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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Berakoth
R. Jose b. R. Hanina says: He is rewarded with the blessings enumerated in the following verse: Oh that thou wouldest hearken to My commandments! Then would thy peace be as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea; Thy seed also would be as the sand, and the offspring of thy body like the grains thereof etc.1
It has been taught: Abba Benjamin says, If the eye had the power to see them, no creature could endure the demons. Abaye says: They are more numerous than we are and they surround us like the ridge round a field. R. Huna says: Every one among us has a thousand on his left hand and ten thousand on his right hand.2 Raba says: The crushing in the Kallah3 lectures comes from them.4 Fatigue in the knees comes from them. The wearing out of the clothes of the scholars is due to their rubbing against them. The bruising of the feet comes from them. If one wants to discover them,5 let him take sifted ashes and sprinkle around his bed, and in the morning he will see something like the footprints of a cock. If one wishes to see them, let him take the after-birth of a black she-cat, the offspring of a black she-cat, the first-born of a first-born, let him roast it in fire and grind it to powder, and then let him put some into his eye, and he will see them. Let him also pour it into an iron tube and seal it with an iron signet that they6 should not steal it from him. Let him also close his mouth, lest he come to harm. R. Bibi b. Abaye did so,7 saw them and came to harm. The scholars, however, prayed for him and he recovered.
It has been taught: Abba Benjamin says: A man's prayer is heard [by God] only in the Synagogue. For it is said: To hearken unto the song and to the prayer.8 The prayer is to be recited where there is song.9 Rabin b. R. Adda says in the name of R. Isaac: How do you know that the Holy One, blessed be He, is to be found in the Synagogue? For it is said: God standeth in the congregation of God.10 And how do you know that if ten people pray together the Divine presence is with them? For it is said: 'God standeth in the congregation of God'.11 And how do you know that if three are sitting as a court of judges the Divine Presence is with them? For it is said: In the midst of the judges He judgeth.12 And how do you know that if two are sitting and studying the Torah together the Divine Presence is with them? For it is said: Then they that feared the Lord spoke one with another;13 and the Lord hearkened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him, for them that feared the Lord and that thought upon His name.14 (What does it mean: 'And that thought upon His name'? — R. Ashi15 says: If a man thought to fulfill a commandment and he did not do it, because he was prevented by force or accident, then the Scripture credits it to him as if he had performed it.) And how do you know that even if one man sits and studies the Torah the Divine Presence is with him? For it is said: In every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come unto thee and bless thee.16 Now, since [the Divine presence is] even with one man, why is it necessary to mention two?17 — The words of two are written down in the book of remembrance, the words of one are not written down in the book of remembrance. Since this is the case with two, why mention three? — I might think [the dispensing of] justice is only for making peace, and the Divine Presence does not come [to participate]. Therefore he teaches us that justice also is Torah. Since it is the case with three, why mention ten? — To [a gathering of] ten the Divine Presence comes first, to three, it comes only after they sit down.
R. Abin18 son of R. Ada in the name of R. Isaac says [further]: How do you know that the Holy One, blessed be He, puts on tefillin?19 For it is said: The Lord hath sworn by His right hand, and by the arm of His strength.20 'By His right hand': this is the Torah; for it is said: At His right hand was a fiery law unto them.21 'And by the arm of his strength': this is the tefillin; as it is said: The Lord will give strength unto His people.22 And how do you know that the tefillin are a strength to Israel? For it is written: And all the peoples of the earth shall see that the name of the Lord is called upon thee, and they shall be afraid of thee,23 and it has been taught: R. Eliezer the Great says: This refers to the tefillin of the head.24
R. Nahman b. Isaac said to R. Hiyya b. Abin: What is written in the tefillin of the Lord of the Universe? — He replied to him: And who is like Thy people Israel, a nation one in the earth.25 Does, then, the Holy One, blessed be He, sing the praises of Israel? — Yes, for it is written: Thou hast avouched the Lord this day … and the Lord hath avouched thee this day.26 The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Israel: You have made me a unique entity27 in the world, and I shall make you a unique entity in the world. 'You have made me a unique entity in the world', as it is said: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.28 'And I shall make you a unique entity in the world', as it is said: And who is like Thy people Israel, a nation one in the earth.29 R. Aha b. Raba said to R. Ashi: This accounts for one case, what about the other cases?30 — He replied to him: [They contain the following verses]: For what great nation is there, etc.; And what great nation is there, etc.;31 Happy art thou, O Israel, etc.;32 Or hath God assayed, etc.;33 and To make thee high above all nations.34 If so, there would be too many cases? — Hence [you must say]: For what great nation is there, and And what great nation is there, which are similar, are in one case; Happy art thou, O Israel, and Who is like Thy people, in one case; Or hath God assayed, in one case; and To make thee high, in one case.
And all these verses are written on [the tefillin of] His arm.
Rabin son of R. Adda in the name of R. Isaac says [further]: If a man is accustomed to attend Synagogue [daily] and one day does not go, the Holy One, blessed be He, makes inquiry about him. For it is said: Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of His servant, and now walketh in darkness and hath no light?1 [And still] if he absented himself on account of some religious purpose, he shall have light. But if he absented himself on account of a worldly purpose, he shall have no light. Let him trust in the name of the Lord.2 Why?3 Because he ought to have trusted in the name of the Lord and he did not trust.
