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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Berakoth
What is the meaning of the verse: But as for me, let my prayer be made unto Thee, O Lord, in an acceptable time?1 When is the time acceptable? When the congregation prays. R. Jose b. R. Hanina says: [You learn it] from here: Thus saith the Lord, In an acceptable time have I answered thee.2 R. Aha son of R. Hanina says: [You learn it] from here: Behold, God despiseth not the mighty.3 And it is further written: He hath redeemed my soul in peace so that none came nigh me; for they were many with me.4 It has been taught also to the same effect; R. Nathan says: How do we know that the Holy One, blessed be He, does not despise the prayer of the congregation? For it is said: 'Behold, God despiseth not the mighty'. And it is further written: 'He hath redeemed my soul in peace so that none came nigh me, etc.'. The Holy One, blessed be He, says: If a man occupies himself with the study of the Torah and with works of charity and prays with the congregation, I account it to him as if he had redeemed Me and My children from among the nations of the world.
Resh Lakish said: Whosoever has a Synagogue in his town and does not go there in order to pray, is called an evil neighbour. For it is said: Thus saith the Lord, as for all Mine evil neighbours, that touch the inheritance which I have caused My people Israel to inherit.5 And more than that, he brings exile upon himself and his children. For it is said: Behold, I will pluck them up from off their land, and will pluck up the house of Judah from among them.6
When they told R. Johanan7 that there were old men in Babylon, he showed astonishment and said: Why, it is written: That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, upon the land;8 but not outside the land [of Israel]! When they told him that they came early to the Synagogue and left it late, he said: That is what helps them. Even as R. Joshua b. Levi said to his children: Come early to the Synagogue and leave it late that you may live long. R. Aha son of R. Hanina says: Which verse [may be quoted in support of this]? Happy is the man that hearkeneth to Me, watching daily at My gates, waiting at the posts of My doors,9 after which it is written: For whoso findeth me findeth life.10 R. Hisda says: A man should always enter two doors into the Synagogue.11 What is the meaning of 'two doors'? Say: The distance of two doors, and then pray.12
For this let every one that is godly pray unto Thee in the time of finding.13 R. Hanina says: 'In the time of finding' refers to [the finding of] a wife. For it is said: Whoso findeth a wife findeth a great good.14 In the West they used to ask a man who married a wife thus: Maza or Moze?15 'Maza', for it is written: Whoso findeth [maza] a wife findeth a great good. 'Moze', for it is written: And I find [moze] more bitter than death the woman.16 R. Nathan says: 'In the time of finding' refers to the [finding of] Torah. For it is said: For whoso findeth me findeth life, etc.17 R. Nahman b. Isaac said: 'In the time of finding' refers to the [finding of] death. For it is said: The issues of death.18 Similarly it has been taught: Nine hundred and three species of death were created in this world. For it is said: The issues of death, and the numerical value of Toza'oth is so. The worst of them is the croup, and the easiest of them is the kiss.19 Croup is like a thorn in a ball of wool pulled out backwards.20 Some people say: It is like [pulling] a rope through the loop-holes [of a ship].21 [Death by a] kiss is like drawing a hair out of milk. R. Johanan said: 'In the time of finding' refers to the [finding of a] grave. R. Hanina said: Which verse [may be quoted in support]? Who rejoice unto exultation and are glad, when they can find the grave.22 Rabbah son of R. Shila said: Hence the proverb: A man should pray for peace even to the last clod of earth [thrown upon his grave]. Mar Zutra said: 'In the time of finding', refers to the [finding of a] privy.23 They said in the West: This [interpretation] of Mar Zutra is the best of all.
Raba said to Rafram b. Papa: Let the master please tell us some of those fine things that you said in the name of R. Hisda on matters relating to the Synagogue! — He replied: Thus said R. Hisda: What is the meaning of the verse: The Lord loveth the gates of Zion [Ziyyon] more than all the dwellings of Jacob?24 The Lord loves the gates that are distinguished [me-zuyanim] through Halachah more than the Synagogues and Houses of study.25 And this conforms with the following saying of R. Hiyya b. Ammi in the name of 'Ulla: Since the day that the Temple was destroyed, the Holy One, blessed be He, has nothing in this world but the four cubits of Halachah alone. So said also Abaye: At first I used to study in my house and pray in the Synagogue. Since I heard the saying of R. Hiyya b. Ammi in the name of 'Ulla: 'Since the day that the Temple was destroyed, the Holy One, blessed be He, has nothing in His world but the four cubits of Halachah alone', I pray only in the place where I study. R. Ammi and R. Assi, though they had thirteen Synagogues in Tiberias, prayed only between the pillars where they used to study.26
R. Hiyya b. Ammi further said in the name of 'Ulla: A man who lives from the labour [of his hands] is greater than the one who fears heaven.27 For with regard to the one who fears heaven it is written: Happy is the man that feareth the Lord,28 while with regard to the man who lives from his own work it is written: When thou eatest the labour of thy hands, happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.29 'Happy shalt thou be', in this world, 'and it shall be well with thee', in the world to come. But of the man that fears heaven it is not written: 'and it shall be well with thee'.
