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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Berakoth
R. Johanan says in the name of R. Jose: How do we know that the Holy One, blessed be He, says prayers? Because it says: Even them will I bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer.1 It is not said, 'their prayer', but 'My prayer'; hence [you learn] that the Holy One, blessed be He, says prayers. What does He pray? — R. Zutra b. Tobi said in the name of Rab: 'May it be My will that My mercy may suppress My anger, and that My mercy may prevail over My [other] attributes, so that I may deal with My children in the attribute of mercy and, on their behalf, stop short of the limit of strict justice'.2 It was taught: R. Ishmael b. Elisha says: I once entered into the innermost part [of the Sanctuary] to offer incense and saw Akathriel Jah,3 the Lord of Hosts, seated upon a high and exalted throne. He said to me: Ishmael, My son, bless Me! I replied: May it be Thy will that Thy mercy may suppress Thy anger and Thy mercy may prevail over Thy other attributes, so that Thou mayest deal with Thy children according to the attribute of mercy and mayest, on their behalf, stop short of the limit of strict justice! And He nodded to me with His head. Here we learn [incidentally] that the blessing of an ordinary man must not be considered lightly in your eyes.
R. Johanan further said in the name of R. Jose: How do you know that we must not try to placate a man in the time of his anger? For it is written: My face will go and I will give thee rest.4 The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses: Wait till My countenance of wrath shall have passed away and then I shall give thee rest. But is anger then a mood of the Holy One, blessed be He? — Yes. For it has been taught:5 A God that hath indignation every day.6 And how long does this indignation last? One moment. And how long is one moment? One fifty-eight thousand eight hundred and eighty-eighth part of an hour. And no creature has ever been able to fix precisely this moment except the wicked Balaam, of whom it is written: He knoweth the knowledge of the Most High.7 Now, he did not even know the mind of his animal; how then could he know the mind of the Most High? The meaning is, therefore, only that he knew how to fix precisely this moment in which the Holy One, blessed be He, is angry. And this is just what the prophet said to Israel: O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab devised, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him … that ye may know the righteous acts of the Lord.8 What means 'That ye may know the righteous acts of the Lord'? — R. Eleazar says: The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Israel: See now, how many righteous acts I performed for you in not being angry in the days of the wicked Balaam. For had I been angry, not one remnant would have been left of the enemies of Israel.9 And this too is the meaning of what Balaam said to Balak: How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? And how shall I execrate, whom the Lord hath not execrated?10 This teaches us that He was not angry all these days. And how long does His anger last? One moment. And how long is one moment? R. Abin (some say R. Abina) says: As long as it takes to say Rega'.11 And how do you know that He is angry one moment? For it is said: For His anger is but for a moment [rega'], His favor is for a lifetime.12 Or if you prefer you may infer it from the following verse: Hide thyself for a little moment until the indignation be overpast.13 And when is He angry? — Abaye says: In [one moment of] those first three hours of the day, when the comb of the cock is white and it stands on one foot. Why, in each hour it stands thus [on one foot]?14 — In each other hour it has red streaks, but in this moment it has no red streaks at all.
In the neighbourhood of R. Joshua b. Levi there was a Sadducee15 who used to annoy him very much with [his interpretations of] texts. One day the Rabbi took a cock, placed it between the legs of his bed and watched it. He thought: When this moment arrives I shall curse him. When the moment arrived he was dozing [On waking up]16 he said: We learn from this that it is not proper to act in such a way. It is written: And His tender mercies are over all His works.17 And it is further written: Neither is it good for the righteous to punish.18 It was taught in the name of R. Meir: At the time when the sun rises and all the kings of the East and West put their crowns upon their heads and bow down to the sun, the Holy One, blessed be He, becomes at once angry.
R. Johanan further said in the name of R. Jose: Better is one self-reproach in the heart of a man than many stripes, for it is said: And she shall run after her lovers … then shall she say,19 I shall go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now.20 R. Simon b. Lakish says: It is better than a hundred stripes, for it is said: A rebuke entereth deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred stripes into a fool.21
R. Johanan further said in the name of R. Jose: Three things did Moses ask of the Holy One, blessed be He, and they were granted to him. He asked that the Divine Presence should rest upon Israel, and it was granted to him. For it is said: Is it not in that Thou goest with us [so that we are distinguished, I and Thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth].22 He asked that the Divine Presence should not rest upon the idolaters, and it was granted to him. For it is said: 'So that we are distinguished, I and Thy people'. He asked that He should show him the ways of the Holy One, blessed be He, and it was granted to him. For it is said: Show me now Thy ways.23 Moses said before Him: Lord of the Universe, why is it that some righteous men prosper and others are in adversity, some wicked men prosper and others are in adversity? He replied to him: Moses, the righteous man who prospers is the righteous man the son of a righteous man; the righteous man who is in adversity is a righteous man the son of a wicked man. The wicked man who prospers is a wicked man son of a righteous man; the wicked man who is in adversity is a wicked man son of a wicked man.
