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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sotah

Folio 33a

that the whole Torah may be read in any language; for if you maintain that it may be read1  only in the holy tongue, wherefore had the All-Merciful to write 'And [these words] shall be'? — It is necessary because it is written 'Hear'.2  It is likewise possible to say that the Rabbis hold that the whole Torah must be read in the holy tongue; for if you maintain that it can be read in any language, wherefore had the All-Merciful to write the word 'Hear'? — It is necessary because it is written 'And [these words] shall be'.3

THE 'PRAYER'. [It may be recited in any language because] it is only supplication, and one may pray in any language he wishes. But may the 'prayer' be recited in any language? Behold Rab Judah has said: A man should never pray for his needs in Aramaic. For R. Johanan declared: If anyone prays for his needs in Aramaic, the Ministering Angels4  do not pay attention to him, because they do not understand that language! — There is no contradiction, one referring to [the prayer] of an individual and the other to that of a Congregation.5  And do not the Ministering Angels understand Aramaic? Behold it has been taught: Johanan, the High Priest, heard a Bath Kol6  issue from within the Holy of Holies announcing, 'The young men who went to wage war against Antioch7  have been victorious.8  It also happened with Simeon the Righteous9  that he heard a Bath Kol issue from within the Holy of Holies announcing, 'Annulled is the decree which the enemy intended to introduce into the Temple'. Then was Caius Caligula10  slain and his decrees annulled. They noted down the time [when the Bath Kol spoke] and it tallied.11  Now it was in Aramaic that it spoke! — If you wish I can say that it is different with a Bath Kol since it occurs for the purpose of being generally understood;12  or if you wish I can say that it was Gabriel who spoke; for a Master has declared: Gabriel came and taught [Joseph] the seventy languages.13

THE GRACE AFTER MEALS. [That this may be recited in any language is derived from] the text: And thou shalt eat and be full, and thou shalt bless the Lord thy God14  — in any language wherein thou utterest a benediction.

THE OATH CONCERNING TESTIMONY. [That this may be uttered in any language is derived from] the text: And if any one sin, in that he heareth the voice of adjuration15  — in whatever language he hears it.

THE OATH CONCERNING A DEPOSIT. [That this may be uttered in any language] is derived from the analogous use of the phrase 'if any one sin' in the oath concerning testimony.16

THE FOLLOWING ARE RECITED IN THE HOLY TONGUE: THE DECLARATION MADE AT THE OFFERING OF THE FIRST-FRUITS, THE FORMULA OF HALIZAH, etc. down to: WHENCE IS IT THAT THE DECLARATION MADE AT THE OFFERING OF THE FIRST-FRUITS [MUST BE IN HEBREW]? [IT IS STATED], AND THOU SHALT ANSWER AND SAY BEFORE THE LORD THY GOD, AND ELSEWHERE IT IS STATED, AND THE LEVITES SHALL ANSWER AND SAY; AS THE LATTER MUST BE IN THE HOLY TONGUE, SO MUST THE FORMER BE IN THE HOLY TONGUE. But whence have we it of the Levites themselves [that they used Hebrew]? — It is derived from the analogous use of the word 'voice' in connection with Moses. Here it is written with a loud voice,17  and elsewhere it is written: Moses spake and God answered him by a voice;18  as in the latter passage it was in the holy tongue, so also in the other passage it means in the holy tongue.

WHENCE IS IT THAT THE FORMULA OF HALIZAH etc. What, then, do the Rabbis make of the word 'thus'?19  — They require it to indicate that each act20  invalidates [the ceremony by its omission]. And R. Judah?21  — From the use of 'Kakah' instead of koh.22  And the Rabbis? — They draw no inference from the use of 'Kakah' instead of koh.

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. In the synagogue (Rashi).
  2. If he were of the opinion that the Torah can only be read in Hebrew, it would necessarily apply to the Shema'. Why, then, should he draw a conclusion from shall be? He does so to oppose the inference which the Rabbis draw from Hear.
  3. Which might otherwise be taken to indicate that the Shema' must be read in Hebrew.
  4. Who convey the petitions to the Throne of Glory.
  5. With the latter, the help of the angels is not required.
  6. V. Glos. This is evidently the incident related by Josephus (Ant. XIII, X, 3) of John Hyrcanus.
  7. [Antiochus Cyzicenus, over whom the children of John Hyrcanus were victorious, v. loc. cit., and Derenbourg, Essai, p. 47.]
  8. This and the following announcements were made in Aramaic, so the angels must have understood it.
  9. Possibly the High Priest Simon, son of Boethus, also called Cantheras, as Josephus describes him (op. cit. XIX, VI, 2). [For other views v. HUCA VIII-IX, p. 300.]
  10. The name is corrupted in the text. He ordered that his statue should be placed in the Temple and worshipped (Josephus, War II, X, 1.)
  11. With the time of Caligula's assassination.
  12. And Aramaic was the vernacular of the period.
  13. V. infra. Gabriel was exceptional; but the other angels were ignorant of Aramaic.
  14. Deut. VIII, 10.
  15. Lev. V, 1.
  16. V. ibid. 21.
  17. Deut. XXVII, 14.
  18. Ex. XIX, 19.
  19. Upon which R. Judah bases the teaching that the formula must be in Hebrew.
  20. Mentioned in Deut. XXV, 9, viz., loosing the shoe, spitting in his face, and pronouncing the formula.
  21. From where does he derive this teaching?
  22. Both words signify 'thus'; and since the text has the longer form, he takes it as an indication that the formula must be in Hebrew and also that the omission of an act invalidates the ceremony.