R. Hiyya b. Ammi further said in the name of 'Ulla: A man should always live in the same town as his teacher. For as long as Shimei the son of Gera was alive Solomon did not marry the daughter of Pharaoh.30 — But it has been taught that he should not live [in the same place]? — There is no contradiction. The former [speaks of a disciple] who is submissive to him, the other [of a disciple] who is not submissive.
R. Huna b. Judah in the name of R. Menahem in the name of R. Ammi said: What is the meaning of the verse: And they that forsake the Lord shall be consumed?31 This refers to people who leave the Scroll of the Law [while it is being read from] and go out [from the Synagogue]. R. Abbahu used to go out between one reader and the next.32 R. Papa raised the question: What of going out between verse and verse? It remains unanswered. — R. Shesheth used to turn his face to another side and study. He said: We [are busy] with ours, and they [are busy] with theirs.33
R. Huna b. Judah says in the name of R. Ammi: A man should always complete his Parashoth together with the congregation,34 [reading] twice the Hebrew text and once the [Aramaic] Targum,
and even [such verses as] Ataroth and Dibon,1 for if one completes his Parashoth together with the congregation, his days and years are prolonged. R. Bibi b. Abaye wanted to finish all the Parashoth of the whole year on the eve of the Day of Atonement. But Hiyya b. Rab of Difti2 recited to him [the following Baraitha]: It is written: And ye shall afflict your souls, in the ninth day of the month at even.3 Now, do we fast on the ninth? Why, we fast on the tenth! But this teaches you that if one eats and drinks on the ninth, Scripture accounts it to him as if he fasted on the ninth and tenth.4 Thereupon he wanted to finish them in advance. But a certain Elder recited to him a Baraitha teaching: However, he should not read them in advance of nor later [than the congregation]. Even so did R. Joshua b. Levi say to his children: Complete your Parashoth together with the congregation, twice the Hebrew text and once Targum; be careful with the jugular veins to follow [the teaching of] R. Judah, as we have learnt: R. Judah says: He must cut through the jugular veins; and be careful [to respect] an old man who has forgotten his knowledge through no fault of his own,5 for it was said: Both the whole tables and the fragments of the tables were placed in the Ark.6
Raba said to his children: When you are cutting meat, do not cut it upon your hand. (Some people say on account of danger;7 and some in order not to spoil the meal.)8 Do not sit upon the bed of an Aramaean woman, and do not pass behind a Synagogue when the congregation is praying. 'Do not sit upon the bed of an Aramaean woman'; some say that this means: Do not go to bed before reciting the Shema';9 some say it means: Do not marry a proselyte woman; and some say it means literally [the bed of] an Aramaean woman, and this rule was laid down because of what happened to R. Papa. For R. Papa once visited an Aramaean woman. She brought out a bed and said: Sit down. He said to her: I will not sit down until you raise the cover of the bed. She raised the cover and they found there a dead baby. Hence said the scholars: It is not permitted to sit down upon the bed of an Aramaean woman. 'And do not pass behind a Synagogue when the congregation is praying'; this supports the teaching of R. Joshua b. Levi. For R. Joshua b. Levi said: It is not permitted for a man to pass behind a Synagogue when the congregation is praying. Abaye said: This applies only when there is no other door, but when there is another door,10 there is no objection. Furthermore, this applies only when there is no other Synagogue, but when there is another Synagogues there is no objection. And furthermore, this applies only when he does not carry a burden, and does not run, and does not wear tefillin. But where one of these conditions is present there is no objection.
It has been taught: R. Akiba says: For three things I like the Medes: When they cut meat, they cut it only on the table; when they kiss, they kiss only the hand; and when they hold counsel, they do so only in the field. R. Adda b. Ahabah says: Which verse [may be quoted in support of the last]? And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock.11 It has been taught: R. Gamaliel says: For three things do I like the Persians: They are temperate in their eating, modest in the privy, and chaste in another matter.12 I have commanded My consecrated ones.13 R. Joseph learnt: This refers to the Persians who are consecrated and destined for Gehinnom.14
R. GAMALIEL SAYS: UNTIL THE DAWN RISES. Rab Judah says in the name of Samuel: The Halachah is as laid down by R. Gamaliel. It was taught, R. Simeon b. Yohai says: Sometimes a man may recite the Shema' twice in the night, once before the dawn breaks and once after the dawn breaks, and thereby fulfil his duty once for the day and once for the night.
Now this is self-contradictory. You say: 'A man may sometimes recite the Shema' twice in the night', which shows that it is still night after the dawn breaks. And then you say: 'He thereby fulfils his duty once for the day and once for the night', which shows that it is daytime? — No! It is in reality night, but he calls it day because some people rise at that time. R. Aha b. Hanina said in the name of R. Joshua b. Levi: The Halachah is as stated by R. Simeon b. Yohai. Some people refer this [statement] of R. Aha b. Hanina to the following lesson,15 which has been taught: R. Simeon b. Yohai says in the name of R. Akiba: Sometimes a man may recite the Shema' twice in the day-time, once before sunrise and once after sunrise, and thereby fulfill his duty once for the day and once for the night. Now this is self-contradictory. You say: 'A man may sometimes recite the Shema' twice in the daytime', which shows that before sunrise it is daytime, and then you state: 'He thereby fulfills his duty once for the day and once for the night', which shows that it is night? —
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