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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Berakoth

Folio 62a

It has been taught: R. Akiba said: Once I went in after R. Joshua to a privy, and I learnt from him three things. I learnt that one does not sit east and west but north and south; I learnt that one evacuates not standing but sitting; and I learnt that it is proper to wipe with the left hand and not with the right. Said Ben Azzai to him: Did you dare to take such liberties with your master? He replied: It was a matter of Torah, and I required to learn. It has been taught: Ben 'Azzai said: Once I went in after R. Akiba to a privy, and I learnt from him three things. I learnt that one does not evacuate east and west but north and south. I also learnt that one evacuates sitting and not standing. I also learnt it is proper to wipe with the left hand and not with the right. Said R. Judah to him: Did you dare to take such liberties with your master? — He replied: It was a matter of Torah, and I required to learn. R. Kahana once went in and hid under Rab's bed. He heard him chatting [with his wife] and joking and doing what he required. He said to him: One would think that Abba's mouth had never sipped the dish before! He said to him: Kahana, are you here? Go out, because it is rude.1  He replied: It is a matter of Torah, and I require to learn.

Why should one wipe with the left hand and not with the right? — Raba said: Because the Torah was given with the right hand, as it says, At His right hand was a fiery law unto them.2  Rabbah b. Hanah said: Because it is brought to the mouth.3  R. Simeon b. Lakish said: Because one binds the tefillin [on the left arm] with it. R. Nahman b. Isaac said: Because he points to the accents in the scroll with it.4  A similar difference of opinion is found among Tannaim. R. Eliezer says, because one eats with it; R. Joshua says, because one writes with it; R. Akiba says, because one points with it to the accents in the scroll.

R. Tanhum b. Hanilai said: Whoever behaves modestly in a privy is delivered from three things: from snakes, from scorpions, and from evil spirits. Some say also that he will not have disturbing dreams.5  There was a certain privy in Tiberias which if two persons entered together even by day, they came to harm. R. Ammi and R. Assi used to enter it separately, and they suffered no harm. The Rabbis said to them, Are you not afraid? They replied: We have learnt a certain tradition.6  The tradition for [avoiding harm in] the privy is modesty and silence; the tradition relating to sufferings is silence7  and prayer. The mother of Abaye trained for him a lamb to go with him into the privy.8  She should rather have trained for him a goat?9  A satyr might be changed into a goat.10  Before Raba became head of the Academy, the daughter of R. Hisda11  used to rattle a nut in a brass dish.12  After he became head, she made a window for him,13  and put her hand on his head.14

'Ulla said: Behind a fence one may ease himself immediately; in an open field, so long as he can break wind without anyone hearing it. Issi b. Nathan reported thus: Behind a fence, as long as he can break wind without anyone hearing it; in a open field, as long as he cannot be seen by anyone. An objection was raised: [The watchers]15  may go out by the door of the olive press and ease themselves behind a fence [immediately] and they [the olives] remain clean! — For the sake of ritual purity they made a concession. Come and hear: How far can one go without affecting the cleanness [of the olive press]? Any distance as long as he can still see it!16  — The case of food-stuffs prepared in purity is different, as the Rabbis made a concession for them. R. Ashi said: What is meant by the words 'as long as he cannot be seen by anyone' used by Issi b. Nathan? As long as the exposed part of his body cannot be seen; but the man himself may be seen.

A certain funeral orator went down in the presence of R. Nahman [to deliver an address] and said: This man was modest in all his ways. Said R. Nahman to him: Did you ever follow him into a privy so that you should know whether he was modest or not? For it has been taught: A man is called modest only if he is such in the privy. And why was R. Nahman so much concerned about it? Because it has been taught: Just as the dead are punished,17  so the funeral orators are punished18  and those who answer [Amen] after them.

