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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sotah

Folio 48a

whereas we present it to the priests.1  Then let them make the confession over the other tithes!2  — Resh Lakish said: Any household which does not make the confession over the first tithe may not make it over the other tithes. For what reason? — Abaye said: Because Scripture deals with that first;3  This implies that they had separated it [before proceeding to the other tithes]. But surely it has been taught: He also annulled the confession and decreed in respect of demai;4  because he sent [inspectors] throughout the Israelite territory and discovered that they only separated the great terumah5  but as for the first and second tithes some fulfilled the law while others did not.6  So he said to [the people], 'My sons, come, I will tell you this. Just as in [the neglect] of the "great terumah" there is mortal sin,7  so with [the neglect] to present the terumah of the tithe and with the use of untithed produce there is mortal sin'. He thus arose and decreed for them that whoever purchases fruits from an 'Am ha-arez8  must separate the first and second tithes therefrom. From the first tithe he separates the terumah of the tithe and gives it to a priest, and as for the second tithe he should go up and eat it in Jerusalem. With regard to the first tithe and the tithe of the poor9  whoever demands them from his neighbour has the onus of proving [that they had not been already apportioned]!10  [Johanan] made two decrees: he abolished the confession [over the presentation of the first tithe] in the case of the Haberim11  and decreed in regard to the demai12  of the 'Amme ha-arez.13

HE ALSO ABOLISHED THE WAKERS. What does 'WAKERS' mean? — Rehabah said: The Levites used daily to stand upon the dais and exclaim, Awake, why sleepest Thou, O Lord?14  He said to them, Does, then, the All-Present sleep? Has it not been stated: Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep!15  But so long as Israel abides in trouble and the Gentiles are in peace and comfort, the words 'Awake, why sleepest Thou, O Lord'? [should be uttered].16

AND KNOCKERS. What does 'KNOCKERS' mean? — Rab Judah said in the name of Samuel: They used to make an incision on the calf between its horns17  so that the blood should flow into its eyes.18  [Johanan] came and abolished the practice because it appeared as though [the animal had] a blemish. There is a Baraitha which teaches: They used to strike [the animal] with clubs as is the practice with idolatry. [Johanan] said to them, How long will you feed the altar with nebeloth!19  [How could he have described the carcasses as] nebeloth when they had been properly slaughtered! — Rather [should they be described as] terefoth,20  since the membrane of the brain may have been perforated. He [thereupon] arose and ordained rings for them in the ground.21

UP TO HIS DAYS THE HAMMER USED TO STRIKE IN JERUSALEM. On the intermediate days of the Festival.22





GEMARA. How do we know that the text, ['They shall not drink wine with a song'] — applies to the time when the Sanhedrin ceased? — R. Huna, son of R. Joshua, said: Because Scripture states: The elders have ceased from the gate, the young men from their music.31

Rab said: The ear which listens to song should be torn off. Raba said: When there is song in a house there is destruction on its threshold; as it is stated: Their voice shall sing in the windows, desolation shall be in the thresholds, for He hath laid bare the cedar work.32  What means 'for he hath laid bare ['erah] the cedar work'? — R. Isaac said: Is a house panelled with cedar-wood a city ['irah]?33  But [the meaning is] even a house panelled with cedars will be overthrown [mithro'ea'].34  R. Ashi said: Infer from this that when destruction begins, it begins on the threshold; as it is stated: 'Desolation shall be in the thresholds' — Or if you will, deduce it from here: And the gate is smitten with destruction.35  Mar, son of R. Ashi said: I have personally seen him,36  and he gores like an ox.

R. Huna said: The singing of sailors and ploughmen is permitted, but that of weavers is prohibited.37  R. Huna abolished singing, and a hundred geese were priced at a zuz38  and a hundred se'ahs of wheat at a zuz and there was no demand for them [even at that price];39  R. Hisda came and [ordered R. Huna's edict to be] disregarded, and a goose was required [even at the high price of] a zuz but was not to be found.40  R. Joseph said: When men sing and women join in it is licentiousness; when women sing and men join in it is like fire in tow.41  For what practical purpose is this mentioned? — To abolish the latter before the former.42

R. Johanan said: Whoever drinks to the accompaniment of the four musical instruments43  brings five punishments to the world; as it is stated: Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink, that tarry late into the night, till wine inflame them! And the harp, and the lute, the tabret and the pipe, and wine, are in their feasts; but they regard not the work of the Lord.44  What is written after this? 'Therefore My people are gone into captivity for lack of knowledge' — they therefore cause captivity in the world; 'and their honourable men are famished' — they therefore bring hunger into the world; and their multitude are parched with thirst45  — they therefore cause Torah to be forgotten by its students. And the mean man is bowed down and the great man is humbled46  — they therefore cause humiliation to the haters of God47  — and 'man' signifies none other than the Holy One, blessed be He, as it is said: The Lord is a man of war,'48  'and the eyes of the lofty are humbled' they therefore cause the humiliation of Israel. And what is written after that? Therefore

