Rabbi Akiva's Regulations on Different Subjects
MISHNA I.: R. Aqiba said: Whence do we deduce that one who carries an idol is as unclean (ritually) as a woman suffering from menstruation? From the passage [Isaiah, xxx. 23]: "Thou wilt cast them away as a filthy thing. 1 'Get thee hence!', wilt thou say unto them." Thus, in the same manner as a woman suffering from menstruation causes (ritual) uncleanness, so does also an idol.
GEMARA: Rabba said: The passage mentioned in the Mishna should be interpreted thus: "Estrange 2 them from thyself as a stranger; Get thee hence, say unto him, but tell him not to come in!" Further Rabba said: It is unanimously conceded that the carrying of idols causes (ritual) uncleanness and hence it is compared to menstruation, but there is a dissenting opinion among the rabbis concerning a stone (used as a pedestal for an idol or upon which a woman suffering from menstruation chanced to sit) beneath which there were utensils. R. Aqiba holds that idols are regarded the same as menstruating women and the vessels beneath the stone become defiled (for the reason that the stone is the basis of the idol, and the former becomes part of the idol, and hence everything beneath it becomes defiled), but the rabbis regard an idol as a reptile, i.e., as a reptile lying upon a large stone (in which case any utensils chancing to be beneath the stone do not become defiled). This decree is unanimously conceded.
R. Ahadbou b. Ami asked: What about an idol smaller in size than an olive? R. Joseph objected to this question: What is the purpose of the query? Does it refer to the prohibition of idolatry? Even an idol the size of a fly, like the idol of the Ekronites, which was called Zebub 1 (fly) is also prohibited; for we are taught it is written in the passage [Judges, viii. 33]: "And they made themselves Baal-berith for a god"; by Baal-berith is meant the Zebub (fly) idol of Ekron, and every idolater (at that time) made an image of his idol in miniature in order to keep it constantly at hand and to be able at any time to take it out, embrace, and kiss it; hence there is no question as to size. Nay, the query of R. Ahadbou is in regard to causing defilement? Either it is regarded as a reptile and defiles, even if only of the size of a lentil, or it is considered as a corpse and causes defilement if it is the size of an olive. (A part of a corpse the size of an olive causes the person touching it to become defiled.) Answered R. Ivia, and according to others Rabba b. Ulla: "Come and hear the following Boraitha: 'No defilement is caused by idols smaller than olives, for it is written [II Kings, xxiii. 6]: "And cast its powder upon the graves of the children of the people."'" (The adduction is) that as a corpse cannot cause defilement by a part less than the size of ail olive, the same is the case with idols, which are regarded as corpses.
MISHNA II.: (R. Aqiba says again:) Whence the adduction that a ship, though a wooden vessel, is not subject to defilement? From the passage [Prov. xxx. 19]: "The way of a ship is in the heart of the sea."
GEMARA: It is certain 2 that R. Aqiba intends to convey to us that the reason the passage cited in the above Mishna informs us of a fact known to all is because the sense is to be construed thus: In the same manlier as the sea is not subject to defilement, so also a ship call never become defiled.
There is a Boraitha: Hananyah said: We make the adduction from a sack (which is subject to defilement) that everything which can be carried after the manner of a sack, sometimes full and at other times empty, is subject to defilement, except a ship, which cannot be carried at all, full or empty. What are the points of difference in the two adductions (of R. Aqiba and Hananyah)? They are concerning a small (river) boat. One holds that all boats (ships) must be regarded as the sea itself (hence not subject to defilement), while the other is of the opinion that a small (river) boat must be regarded as a sack because it is carried to the place whence it is launched and hence is subject to defilement; as R. Hanina b. Aqa'bbia said: Why did the rabbis say that a small (river) boat is subject to defilement? Because it is usually loaded in the dry dock and then carried into the river.
Rabbi Johanan in the name of Rabbi said: "One should not absent himself from the college even for one hour. Behold, this teaching (concerning a river boat) has been taught in the schools for many years and no one knew the reason for it until R. Hanina b. Aqa'bbia came and explained it."
R. Jonathan said: One should never absent himself from the house of learning or abstain from learning the law, even when at the point of death, for it is written [Num. xix. 14]: "This is the law, when a man dieth in his tent"; (i.e.) even at the point of death man must occupy himself with the study of the law. Resh Lakish, however, adduces from the same verse that one does not retain (in memory) the law, unless he is ready to die for it.
