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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Berakoth
is all for good?1
R. Huna further said in the name of R. Meir: A man's words should always be few in addressing the Holy One, blessed be He, since it says, Be not rash with thy mouth and let not thy heart be hasty to utter a word before God,' for God is in heaven and thou upon earth; therefore let thy words be few.2
R. Nahman b. R. Hisda expounded: What is meant by the text, Then the Lord God formed [wa-yizer] man?3 [The word wa-yizer] is written with two yods,4 to show that God created two inclinations, one good and the other evil. R. Nahman b. Isaac demurred to this. According to this, he said, animals, of which it is not written wa-yizer,5 should have no evil inclination, yet we see that they injure and bite and kick? In truth [the point of the two yods] is as stated by R. Simeon b. Pazzi; for R. Simeon b. Pazzi said: Woe is me because of my Creator [yozri],6 woe is me because of my evil inclination [yizri]!7 Or again as explained by R. Jeremiah b. Eleazar; for R. Jeremiah b. Eleazar said: God created two countenances in the first man,8 as it says, Behind and before hast Thou formed me.9
And the rib which the Lord God had taken from man made he a woman.10 Rab and Samuel explained this differently. One said that [this 'rib'] was a face, the other that it was a tail.11 No objection can be raised against the one who says it was a face, since so it is written, 'Behind and before hast Thou formed me'. But how does he who says it was a tail explain 'Behind and before hast Thou formed me'? — As stated by R. Ammi; for R. Ammi said: 'Behind' [i.e., last] in the work of creation, and 'before' [i.e., first] for punishment. We grant you he was last in the work of creation, for he was not created till the eve of Sabbath. But when you say 'first for punishment', to what punishment do you refer? Do you mean the punishment in connection with the serpent? Surely it has been taught: Rabbi says, in conferring honour we commence with the greatest, in cursing with the least important. 'In conferring honour we commence with the greatest', as it is written, And Moses spoke to Aaron and to Eleazar and to Ithamar his sons that were left, Take the meal-offering that remaineth etc.12 'In cursing we commence with the least'; first the serpent was cursed then Eve and then Adam!13 I must say then that the punishment of the Flood is meant, as it is written, And He blotted out every living substance which was upon the face of the ground, both man and cattle.14
No difficulty arises for the one who says that Eve was created from the face, for so it is written, wa-yizer, with two yods. But he who says it was a tail, what does he make of wa-yizer? — As explained by R. Simeon b. Pazzi? For R. Simeon b. Pazzi said: Woe is me because of my Creator [yozri,] woe is me because of my evil inclination [yizri]! No difficulty arises for one who says it was a face, for so it is written, Male and female created He them',15 But he who says it was a tail, what does he make of 'male and female created He them'? — As explained by R. Abbahu. For R. Abbahu contrasted two texts. It is written, 'Male and female created He them', and it is also written, For in the image of God made He man.16 How are these statements to be reconciled? At first the intention was to create two, but in the end only one was created. No difficulty arises for him who says it was a face, since so it is written, He closed up the place with flesh instead thereof.17 But he who says it was a tail, how does he explain, 'he closed up the place with flesh instead thereof18 — R. Jeremiah, or as some say R. Zebid, or again as some say, R. Nahman b. Isaac, replied: These words are meant to apply only to the place of the cut. No difficulty arises for the one who says it was a tail, for so it is written, And God built.18 But he who says, it was a face, what does he make of the words 'And God built'?19 As explained by R. Simeon b. Menasia. For R. Simeon b. Menasia expounded: What is meant by the words, 'And the Lord built the rib'? It teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He, plaited Eve's hair and brought her to Adam; for in the seacoast towns 'plaiting' [keli'atha]20 is called, 'building' [binyatha]. Another explanation: R. Hisda said (some say, it was taught in a Baraitha): It teaches that [God] built Eve after the fashion of a storehouse. Just as a storehouse is narrow at the top and broad at the bottom so as to hold the produce [safely], so a woman is narrower above and broader below so as to hold the embryo. And he brought her to the man.21 R. Jeremiah b. Eleazar said: This teaches that [God] acted as best man22 to Adam. Here the Torah teaches a maxim of behaviour, that a man of eminence should associate himself with a lesser man in acting as best man, and he should not take it amiss.