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Deut. XXVI, 13 requires that the first tithe should be given to the Levites; but it is related in Yeb. 86b that because the Levites refused to join in the return from Babylon, Ezra punished them by having the tithe transferred to the priests.
  2. The second and poor tithes.
  3. The Rabbis explain the verse as follows: 'Thou shalt give it unto the Levite' i.e., the first tithe; 'and unto the stranger' i.e., the tithe of the poor; 'within thy gates' i.e., the second tithe.
  4. The reason given by R. Jose b. Hanina.
  5. The part which is separated in the first instance is the 'great terumah' or offering for the priests, to distinguish it from the 'terumah of the tithe', i.e., the tenth part given by the Levite of the tithe he receives, to the priest; then the first tithe is taken from the remainder for the Levites; after that the second tithe is removed to be eaten by the owner in Jerusalem (Deut. XIV, 22ff.); and each third year a tithe is allocated to the poor (ibid. XXVI, 12); v. Glos., s.v. Terumah.
  6. I. H. Weiss (Dor I p. 119) suggests that at that time there was a growing aversion against paying the tithe to the Levites, firstly because their status had changed from the period when the land was apportioned among the tribes and they had no share; and secondly because part of the produce had to be paid as a tax to the Government and the law of the tithe pressed very heavily upon the people.
  7. I.e., the penalty involved is death at the hands of Heaven.
  8. V. p. 110 n. 1.
  9. Since they are non-holy and may be eaten by any person.
  10. This shows that the people neglected the separation of the tithe to the Levite.
  11. The opposite of the 'Amme ha-arez. They were most scrupulous in the allocation of the tithes. The reason for his edict was, as stated, because the tithe was presented to a priest and not a Levite.
  12. 'Doubtful produce', corn purchased from a farmer about which there is a doubt whether the tithes had been apportioned.
  13. Because he learnt from his inspectors that the law was being. neglected. It could therefore be safely assumed that the 'Amme ha-arez, were not observing it. Consequently if one purchased their produce, he had the responsibility of apportioning the tithes.
  14. Ps. XLIV, 24.
  15. Ibid. CXXI, 4.
  16. Since his reign was blessed with peace and prosperity, he felt it was unnecessary for the Levites to use the words.
  17. Before it was slaughtered for the altar.
  18. To prevent it from seeing what was to happen so that it should not struggle.
  19. I.e., animals which died not by the act of ritual slaughter.
  20. Animals found to possess a disqualification during the examination which followed the act of slaughter.
  21. To hold the animals fast so that they should not struggle, and the other methods were discontinued.
  22. I.e., work used to be done on those days, which were a semi-festival, and he abolished the practice.
  23. [The actual reading in our Mishnah is 'IN HIS DAYS'.]
  24. The purchaser had the responsibility of separating the tithe himself, so there was no need to inquire whether the produce had been tithed before the sale.
  25. Isa. XXIV, 9' The authority of the Sanhedrin was ended by the Roman General Gabinius in the middle of the first cent. B.C.E. Cf. Josephus, Ant. XIV, v. 4.
  26. The phrase is explained in the Gemara.
  27. V. Ex. XXVIII, 30.
  28. Shamir is the name of a worm which tradition relates had the power of splitting the hardest stone. The Gemara will explain Nopheth Zufim, a phrase occurring in Ps. XIX, 11, lit., 'the droppings of the honeycomb'.
  29. Ps. XII, 2. That the second and not the first Temple is intended here is proved in Tosaf. to Git. 68a.
  30. Nourishing quality.
  31. Lam. V, 14. The elders sat in the gate of the city to judge.
  32. Zeph. II, 14. The last clause is understood as: even a cedar house, i.e., even the strongly-built house, will be destroyed.
  33. So Maharsha. Rashi explains differently.
  34. Hath laid bare ('erah) is connected with a root [H] 'to be razed'.
  35. Isa. XXIV, 12.
  36. The demon of destruction, v. B.K. 21a.
  37. Singing helps the former in their work, but with the latter it is done out of frivolity.
  38. A small coin worth about sevenpence.
  39. Through the decline of feasting.
  40. The demand for geese had become so great.
  41. A woman's singing aroused sexual passion. The latter is more serious, because it implies a wilful act on the part of the men to listen to the female voices.
  42. If both cannot be suppressed at the same time, the latter should receive more attention as being the worse of the two.
  43. Mentioned in the verse to be quoted.
  44. Isa. V, 11f.
  45. Ibid. 23.
  46. Ibid. 15.
  47. A euphemism for God Himself.
  48. Ex. XV, 3.