MISHNA III.: (R. Aqiba said:) Whence do we adduce that in a patch of ground six spans long by six spans wide five different kinds of seed may be planted--one kind each in each of the four corners and one in the centre of the patch? From the passage [Isaiah, lxi. 11]: "For as the earth bringeth forth her growth, and as a garden causeth what is sown therein to spring forth." (We see then) it is not written "as a garden causeth its seed to spring forth," but what is sown therein.
GEMARA: How is this to be understood from that passage? Said R. Jehudah: The passage cited in the above Mishna is to be thus explained: "The earth bringeth forth her growth." "Bringeth forth" (which is in the singular) can be counted for "one" (kind of seed). Her "growth" (also singular) can also be counted for "one." (Now we have two.) "What is grown therein" (evidently plural) can be counted for two more (making four), and "to spring forth" (in the singular again) can be counted as one, making five in all; and (as far as the six spans square are concerned) the rabbis are quite certain (through tradition) that five different kinds of seed in a patch six spans square do not interfere with one another. But whence do we know that the assurance of the rabbis can be depended upon? Answered R. Hyya b. Aba in the name of R. Johanan, from the passage [Deut. xix. 14]: "Thou shalt not remove the landmark of thy neighbor, which they of old time have set," which is to be explained: "Thou shalt not go beyond what is limited by those of old." But what have those of old limited? Answered R. Samuel bar Na'hmeni in the name of R. Jonathan: "It is written [Gen. xxxvi. 20]: "These are the sons of Seir the Chorite, who inhabited the land." Only they inhabited the land? Did the rest of mankind inhabit heaven? It simply means to state that they made the earth inhabitable by their knowledge of agriculture and their experience as to what ground is adapted for the planting of olive trees, vines, date trees, etc.
R. Assi said: "The teaching of R. Aqiba in the Mishna refers to a patch of ground six spans square, excluding the corners.
Rabh said: "The above Mishna has reference only to an isolated patch (or furrow) of ground, but in a furrow surrounded by others one can not sow five kinds of grain, (as it is necessary to have a space of three spans dividing one kind from the other). Are there not corners, however, (to the furrow)?" The school of Rabh explained, in the name of Rabh, that reference is made to furrows into the corners of which grain had been sown.
Samuel, however, said, even in a furrow surrounded by other furrows. But will not the seeds interfere one with another? Samuel refers to furrows which are planted alternately from north to east and from south to west. 1
MISHNA IV.: (R. Aqiba says again): Whence the adduction that a woman, from whom seed of copulation 2 escapes only on the third day (after lying with her husband), is unclean? From the passage [Exodus, xix. 15]: "And he said unto the people, Be ready against the third day. Approach not unto a woman." Whence the adduction that a child may be bathed on the third day of its circumcision, even if that day fall on a Sabbath? From the passage [Gen. xxxiv. 25]: "And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore." Whence the adduction that a string of crimson wool must be tied on the head of the goat that was to be sent away? 3 From the passage [Isaiah, i. 18]: "Though they should be red like crimson, they shall become (white) like wool." Whence do we adduce that anointing one's self on the Day of Atonement is equal to drinking? Although no positive proof is apparent, still a reference can be adduced from the passage [Psalms, cix. 18]: "And it cometh like water on his body and oil into his bones."
GEMARA: The first part of the Mishna (treating of a woman) is not in accordance with the opinion of R. Elazar b. Azaryah, who declares her (the woman) clean in that case; the second part of the Mishna, however, (treating of bathing on the third day after circumcision) is in direct accord with his own words (as will be seen in Chapter XIX.). Therefore some rabbis claim that the first part of the Mishna reads clean instead of unclean, i.e., that the whole Mishna is according to the opinion of R. Elazar b. Azaryah, but other rabbis claim that the first part of the Mishna is according to the opinion of other Tanaim, who differ with Elazar b. Azaryah (and the word unclean is correct).
"And they shall be ready against the third day" [Ex. xix. 11]. R. Ada b. Ahbha said: "Moses went up (to the Mount Sinai) at daybreak, and descended the following break of day." He went up at break of day, as it is written [Ex. xxxiv. 4]: "And Moses rose up early in the morning and went up unto Mount Sinai." He descended on the following daybreak, as it is written [ibid. xix. 24]: "Go, get thee down, and then shalt thou come up, thou, and Aaron with thee." We see that the Scripture compares the descending to the ascending, and as the ascending was early in the morning, so was also the descending early in the morning.