Sotah 33b

What, then, does R. Judah make of the phrase 'and she shall answer and say'?1  — He requires it for the purpose of deducing that the Levites [must pronounce the blessings and curses] in the holy tongue.2  But let him derive that from the analogous use of the word 'voice' in connection with Moses! — He had learnt [from his teacher] to draw an inference from the analogous use of the word 'answer' but not from 'voice'.3  It has been similarly taught: R. Judah says: Wherever [in Scripture the words] 'thus', both in the form of 'koh' and 'kakah', or 'answer and say' occur, [what has to be spoken] must only be in the holy tongue. The word 'koh' is found in 'Thus ye shall bless',4  'kakah' in connection with Halizah, and 'answer and say' with the Levites.

HOW WERE THE BLESSINGS AND CURSES [PRONOUNCED]? WHEN ISRAEL CROSSED THE JORDAN etc. Our Rabbis taught: Are they not beyond Jordan?5  [This means] on the other side of the Jordan and beyond; such is the statement of R. Judah. Behind the way of the coming of the sun6  — the place where the sun dawns.7  In the land of the Canaanites which dwell in the Arabah6  — i.e., mount Gerizim and mount Ebal where the Cutheans8  dwell. Over against Gilgal6  — [this means] near Gilgal.9  Beside the terebinths of Moreh6  — [this means] Shechem. Elsewhere it states: And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Shechem unto the terebinth of Moreh;10  as the terebinth of Moreh mentioned in this latter verse is Shechem, so in the former verse it means Shechem.

It has been taught:11  R. Eleazar son of R. Jose said: In this connection I proved the Samaritan Scriptures12  to be false. I said to them, 'You have falsified your Torah13  but you gained nothing thereby.14  You declare that 'the terebinths of Moreh' means Shechem; we too admit that 'the terebinths of Moreh' means Shechem. We learnt this by an inference from analogy;15  but how have you learnt it!'16

R. Eleazar said: 'Are they not beyond the Jordan'? [This means] near the Jordan; because if it signified on the other side of the Jordan and beyond, is it not written: And it shall be when ye are passed over Jordan!17  'Behind the way of the coming of the sun' — [this means] the place where the sun sets.18  'In the land of the Canaanites' — i.e., the land of the Hivites. 'Which dwell in the Arabah' — but do they not dwell among mountains and hills!19  'Over against Gilgal' — but they could not see Gilgal!20  — R. Eliezer b. Jacob says: Scripture has here only the intention of pointing out to them the route for the second [part of the journey] as it had pointed out to them the route for the first [part of the journey].21  'The way' — [this means], Proceed along the high-road and not through fields and vineyards. 'Which dwell' — [this means], Pass through inhabited territory and not through deserts. 'In the Arabah' — [this means], Pass through the plain and not through mountains and hills.

Our Rabbis taught: How did Israel cross the Jordan? Each day [during the journey in the wilderness] the ark journeyed behind two standards,22  but on this day [of crossing] it journeyed in front; as it is said: Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you.23  Each day the Levites carried the ark, but on this day the priests carried it; as it is said: And it shall come to pass, when the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the Lord etc.24  — It has been taught: R. Jose says: On three occasions the priests carried the ark: when they crossed the Jordan, when they walked round Jericho,25  and when they deposited it in its place.26  —

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Since he does not follow the Rabbis in basing upon it the rule that the formula must be in Hebrew.
  2. Since the phrase 'answer and say' occurs in Deut. XXVII, 14.
  3. [No inference can be drawn from the analogous use of a word (a Gezerah shawah, v. Glos.) which has not been received on tradition from a teacher.]
  4. Num. VI, 23, the priestly benediction which must be in Hebrew.
  5. Deut. XI, 30. This might have been interpreted as close to the other side of the Jordan.
  6. Ibid.; 'coming' is usually understood as 'setting', but it is here explained as 'coming up, rising'.
  7. [The East. The phrase means accordingly: Far away from the Eastern bank of the Jordan where the Israelites were at the time towards the West. The term [H] as distinct from [H] denotes 'greatly separated'.]
  8. Samaritans, so called because they were brought by Sargon, King of Assyria, from Cuthea, to take the place of the exiled Israelites.
  9. [Not the Gilgal east of Jericho, but another place of that name identified with Juleijil, east of Mt. Gerizim; v. p. 166, n. 3.
  10. Gen. XII, 6.
  11. As Rashi remarks, the words 'it has been taught' should be deleted, as it is the continuation of the Baraitha, v. Sifre, a.l.
  12. For sifre 'Scriptures' we must read with the J. Talmud Sofre 'scribes, learned men'.
  13. The Samaritan recension of the Pentateuch. In Deut. XI, 30 it adds 'over against Shechem' which does not appear in the Hebrew version.
  14. I.e., your addition of the words was unnecessary.
  15. Gezerah shawah (v. Glos.).
  16. By tampering with the text.
  17. Ibid. XXVII, 4. This is explained: as soon as you have passed over; therefore it must have been a place close to the Jordan.
  18. [The West, and the verse means far away from the Western towards the Eastern bank of the Jordan.]
  19. Arabah signifies the plain.
  20. They lived at a distance from it; so why is this mentioned? [Rashi, who seems to have another and preferable text, explains the question: 'but they (these places) are far from Gilgal' Gilgal being East of Jericho (v. p. 165, n. 5), why then mention it, cf. also Rashi on Deut. XI, 30.]
  21. When Israel left Egypt a pillar of fire and cloud directed them; but this ceased on the death of Moses. Scripture therefore gives them directions, and its purpose is not to explain the location of Gerizim and Ebal.
  22. Of the tribes; v. Num. X, 11ff.
  23. Josh. III, 11.
  24. Ibid. 13.
  25. Ibid. VI, 6.
  26. In Solomon's Temple (I Kings VIII, 3).