The Master said above: 'The righteous man who prospers is a righteous man son of a righteous man; the righteous man who is in adversity is a righteous man son of a wicked man'. But this is not so! For, lo, one verse says: Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children,24 and another verse says: Neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers.25 And a contradiction was pointed out between these two verses, and the answer was given that there is no contradiction. The one verse deals with children who continue in the same course as their fathers, and the other verse with children who do not continue in the course of their fathers! — [You must] therefore [say that] the Lord said thus to Moses: A righteous man who prospers is a perfectly righteous man; the righteous man who is in adversity is not a perfectly righteous man. The wicked man who prospers is not a perfectly wicked man; the wicked man who is in adversity is a perfectly wicked man. Now this [saying of R. Johanan]26 is in opposition to the saying of R. Meir. For R. Meir said: only two [requests] were granted to him, and one was not granted to him. For it is said: And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, although he may not deserve it, And I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy,27 although he may not deserve it.28
And He said, Thou canst not see My face.29 A Tanna taught in the name of R. Joshua b. Korhah: The Holy One, blessed be He, spoke thus to Moses: When I wanted, you did not want [to see My face]30 now that you want, I do not want. — This is in opposition to [the interpretation of this verse by] R. Samuel b. Nahmani in the name of R. Jonathan. For R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Jonathan: As a reward of three [pious acts]31 Moses was privileged to obtain three [favours]. In reward of 'And Moses hid his face', he obtained the brightness of his face.32 In reward of 'For he was afraid', he obtained the privilege that They were afraid to come nigh him.33 In reward of 'To look upon God', he obtained The similitude of the Lord doth he behold.34
And I will take away My hand, and thou shalt see My back.35 R. Hama b. Bizana said in the name of R. Simon the Pious: This teaches us that the Holy One, blessed be He, showed Moses the knot of the tefillin.36
R. Johanan further said in the name of R. Jose: No word of blessing that issued from the mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He, even if based upon a condition, was ever withdrawn by Him. How do we know this? From our teacher Moses. For it is said: Let me alone, that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under heaven; and I will make of thee a nation mightier and greater than they.37 Though Moses prayed that this might be mercifully averted and it was cancelled, [the blessing] was nevertheless fulfilled towards his children. For it is said: The sons of Moses: Gershom and Eliezer … And the sons of Eliezer were Rehabia the chief … and the sons of Rehabiah were very many.38 And R. Joseph learnt: They were more than sixty myriads. This is to be learnt from two occurrences of the term 'manifold'. Here it is written: were very many, and elsewhere It is written: And the children of Israel were very fruitful and increased abundantly, and became very many.39
R. Johanan said [further] in the name of R. Simeon b. Yohai: From the day that the Holy One, blessed be He, created the world there was no man that called the Holy One, blessed be He, Lord,1 until Abraham came and called Him Lord. For it is said: And he said, O Lord [Adonai] God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?2 Rab said: Even Daniel was heard [in his prayer] only for the sake of Abraham. For it says: Now therefore, O our God, hearken unto the prayer of Thy servant, and to his supplications, and cause Thy face to shine upon Thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord's sake.3 He ought to have said: 'For Thy sake', but [he means]: For the sake of Abraham, who called Thee Lord.
R. Johanan further said in the name of R. Simeon b. Yohai: How do you know that we must not try to placate a man in the time of his anger? Because it is said: My face will go and I will give thee rest.4
R. Johanan further said in the name of R. Simeon b. Yohai: From the day that the Holy One, blessed be He, created His world there was no man that praised the Holy One, blessed be He, until Leah came and praised Him. For it is said: This time will I praise the Lord.5
Reuben. [What is the meaning of 'Reuben'?]6 — R. Eleazar said: Leah said: See the difference between7 my son and the son of my father-in-law. The son of my father-in-law voluntarily sold his birthright, for it is written: And he sold his birthright unto Jacob.8 And, nonetheless, behold, it is written of him: And Esau hated Jacob,9 and it is also written: And he said, is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times.10 My son, however, although Joseph took his birthright from him against his will — as it is written: But, for as much as he defiled his father's couch, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph,11 — was not jealous of him. For it is written: And Reuben heard it, and delivered him out of their hand.12
Ruth. What is the meaning of Ruth? — R. Johanan said: Because she was privileged to be the ancestress of David, who saturated13 the Holy One, blessed be He, with songs and hymns. How do we know that the name [of a person] has an effect [upon his life]?14 — R. Eleazar said: Scripture says: Come, behold the works of the Lord, who hath made desolations in the earth.15 Read not shammoth, ['desolations'], but shemoth, [names].