The rabbis taught: The decalogue was given to Israel on the sixth day of the (third) month, but R. Jossi said on the seventh day.
Said Rabba: All agree that on the first day of the (third) month the Israelites arrived at the wilderness of Sinai. It is adduced from the analogy of the word "this"; [Ex. xix. 1] "on this day they arrived at the wilderness of Sinai," and [Ex. xii. 2] "this month to be to you the first of months." As in the latter instance the "this" referred to the first, so does it also in the former; furthermore (he said), all agree that the law was given to Israel on a Sabbath; this is to be adduced from the analogy of the word "remember" [Ex. xx. 8]: "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy"; and [ibid. iii. 3]: "Remember this day on which ye came out from Egypt." As in the latter instance the very day of their coming out of Egypt is referred to, so is it also in the former instance. Where the rabbis do differ is what day was the first of the month. R. Jossi holds that the first of the month was set on the first of the week, and on that day no commandments were given, because the children of Israel were tired from their long journey. On the second day (of the week) the Lord said to them: "Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests" [Ex. xix. 1]. On the third of the week he commanded them to keep away from the mountain. On the fourth to separate themselves from their wives. The rabbis, however, hold that the first of the month was set on the second of the week; that on that day nothing was commanded the Israelites, they being tired; on the third the cited passage [Ex. xix. 1] was said; on the fourth day they were to keep away from the mountain, and on the fifth to separate themselves from their wives.
An objection was raised: It is written [Ex. xix. 10]: "Go unto the people, and sanctify them to-day and to-morrow." Is this not contradictory to the statement of R. Jossi (in whose opinion the sanctification lasted three days)? R. Jossi may explain this thus: "Moses added one day upon his own authority," as we have learned in a Boraitha: "Three things were done by Moses upon his own authority, and the Holy One, blessed be He, agreed thereto. They are: He added one day (to the period of sanctification), he separated himself from a woman, and he broke the tablets into pieces." "He added one day upon his own authority." What was his object? The Lord said unto him: "To-day and to-morrow," and he construed the words as follows: "To-day must be equal (in duration) to tomorrow; as to-morrow includes the might, so must to-day; the night, however, having already passed, another day must be added in order to make up for the lost night." Whence do we know that the Lord agreed to this? Because the Shekhina did not appear on Mount Sinai until the Sabbath morn. What was the object of Moses in separating himself from a woman? He applied the order given the Israelites (to separate themselves from their wives) to himself in a so much larger degree (i.e., the order having been issued to the Israelites for the reason that they would shortly hear the word of the Lord, it would be so much more proper for him, who frequently was spoken to by the Lord, to separate himself entirely from a woman). And whence do we know that the Lord agreed to this also? It is written [Deut. v. 27 and 28]: "Go, say to them, Return you unto your tents. But as for thee, remain thou here by me." And what was his object in breaking the tablets? He thought: "As concerning the Passover sacrifice, which is only one of the six hundred and thirteen commandments, it is written [Ex. xii- 43]: 'No stranger shall eat thereof,' how can I give the tablets, which contain all the commandments, to the children of Israel, who are now all renegades?" And whence do we know that the Holy One, blessed be He, agreed even to this? It is written [Ex. xxxiv. 1]: "And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thyself two tables of stone like unto the first; and I will write upon these tables the words which were on the first tables which thou didst break." Said Resh Lakish: "'Which thou didst break' really means, 'which thou didst break rightfully.'"
Another objection was raised: It is written [Ex. xix. 11]: "And they shall be ready against the third day." According to R. Jossi it should be the fourth day. This is no objection! as it is said above that Moses added another day upon his own authority. Come and hear another objection: "The sixth means the sixth of the week and of the month." Is this not contradictory to the statement of the rabbis, who say: "The first of the month was the second day of the week?" Yea, (it may be that) this Boraitha holds to the opinion of R. Jossi.
