Previous Folio / Sanhedrin Directory / Tractate List / Navigate Site

Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin

Folio 4a

but the Rabbis [who hold that only three are needed] adopt the written form yarshi'un.1

R. Isaac b. Joseph2  said in the name of R. Johanan: Rabbi and R. Judah b. Ro'ez, the Shammaites. R. Simeon and R. Akiba, all hold that Mikra3  is determinant in Biblical exposition.

Rabbi's opinion is reflected in what has been said; that he reads yarshi'un.

The opinion of R. Judah b. Ro'ez is given in the following: For it has been taught: The disciples of R. Judah b. Ro'ez asked him: Why not read shibe'im [seventy] instead of shebu'ayim [two weeks]4  [extending the period of uncleanliness to seventy days]? He answered: The law has fixed the period of purity and impurity in the case of a male child and it has fixed the period of purity and impurity in case of a female child. Just as the period of purification after the birth of a female child is double that after the birth of a male child, so must the period of uncleanness after the birth of a female child be no more than double that after the birth of a male child [which is only seven days]. After they left him he sought them out again and said 'You have no need of that explanation since Mikra is determinant, and we read shebu'ayim [two weeks].

The opinion of the Shammaites is advanced in the following [Mishnah]: For we learned:5  Beth Shammai said: If the blood of sacrifices that is to be sprinkled on the outer altar was applied only once,6  the offering is valid, as it is said, the blood of thy sacrifice shall be poured out7  [denoting one application]. In the case of a sin offering, however, they hold that two applications are required; but the Hillelites hold that in the case of a sin offering also a single sprinkling effects atonement. And R. Huna said: What is the Shammaites' reason for their opinion? — It is that the plural 'karnoth' [horns of the altar] occurs three times in this context8  denoting six, and so implying that four sprinklings are prescribed in the first instance, but that two are indispensable. But the Hillelites argue that since 'karnoth'9 is twice written defectively, and can be read 'karnath'10 [singular], only four sprinklings are implied, three being prescribed in the first instance, and that only one is indispensable. But why not argue that all the four are merely prescribed without a single one being indispensable? — We do not find an act of expiation effected without an accompanying rite.

R. Simeon's opinion is expressed in the following [Baraitha]: It has been taught:11  A Sukkah12  needs at least two walls of the prescribed dimensions and a third of the width of at least a hand-breadth. R. Simeon says; Three complete walls and the fourth the width of a hand-breadth. What is really their point of dispute? — The Rabbis13  hold that Masorah14  is determinant in Biblical exegesis, while R. Simeon holds that Mikra is determinant. The Rabbis, taking the former view, argue that as the word 'bassukoth' which occurs three times15  is written once plene [in the plural] and twice defectively16  making in all four references. So, subtracting one as required for the command itself, there are three left. Next comes the Sinaitic Halachah17  and diminishes the third and fixes it at a hand-breadth. But R. Simeon is of the opinion that Mikra is determinant and thus all the three bassukkoth are to be read in the plural, making a total of six. One of these is required for the command itself, leaving four, and the fourth is diminished in virtue of the Sinaitic Halachah, to a handbreadth.

As to R. Akiba's opinion — it has been taught:18  R. Akiba said: Whence is it deduced that a fourth of a log19  of blood which issues front two corpses carries uncleanness according to the law relating to the pollution of tents.20  It is said: He shall not go in unto any dead body.21  [The plural nafshoth translated 'body' indicates that] even from two bodies a single [vital] quantity suffices to carry uncleanness; but the Rabbis argue that it is written nafshath [singular], [denoting that a vital quantity can defile only if it issues from one corpse].

R. Aha b. Jacob questioned this statement of R. Isaac b. Joseph — Is there no one [apart from those above mentioned] who does not accept the Mikra as determinant? Has it not been taught: Thou shalt not seethe a kid in the milk of [bahaleb]22 its mother23  in which verse you might read beheleb24  [in the fat of]?

