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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate ‘Abodah Zarah

Folio 18a

pronounced the Name in its full spelling.1  But how could he do so? Have we not learnt: The following have no portion in the world to come: He who says that the Torah is not from Heaven, or that the resurrection of the dead is not taught in the Torah. Abba Saul says: Also he who pronounces the Name in its full spelling?2  — He did it in the course of practising, as we have learnt: Thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations,3  but thou mayest learn [about them] in order to understand and to teach. Why then was he punished? — Because he was pronouncing the Name in public. His wife was punished by being slain, because she did not prevent him [from doing it]. From this it was deduced: Any one who has the power to prevent [one from doing wrong] and does not prevent, is punished for him.4  His daughter was consigned to a brothel, for R. Johanan related that once that daughter of his was walking in front of some great men of Rome who remarked, 'How beautiful are the steps of this maiden!' Whereupon she took particular care of her step. Which confirms the following words of R. Simeon b. Lakish: What is the meaning of the verse, The iniquity of my heel compasseth me about?5  — Sins which one treads under heel6  in this world compass him about on the Day of Judgment.)

As the three of them went out [from the tribunal] they declared their submission to [the Divine] righteous judgment. He quoted, The Rock, His work is perfect; for all his ways are justice.7  His wife continued: A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is He;8  and the daughter quoted: Great in counsel and mighty in work, whose eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men, to give everyone according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doing.9  Said Raba: How great were these righteous ones, in that the three Scriptural passages, expressing submission to Divine justice, readily occurred to them just at the appropriate time for the declaration of such submission.

Our Rabbis taught: When R. Jose b. Kisma was ill, R. Hanina b. Teradion went to visit him. He said to him: 'Brother Hanina, knowest thou not that it is Heaven10  that has ordained this [Roman] nation to reign? For though she laid waste His House, burnt His Temple, slew His pious ones and caused His best ones to perish, still is she firmly established! Yet, I have heard about thee that thou sittest and occupiest thyself with the Torah, dost publicly gather assemblies, and keepest a scroll [of the Law] in thy bosom!'11  He replied, 'Heaven will show mercy.' — 'I,' he remonstrated, 'am telling thee plain facts, and thou sayest "Heaven will show mercy"! It will surprise me if they do not burn both thee and the scroll of the Law with fire.' 'Rabbi,' said the other, 'How do I stand with regard to the world to come?' — 'Is there any particular act that thou hast done?' he enquired. He replied: 'I once mistook Purim-money for ordinary charity-money, and I distributed [of my own] to the poor.'12  'Well then,' said he, 'would that thy portion were my portion and thy lot my lot.'

It was said that within but few days R. Jose b. Kisma died and all the great men of Rome13  went to his burial and made great lamentation for him. On their return, they found R. Hanina b. Teradion sitting and occupying himself with the Torah, publicly gathering assemblies, and keeping a scroll of the Law in his bosom. Straightaway they took hold of him, wrapt him in the Scroll of the Law, placed bundles of branches round him and set them on fire. They then brought tufts of wool, which they had soaked in water, and placed them over his heart, so that he should not expire quickly. His daughter exclaimed, 'Father, that I should see you in this state!' He replied, 'If it were I alone being burnt it would have been a thing hard to bear; but now that I am burning together with the Scroll of the Law, He who will have regard for the plight of the Torah will also have regard for my plight.' His disciples called out, 'Rabbi, what seest thou?' He answered them, 'The parchments are being burnt but the letters are soaring on high.'14  'Open then thy mouth' [said they] 'so that the fire enter into thee.'15  He replied, 'Let Him who gave me [my soul] take it away, but no one should injure oneself.' The Executioner16  then said to him, 'Rabbi, if I raise the flame and take away the tufts of wool from over thy heart, will thou cause me to enter into the life to come?' 'Yes,' he replied. 'Then swear unto me' [he urged]. He swore unto him. He thereupon raised the flame and removed the tufts of wool from over his heart, and his soul departed speedily. The Executioner then jumped and threw himself into the fire. And a bathkol17  exclaimed: R. Hanina b. Teradion and the Executioner have been assigned to the world to come. When Rabbi heard it he wept and said: One may acquire eternal life in a single hour, another after many years.18