Come and hear: On the fourteenth day of the month of Nissan, during which (month) the Israelites went out of Egypt, they killed the Passover sacrifice and on the fifteenth day they went out. On the night before that the first-born of the Egyptians were beaten. That day (the fifteenth) was the fifth of the week. Now, if the fifteenth of Nissan was the fifth of the week, we must certainly say that the first of the next month (Iar) was Sabbath and the first day of the following month (Sivan) was the first day of the week. Is this not contradictory to the statement of the rabbis, that the first day of the month was the second day of the week? The rabbis might have assumed that the month of Iar was an intercalary month.
Said R. Habibi of 'Huzunah to R. Ashi: Come and hear: It is written [Ex. xl. 17]: "And it came to pass in the first month in the second year, on the first of the month, that the tabernacle was reared up," and a Boraitha teaches that this day was crowned tenfold, viz.: "That day was the first of the six days of the creation; the first of the days on which the first prince presented his offering before the altar; the first of the days on which the priests (Aaron and sons) did their work in the sanctuary; the first day on which the children of Israel brought their sacrifices into the tabernacle; the first of the days on which the heavenly fire descended upon the altar; the first of the days on which the priests were permitted to eat the sacrifices in the tabernacle; the first of the days on which the Shekhina appeared in the tabernacle; the first day on which Aaron the High Priest blessed the Israelites in the tabernacle; the first of the days on which sacrifices were no more permitted to be brought on the high places outside of the tabernacle, and the first day of the first of the months." Now, if the first day of this year was the first day of the week, we must say the first of Nissan of the preceding year fell on the fourth day of the week, because we have learned in another Boraitha: "Anonymous teachers say that there can be not more than four days' difference between one New Year's day and another." If a leap year intervened, then there may be a difference of five days. Is this not contradictory to the opinion of both the rabbis and R. Jossi? According to R. Jossi there were seven short months (of twenty-nine days) in that year, but according to the rabbis there were eight such months, (consequently the difference from the last year was only in two days,) as this year was an extraordinary one. (And the first day of the month Iar of the last year was on Friday.)
Another objection was raised: We have learned in the Tract Seder Aulim that on the fourteenth day of the month of Nissan, during which (month) the Israelites went out of Egypt, they killed the Passover sacrifice; on the fifteenth they went out, and that day was Friday. Now, if the first of the month of Nissan of that year was Friday, we must say that the first day of the following (Iar) month was on the first day of the week and the first of the succeeding month (Sivan) was on Monday. Is this not contradictory with R. Jossi? R. Jossi will then say that this Boraitha is in accordance with the opinion of the rabbis.
Come and hear another objection: R. Jossi says: "On the second day Moses went up on the Mount Sinai and came back. The same he did on the third day, but on the fourth day, when he came back, he remained." Came back and remained? Whence did he come back--it does not say that he went up at all? Say, then, on the fourth day he went up, came back, and remained. On the fifth he built an altar and offered a sacrifice. On the sixth he had no time. Shall we assume that he had no time because on that day the Israelites received the Torah? (If we say that the second refers to the second day of the week, it must be a fact that the Torah was given on Friday, and would this not be a contradiction to his [R. Jossi's] own opinion?) Nay; he had no time because the Sabbath was at hand.
A Galilean lectured in the presence of R. Hisda: Praised be the merciful God, who gave a triple law (the Pentateuch, Prophets, and Hagiographa) to a triple people (Kahanites, Levites, and Israelites) through a man who was the third child of his parents (Miriam, Aaron, and Moses), on the third day of sanctification and in the third month. We see from this that the Galilean held in accordance with the teachings of the rabbis.
It is written [Ex. xix. 17]: "And they placed themselves at the foot of the mount." Said R. Abhdimi b. Hama b. Hassa: "It appears from this passage that the Holy One, blessed be He, inclined the mountain toward the children of Israel and gave them the choice of either accepting the Torah or being buried right under the mountain." Said R. Aha b. Jacob: "This would accord us the right to protest against any punishment inflicted upon us for violating the law. (For we were compelled to accept it.)" Said Rabha: Although (at that time they were compelled to accept it), at the time of Ahasuerus (King of Persia) they accepted it voluntarily. For it is written [Esther, ix. 27]: "The Jews confirmed it as a duty, and took upon themselves and upon their seed." And it is to be explained: "They took upon themselves voluntarily what at one time they were compelled to accept." R. Simai lectured: "At that time, when Israel answered to the information of Moses, 'We will do and we will obey,' six hundred thousand angels had furnished to every one of Israel two crowns: one for the answer 'We will do,' and one for the answer 'We will obey.' Thereafter when Israel sinned (with the Golden Calf) twelve hundred thousand destroying angels descended and took them away; as it is written [Exodus, xxxiii. 6]: 'The children of Israel then stripped themselves of their ornaments (they wore) from (the time they were at) Mount Horeb.'" Said R. Hami b. R. Hanina: "For in the same passage it may be deduced that in the same place where they were furnished they were taken away from them." Said R. Johanan: All of them were given as a reward to Moses, as immediately after the verse cited it is written: "And Moses took the tent," etc. Said Resh Lakish: We hope, however, that the Holy One, blessed be He, will return them to us, as it is written [Isaiah, xxxv. 10]: "And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with song, with everlasting joy upon their head." The expression everlasting means that it was already upon their heads at the time of reception of the Torah.