Sotah 48b

Sheol hath enlarged her desire and opened her mouth without measure; and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth among them, descend into it.1

WHEN THE FORMER PROPHETS DIED. Who are the former prophets? — R. Huna said: They are David, Samuel and Solomon. R. Nahman said: During the days of David, they were Sometimes successful2  and at other times unsuccessful; for behold, Zadok consulted it and succeeded, whereas Abiathar consulted it and was not successful, as it is said. And Abiathar went up.3  Rabbah b. Samuel objected: [It is written], And he4  set himself to seek God all5  the days of Zechariah who had understanding in the vision of God.6  Was this not by means of the urim and Thummim?7  — No, it was through the prophets.

Come and hear: When the first Temple was destroyed — the cities with pasture land8  were abolished, the Urim and Thummim ceased, there was no more a king from the House of David; and if anyone incites you to quote, And the governor said unto them that they should not eat of the most holy things till there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim,9  reply to him: [It is only a phrase for the very remote future] as when one man says to another, 'Until the dead revive and the Messiah, son of David, comes'! — But, said R. Nahman: Who are the former prophets? [The term 'former'] excludes Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi who are the latter [prophets]. For our Rabbis have taught: When Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi died, the Holy Spirit10  departed from Israel; nevertheless they made use of the Bath Kol.11  On one occasion [some Rabbis] were sitting in the upper chamber of Gurya's house in Jericho; a Bath Kol was granted to them from heaven which announced, 'There is in your midst one man who is deserving that the Shechinah should alight upon him, but his generation is unworthy of it'. They all looked at Hillel the elder; and when he died, they lamented over him, 'Alas, the pious man! Alas, the humble man! Disciple of Ezra!' On another occasion they were sitting in an upper chamber in Jabneh; a Bath Kol was granted to them from heaven which announced, 'There is in your midst one man who is deserving that the Shechinah should alight upon him, but his generation is unworthy of it'. They all looked at Samuel the Little;12  and when he died, they lamented over him, 'Alas, the humble man! Alas, the pious man! Disciple of Hillel!' At the time of his death he also said,13  'Simeon and Ishmael14  [are destined] for the sword and their colleagues for death, and the rest of the people for spoliation, and great distress will come upon the nation.' They also wished to lament over R. Judah b. Baba,15  'Alas, the pious man! Alas, the humble man!' But the times were disturbed and they could not lament publicly over those who had been slain by the government.

WHEN [THE SECOND] TEMPLE WAS DESTROYED, THE SHAMIR CEASED etc. Our Rabbis taught: With the Shamir Solomon built the Temple,16  as it is said: And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready at the quarry.17  The words are to be understood as they are written;18  such is the statement of R. Judah. R. Nehemiah asked him, Is it possible to say so? Has it not been stated: All these were of costly stones … sawed with saws!19  If that be so, why is there a text to State, There was neither hammer, nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in the building?20  [It means] that they prepared them outside and brought them within. Rabbi said: The statement of R. Judah is probable in connection with the stones of the Sanctuary, and the statement of R. Nehamiah in connection with [Solomon's] house. For what purpose, then, according to R. Nehemiah, was the Shamir necessary? — It was required as taught in the following: We may not write with ink upon these stones,21  because it is said: Like the engravings of a signet,22  nor cut into them with a knife because it is said: In their settings;23  but he writes with ink upon them, shows the Shamir [the written strokes] on the outside, and these split of their own accord,24  like a fig which splits open in summer and nothing at all is lost, or like a valley which splits asunder in the rainy season and nothing at all is lost.

Our Rabbis taught: The Shamir is a creature about the size of a barley-corn, and was created during the six days of Creation.25  No hard substance can withstand it. How is it kept? They wrap it in tufts of wool and place it in a leaden tube full of barley-bran.

R. Ammi said: When the first Temple was destroyed, fringed26  silk and white glass27  ceased to be used. There is a teaching to the same effect: When the first Temple was destroyed, fringed silk and white glass and iron chariots ceased to be used. Some say: Also wine-jelly28  which comes from Senir29  and resembles cakes of figs.