R. Johanan says: Whenever the Holy One, blessed be He, comes into a Synagogue and does not find ten persons there,4 He becomes angry at once.5 For it is said: Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? When I called, was there no answer?6
R. Helbo, in the name of R. Huna, says: Whosoever has a fixed place for his prayer has the God of Abraham as his helper. And when he dies, people will say of him: Where is the pious man,7 where is the humble man,8 one of the disciples of our father Abraham! — How do we know that our father Abraham had a fixed place [for his prayer]? For it is written: And Abraham got up early in the morning to the place where he had stood.9 And 'standing' means nothing else but prayer. For it is said: Then stood up Phinehas and prayed.10
R. Helbo, in the name of R. Huna, says [further]: When a man leaves the Synagogue, he should not take large steps. Abaye says: This is only when one goes from the Synagogue, but when one goes to the Synagogue, it is a pious deed to run. For it is said: Let us run to know the Lord.11 R. Zera says: At first when I saw the scholars running to the lecture on a Sabbath day, I thought that they were desecrating the Sabbath.12 But since I have heard the saying of R. Tanhum in the name of R. Joshua b. Levi: A man should always, even on a Sabbath, run to listen to the word of Halachah, as it is said: They shall walk after the Lord, who shall roar like a lion,13 I also run. R. Zera says: The merit of attending a lecture lies in the running. Abaye says: The merit of attending the Kallah sessions14 lies in the crush. Raba says: The merit of repeating a tradition lies in [improving] the understanding of it. R. Papa says: The merit of attending a house of mourning lies in the silence observed. Mar Zutra says: The merit of a fast day lies in the charity dispensed. R. Shesheth says: The merit of a funeral oration lies in raising the voice.15 R. Ashi says: The merit of attending a wedding lies in the words [of congratulation addressed to the bride and bridegroom].16
R. Huna says: Whosoever prays at the rear of a Synagogue is called wicked. For it is said: The wicked walk round about.17 Abaye says: This only applies where he does not turn his face towards the Synagogue, but if he does turn his face towards the Synagogue there is no objection to it. There was once a man who prayed at the rear of a Synagogue and did not turn his face towards the Synagogue. Elijah passed by and appeared to him in the guise of an Arabian18 merchant. He said to him: Are you standing with your back to your Master?19 and drew his sword and slew him.
One of the scholars said to R. Bibi b. Abaye (some say: R. Bibi said to R. Nahman b. Isaac): What is the meaning of: When vileness is exalted among the sons of men?20 He replied to him: These are the things of supreme importance21 which nevertheless people neglect.22 R. Johanan and R. Eliezer both interpret: As soon as a man needs the support of his fellow-creatures his face changes colour like the kerum, as it is said: 'As the kerum is to be reviled among the sons of men'. What is the 'kerum'? When R. Dimi came [from Palestine] he said: There is a bird in the coast towns23 whose name is kerum, and as soon as the sun shines upon it it changes into several colours.24 R. Ammi and R. Assi both say: [When a man needs the support of his fellow-beings] it is as if he were punished with two [opposite] punishments, with fire and water. For it is said: When Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads, we went through fire and through water.25
R. Helbo further said in the name of R. Huna: A man should always take special care about the afternoon-prayer. For even Elijah was favourably heard only while offering his afternoon-prayer. For it is said: And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening offering, that Elijah the prophet came near and said … Hear me, O Lord, hear me.26 'Hear me', that the fire may descend from heaven, and 'hear me', that they may not say it is the work of sorcery. R. Johanan says: [Special care should be taken] also about the evening-prayer. For it is said: Let my prayer be set forth as incense before Thee, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.27 R. Nahman b. Isaac says: [Special care should be taken] also about the morning.prayer. For it is said: O Lord, in the morning shalt Thou hear my voice; in the morning will I order my prayer unto Thee, and will look forward.28
R. Helbo further said in the name of R. Huna: Whosoever partakes of the wedding meal of a bridegroom and does not felicitate him does violence to 'the five voices' mentioned in the verse: The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that say, Give thanks to the Lord of Hosts.29 And if he does gladden him what is his reward? — R. Joshua b. Levi said: He is privileged to acquire [the knowledge of] the Torah which was given with five voices. For it is said: And it came to pass on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunders30 and lightnings and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of a horn … and when the voice of the horn waxed louder … Moses spoke and God answered him by a voice.31 (This is not so!32 For it is written: And all the people perceived the thunderings?33 — These voices were before the revelation of the Torah.) R. Abbahu says: It is as if he34 had sacrificed a thanksgiving offering. For it is said: Even of them that bring offerings of thanksgiving into the house of the Lord.35 R. Nahman b. Isaac says: It is as if he had restored one of the ruins of Jerusalem. For it is said: For I will cause the captivity of the land to return as at the first, saith the Lord.36
R. Helbo further said in the name of R. Huna: If one is filled with the fear of God his words are listened to. For it is said: The end of the matter, all having been heard: fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is the whole man.37 What means, 'For this is the whole man'? — R. Eleazar says: The Holy One, blessed be He, says: The whole world was created for his sake only. R. Abba b. Kahana says: He is equal in value to the whole world. R. Simeon b. 'Azzai says (some say, R. Simon b. Zoma says): The whole world was created as a satellite for him.
R. Helbo further said in the name of R. Huna: If one knows that his friend is used to greet him, let him greet him first.38 For it is said: Seek peace and pursue it.39 And if his friend greets him and he does not return the greeting he is called a robber. For it is said: It is ye that have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses.40
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