Our Rabbis taught: Who is a modest man? One who eases himself by night in the place where he eased himself by day.19  Is that so? Has not Rab Judah said in the name of Rab: A man should always accustom himself [to consult nature] in the early morning and in the evening20  so that he may have no need to go a long distance? And again, in the day-time Raba used to go as far as a mile, but at night he said to his attendant, Clear me a spot in the street of the town, and so too R. Zera said to his attendant, See if there is anyone behind the Seminary as I wish to ease myself? — Do not read 'in the place', but read, 'in the same way as he eases himself by day'.21  R. Ashi said, You may even retain the reading 'place', the reference being to a private corner.22

The [above] text [states:] 'Rab Judah said in the name of Rab: A man should always accustom himself to consult nature morning and evening so that he may have no need to go a long distance'. It has been taught similarly, Ben 'Azzai said: Go forth before dawn and after dark, so that you should not have to go far. Feel yourself before sitting, but do not sit and then feel yourself, for if one sits and then feels himself, should witchcraft be used against him even as far away as Aspamia,23  he will not be immune from it. And if he forgets and does sit and then feels, what is his remedy? — When he rises he should say, thus: Not for me, not for me; not tahim nor tahtim;24  not these nor any part of these;25  neither the sorceries of sorcerers nor the sorceries of sorceresses!

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Lit., 'it is not the way of the world'.
  2. Deut. XXXIII, 2.
  3. It was usual to bring food to the mouth with the right hand and not with the left.
  4. Rashi explains: Because in chanting he makes corresponding movements with the right hand, this having been the custom of Palestinians in his day.
  5. Lit., 'his dreams will be settled on him'.
  6. Jastrow, with a slight change of reading (kible), renders 'charm'.
  7. I.e., resignation.
  8. As a protection against evil spirits.
  9. Goats were associated by the ancients with evil spirits.
  10. The Hebrew word sa'ir means both 'he-goat' and 'satyr'.
  11. His wife.
  12. To frighten away the evil spirits.
  13. In the wall of the house, through which she could put her hand.
  14. As a protection. After becoming head of the Academy, he was more exposed to danger from the evil spirits.
  15. Men who watched the olive-oil press to see that no unclean person entered.
  16. But not further, so that he would himself still be visible. This refutes Issi.
  17. If they were sinners.
  18. For uttering false eulogies.
  19. I.e., a long way off.
  20. I.e., before daylight and after dark.
  21. I.e., modestly; v. supra, p. 389.
  22. To be used by night as well as by day.
  23. A name given to several far-distant places, including Spain.
  24. Words apparently used in incantations
  25. Aliter: 'Let not avail against me either the sorceries etc.'.

Berakoth 62b

. It has been taught: Ben 'Azzai says: Lie on anything but not on the ground;1  sit on anything but not on a beam.2

Samuel said: Sleep3  at dawn is like a steel edge to iron; evacuation at dawn is like a steel edge to iron. Bar Kappara used to sell sayings for denarii. 'While thou art still hungry, eat; while thou art still thirsty, drink; while thy pot is still hot, empty it out.4  When the horn is sounded in [the market of] Rome, do you, O son of the fig-seller, sell thy father's figs'.5  Abaye said to the Rabbis: When you go through the lanes of Mahoza to get to the fields, do not look to this side or to that, for perhaps women6  are sitting there, and it is not proper to gaze at them.

R. Safra entered a privy. R. Abba came and cleared his throat at the entrance.7  He said to him: Let the master enter. When he came out, he [R. Abba] said to him: You have not yet been turned into a satyr,8  but you have learnt the manners of a satyr.9  Have we not learnt as follows: There was a fire there,10  and a superior privy. Its superiority lay in this: if one found it locked, he could be sure that someone was in there, but if he found it open, he could be sure that there was no one there. We see therefore, that it is not proper [for two to be in a privy].11  He [R. Safra], however, was of opinion that it was dangerous [to keep him waiting], as it has been taught:12  R. Simeon b. Gamaliel says: To keep back the fecal discharge causes dropsy; to keep back the urinary discharge causes jaundice.

