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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Shabbath

Folio 33a

who eat without working). And it is [further] written, I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: the multitude of your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees hath the palmerworm devoured.1  and it is also written, That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten;2  and it is written, And one shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry, and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied; they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm.3  Read not, the flesh of his own arm [zero'o], but, the flesh of his own seed [zar'o].

As a punishment for delay of judgment,4  perversion of judgment,5  spoiling of judgment,6  and neglect of Torah, sword and spoil increase, pestilence and famine come, people eat and are not satisfied, and eat their bread by weight, for it is written, and I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute the vengeance of the covenant:7  now 'covenant' means nothing else but Torah, as it is written, But for my covenant of day and night [I had not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth];8  and it is written, When I break your staff of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall deliver your bread again by weight;9  and it is written, because, even because they rejected my judgments.10

For the crime of vain oaths, false oaths,11  profanation of the Divine Name,12  and the desecration of the Sabbath, wild beasts multiply, [domestic] animals cease, the population decreases, and the roads become desolate, for it is said, And if by these things [be-eleh] ye will not be reformed unto me;13  read not be-eleh but be-alah;14  and it is written, and I will send the beast of the field among you, etc.15  Now, in respect to false oaths it is written, And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, so that you profane [we-hillalta] the name of thy God;16  and of the profanation of the Name it is written, and that they profane not [ye-hallelu] my holy name;17  and of the profanation of the Sabbath it is written, every one that profaneth it [mehallelehah] shall surely be put to death:18  and [the punishment for] profanation is learnt19  from a false oath.20

Through the crime of bloodshed the Temple was destroyed and the Shechinah departed from Israel, as it is written, So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are; for blood, it polluteth the land … And thou shalt not defile the land which ye inhabit, in the midst of which I dwell.-21 hence, if ye do defile it, ye will not inhabit it and I will not dwell in its midst.22

As a punishment for incest,23  idolatry, and non-observance of the years of release and jubilee24  exile comes to the world, they [the Jews] are exiled, and others come and dwell in their place, for it is said, for all these abominations have the men of the land done, etc.;25  and it is written, and the land is defiled, — therefore do I visit the in iniquity thereof upon it;26  and it is written, that the land vomit not you out also, when ye defile it.27  Again, with respect to idolatry it is written, and I will cast your carcases [upon the carcases of your idols];28  and it is written, And I will make your cities a waste, and will bring your sanctuaries into desolation etc....29  and you will I scatter among the nations.30  Further, in reference to release and jubilee years it is written, Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies' land, etc.;31  and it is written, As long as it lieth desolate it shall have rest.32

As a punishment for obscenity,33  troubles multiply, cruel decrees are proclaimed afresh, the youth of Israel's enemies34  die, and the fatherless and widows cry out and are not answered; for it is said, Therefore shall the Lord not rejoice over the young men, neither shall he have compassion over their fatherless and their widows: for every one is profane and an evil-doer, and every mouth speaketh folly. For all is his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.35  What is meant by, 'but his hand is stretched out still'? — Said R. Hanan b. Rabbah: All know for what purpose a bride enters the bridal canopy, yet against whomsoever who speaks obscenely [thereof], even if a sentence of seventy years' happiness had been sealed for him,36  it is reversed for evil.

Rabbah b. Shila said in R. Hisda's name: He who puts his mouth to folly,37  Gehenna is made deep for him, as it is said, A deep pit is for the mouth [that speaketh] perversity.38  R. Nahman b. Isaac said, Also [for] one who hears and is silent,39  for it is said, he that is abhorred of the Lord40  shall fall therein.41

R. Oshaia said: He who devotes himself42  to sin, wounds and bruises break out over him, as it is said, Stripes and wounds are for him that devoteth himself to evil.43  Moreover, he is punished by dropsy, for it is said, and strokes reach the innermost parts of the belly.44  R. Nahman b. Isaac said: Dropsy is a sign of sin.

Our Rabbis taught: There are three kinds of dropsy: that [which is a punishment] of sin is thick; that caused by hunger is swollen; and what is caused by magic is thin.45  Samuel the Little46  suffered through it. 'Sovereign of the Universe!' he cried out, who will cast lots?'47  [Thereupon] he recovered. Abaye suffered from it. Said Raba, I know of Nahmani48  that he practises hunger.49  Raba suffered from it. But was it not Raba himself who said, More numerous are those slain by delayed calls of nature50  than the victims51  of starvation?52 — Raba was different, because the scholars compelled him [to practise restraint] at the set times [for lectures].

