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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Shabbath

Folio 88a

in that of the Rabbis', eight months were declared defective.1

Come and hear: For it was taught in the Seder 'Olam:2  As to the Nisan in which the Israelites departed from Egypt, on the fourteenth they slaughtered their Passover sacrifices, on the fifteenth they went out, and that day was the Sabbath eve. Now, since the first of Nisan was the Sabbath eve, the first of Iyar was on a Sunday, and [the first of] Siwan on a Monday. This is a difficulty according to R. Jose? — R. Jose answers you: This agrees with the Rabbis.

Come and hear: R. Jose said: On the second day Moses ascended and descended;3  on the third he ascended and descended;4  on the fourth he descended and ascended no more.5  But since he did not go up,6  whence did he descend? — Rather [say,] on the fourth he ascended and descended; on the fifth he built an altar and offered a sacrifice thereon; [but] on the sixth he had no time. Surely that was on account of [the giving of] the Torah?7  — No: it was on account of the preparations for8  the Sabbath.9

A certain Galilean lectured before R. Hisda:10  Blessed be the Merciful One who gave a three-fold Torah11  to a three-fold people12  through a third[-born]13  on the third day14  in the third month. With whom does this agree? With the Rabbis.15

And they stood under the mount:16  R. Abdimi b. Hama b. Hasa said: This teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He, overturned the mountain upon them like an [inverted] cask, and said to them,'If ye accept the Torah, 'tis well; if not, there shall be your burial.' R. Aha b. Jacob observed: This furnishes a strong protest against the Torah.17  Said Raba, Yet even so, they re-accepted it in the days of Ahasuerus, for it is written, [the Jews] confirmed, and took upon them [etc.]:18  [i.e.,] they confirmed what they had accepted long before. Hezekiah said: What is meant by, Thou didst cause sentence to be heard from Heaven; The earth feared, and was tranquil:19  if it feared, why was it tranquil, and if it was tranquil, why did it fear? But at first it feared, yet subsequently it was tranquil,20  And why did it fear? — Even in accordance with Resh Lakish. For Resh Lakish said: Why is it written, And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day;21  What is the purpose of the additional 'the'?22  This teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He, stipulated with the Works of Creation and said thereto. 'If Israel accepts the Torah, ye shall exist; but if not, I will turn you back into emptiness and formlessness.'23

R. Simla lectured: When the Israelites gave precedence to 'we will do' over 'we will hearken,'24  six hundred thousand ministering angels came and set two crowns upon each man of Israel, one as a reward for25  'we will do,' and the other as a reward for 'we will hearken'. But as soon as Israel sinned,26  one million two hundred thousand destroying angels descended and removed them, as it is said, And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments from mount Horeb.27  R. Hama son of R. Hanina said: At Horeb they put them on and at Horeb they put them off. At Horeb the put them on, as we have stated. At Horeb they put them off, for it is written, And [the children of Israel] stripped themselves, etc. R. Johanan observed: And Moses was privileged and received them all, for in proximity thereto it is stated, And Moses took the tent.28  Resh Lakish said: [Yet] the Holy One, blessed be He, will return them to us in the future, for it is said, and the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;29  the joy from of old30  shall be upon their heads.

R. Eleazar said: When the Israelites gave precedence to 'we will do' over 'we will hearken,' a Heavenly Voice went forth and exclaimed to them, Who revealed to My children this secret, which is employed by the Ministering Angels, as it is written, Bless the Lord, ye angels of his. Ye mighty in strength, that fulfil his word, That hearken unto the voice of his word:31  first they fulfil and then they hearken?

R. Hama son of R. Hanina said: What is meant by, As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, [So is my beloved among the sons]:32  why were the Israelites compared to an apple tree? To teach you: just as the fruit of the apple tree precedes its leaves,33  so did the Israelites give precedence to 'we will do' over 'we will hearken'.

There was a certain Sadducee who saw Raba34  engrossed in his studies while the finger[s] of his hand were under his feet, and he ground them down, so that his fingers spurted blood. 'Ye rash people,' he exclaimed, 'who gave precedence to your mouth over your ears: ye still persist in your rashness. First ye should have listened, if within your powers, accept; if not, ye should not have accepted.' Said he to him, 'We