R. Eleazar once entered a privy, and a Persian13  came and thrust him away. R. Eleazar got up and went out, and a serpent came and tore out the other's gut.14  R. Eleazar applied to him the verse, Therefore will I give a man for thee.15  Read not adam [a man] but edom [an Edomite].

And he bade to kill thee, but he spared thee.16  'And he bade'! It should be, 'And I bade'!17  'And he spared'! It should be, 'And I spared'! R. Eleazar said: David said to Saul: According to the law, you deserve to be slain, since you are a pursuer, and the Torah has said, If one comes to kill your rise and kill him first.18  But the modesty which you have shown has caused you to be spared. What is this? As it is written: And he came to the fences19  by the way, where was a cave; and Saul went in le-hasek [to cover his feet].20  It has been taught: There was a fence within a fence, and a cave within a cave. R. Eleazar says: It [the word le-hasek] teaches that he covered himself like a booth [sukkah].

Then David arose and cut off the skirt of Saul's robe privily.21  R. Jose son of R. Hanina said: Whoever treats garments contemptuously will in the end derive no benefit from them; for it says, Now King David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he could get no heat.22

If it be the Lord that hath stirred thee up against me, let Him accept an offering.23  R. Eleazar said: Said the Holy One blessed be He, to David: Thou callest me a 'stirrer-up'. Behold, I will make thee stumble over a thing which even school-children know, namely, that which is written, When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel according to their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul into the Lord… [that there be no plague among them] etc.24  Forthwith, Satan stood up against Israel;25  and it is further written, He stirred up David against them saying, Go, number Israel.26  And when he did number them, he took no ransom from them and it is written, So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed.27  What is meant by 'the time appointed'? Samuel the elder, the son-in-law of R. Hanina, answered in the name of R. Hanina: From the time of slaughtering the continual offering until the time of sprinkling the blood. R. Johanan said: Right up precisely to midday.

And He said to the Angel that destroyed the people, It is enough28  [rab]. R. Eleazar said: The Holy One, blessed be He, said to the Angel: Take a great man [rab] among them, through whose death many sins can be expiated for them.29  At that time there died Abishai son of Zeruiah, who was [singly] equal in worth to the greater part of the Sanhedrin.

And as he was about to destroy, the Lord beheld, and He repented Him.30  What did He behold? — Rab said: He beheld Jacob our ancestor, as it is written, And Jacob said when he beheld them.31  Samuel said: He beheld the ashes of [the ram of] Isaac, as it says, God will see32  for Himself the lamb.33  R. Isaac Nappaha said: He saw the money of the atonement, as it says, And thou shalt take the atonement money from the children of Israel, and it shall be a memorial34  etc. R. Johanan said: He saw the Temple, as it is written, In the mount where the Lord is seen.35  R. Jacob b. Iddi and R. Samuel b. Nahmani differed on the matter. One said that He saw the atonement money, the other that He saw the Temple. The more likely view is that of him who says that He saw the Temple, since it is written, As it will be said on that day, in the mount where the Lord is seen.

A MAN SHOULD NOT ENTER THE TEMPLE MOUNT WITH HIS STAFF etc. What is the meaning of kappandaria? Raba said: A short cut, as its name implies.36  R. Hanah b. Adda said in the name of R. Sama the son of R. Meri: It is as if a man said, instead of going round the blocks [makkifna adari], I will go in here. R. Nahman said in the name of Rabbah: If one enters a synagogue not intending to use it as a short cut, he may use it as a short cut. R. Abbahu said: If there was a path there originally,37  it is permitted. R. Helbo said in the name of R. Huna: If one entered a synagogue to pray, he may use it as a short cut, as it says, But when the people of the land shall come before the Lord in the appointed seasons [he that entereth by the north gate shall go forth by the south gate, etc.].38