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. [The singular form, cf. the Arabic ending in an, and the subject Elohim is taken throughout as singular.]
  2. Var. lec.: R. Jose.
  3. [Lit. 'Mikra has a mother,' or' these is preference to Mikra (Halper. B., ZAW. XXX, p. 100), i.e. the reading of the sacred text according to the Kere [H] the established vocalization has an authentic origin, hence well-founded, as distinct from the 'Masorah the Kethib, [H] the traditional text of consonants without vowels.]
  4. In the verse: If she bear a female child, she shall be unclean etc. Lev. XII, 5.
  5. Zeb. 36b.
  6. Instead of two sprinklings constituting four at the two opposite angles of the altar.
  7. Deut. XII, 27.
  8. Lev. IV, 25, 30, 34.
  9. Following the Mikra.
  10. [H] instead of [H] cf. the feminine ending at.
  11. Suk. 6b.
  12. A booth, erected for the Festival of Booths. v. Glos.
  13. The representatives of the anonymous opinion quoted first.
  14. V. p. 10, n. 4.
  15. In connection with the command of Festival of Booths.
  16. [H] and [H] Lev. XXIII, 42-43.
  17. The traditional interpretation of the Law traceable to Sinai, see Hoffmann, Die Erste Mischna, p. 3.
  18. Hul. 72a.
  19. A liquid measure, about two-thirds of a pint.
  20. Num. XIX, 14.
  21. Lev. XXI, 11; Lit., 'souls of the dead', the soul denoting blood, as the life-force, cf. Deut. XII, 23., and the loss of a quarter of a log is regarded as the loss of vital blood.
  22. [H]
  23. Ex. XXIII, 19.
  24. [H]

Sanhedrin 4b

Say: this is unacceptable, as Mikra is determinant?1  — Hence all agree that Mikra is determinant, but Rabbi and the Rabbis2  differ in the following: Rabbi holds that the plural yarshi'un3  refers to two judges [elohim] other than those prescribed in the previous verse;4  while the Rabbis maintain that it refers to elohim here [its own subject] and to that in the previous clause.5

As to R. Judah b. Ro'ez, the Rabbis do not oppose him.6

As for the Hillelites, they derive their ruling7  from the following: For it has been taught: wekipper8  has to be repeated three times [in connection with the sin offering]9  to indicate that even one application is adequate, contrary to an analogy which might otherwise be advanced in favour of the need of four applications. But could we not have deduced this by [the following] analogy? The use of blood is mentioned [for application] above the line;10  and the use of blood is mentioned [for application] below the line.11  Just as in the case of the blood to be applied below the line, one application effects atonement,12  so should it be with the blood to be applied above the line.

But you may argue this way: Sprinkling is prescribed for sacrifices offered on the outer altar13  and also for those offered on the inner altar.14  As in the case of those offered on the inner altar, expiation is not effected if one application has been omitted, so should it be with sacrifices offered on the outer altar!

Let us, however, see to which it is to be compared. Comparisons may be made between sacrifices offered on [the same] the outer altar, but not between sacrifices offered on the outer and inner altars.15

But may you not, on the other hand, argue in this way? We can compare sin offerings, the blood of which is applied on the four horns of the altar,16  to other sin offerings, the blood of which is applied on the four horns,17  but no proof can be deduced from such a sacrifice as is neither a sin offering nor has the blood sprinkled on the four horns of the altar!18  Hence on account of this latter analogy, Wekipper has to be repeated three times, to indicate that atonement is effected by means of three sprinklings, or even by means of two, or indeed even by means of one alone.

Now as to R. Simeon and the Rabbis, their real point of difference is the following: R. Simeon holds that a cover for a Sukkah needs no textual basis,19  while the Rabbis maintain that a special textual basis is necessary for a cover.20

R. Akiba and the Rabbis again disagree on the following point: According to the former, nafshoth denotes two bodies,21  while the Rabbis say that nafshoth is a general term for bodies.22