Beruria, the wife of R. Meir, was a daughter of R. Hanina b. Teradion. Said she [to her husband], 'I am ashamed to have my sister placed in a brothel.' So he took a tarkab-full19  of denarii and set out.20  If, thought he, she has not been subjected to anything wrong, a miracle will be wrought for her, but if she has committed anything wrong, no miracle will happen to her. Disguised as a knight, he came to her and said, 'Prepare thyself for me.' She replied, 'The manner of women is upon me.' 'I am prepared to wait,' he said. 'But,' said she, 'there are here many, many prettier than I am.' He said to himself, that proves that she has not committed any wrong; she no doubt says thus to every comer. He then went to her warder and said, 'Hand her over to me. He replied, 'I am afraid of the government.' 'Take the tarkab of dinars.' said he, 'one half distribute [as bribe], the other half shall be for thyself.' 'And what shall I do when these are exhausted?' he asked. 'Then,' he replied, 'say, "O God of Meir, answer me!" and thou wilt be saved.' 'But,' said he,

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. The Tetragrammaton, the four-lettered Name of God, [H], was fully pronounced only by the Priests in the temple when blessing the people. Everywhere else it was pronounced 'Adonai'. For full treatment of the subject, v.J.E. IX, 162 seq.
  2. Sanh. 90a.
  3. Deut. XVIII, 9.
  4. Shab. 54b.
  5. Literal rendering of Ps. XLIX, 6.
  6. Regards as insignificant.
  7. Deut. XXXII, 4.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Jer. XXXII, 19. These verses are embodied to this day in the Jewish Burial Service (v.P.B, p. 318), the main idea of which is submission to the justice of the Divine judgment — [H] by which Hebrew name the Burial Service is called.
  10. Synonym for God.
  11. Contrary to the Roman decree.
  12. V. supra 17a.
  13. [The Roman officials in Caesarea where he lived and died.]
  14. Scrolls of the Torah may be destroyed, but its spirit is immortal and indestructible.
  15. And put an end to his agony.
  16. [H], [G] Torturer, executioner.
  17. V. Glos.
  18. His favourite aphorism. V. supra 10b, 17a.
  19. [H] a dry measure holding two kabs.
  20. To release her.

‘Abodah Zarah 18b

'who can assure me that that will be the case?' He replied, 'You will see now.' There were there some dogs who bit anyone [who incited them]. He took a stone and threw it at them, and when they were about to bite him he exclaimed, 'O God of Meir answer me!' and they let him alone. The warder then handed her over to him. At the end the matter became known to the government, and [the warder] on being brought [for judgment] was taken up to the gallows, when he exclaimed, 'O God of Meir answer me.' They took him down and asked him what that meant, and he told them the incident that had happened. They then engraved R. Meir's likeness on the gates of Rome and proclaimed that anyone seeing a person resembling it should bring him there. One day [some Romans] saw him and ran after him, so he ran away from them and entered a harlot's house.1  Others say he happened just then to see food cooked by heathens and he dipped in one finger and then sucked the other. Others again say that Elijah the Prophet appeared to them as a harlot who embraced him. God forbid, said they, were this R. Meir, he would not have acted thus! [and they left him]. He then arose and ran away and came to Babylon. Some say it was because of that incident that he ran to Babylon; others say because of the incident about Beruria.2

Our Rabbis taught: Those who visit stadiums3  or a camp4  and witness there [the performance] of sorcerers and enchanters, or of bukion and mukion, lulion and mulion, blurin or salgurin5  — lo, this is 'the seat of the scornful,' and against those [who visit them] Scripture says, Happy is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the wicked … nor sat in the seat of the scornful, but his delight is in the law of the Lord.6  From here you can infer that those things cause one to neglect the Torah.7

The following was cited as contradicting the foregoing: It is permitted to go to stadiums, because by shouting one may save


Dilling Exhibit 182
    [the victim].8  One is also permitted to go to a camp for the purpose of maintaining order in the country, providing he does not conspire [with the Romans], but for the purpose of conspiring it is forbidden. There is thus a contradiction between [the laws relating to] stadiums as well as between [those relating to] camps! There may indeed be no contradiction between those relating to camps, because the one may refer to where he conspires with them, and the other to where he does not; but the laws relating to stadiums are surely contradictory! — They represent the differing opinions of [two] Tannaim. For it has been taught: One should not go to stadiums because [they are] 'the seat of the scornful', but R. Nathan permits it for two reasons: first, because by shouting one may save [the victim], secondly, because one might be able to give evidence [of death] for the wife [of a victim] and so enable her to remarry.