AND SPITTING [ON IT IS FORBIDDEN] A FORTIORI. R. Bibi said in the name of R. Simeon b. Lakish: If one spits in these times39  on the Temple mount, it is as if he spat into the pupil of His eye, since it says: And Mine eyes and My heart shall be there perpetually.40  Raba said: It is permitted to expectorate in the synagogue, this being on the same footing as wearing a shoe. Just as wearing a shoe is forbidden on the Temple mount but permitted in the synagogue, so spitting is forbidden in the Temple mount but permitted in the synagogue. Said R. Papa to Raba — according to others, Rabina said to Raba, while others again report that R. Adda b. Mattena said it to Raba, Instead of learning the rule from the analogy of a shoe, why not learn it from that of a short cut?41  — He replied: The Tanna derives it from a shoe, and you want to derive it from a short cut! What is this [reference]? As it has been taught: 'A man should not enter the Temple mount either with his staff in his hand or his shoe on his foot, or with his money tied up in his cloth, or with his money bag slung over his shoulder, and he should not make it a short cut, and spitting [on it is forbidden] a fortiori from the case of the shoe: seeing that regarding a shoe, the wearing of which does not show contempt, the Torah has said, Put off thy shoes from off thy feet,42  must not the rule all the more apply to spitting, which does show contempt? R. Jose b. Judah said: This reasoning is not necessary. For see, it says, For none might enter within the king's gate clothed in sackcloth.43  Now have we not here an argument a fortiori: if such is the case with sackcloth which is not in itself disgusting, and before an earthly king, how much more so with spitting which is in itself disgusting, and before the supreme King of Kings!'44  He [R. Papa] replied to him [Raba]: What I mean is this. Let us be stringent in both cases,45  and reason thus:

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. For fear of serpents.
  2. Lest it may break.
  3. The Aruch renders the word shinah here 'Making water'.
  4. The proverb is applied to relieving oneself.
  5. And do not wait for thy father to come; an admonition against procrastination.
  6. MS.M. 'men'.
  7. To find out if anyone was within.
  8. [H] Lit., 'goat' v. supra p. 389, n. 6.
  9. Inviting me to come in, not in accordance with the rules of propriety. The meaning is not clear, Rashi seems to read [H] (Seir), thus rendering: You have not yet entered Seir (Edom) and you have learnt the manners of (the people of) Seir, v. Maharsha.
  10. In the Temple court, to keep the priests warm.
  11. V. Strashun Glosses.
  12. V. supra 25a.
  13. This is obviously a censor's correction for 'Roman', v. MS.M.
  14. Jast. renders 'his gut dropped', from fright.
  15. Isa. XLIII, 4.
  16. I Sam. XXIV, 11.
  17. Since David is reporting his own action.
  18. V. supra 58a.
  19. E.V. 'sheepcotes'.
  20. Ibid. 4.
  21. Ibid. 5.
  22. I Kings I, 1.
  23. I Sam. XXVI, 19.
  24. Ex. XXX, 12.
  25. I Chron. XXI, 1.
  26. II Sam. XXIV, 1.
  27. Ibid. 15.
  28. Ibid. 16.
  29. According to the dictum that the death of the righteous is an atonement.
  30. I Chron. XXI, 15.
  31. Gen. XXXII, 3.
  32. So lit., E.V. 'provide'.
  33. Ibid. XXII, 8.
  34. Ex. XXX, 16.
  35. Adverting to the name of the mountain which is 'The Lord shall see'. Gen. XXII, 14.
  36. Representing as it does the Latin compendiaria via. Raba seems to imply that there is no need to try to interpret it as an Aramaic expression.
  37. Before the synagogue was built.
  38. Ezek. XLVI, 9.
  39. When the Temple is no longer there.
  40. I Kings IX, 3.
  41. A synagogue may not be used as a short cut, v. Meg. 28a.
  42. Ex. III, 5.
  43. Esth. IV, 2.
  44. Thus we see that the Tanna derives the rule regarding spitting from the analogy of a shoe.
  45. Of spitting on the Temple mount and in the synagogue.