AND NOFETH ZUFIM. What means NOFETH ZUFIM? — Rab said: The fine flour which floats [zofah] upon the top of a sieve [nafah] and resembles dough kneaded with honey and oil. Levi said: It is two loaves attached to [opposite sides of] an oven which keep on swelling until they touch one another.30  R. Joshua b. Levi said: It is the honey which comes from the hills [zofim].31  How is this known?32  — As R. Shesheth33  translated:34  When the bees spring forth and fly in the heights of the world and collect honey from the herbage on the mountains.

We have learnt there:35  Whatever is poured out36  is clean with the exception of thick honey and batter.37  What means zifim [thick]? — R. Johanan said: Honey used for adulteration [ziyyef]; and Resh Lakish said: It is named after its place, as it is written: Zif, Telem and Bealoth.38  You may similarly quote, When the Zifites came and said to Saul, Doth not David etc.39  What means Zifites? — R. Johanan said: Men who falsify their words; and R. Eliezer says: They are named after their place, as it is written: Zif Telem, and Bealoth.38

AND MEN OF FAITH DISAPPEARED. R. Isaac said: These are men who had faith in the Holy One, blessed be He. For it has been taught: R. Eliezer the Great40  declares: Whoever has a piece of bread in his basket and Says. 'What shall I eat tomorrow?' belongs only to them who are little in faith. And that is what R. Eleazar said: What means that which is written: For who hath despised the day of small things?41  [It signifies,] What is the cause that the tables of the righteous are despoiled in the Hereafter?42  The smallness [of faith] which was in them, that they did not trust in the Holy One, blessed be He. Raba said: They are the little ones43  among the children of the wicked of Israel

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Isa. V, 14.
  2. In obtaining knowledge of the future by consulting the Urim and Thummim.
  3. II Sam. XV, 24. This is explained by the Rabbis: he retired from the priesthood because he received no reply from the Urim and Thummim.
  4. Uzziah, King of Judah.
  5. [M.T. reads 'in the days of.]
  6. II Chron. XXVI, 5.
  7. Therefore there were Urim and Thummim in the days of King Uzziah, contrary to the view of R. Huna.
  8. For the Levites; v. Num. XXXV, 2.
  9. Ezra II, 63. From this verse it would appear that the Urim and Thummim continued up to the destruction of the first Temple, contrary to the view of R. Huna.
  10. Divine inspiration.
  11. V. Gios.
  12. A famous pupil of Hillel who died about a decade after the destruction of the second Temple.
  13. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
  14. Probably Simeon b. Gamaliel and Ishmael b. Elisha who were put to death after the capture of Jerusalem. See the full discussion in R.T. Herford, op. cit., pp. 129ff.
  15. A victim of the Hadrianic Persecution. For further notes on this passage, v. Sanh. (Sonc. ed.) p. 46.
  16. V. Git. (Sonc. ed.) p. 323, n. 2.
  17. I Kings VI, 7. The Hebrew is 'perfect stone'.
  18. I.e., the stones were naturally in a hewn state, as though they had been cut in a quarry.
  19. Ibid. VII, 9 referring to Solomon's house.
  20. Ibid. VI, 7 referring to the Temple.
  21. On the ephod and High Priest's breastplate.
  22. Ex. XXVIII, 11.
  23. Ibid. 20. Lit., 'in their fullnesses', i.e., no part of the stones may be cut away.
  24. Through the action of the Shamir the stones are split open along the written lines without any part of the stones being cut away.
  25. According to Ab. v. 9 it was one of the ten things created in the twilight of the sixth day, before the first Sabbath.
  26. Perles, Etymol. Studien, p. 51, identifies the word with the Persian parand or barand.
  27. V. B.M. (Sonc. ed.) p. 184, n. 3.
  28. Lit., congealed wine; perhaps identical with 'wine mixed with snow (Neg. I, 2).
  29. A northern peak of Mt. Hermon mentioned in the Bible as famed for its cypresses.
  30. The dough is blessed and so increases in size. The loaves float (Zaf) in the space of the oven.
  31. There is another reading: zipya which Jastrow explains as the inner cells of the honeycomb.
  32. That bees gather honey from the hills.
  33. [Var. lec. 'R. Joseph', v. B.K. (Sonc. ed.) p. 9, n. 9.]
  34. The words 'as bees do' in Deut. I, 44.
  35. Nazir 50a.
  36. If something is poured from a clean vessel into an unclean vessel, what is in the former is not defiled by the fact that the latter is unclean.
  37. Being thick the outflow connects what is in the two vessels.
  38. Josh. XV. 24.
  39. Ps. LIV, 2 (in the E.V. it is part of the heading of the Psalm).
  40. Eliezer b. Hyrcanus.
  41. Zech. IV, 10.
  42. They do not receive their full reward.
  43. Children who died young.