According to the one who says it was a face, which of the two faces went in front? — R. Nahman b. Isaac answered: It is reasonable to suppose that the man's face went in front, since it has been taught: A man should not walk behind a woman on the road,23 and even if his wife happens to be in front of him on a bridge he should let her pass on one side, and whoever crosses a river behind a woman will have no portion in the future world.24
Our Rabbis taught: If a man counts out money from his hand into the hand of a woman so as to have the opportunity of gazing at her, even if he can vie in Torah and good deeds with Moses our teacher, he shall not escape the punishment of Gehinnom, as it says, Hand to hand, he shall not escape from evil,25 he shall not escape from the punishment of Gehinnom.
R. Nahman said: Manoah was an 'am ha-arez, since it is written, And Manoah went after his wife.26 R. Nahman b. Isaac demurred to this. According to this, [he said,] in the case of Elkanah when it says, 'And Elkanah went after his wife',27 and in the case of Elisha when it says, And he rose and went after her,28 are we to suppose that this means literally after her? No; it means, after her words and her advice. So here [in the case of Manoah] it means, after her words and her advice! Said R. Ashi: On the view of R. Nahman that Manoah was an 'am ha'arez, he cannot even have known as much of Scripture as a schoolboy;29 for it says, And Rebekah arose and her damsels, and they rode upon the cammels and followed the man,30 [after the man] and not in front of the man.
R. Johanan said: Better go behind a lion than behind a woman; better go behind a woman than behind an idol; better go behind an idol than behind the synagogue when the congregation are praying.31 This, however, is the case only when he is not carrying a load; if he is carrying a load, there is no objection. And also this is the case only when there is no other entrance; but if there is another entrance there is no objection. And again this is the case only when he is not riding on an ass, but if he is riding on an ass, there is no objection. And again this is the case only when he is not wearing tefillin; but if he is wearing tefillin there is no objection.
Rab said: The evil inclination resembles a fly32 and dwells between the two entrances of the heart, as it says, Dead flies make the ointment of the perfumers fetid and putrid.33 Samuel said: It is a like a kind of wheat [hittah], as it says, Sin [hattath] coucheth at the door.34
Our Rabbis taught: Man has two kidneys, one of which prompts him to good, the other to evil; and it is natural to suppose that the good one is on his right side and the bad one on his left, as it is written, A wise man's understanding is at his right hand, but a fool's understanding is at his left.35
Our Rabbis taught: The kidneys prompt, the heart discerns, the tongue shapes [the words], the mouth articulates, the gullet takes in and lets out all kinds of food, the wind-pipe produces the voice,
the lungs absorb all kinds of liquids,1 the liver is the seat of anger, the gall lets a drop fall into it and allays it, the milt produces laughter, the large intestine grinds [the food], the maw brings sleep and the nose awakens. If the awakener sleeps or the sleeper rouses,2 a man pines away. A Tanna taught: If both induce sleep or both awaken, a man dies forthwith.
It has been taught: R. Jose the Galilean says, The righteous are swayed3 by their good inclination, as it says, My heart4 is slain within me.5 The wicked are swayed by their evil inclination, as it says, Transgression speaketh to the wicked, methinks, there is no fear of God before his eyes.6 Average people are swayed by both inclinations, as it says, Because He standeth at the right hand of the needy,7 to save him from them that judge his soul.8 Raba said: People such as we are of the average. Said Abaye to him: The Master gives no one a chance to live!9 Raba further said: The world was created only for either the totally wicked or the totally righteous.10 Raba said: Let a man know concerning himself whether he is completely righteous or not! Rab said: The world was created only for Ahab son of Omri and for R. Hanina b. Dosa; for Ahab son of Omri this world, and for R. Hanina b. Dosa the future world.
