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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Yebamoth
Come and hear: In the days of R. Dosa b. Harkinas the rival of a daughter was permitted to marry the brothers.3 From this it may be inferred that [Beth Shammai] acted [in accordance with their own rulings].4 This proves the point.
[To turn to] the main text. In the days of R. Dosa b. Harkinas, the rival of a daughter was permitted to marry the brothers. This ruling was very disturbing to the Sages, because he5 was a great scholar6 and his eyes were dim so that he was unable to come to the house of study.7 When a discussion took place as to who should go and communicate with him, R. Joshua said to them, 'I will go'. 'And who after him?' — 'R. Eleazar b. Azariah.' 'And who after him?' — 'R. Akiba'. They went and stood at the entrance of his house. His maid entered and told him, 'Master, the Sages of Israel are come to you'. 'Let them enter', he said to her; and they entered. Taking hold of R. Joshua he made him sit upon a golden couch. The latter said to him, 'Master, will you ask your other disciple to sit down'? 'Who is he?' [the Master] enquired. — 'R. Eleazar b. Azariah'. 'Has our friend Azariah a son?' [the Master] exclaimed, and applied to him this Scriptural text, I have been young and now I am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread;8 and so took hold of him also and made him sit upon a golden couch. 'Master', said he,9 'will you ask your next disciple also to sit down'? 'And who is he?' [the Master] asked. — 'Akiba the son of Joseph'. 'You are,' [the Master] exclaimed, 'Akiba son of Joseph whose name is known from one end of the world to the other! Sit down, my son, sit down. May men like you multiply in Israel'. Thereupon they began to address to him all sorts of questions on legal practice10 until they reached that of the daughter's rival. 'What is the halachah', they asked him, 'in the case of a daughter's rival?' 'This,' he answered them, 'is a question in dispute between Beth Shammai and Beth Hillel.' 'In accordance with whose ruling is the halachah?' — 'The halachah,' he replied, is in accordance with the ruling of Beth Hillel'. 'But, indeed,' they said to him, 'it was stated in your name that the halachah is in accordance with the ruling of Beth Shammai!' He said to them: 'Did you hear, "Dosa"11 or "the son of Harkinas?"'12 — 'By the life of our Master.' they replied. 'We heard no son's name mentioned.'13 'I have,' he said to them, 'a younger brother who is a dare-devil14 and his name is Jonathan and he is one of the disciples of Shammai.15 Take care that he does not overwhelm you on questions of established practice, because he has three hundred answers to prove that the daughter's rival is permitted. But I call heaven and earth to witness that upon this mortar16 sat the prophet Haggai17 and delivered the following three rulings: That a daughter's rival is forbidden, that in the lands of Ammon and Moab the tithe of the poor is to be given in the Seventh Year,18 and that proselytes may be accepted from the Cordyenians and the Tarmodites.'19
A Tanna taught: When they came20 they entered through one door; when they went out they issued through three different doors.21 He came upon R. Akiba, submitted his objections to him and silenced him.22 'Are you', he called out, 'Akiba whose name rings from one end of the world to the other? You are blessed indeed to have won fame while you have not yet attained the rank of oxherds.' 'Not even,' replied R. Akiba, 'that of shepherds.'
'In the lands of Ammon and Moab the tithe of the poor is given in the Seventh Year,' because a Master said: Those who came up from Egypt23 had conquered many cities which those who came up from Babylon24 did not conquer, and the first sanctification23 was intended for that time only but not for the future.25 Hence they were allowed [cultivation]26 in order that the poor27 might find their support there in the Seventh Year.28
'And that proselytes may be accepted from the Cordyenians and the Tarmodites'. But [the law, surely,] is not so! For Rami b. Ezekiel learnt: No proselyte may be accepted from the Cordyenians. — R. Ashi replied: The statement was Kartuenians,29 as people, in fact, speak of 'disqualified Kartuenians'.
Others say: Rami b. Ezekiel learnt, 'No proselytes are to be accepted from the Kartuenians'. Are not Kartuenians the same as Cordyenians? — R. Ashi replied: No; Kartuenians are a class by themselves, and Cordyenians are a class by themselves, as people, in fact, speak of 'disqualified Kartuenians'.30
Both R. Johanan and Sabya maintain that no proselytes may be accepted from the Tarmodites. Did R. Johanan. however, say such a thing? Surely we learned: All blood stains [on women's garments] that come from Rekem31 are levitically clean,32 and R. Judah declares them unclean because [the people there] were proselytes though misguided;33 [those that come] from the heathens34 are levitically clean.35 And the difficult point was raised
that having stated categorically,1 '[those that came] from the heathens' [he must also imply,] 'even those from Tarmod'!2 And R. Johanan replied: This proves that proselytes may be accepted from Tarmod.3 And if it be replied [that R. Johanan only said], 'This',4 but he himself does not hold this view,5 surely R. Johanan said, 'The halachah is in accordance with an anonymous Mishnah'!6 — It is a question in dispute between Amoraim as to what was actually the view of R. Johanan.
Why are no [proselytes to be accepted] from Tarmod? — R. Johanan and Sabya give different reasons. One says, 'On account of the slaves of Solomon,'7 and the other says, 'On account of the daughters of Jerusalem.'8
According to him who Says. 'On account of the slaves of Solomon,' the reason is quite intelligible, because he may hold the opinion that the child of a heathen or a slave who had intercourse with a daughter in Israel is a bastard. According to him, however, who said, 'On account of the daughters of Jerusalem', what is the reason? — R. Joseph and the Rabbis dispute the point, and both of them in the name of Rabbah b. Bar Hana. One maintains that [the number was] twelve thousand [foot]men and six thousand archers, and the other maintains that there were twelve thousand men and, of these, six hundred archers. At the time when the heathens entered the Temple, everyone made for the gold and the silver, but they made for the daughters of Jerusalem; as it is said in the Scriptures. They have ravished the women in Zion, the maidens in the cities of Judah.9
R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Jonathan: The following verse was uttered by the Genius of the Universe:10 I have been young and now I am old11 For who else could have said it! If the Holy One, blessed be He, be suggested, is there any old age in his case? Then David must have said it? But was he so old? Consequently it must be concluded that the Genius of the Universe had said it.
R. Samuel b. Nahmani further said in the name of R. Jonathan: What is [the meaning of] the Scriptural text,12 The adversary hath spread out his hand upon all her treasures?13 — This [refers to] Ammon and Moab. At the time when the heathens entered the Temple all made for gold and silver, but they turned to the Scroll of the Law, saying, 'That in which it is written, An Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord,14 shall be burned with fire.'
Rab Judah said in the name of R. Assi: If at the present time a heathen betroths [a daughter in Israel], note must be taken of such betrothal since it may be that he is of the ten tribes.17 But, surely, anything separated [from a heterogeneous group] is re garded as having been separated from the majority!18 — [R. Assi's statement refers] to places where they have settled;19 for R. Abba b. Kahana said: And he put them in Halah and in Habor, on the river of Gozan, and the cities of the Medes;20 Halah is Halwan,21 and Habor
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