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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin
1 the witnesses are invalidated, the judges too are disqualified.2 While the latter clause deals with invalid judges and competent witnesses; therefore, since the judges are disqualified, the witnesses too are rejected. Raba objected: As for arguing2 that since the witnesses are [undisputably] disqualified, so are the judges too: that is correct, seeing that another bench of judges is available [to try the case]. But [can one argue], since the judges are disqualified, so are the witnesses too, seeing that no other witnesses may be available? — This holds good only when another set of witnesses is available. Then what if no other set of witnesses is available; [will you say that] here too [viz., according to Rabin] the witnesses cannot be disqualified? But his view is then identical with that of R. Dimi!3 — They differ in respect to Miggo;4 one master [Rabin] accepts the reasoning of Miggo; while the other [R. Dimi] rejects it.5
The above text reads: 'Resh Lakish said: "Imagine a holy mouth [sc. R. Meir] uttering such a thing!" Read therefore [in the Mishnah], "The witness" [singular].' Surely this is not so! For 'Ulla said: One who saw Resh Lakish in the Beth-Hamidrash [engaged in debate] would think that he was uprooting mountains and grinding them against each other!6 — Rabina said: But did not he who saw R. Meir in the Beth-Hamidrash feel that he was uprooting yet greater mountains and grinding them against each other?7 — He means this:8 Come and see how they [the Palestinians] esteem one another!9 Another instance; Rabbi sat and said: It is forbidden to store away the cold [water].10 But R. Ishmael son of R. Jose remarked in his presence; My father permitted it. Then the Zaken11 has already decided the matter,12 replied Rabbi. [Thereupon] R. Papa said: Come and see how much they respected each other, for were R. Jose alive, he would have sat submissively before Rabbi, for as we have seen, R. Ishmael son of R. Jose, who was a worthy successor of his forefathers,13 sat submissively before him,14 yet he [Rabbi] said of him, 'The Zaken has already decided.'
R. Oshaia said: What is the meaning of the verse, And I took unto me the two staves; the one I called No'am [graciousness] and the other I called 'hoblim'15 [binders]?16 — 'No'am' refers to the scholars of Palestine, who treat each other graciously [man'imim] when engaged in halachic debates; 'hoblim', to the scholars of Babylon, who injure each other's feelings [mehablim] when discussing halachah.17
[It is written]: Then said he, These are the two anointed ones etc.18 [This is preceded by:] And two olive trees by it.19 R. Isaac said: 'yizhar' designates the scholars of Palestine, who are affable to each other when engaged in halachic debates, like olive oil [which is soothing]; [whilst] and two olive trees stand by it, symbolise the scholars of Babylon, who are as bitter to each other in halachic discussions as olive trees.20
Then lifted I up mine eyes and saw, and behold there came forth two women and the wind was in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork. And they lifted up the measure between the earth and the heaven. Then said I to the angel that spoke with me, 'Whither do these bear the measure?' And he said unto me, 'To build her a house in the land of Shinar.'21 R. Johanan said on the authority of R. Simeon b. Johai: These [the 'two women'] symbolise hypocrisy and arrogance, which made their home22 in Babylon. But was Babylon really the home of haughtiness; did not the master say, Ten kabs23 of arrogance came down into the world, of which Elam24 took nine and the rest of the world one? — Yes, originally it descended to Babylon, but it travelled to Elam. This can also be inferred from the phrase, to build her25 a house in the land of Shinar. This proves it.
But a Master said that the symptom of pride is poverty, and did not poverty descend upon Babylon? — By 'poverty',26 the dearth of learning27 is meant, for it is written, We have a little sister and she has no breasts;28 whereon R. Johanan observed: This is a symbol of Elam, which was privileged to study, but not to teach.29
MISHNAH. IF ONE [OF THE CONTENDING PARTIES] SAYS TO THE OTHER: I ACCEPT MY FATHER OR THY FATHER AS TRUSTWORTHY,34 OR, I HAVE CONFIDENCE IN THREE COWHERDS,35 R. MEIR SAYS, HE MAY [SUBSEQUENTLY] RETRACT; BUT THE SAGES RULE, HE CANNOT. IF A MAN WAS UNDER THE OBLIGATION OF AN OATH TO HIS NEIGHBOUR, AND THE LATTER SAID TO HIM 'VOW TO ME BY THE LIFE OF THY HEAD,'36 R. MEIR HOLDS, HE MAY RETRACT; BUT THE SAGES MAINTAIN, HE CANNOT.37
GEMARA. R. Dimi the son of R. Nahman the son of R. Joseph said: [The Mishnah refers to a case] e.g., where he [the litigant] accepted him [sc. one of those mentioned] as one [of the three judges required].38
Rab Judah said in Samuel's name: The controversy [of R. Meir and the Rabbis39 over a case] is only [where the plaintiff says]: 'My claim against thee be remitted' [if the judges so decide]; but [if the defendant says], 'I will pay thy claim' [should it be so decided], all [even the Rabbis] agree that he may retract.40 R. Johanan said: They differ over the latter case.