Our Rabbis taught: There are four signs: — [i] Dropsy is a sign of sin; [ii] jaundice is a sign of causeless hatred; [iii] poverty is a sign of conceit;53  croup54  is a sign of slander.55

Our Rabbis taught: Croup comes to the world

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Prov. XXXI, 9.
  2. Joel I, 4.
  3. Isa. IX, 19.
  4. Lit., 'affliction of judgment'-through unnecessary delay in executing judgment.
  5. Intentionally, through bias or partiality.
  6. Giving erroneous verdicts through carelessness and insufficient deliberation; cf. Aboth, I, 2.
  7. Lev. XXVI, 25.
  8. Jer. XXXIII, 25. 'The covenant of day and night' is understood to refer to the Torah, which should be studied day and night; v. Ned. 32.
  9. Ibid. XXVI, 26.
  10. Ibid. 43.
  11. Rashi: the first is swearing what is obviously untrue; the second is an ordinary false oath which can deceive. Cf. Aboth, Sonc. ed., p. 47, n. 11.
  12. Any unworthy action which reflects discredit upon Judaism since Judaism is blamed for it'-is regarded as profanation of the Divine Name. Cf. Aboth, V, 9, and IV, 4.
  13. Ibid. 23.
  14. the consonants are the same. The verse then reads: and if ye will not be reformed unto me in the matter of (false) oaths.
  15. Lev. XXVI, 22.
  16. Ibid. XIX, 12.
  17. Ibid. XXII, 2.
  18. Ex. XXXI, 14.
  19. Lit., 'and profanation, profanation is learnt'. I.e., the statement made in respect to one profanation holds good for the others too.
  20. just as this is punished by the sending of wild beasts, etc. (Lev. XXVI, 22), so are the others.
  21. Num. XXXV, 33f.
  22. It may be remarked that the destruction of the Temple is regarded here as synonymous with exile from the country.
  23. Which includes adultery.
  24. V. Lev. XXV, 1ff.
  25. Ibid. XVIII, 27; 'abominations' refers to incest, of which the whole passage treats.
  26. ibid. 25.
  27. Ibid. 28.
  28. Ibid. XXVI, 30.
  29. Ibid. 31.
  30. Ibid. 33.
  31. Lev. XXVI, 34.
  32. Ibid. 35.
  33. Lit., 'folly of the mouth'.
  34. A euphemism for the youth of Israel. It was held inauspicious even merely to express a possible mishap, on the score of 'open not thy mouth to Satan'.
  35. Isa. IX, 16.
  36. This derives from the idea that there is a book of Life, in which man's destiny is recorded; cf. Ned., Sonc. ed., p. 62, n. 7.
  37. Speaks lewdly.
  38. Prov. XXII, 14. Lit., 'strange (things)'.-Gehenna, as an equivalent of hell, takes its name from the place where children were once sacrificed to Moloch, viz., ge ben hinnom, the valley of the son of Hinnom, to the south of Jerusalem. (Josh. XV, 8; II Kings XXIII, 10; Jer. II, 23; VII, 31-32; XIX, 6).
  39. Does not protest.
  40. Viz., who hears it without protesting.
  41. Prov.XXII, 14.
  42. Either: makes himself empty from all other purposes; or, polishes himself up, i.e., prepares himself.
  43. Ibid. XX, 30.
  44. Ibid.
  45. Jewish magic is mentioned in Deut. XVIII, 10-11, in a passage forbidding its practice. But its potency was generally recognized. V. J.E. Arts, 'Magic', and 'Demonology'.
  46. A Tanna, contemporary of R. Gamaliel I.
  47. To see from what cause I am suffering-I will be accused of sin.
  48. A nickname of Abaye, who was brought up in the house of Rabbah b. Nahmani.
  49. This may indicate that Abaye was an ascetic. Judaism generally was opposed to asceticism (cf. Ned. 10a: he who deprives himself of what he may legitimately enjoy is called a sinner); nevertheless, in times of stress or for particular reasons Rabbis resorted to fasting (B.M. 85a), and private fasts were practised from early times: Judith VIII, 6; 1 Macc. III, 47.
  50. Lit.,'pot'.
  51. Lit.,'swollen'.
  52. Now, Raba evidently disapproved of Abaye's fasting; also, he himself warned against trifling with nature's calls. How then did he come to dropsy — sin being ruled out? — Presumably its symptoms precluded the assumption that he was a victim of witchcraft.
  53. In Kid. 49b it is explained that this refers to poverty of knowledge, which results when one is too conceited to learn from others.
  54. [H], or perhaps 'Diphtheria'.
  55. Each is the punishment for the other.