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Hence the year consisted of three hundred and fifty-two days, And the first of Siwan fell on a Monday.
  2. The Seder 'Olam is the earliest extant post-exilic chronicle in Hebrew, and is a chronological record extending from Adam to Bar Kochba's revolt during the reign of Hadrian. Most scholars are agreed in assigning its authorship to R. Halafta, a Tanna of the first century, on the strength of a statement by R. Johanan in Yeb. 82b. V. J.E., art. Seder 'Olam Rabbah.
  3. Hearing, 'and ye shall be … a kingdom of priests' and telling it to the people.
  4. Being given the order to set boundaries.
  5. Until the Revelation.
  6. On the fourth.
  7. Which supports the Rabbis that the Torah wis given on the sixth of the month.
  8. Lit., 'trouble of'.
  9. The sixth of the month being Friday, the eve of the Sabbath.
  10. In the public lectures or sermons the scholar sat and whispered his statements to a speaker, who conveyed them to the people; this Galilean was probably R. Hisda's speaker (generally referred to as 'meturgeman').
  11. I.e., the Torah (Pentateuch), Prophets and Hagiographa.
  12. Israel consisting of Priests, Levites, and Israelites.
  13. Sc. Moses, born third after Miriam and Aaron.
  14. Of their separation from their wives.
  15. For according to R. Jose it was on the fourth day of their separation, Moses having added a day (supra 87a).
  16. Ex. XIX. 17. The translation is literal. E.V. nether part.
  17. It provides an excuse for non-observance, since it was forcibly imposed in the first place.
  18. Esth. IX, 27.
  19. Ps. LXXVI, 9.
  20. It feared lest Israel would reject the Torah, and became tranquil when israel accepted it.
  21. Gen. I, 31.
  22. In the case of the other days it is simply stated, a second day, a third day, etc., 'a' being altogether unexpressed in Hebrew.
  23. He thus translates homiletically: and the continuance of morning and evening was depended on the sixth day, sc. of Siwan, when israel was offered the Torah. The general idea is: Without law and order as exemplified by the Torah the world must lapse into chaos and anarchy.
  24. V. Ex. XXIV, 7. Thus they promised to obey God's commands even before hearing them.
  25. Lit., 'corresponding to'.
  26. Through the Golden Calf
  27. I.e., which they had received at Mount Horeb. Ibid. XXXIII, 6. E.V. from mount onwards'.
  28. Ibid. 7 — The reference is not clear. V. Rashi.
  29. Isa. XXXV, 10.
  30. The verse may be translated thus.
  31. Ps. CIII, 20.
  32. Cant. II, 3. The two lovers in this poem were regarded as God and Israel.
  33. Tosaf. observes this is untrue of the apple tree, which grows like all other trees; consequently refer this to the citron tree. As the citron remains on the tree from one year to the next, at which time the tree sheds its' leaves of the previous year, the fruit may be said to precede the leaves.
  34. There were no Sadducces in Raba's time, and the word is probably a censor's substitute for Gentile. In J.E. X, 633 bottom it is suggested that he was probably a Manichean. [MS.M: Min (v. Glos.)].

Shabbath 88b

who walked in integrity, of us it is written, The integrity of the upright shall guide them.1  But of others, who walked in perversity, it is written, but the perverseness of the treacherous shall destroy them.

R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in R. Jonathan's name. What is meant by, Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my bride: Thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes?2  In the beginning with one of thine eyes; when thou fulfillest, with both thine eyes.3

'Ulla said: Shameless is the bride that plays the harlot within her bridal canopy!4  Said R. Mari the son of Samuel's daughter, What verse [refers to this]? While the king sat at his table, [my spikenard gave up its fragrance].5  Said Rab, Yet [His] love was still with us, for 'gave' is written, not 'made noisome'.

Our Rabbis taught: Those who are insulted but do not insult, hear themselves reviled without answering, act through love and rejoice in suffering, of them the Writ saith, But they who love Him are as the sun when he goeth forth in his might.6

R. Johanan said: What is meant by the verse, The Lord giveth the word: They that publish the tidings are a great host?7  — Every single word that went forth from the Omnipotent was split up into seventy languages.8  The School of R. Ishmael taught: And like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces.,9  just as a hammer is divided into many sparks,10  so every single word that went forth from the Holy One, blessed be He, split up into seventy languages.11

R. Hananel b. Papa said: What is meant by, Hear, for I will speak princely things:12  why are the words of the Torah compared to a prince? To tell you: just as a prince has power of life and death, so have the words of the Torah [potentialities] of life and death. Thus Raba said; To those who go to the right hand thereof it is a medicine of life; to those who go to the left hand thereof13  it is a deadly poison. Another interpretation: princely' [denotes] that on every word which went forth from the mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He, two crowns were set.14

R. Joshua b. Levi said: What is meant by, My beloved is unto me as a bundle of myrrh [zeror ha-mor], That lieth betwixt my breasts?15  The congregation of Israel spake before the Holy One, blessed be He, 'Sovereign of the Universe! Though my life be distressed [mezar] and embittered [memar], yet my love lieth betwixt my breasts.'16  My beloved is unto me as a cluster [eshkol] of henna-flowers [kofer] in the vineyards of [karme] En-gedi:17  He to Whom everything belongs [she-ha-kol shelo] shall make atonement [mekapper] for me for the sin of the kid18  which I stored up [karamti] for myself.19  Where is it implied that this word 'karme' connotes gathering? — Said Mar Zutra the son of R. Nahman: Even as we learnt: A fuller's stool on which linen is heaped up [kormin].20