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God etc.11 It has been taught: R. Eliezer says: If it says 'with all thy soul', why should it also say, 'with all thy might',12 and if it says 'with all thy might', why should it also say 'with all thy soul'? Should there be a man who values his life more than his money, for him it says; 'with all thy soul'; and should there be a man who values his money more than his life, for him it says, 'with all thy might'. R. Akiba says: With all thy soul': even if He takes away thy soul.13
Our Rabbis taught: Once the wicked Government14 issued a decree forbidding the Jews to study and practise the Torah. Pappus b. Judah came and found R. Akiba publicly bringing gatherings together and occupying himself with the Torah. He said to him: Akiba, are you not afraid of the Government? He replied: I will explain to you with a parable. A fox was once walking alongside of a river, and he saw fishes going in swarms from one place to another. He said to them: From what are you fleeing? They replied: From the nets cast for us by men. He said to them: Would you like to come up on to the dry land so that you and I can live together in the way that my ancestors lived with your ancestors? They replied: Art thou the one that they call the cleverest of animals? Thou art not clever but foolish. If we are afraid in the element in which we live, how much more in the element in which we would die! So it is with us. If such is our condition when we sit and study the Torah, of which it is written, For that is thy life and the length of thy days,15 if we go and neglect it how much worse off we shall be! It is related that soon afterwards R. Akiba was arrested and thrown into prison, and Pappus b. Judah was also arrested and imprisoned next to him. He said to him: Pappus, who brought you here? He replied: Happy are you, R. Akiba, that you have been seized for busying yourself with the Torah! Alas for Pappus who has been seized for busying himself with idle things! When R. Akiba was taken out for execution, it was the hour for the recital of the Shema', and while they combed his flesh with iron combs, he was accepting upon himself the kingship of heaven.16 His disciples said to him: Our teacher, even to this point? He said to them: All my days I have been troubled by this verse, 'with all thy soul', [which I interpret,] 'even if He takes thy soul'. I said: When shall I have the opportunity of17 fulfilling this? Now that I have the opportunity shall I not fulfil it? He prolonged the word ehad18 until he expired while saying it. A bath kol19 went forth and proclaimed: Happy art thou, Akiba, that thy soul has departed with the word ehad! The ministering angels said before the Holy One, blessed be He: Such Torah, and such a reward? [He should have been] from them that die by Thy hand, O Lord.20 He replied to them: Their portion is in life.21 A bath kol went forth and proclaimed, Happy art thou, R. Akiba, that thou art destined for the life of the world to come.
ONE SHOULD AVOID SHOWING DISRESPECT TO THE EASTERN GATE BECAUSE IT IS IN A DIRECT LINE WITH THE HOLY OF HOLIES, etc. Rab Judah said in the name of Rab: These rules apply only to this side of Mount Scopus22 and to one who can see the Temple.23 It has also been recorded: R. Abba the son of R. Hiyya b. Abba said: Thus said R. Johanan: These rules apply only to this side of Scopus and to one who can see [Jerusalem], and when there is no fence intervening, and at the time when the Divine Presence rests on it.24
Our Rabbis taught: One who consults nature in Judea should not do so east and west25 but north and south. In Galilee he should do so only east and west.26 R. Jose, however, allows it, since R. Jose said: The prohibition was meant to apply only to one in sight of the Temple and in a place where there is no fence intervening and at the time when the Divine Presence rests there. The Sages, however, forbid it. The Sages say the same as the First Tanna? — They differ with regard to the sides.27 It has been taught elsewhere: One who consults nature in Judea should not do so east and west but south and north, and in Galilee north and south is forbidden, east and west is permitted. R. Jose, however, permits it, since R. Jose used to say: This prohibition was meant to apply only to one who is in sight [of Jerusalem]. R. Judah says: When the Temple is in existence it is forbidden, when the Temple is not in existence it is permitted. R. Akiba forbids it in all places. R. Akiba says the same as the First Tanna? — They differ in the matter of outside of Palestine. Rabbah had bricks placed for him east and west.28 Abaye went and changed them round to north and south. Rabbah went in and readjusted them. He said, Who is this that is annoying me? I take the view of R. Akiba, who said that it is forbidden in every place.
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