The scholars propounded [the following problem]: [Does R. Johanan mean that] they differ only over the latter case, but that in the former, all [even R. Meir] agree that he cannot retract; or does he hold that they differ with respect to both cases? — Come and hear! For Raba said: They differ [only] in respect of, 'I will pay thee;' but in the case of, 'It be remitted to thee,' all [even R. Meir] agree that he cannot retract. Now, if you say [that R. Johanan maintains], Their difference is only in the case of, 'I will pay thee'; but in the case of, 'It be remitted to thee,' all agree that he cannot retract, it is correct: then Raba's opinion coincides with that of R. Johanan. But should you say, their dispute applies to both, with whom does Raba agree?41 — Raba [on the latter hypotheses] states an independent view.42
R. Aha b. Tahlifa objected to Raba's view: IF ONE WAS UNDER THE OBLIGATION OF AN OATH TO HIS NEIGHBOUR, AND THE LATTER SAID TO HIM, 'VOW TO ME BY THE LIFE OF THY HEAD;' R. MEIR HOLDS HE MAY RETRACT; BUT THE SAGES MAINTAIN, HE CANNOT.
1 and hence is analogous to, 'It be remitted thee'?2 — No; this refers to those who swear and receive their claim,3 so that it is analogous to 'I will pay thee'.
But if so, has this not already been taught in the first clause [of the Mishnah]?4 — It [the Mishnah] teaches the case where he [sc. the defendant] makes the irregular procedure depend on the judgment of others,5 and also where he makes it depend on his [sc. the plaintiff's] action. And both are necessary. For had it taught only the case where he [the defendant] makes it depend on the judgment of others, [we might have assumed that] in this case alone does R. Meir hold that he can retract since he might not definitely have decided to abide by their decision, but [inwardly] argued, 'Who can say that they will give judgment in the other's favour?' Whereas, if he makes it depend on his [sc. the plaintiff's] action, I might think that he [R. Meir] agrees with the Rabbis [that he cannot retract].6 Again, had he [the Tanna] stated the latter case alone, we might have assumed, only there do the Rabbis rule thus; but in the former case, we might think7 that they agree with R. Meir. Hence both are necessary.
Resh Lakish said: The dispute [between R. Meir and the Rabbis] is [over a case where the litigant retracts] before the rendering of the legal decision:8 but once the decision has been given, all [even R. Meir] agree that he cannot retract. While R. Johanan said: They differ [where one retracts] after the decision is rendered.
The scholars propounded [the following problem:] [Does this mean that] the dispute is [only where the litigant retracts] after the promulgation of the decision; but before, all [even the Rabbis] agree that he can retract; or do they differ in both instances? — Come and hear! For Raba said: If one accepted a kinsman or a man [otherwise] ineligible [as judge or witness], he may retract before the promulgation of the decision; but not after. Now, if you understand [R. Johanan to mean] that the dispute refers only to the time after the decision; but that prior thereto, all agree that he may retract, it is correct: then Raba's statement agrees with R. Johanan's, and is based on the view of the Rabbis. But should you say, The controversy holds good in both cases, who is Raba's authority?9 Hence it surely follows that the dispute arises only after the decision has been given. This proves it.
R. Nahman son of R. Hisda10 sent a question to R. Nahman b. Jacob: Will our Master please inform us, Is the dispute before or after the verdict, and with whom does the halachah rest? — He sent back word: The dispute arises after the promulgation of the decision, and the halachah agrees with the Sages. R. Ashi said: This was the question he sent: — Do they differ in the case of 'I will pay thee,' or in respect to 'It be remitted to thee', and with whom does the halachah rest? To which he replied: The dispute refers to, 'I will pay thee;' and the halachah rests with the Sages. Thus they taught in Sura. But in Pumbeditha they taught as follows: R. Hanina b. Shelamiah said: A message was sent from the school of Rab11 to Samuel, saying: Will our Master please inform us, [If one of the parties pledged himself] by Kinyan12 [not to retract], what [if he seeks to retract] before the promulgation of the decision? — He returned word, saying: After Kinyan, nothing [can be done to repudiate the transaction].
MISHNAH. AND THESE ARE INELIGIBLE [TO BE WITNESSES OR JUDGES]: A GAMBLER WITH DICE,13 A USURER, A PIGEON-TRAINER,14 AND TRADERS [IN THE PRODUCE] OF THE SABBATICAL YEAR.15 R. SIMEON SAID: AT FIRST THEY CALLED THEM 'GATHERERS OF [THE PRODUCE OF] THE SABBATICAL YEAR.' BUT WHEN THE OPPRESSORS16 GREW IN NUMBER, THEY CHANGED THEIR NAME TO TRADERS IN THE SABBATICAL PRODUCE.'17 R. JUDAH SAID: WHEN IS THIS SO? — IF THEY HAVE NO OTHER OCCUPATION BUT THIS. BUT IF THEY HAVE OTHER MEANS OF LIVELIHOOD, THEY ARE ELIGIBLE.
R. Shesheth said: Such cases do not come under the category of Asmakta;20 but the reason is that they [sc. dice players] are not concerned with the general welfare.21 Wherein do they differ? — If he [the gambler] acquired another trade.22 We learnt:23 R. JUDAH SAID: WHEN IS THIS SO? — IF THEY HAVE NO OTHER OCCUPATION BUT THIS. BUT IF THEY HAVE OTHER MEANS OF LIVELIHOOD, THEY ARE ELIGIBLE. This proves that the ruling of the Mishnah is for the sake of the welfare, of humanity, which refutes Rami b. Hama.24 And should you answer, The Rabbis dispute R. Judah's opinion:25 did not R. Joshua b. Levi say, Wherever R. Judah observes,
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