R. Johanan further said in the name of R. Simeon b. Yohai: A bad son16 in a man's house is worse than the war of Gog and Magog. For it is said: A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son,17 and it is written after that: Lord, how many are mine adversaries become! Many are they that rise up against me.18 But in regard to the war of Gog and Magog it is written: Why are the nations in an uproar? And why do the peoples mutter in vain,19 but, it is not written: 'How many are mine adversaries become!'
'A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son'. 'A Psalm of David'? He ought to have said: 'A Lamentation of David'! R. Simeon b. Abishalom said: A parable: To what is this to be compared? To a man who has a bond outstanding against him; until he pays it he worries20 but after he has paid it, he rejoices. So was it with David. When the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house,21 he began worrying. He thought: it may be a slave or a bastard who will have no pity on me. When he saw that it was Absalom, he was glad, and therefore he said: 'A Psalm'.
R. Johanan further said in the name of R. Simeon b. Yohai: It is permitted to contend with the wicked in this world. For it is said: They that forsake the law praise the wicked, but such as keep the law contend with them.22 It has been taught to the same effect: R. Dosthai son of R. Mattun says: It is permitted to contend with the wicked in this world. For it is said: 'They that forsake the law praise the wicked, etc.' — Should somebody whisper to you: But is it not written: Contend not with evil-doers, neither be thou envious against them that work unrighteousness,23 then you may tell him: Only one whose conscience smites24 him says so. In fact, 'Contend not with evil-doers', means, to be like them; 'neither be thou envious against them that work unrighteousness', means, to be like them. And so it is said: Let not thy heart envy sinners, but be in the fear of the Lord all the day.25 But this is not so! For R. Isaac said: If you see a wicked man upon whom fortune26 is smiling, do not attack him. For it is said: His ways prosper at all times.27 And more than that, he is victorious in the court of judgment; for it is said: Thy judgments are far above out of his sight.28 And still more than that, he sees the discomfiture of his enemies; for it is said: As for all his adversaries, he puffeth at them.29 There is no contradiction. The one [R. Isaac] speaks of his private affairs, the other one [R. Johanan] of matters of religion.30 If you wish I can say: both speak of matters of religion, and still there is no contradiction. The one [R. Isaac] speaks of a wicked man upon whom fortune is smiling, the other one speaks of a wicked man upon whom fortune is not smiling. Or if you wish, I can say, both speak of a wicked man upon whom fortune is smiling, and still there is no contradiction. The one [R. Johanan] speaks of a perfectly righteous man, the other one of a man who is not perfectly righteous. For R. Huna said: What is the meaning of the verse: Wherefore lookest Thou, when they deal treacherously, and holdest Thy peace, when the wicked swalloweth up the man that is more righteous than he?31 Can then the wicked swallow up the righteous? Is it not written: The Lord will not leave him in his hand?32 And is it not written further: There shall no mischief befall the righteous?33 [You must] therefore [say]: He swallows up the one who is only 'more righteous than he', but he cannot swallow up the perfectly righteous man. If you wish I can say: It is different when fortune is smiling upon him.
R. Johanan further said in the name of R. Simeon b. Yohai: If a man has a fixed place for his prayer, his enemies succumb to him. For it is said: And I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place, and be disquieted no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more as at the first.34 R. Huna pointed to a contradiction. [Here] it is written: 'To afflict them', and [elsewhere]: To exterminate them?35 [The answer is]: First to afflict them and then to exterminate them.
R. Johanan further said in the name of R. Simeon b. Yohai: The service of the Torah is greater than the study thereof.36 For it is said: Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, who poured water on the hands of Elijah.37 It is not said, who learned, but who poured water. This teaches that the service of the Torah is greater than the study thereof.
R. Isaac said to R. Nahman: Why does the Master not come to the Synagogue in order to pray?38 — He said to him: I cannot.39 He asked him: Let the Master gather ten people and pray with them [in his house]? — He answered: It is too much of a trouble for me. [He then said]: Let the Master ask the messenger of the congregation40 to inform him of the time when the congregation prays?41 He answered: Why all this [trouble]? — He said to him: For R. Johanan said in the name of R. Simeon b. Yohai:
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