R. Joshua b. Levi also said: What is meant by, His cheeks are as a bed of spices?21  With every single word that went forth from the mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He, the whole world was filled with spices [fragrance]. But since it was filled from the first word, whither did the [fragrance of the] second word go? The Holy One, blessed be He, brought forth the wind from His store-chambers and caused each to pass on in order,22  as it is said, His lips are as lilies [shoshannim], dropping myrrh that passess on:23  read not shoshannim but sheshonim.24

R. Joshua b. Levi also said: At every word which went forth from the mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He, the souls of Israel departed, for it is said, My soul went forth when he spake.25  But since their souls departed at the first word, how could they receive the second word? — He brought down the dew with which He will resurrect the dead and revived them, as it is said, Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, Thou didst confirm thine inheritance, when it was weary.26

R. Joshua b. Levi also said: At every single word which went forth from the mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He, the Israelites retreated twelve mil, but the ministering angels led them back [medaddin],27  as it is said, The hosts of angels28  march, they march [yiddodun yiddodun]:29  read not yiddodun but yedaddun [they lead].

R. Joshua b. Levi also said: When Moses ascended on high, the ministering angels spake before the Holy One, blessed be He, 'Sovereign of the Universe! What business has one born of woman amongst us?' 'He has come to receive the Torah,' answered He to them. Said they to Him, 'That secret treasure, which has been hidden by Thee for nine hundred and seventy-four generations before the world was created.30  Thou desirest to give to flesh and blood! What is man, that thou art mindful of him, And the son of man, that thou visitest him? O Lord our God, How excellent is thy name in all the earth! Who hast set thy glory [the Torah] upon the Heavens!'31  'Return them an answer,' bade the Holy One, blessed be He, to Moses. 'Sovereign of the Universe' replied he, 'I fear lest they consume me with the [fiery] breath of their mouths.' 'Hold on to the Throne of Glory,' said He to him, 'and return them an answer,' as it is said, He maketh him to hold on to the face of his throne, And spreadeth [PaRSHeZ] his cloud over him,32  whereon R. Nahman33  observed: This teaches that the Almighty [SHaddai] spread [Pirash] the lustre [Ziw] of His Shechinah34  and cast it as a protection35  over him. He [then] spake before Him: Sovereign of the Universe! The Torah which Thou givest me, what is written therein? I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the Land of Egypt.36  Said he to them [the angels], 'Did ye go down to Egypt; were ye enslaved to Pharaoh: why then should the Torah be yours? Again, What is written therein? Thou shalt have none other gods:37  do ye dwell among peoples that engage in

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Prov. XI, 3.
  2. Cant. IV, 9.
  3. Maharsha: A thing may be perceived spiritually and materially. When the Israelites first accepted the Torah they perceived its greatness in spirit only, i.e., in theory (one eye). Having observed it, they saw materially too, i.e., in actual practice (both eyes).
  4. Thus did Israel make the Golden Calf at Mount Sinai itself.
  5. Ibid. I, 12. i.e., while the King, viz., God, was at Sinai, the Israelites lost their fragrance through sin.
  6. Judg. V, 31.
  7. Ps. LXVIII, 12.
  8. The traditional number of the languages of man, i.e., the Torah was given to all humanity. Cf. M. Joseph, Judaism as Creed and Life, pp. 157 seq.
  9. Jer. XXIII, ag.
  10. Perhaps referring to the sparks that fly off when it beats the anvil.
  11. Commentators differ as to the exact point of the comparison; v. Sanh., Sonc. ed., p. 214, n. 9.
  12. Prov. VIII, 6.
  13. These phrases probably mean, to those who employ it rightly … wrongly, cf. supra P. 197, n. 5. which seems, however, inapplicable here.
  14. The words themselves having substance: cf. the Greek doctrine of the logos.
  15. Cant. I, 13.
  16. I.e., God is with Israel in all his sorrows. This translation follows Maharsha; Rashi interprets differently-Zeror and ka-mor are connected here with mezar and memar.
  17. Ibid. 14.
  18. Gedi, kid standing for small cattle in general, and here referring to the Golden Calf.
  19. For future punishment. Thus eshkol is connected with shehakol shelo, kopher with mekapper, karme with karamti, and En-gedi with gedi, a kid.
  20. V. Kel. XXIII, 4.
  21. Cant. V, 13.
  22. The fragrance of each word was carried of to the Garden of Eden, leaving room for the next.
  23. Ibid. E. V.: liquid myrrh.
  24. That study, i.e.. His words spread fragrance.
  25. Ibid. 6.
  26. Ps. LXVIII, 10.
  27. The word denotes to lead step by step, like one leads a child who can hardly walk.
  28. Our texts read: Kings.
  29. Ibid. 13.
  30. Cf. Weber, Judische Theologie, p. 15 for parallels.
  31. Ps. VIII, 5, 2.
  32. lob XXVI, 9.
  33. In Suk. 5a the reading is Tanhum.
  34. Thus Parshez is treated as an abbreviation; in Hebrew the words follow the same order as these letters.
  35. Lit., 'cloud'.
  36. Ex. XX, 2.
  37. Ibid. 3.