulla and R. Hisda Were walking along the road, they came to the door of the house of R. Hana b. Hanilai. R. Hisda broke down and sighed. Said 'Ulla to him: Why are you sighing, seeing that Rab has said that a sigh breaks half a man's body, since it says, Sigh therefore thou son of man, with the breaking of thy loins,4 etc.; and R. Johanan said that it breaks even the whole of a man's body, as it says: And it shall be, when they say unto thee, wherefore sighest thou? Thou shalt say: Because of the tidings for it cometh; and every heart shall melt, etc.?5 — He replied: How shall I refrain from sighing on seeing the house in which there used to be sixty6 cooks by day and sixty cooks by night, who cooked for every one who was in need. Nor did he [R. Hana] ever take his hand away from his purse, thinking that perhaps a respectable poor man might come, and while he was getting his purse he would be put to shame. Moreover it had four doors, opening on different sides, and whoever went in hungry went out full. They used also to throw wheat and barley outside in years of scarcity, so that anyone who was ashamed to take by day used to come and take by night. Now it has fallen in ruins, and shall I not sigh? — He replied to him: Thus said R. Johanan: Since the day when the Temple was destroyed a decree has been issued against the houses of the righteous that they should become desolate, as it says: In mine ears, said the Lord of hosts: Of a truth many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitants.7 R. Johanan further said: The Holy One, blessed be He, will one day restore them to their inhabited state, as it says: A Song of Ascents. They that trust in the Lord are as Mount Zion.8 Just as the Holy One, blessed be He, will restore Mount Zion to its inhabited state, so will He restore the houses of the righteous to their inhabited state. Observing that he was still not satisfied, he said to him: Enough for the servant that he should be like his master.9
Our Rabbis taught: On seeing Israelitish graves, one should say: Blessed is He who fashioned you in judgments who fed you in judgment and maintained you in judgment, and in judgment gathered you in, and who will one day raise you up again in judgment. Mar, the son of Rabina, concluded thus in the name of R. Nahman: And who knows the number of all of you; and He will one day revive you and establish you. Blessed is He who revives the dead.10 On seeing the graves of heathens one says: Your mother shall be sore ashamed, etc.
R. Joshua b. Levi said: One who sees a friend after a lapse of thirty days says: Blessed is He who has kept us alive and preserved us and brought us to this season. If after a lapse of twelve months he says: Blessed is He who revives the dead. Rab said: The dead is not forgotten till after twelve months, as it says: I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind; I am like a lost vessel.11 R. Papa and R. Huna the son of R. Joshua were once going along the road when they met R. Hanina, the son of R. Ika. They said to him: Now that we see you we make two blessings over you: 'Blessed be He who has imparted of His wisdom to them that fear Him', and 'That has kept us alive etc.'. He said to them: I, also, on seeing you counted it as equal to seeing sixty myriads of Israel, and I made three blessings over you, those two, and 'Blessed is He that discerneth secrets'. They said to him: Are you so clever as all that? They cast their eyes on him and he died.12
R. Joshua b. Levi said: On seeing pock-marked persons one says: Blessed be He who makes strange creatures. An objection was raised: If one sees a negro, a very red or very white person, a hunchback, a dwarf or a dropsical person, he says: Blessed be He who makes strange creatures. If he sees one with an amputated limb, or blind, or flatheaded, or lame, or smitten with boils, or pock-marked, he says: Blessed be the true Judge! — There is no contradiction; one blessing is said if he is so from birth, the other if he became so afterwards. A proof of this is that he is placed in the same category as one with an amputated limb; this proves it.
Our Rabbis taught: On seeing an elephant, an ape, or a long-tailed ape, one says: Blessed is He who makes strange creatures. If one sees beautiful creatures and beautiful trees, he says: Blessed is He who has such in His world.
OVER SHOOTING-STARS [ZIKIN]. What are ZIKIN? Samuel said: A comet.13 Samuel also said: I am as familiar with the paths of heaven as with the streets of Nehardea, with the exception of the comet, about which I am ignorant. There is a tradition that it never passes through the constellation of Orion, for if it did, the world would be destroyed. But we have seen it pass through? — Its brightness passed through, which made it appear as if it passed through itself. R. Huna the son of R. Joshua said: Wilon14 was torn asunder and rolled up,15 showing the brightness of Rakia.16 R. Ashi said: A star was removed from one side of Orion and a companion star appeared on the other side, and people were bewildered and thought the star had crossed over.17
Samuel contrasted two texts. It is written, Who maketh the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades.18 And it is written elsewhere, That maketh Pleiades and Orion.19 How do we reconcile these? Were it not for the heat of Orion the world could not endure the cold of Pleiades; and were it not for the cold of Pleiades the world could not endure the heat of Orion. There is a tradition that were it not that the tail of the Scorpion has been placed in the Stream of Fire,20 no one who has ever been stung by a scorpion could live. This is what is referred to in the words of the All-Merciful to Job: Canst thou bind the chains of Pleiades or loose the bands of Orion?21
What is meant by Kimah [Pleiades]?18 Samuel said: About a hundred [ke'me-ah] stars. Some say they are close together; others say that they are scattered. What is meant by ''Ash [the Bear]'?18 — Rab Judah said: Jutha. What is Jutha? — Some say it is the tail of the Ram; others say it is the hand of the Calf.22 The one who says it is the tail of the Ram is more probably right, since it says: 'Ayish will be comforted for her children.23 This shows that it lacks something,
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