Our Rabbis taught: One should not go to theatres or circuses because entertainments are arranged9  there in honour of the idols. This is the opinion of R. Meir. But the Sages say: Where such entertainments are given there is the prohibition of being suspected of idolatrous worship, and where such entertainment is not given. the prohibition is because of being in 'the seat of the scornful'. What is the difference between these two reasons?10  Said R. Hanina of Sura: There is a difference in the case of calling to do business.11

R. Simeon b. Pazi expounded [the foregoing verse as follows]: What does Scripture mean by, Happy is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the scornful?12  If he did not walk [that way] at all how could he stand there? And if he did not stand there he obviously did not sit [among them], and as he did not sit among them he could not have scorned! The wording is to teach thee that if one walks [towards the wicked] he will subsequently stand with them, and if he stands he will at the end sit with them, and if he does sit, he will also come to scorn, and if he does scorn the scriptural verse will be applicable to him, If thou art wise, thou art wise for thyself, and If thou scornest thou alone shalt bear it.13  Said R. Eleazar: He who scoffs, affliction will befall him, as it is said, Now therefore do ye not scoff lest your punishment be made severe.14  Raba used to say to the Rabbis: I beg of you, do not scoff, so that you incur no punishment. R. Kattina said: He who scoffs, his sustenance will be reduced, as it is said, He withdraweth His hand in the case of scoffers.15  R. Simeon b. Lakish said: He who scoffs will fall into Gehenna, as it is said, A proud and haughty man, scoffer is his name, worketh for arrogant wrath.16  And by 'wrath' nought but Gehenna is meant; as it is said, That day is a day of wrath.17  R. Oshaia said: He who is haughty falls into Gehenna, as it is said, A proud and haughty man, scoffer is his name, worketh for arrogant wrath.16  And by 'wrath' nought but Gehenna is meant; as it is said, That day is a day of wrath.17  Said R. Hanilai18  b. Hanilai: He who scoffs brings destruction upon the world, as it is said, Now therefore be ye not scoffers, lest your affliction be made severe, for an extermination wholly determined have I heard.19  Said R. Eleazar: It is indeed a grievous sin, since it incurs 'affliction' at first and 'extermination' at last.

R. Simeon b. Pazi expounded [that verse as follows]: 'Happy is the man that hath not walked' — i.e., to theatres and circuses of idolaters 'nor stood in the way of sinners' — that is he who does not attend contests of wild beasts;20  'nor sat in the seat of the scornful' — that is he who does not participate in [evil] plannings. And lest one say, 'Since I do not go to theatres or circuses nor attend contests of wild animals, I will go and indulge in sleep.' Scripture therefore continues, 'And in His Law doth He meditate day and night.'

Said R. Samuel b. Nahmani in the name of R. Jonathan: Happy is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the wicked — that is

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. So as not to be identified with R. Meir, who naturally would not enter such a place.
  2. The incident as related in Kid. 80b is to the effect that when R. Meir's wife taunted him about the familiar Rabbinic adage 'Women are lightminded', [H], he replied that one day she would herself testify to its truth. When, subsequently, she was enticed by one of her husband's disciples, she indeed proved to be too weak to resist. She then committed suicide and the husband, for shame, ran away to Babylon.
  3. Arenas for gladiatorial contests.
  4. [H], the Roman castra.
  5. Names given to various performers and performances. [Krauss, op. cit. III, 120, gives the Latin equivalent: bucco, pappus, maccus, morio (kinds of clowns), ludio (mimic), burrae (drolleries), scurrae (buffoons).]
  6. Ps. I, 1-2.
  7. Tos. 'A.Z. Ch. II.
  8. From the animal which might he scared by their abouts. [Rasbi: They might succeed in rescuing the victim by interceding on his behalf.]
  9. [[H] Levy takes it as kakophemism for [H] 'sacrifice'.]
  10. Since according to the Sages one is forbidden to enter such places in any case, is there any difference between a place where idolatrous entertainments are present or absent? (V. Tosaf. s.v. [H].)
  11. In the absence of idolatrous entertainments the sages would not forbid the going for such purpose, since the purpose is not to sit in the seat of the scornful.
  12. Ps. I. 1.
  13. Prov. IX, 12.
  14. Isa. XXVIII, 22. The word [H], here rendered 'your bands', may also stand for 'your affliction', v. supra, p. 14, n. 1.
  15. A homiletical rendering of Hos. VII, 5.
  16. Prov. XXI, 24, rendered homiletically.
  17. Zeph. I, 15, referring to the Day of Judgment when the wicked will be sentenced to Gehenna.
  18. Some versions have Tanhum.
  19. Isa. ibid.
  20. [H], [G] contest of wild beasts with beasts or with men; hunt of animals.