But do all, indeed, regard the Mikra as determinant? Has it not been taught: 'letotafoth [frontlets] occurs thrice in the Torah, twice defective and once plene,23  four in all, to indicate [that four sections are to be inserted in the phylacteries]. Such is the opinion of R. Ishmael. But R. Akiba maintains that there is no need of that interpretation, for the word totafoth itself implies four, [it being composed of] tot which means two in Katpi24  and foth which means two in Afriki?25  — Hence, in reality, it is disputable whether Mikra is always determinant in Biblical exegesis, but this is true only of cases where Mikra and Masorah differ in the spelling of a word.26  But where-as for example, in the case of the milk — the reading behaleb involves no change in the spelling,27  Mikra is determinant. But does not the text, Three times in the year all thy males shall appear [shall be seen] before the Lord28, occasion a dispute whether we shall follow the Mikra [yera'eh]29 or read yir'eh30  according to Masorah?31  For it has been taught: R. Johanan b. Dahabai said on behalf of R. Judah b. Tema: One who is blind in one eye is exempted from visiting the Temple, for we read YR'H32  which according to Mikra means he shall be seen and according to Masorah, he shall see. That is to say, as He comes to see the worshipper, so should man come to be seen by Him; as He [the Lord] comes to see [so to speak] with both eyes.33  so should he, who comes to be seen by Him, come with both eyes!34  Hence, says R. Aha, the son of R. Ika: The scriptural text says. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother's milk. It is seething, as a method of cooking, that the law forbids.35

Our Rabbis taught: Monetary cases are decided by three;

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. And this is disputed by no one, as otherwise there would be no foundation for the prohibition.
  2. V. p. 9.
  3. Whom the judges shall condemn. Ex XXII, 8.
  4. Ex. XXII, 7, and that accounts for his view that five judges are required.
  5. Elohim in each case being taken as plural of majesty and so no additional judges are implied.
  6. V. p. 10.
  7. That one application of blood suffices in a sin offering.
  8. [H] he shall make an atonement.
  9. Lev. IV, 26, 31, 35.
  10. I.e., the red line which marked the middle of the altar's height. The blood of sin offerings was applied above the line.
  11. I.e., the blood of burnt, trespass, and peace offerings, v. Zeb. 53a, Mid. III, 1.
  12. Deduced from Deut. XII, 27. The blood of thy sacrifices shall be poured out, v. Zeb. 37a.
  13. All sacrifices, except those of the Day of Atonement, the offering prescribed for the anointed Priest and the community's sacrifice on having erred (Lev. IV, 13) were offered on this, the brazen altar.
  14. V. n. 4.
  15. As for example between the sin offering of the anointed Priest and these sin offerings in connection with which wekipper is mentioned.
  16. The offerings in regard to which wekipper occurs.
  17. Such as that of the anointed Priest.
  18. Such as the burnt (v. Lev. III, 1-11), the trespass and peace offerings. V. p. II.
  19. The term sukkah ([H] 'to cover') itself denotes a cover, and all the references are thus employed for the walls of the sukkah to indicate that three complete walls and one diminished are needed.
  20. V. p. 11.
  21. So that one quantity of blood pollutes even if it issues from two corpses.
  22. And does not indicate any definite number.
  23. [H] (defective) (a) Deut. VI, 8. (b) ib. XI, 18; [H] (plene) Ex. XIII, 16. (Rashi) v. Tosaf. Zeb. 25a; Men. 34b. In our versions, the defective form occurs only once: Deut. VI, 8.
  24. Coptic language? [V. Neubauer, p. 418]
  25. The language of N. Africa or Phrygia in Asia Minor.
  26. As, for example, in the following words: 'totafoth', 'bassukkoth', 'karnoth', in each case of which the Mikra implies an extra letter.
  27. [H] might be read [H] (fat) or [H] from [H] (milk).
  28. Ex. XXIII, 17.
  29. [H] 'shall be seen.'
  30. [H] 'he shall see.'
  31. Although the spelling in both readings is the same.
  32. [H]
  33. Cf. Deut. XI, 12.
  34. Hence we see that the authority of Mikra is a moot point in every case, and if so, what is the definite basis for the prohibition relating to meat and milk?
  35. Seething is a term applicable only to a liquid, such as milk, and not to fat which would require such a word as roasting. Therefore we must read behaleb, (in the milk of) according to Mikra.