Shabbath 33b

on account of [neglect of] tithes.1  R. Eleazar b. R. Jose said: On account of slander. Said Raba-others maintain, R. Joshua b. Levi-what verse [teaches this]? But the king shall rejoice in God: Everyone that sweareth by him shall glory; For the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped [yissaker].2

The scholars propounded: Does R. Eleazar son of R. Jose say, [Only] on account of slander, or perhaps on account of slander too? — Come and hear: For when our Rabbis entered the 'vineyard' in Yabneh,3  R. Judah, R. Eleazar son of R. Jose and R. Simeon were present, and this question was raised before them: why does this affliction commence in the bowels and end in the throat? Thereupon R. Judah son of R. Ila'i, the first speaker on all occasions4  answered and said: Though the kidneys counsel, the heart gives understanding,5  and the tongue gives form,6  yet the mouth completes it. R. Eleazar son of R. Jose answered: Because they eat unclean food therewith. 'Unclean food!' can you think so?7  Rather [say] because they eat unfit food.8  R. Simeon answered and said, As a punishment for the neglect of study.9  Said they to him. Let women prove it!10 — That is because they restrain their husbands [from study]. Let Gentiles prove it!11 — That is because they restrain Israel. Let children prove it! — That is because they make their fathers to neglect [study].12  Then let school-children prove it!-There it is as R. Gorion. For R. Gorion-others state, R. Joseph son of R. Shemaiah-said: When there are righteous men in the generation, the righteous are seized [by death] for the [sins of the] generation; when there are no righteous in a generation, school-children are seized for the generation.13  R. Isaac b. Ze'iri others state, R. Simeon b. Neizra-said: Which verse [teaches this]? If thou know not, O thou, fairest among women, Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, etc.,14  and we interpret this as [referring to] the goats which are taken in pledge for the [debts of the] shepherds. Thus this proves that he said on account of slander too. This proves it.

Now, why is he [R. Judah son of R. Ila'i] called the first speaker on all occasions? — For R. Judah, R. Jose, and R. Simeon were sitting, and Judah, a son of proselytes, was sitting near them. R. Judah commenced [the discussion] by observing, 'How fine are the works of this people!15  They have made streets, they have built bridges, they have erected baths.' R. Jose was silent. R. Simeon b. Yohai answered and said, 'All that they made they made for themselves; they built market-places, to set harlots in them; baths, to rejuvenate themselves; bridges, to levy tolls for them.' Now, Judah the son of proselytes went and related their talk,16  which reached17  the government. They decreed: Judah, who exalted [us], shall be exalted,18  Jose, who was silent, shall be exiled to Sepphoris;19  Simeon, who censured, let him be executed.

He and his son went and hid themselves in the Beth Hamidrash, [and] his wife brought him bread and a mug of water and they dined.20  [But] when the decree became more severe he said to his son, Women are of unstable temperament: she21  may be put to the torture and expose us.'22  So they went and hid in a cave. A miracle occurred and a carob-tree and a water well were created for them. They would strip their garments and sit up to their necks in sand. The whole day they studied; when it was time for prayers they robed, covered themselves, prayed, and then put off their garments again, so that they should not wear out. Thus they dwelt twelve years in the cave.23  Then Elijah came and stood at the entrance to the cave and exclaimed, Who will inform the son of Yohai that the emperor is dead and his decree annulled?24  So they emerged. Seeing a man ploughing and sowing, they exclaimed, 'They forsake life eternal and engage in life temporal!' Whatever they cast their eyes upon was immediately burnt up. Thereupon a Heavenly Echo came forth and cried out, 'Have ye emerged to destroy My world: Return to your cave!'25  So they returned and dwelt there twelve months, saying, 'The punishment26  of the wicked in Gehenna is [limited to] twelve months.'27  A Heavenly Echo then came forth and said, 'Go forth from your cave!' Thus.'; they issued: wherever R. Eleazar wounded,28  R. Simeon healed. Said he to him, 'My son! You and I are sufficient for the world.'29  On the eve of the Sabbath before sunset they saw an old man holding two bundles of myrtle and running at twilight. What are these for?' they asked him. 'They are in honour of the Sabbath,' he replied.30  'But one should suffice you'? — One is for 'Remember-' and one for 'Observe.'31  Said he to his son, 'See how precious are the commandments to Israel.' Thereat their minds were tranquilized.

R. Phinchas b. Ya'ir his son-in-law heard [thereof] and went out to meet him. He took him into the baths and massaged32  his flesh. Seeing the clefts in his body33  he wept and the tears streamed from his eyes. 'Woe to me that I see you in such a state!' he cried out. 'Happy are you that you see me thus,' he retorted, 'for if you did not see me in such a state you would not find me thus [learned].34  For originally, when R. Simeon b. Yohai raised a difficulty, R. Phinehas b. Ya'ir would give him thirteen answers, whereas subsequently when R. Phinehas b. Ya'ir raised a difficulty, R. Simeon b. Yohai would give him twenty-four answers.

Since a miracle has occurred, said he, let me go and amend something, for it is written, and Jacob came whole35  [to the city of Shechem],36  which Rab interpreted. Bodily whole [sound], financially whole, and whole in his learning. And he was gracious to the city.,37  Rab said: He instituted coinage for them.38  Samuel said: He instituted markets for them; R. Johanan said: He instituted baths for them. Is there ought that requires amending? he39  asked. There is a place of doubtful uncleanness,40  he was informed,

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Rashi: one who eats untithed food (tebel) is liable to death by a divine visitation, which takes the form of croup. Having sinned through his throat (eating), he is punished through his throat.
  2. Ps. LXIII, 12. Yissaker is connected here with askera, croup.
  3. The famous town north west of Jerusalem, the seat of the Sanhedrin and R. Johanan b. Zakkai's academy after the destruction of the Temple. Sittings were held in a 'vineyard', i.e., members sat in rows similar to vines in a vineyard.
  4. The reason is given below, p. 56.
  5. 'Counsel' and 'understanding' were ascribed to these two organs respectively. Rashi in Ber. 61a s.v. [H] quotes: Ps. XVI, 7: Yea, my kidney (E.V. reins) admonish me in the night seasons, and Isa. VI, 10: and he understands with his heart.
  6. To the words. Lit., 'cuts'.
  7. That does not merit so heavy a punishment, particularly as only terumah and sacred food are forbidden when defiled.
  8. I.e., untithed.
  9. Which is likewise performed with the mouth.
  10. Who are not bidden to study (Kid. 29b), and yet suffer from croup. (cf. Sot. III, 4).
  11. Who are not bidden to study the Torah, and are yet subject to it.
  12. By childish demands on their time; — a harsh doctrine, but it is abandoned.
  13. This is not to be confused with the doctrine of vicarious atonement, which is rejected by Judaism.
  14. Cant. I, 8. The Midrash and the Targum interpret the whole of this poem as a dialogue between God and Israel, This verse is explained: If you do not understand how to keep God's commandments, go and learn them for the sake of the flocks, sc. your children, who otherwise may die on your account.
  15. The Romans.
  16. Rashi: to his parents, without evil intent.
  17. Lit., 'and they were heard by'.
  18. With the privilege of being the first to speak on all occasions.
  19. In Upper Galilee.
  20. Lit., 'they wrapped (bread)'; a term derived from the custom of eating bread with a relish wrapped in it.
  21. His wife.
  22. The context shows that he was not censuring women for constitutional instability, but feared their weakness.
  23. Notwithstanding its miraculous elements this story is substantially true. R. Simeon b. Yohai was persecuted very much by the Roman authorities; this explains his anti-Gentile (i.e., Roman) utterances, which are not illustrative of the Talmud as a whole.
  24. Elijah the Prophet was believed to appear frequently to men; cf, supra 13b.
  25. This story is a protest against super piety and an assertion that practical work is necessary for the world. Their return to the cave is thus depicted as a punishment, not a meritorious deed.
  26. Lit., 'judgment'.
  27. On 'Gehenna' v. p. 153, n. 8. Judaism rejects on the whole the idea of eternal punishment, for punishment is regenerative, not vindictive, and therefore must terminate; v. M. Joseph, Judaism as Creed and Life, p. 145.
  28. With a glance of his eyes.
  29. Not to be taken literally.
  30. Their fragrance is to beautify the Sabbath and lend cheer to it.-Contrary to the opinion of many, the Sabbath, in spite of its prohibitions, is and has been 'a day of delight' and spiritual nourishment to millions of observant Jews, not a day of gloom; v. Shechter, Studies in Judaism, p. 296.
  31. Ex. XX, 8. Remember the Sabbath day; Deut. V, 12: Observe the Sabbath day.
  32. Lit., 'dressed'.
  33. Caused by the sand,
  34. He felt that all his sufferings were compensated for by the knowledge he had gained. R. Simeon b. Yohai was one of the few Rabbis who devoted himself entirely to learning, 'his study being his profession' (supra 11a) not interrupting it even for prayer.
  35. E. V. 'in peace'.
  36. Gen. XXXIII, 18.
  37. Ibid.; Wa-yihan is thus derived from hanan, to be gracious. E.V.: and he encamped before the city.
  38. In place of barter.
  39. R. Simeon b. Yohai.
  40. A grave or human bones having been lost there.