R. Elazar said: At the time the Israelites said "We will do" and afterward "We will obey" a heavenly voice (Bath-kol) was heard, which said unto them: "Who unfolded unto my children this mystery known only to the angels?" For it is written [Psalms, ciii. 20]: "Bless the Lord, ye his angels, mighty in strength, that execute his word, hearkening unto the voice of his word," and from this we see that only angels can execute first and then obey.
A Sadducee once noticed Rabha studying and observed that he in his absent-mindedness held his (Rabha's) finger underneath his knee and pressed it so hard that blood spurted from the finger. Said the Sadducee 1to him: "Impetuous people, whose mouths precede your ears! Ye are still of the same vehemence! Ye must first hear the Torah before you accept it and not accept without knowing its prescriptions!" Answered Rabha: We who are upright men trusted Him, as it is said of us [Proverbs, xi. 3]: "The integrity of the upright guideth them," but to those men who are continually fault-finding the latter part of the same verse [ibid., ibid.] can be applied, viz. "But the cunning of the treacherous destroyeth them."
R. Samuel b. Na'hmeni in the name of R. Jonathan said: It is written [Solomon's Song, iv. 9]: "Thou hast ravished my heart, O my sister, (my) bride! thou hast ravished my heart with one of thy eyes." This means: When thou didst but receive the Torah, it was with one of thy eyes. When thou wilt obey it, it will be with both of thy eyes.
R. Johanan said: It is written [Psalms, lxviii. 12]: "The Lord gave (happy) tidings; they are published by female messengers, a numerous host." This implies that every word emanating from the mighty God was heralded in seventy languages. The school of R. Ishmael, however, (adduced the same from another passage): It is written [Jeremiah, xxiii. 29]: "Is not thus my word like the fire? saith the Lord, and like a hammer that shivereth the rock?" As the hammer that strikes emits a multitude of sparks, so, is every word emanating from the Holy One, blessed be He, heralded in seventy different languages.R. Hananel b. Papa said: It is written [Proverbs, viii. 6]. "Hear! for of noble things will I speak." Why are the words of the Torah compared to a noble? To inform us that inasmuch as a noble has in his power the disposal over life and death, so have also the words of the Torah. This is similar to what Rabha said: To those who walk in the right ways of the law, it is an elixir of life, but to those who pursue not the right way, it is the poison of death.
R. Jehoshua b. Levi said: It is written [Solomon's Song, i. 12]: "A bundle of myrrh is my friend unto me, that resteth on my bosom." Said the Congregation of Israel: "Lord of the Universe! Although my friend chastiseth 1 me, still he resteth on my bosom!"
The same rabbi said: "It is written [Solomon's Song, v. 13]: "His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as turrets of sweet perfumes." Every word emanating from the Holy One, blessed be He, fills the whole world with the aroma of spices. If the world was filled with the aroma arising from the first word, where could the second word go? The Holy One, blessed be He, sent forth a wind from His store, which cleared off the aroma of each word, as it is written [ibid.]: "His lips like lilies, dropping with fluid myrrh." Do not read Shoshanim (lilies) but Sheshonim (learned men). The same said again that from each word which came from the Holy One, blessed be He, the soul of Israel was going out, as it is written [ibid., ibid. 6]: "My soul had failed me while he was speaking." But the Holy One, blessed be He, has let down the dew with which He will in the future make the resurrection and bring them to life; as it is written [Psalms, lxviii. 10]: "Rain of beneficence didst thou pour down, O God!"
He also said: When Moses ascended into Heaven, said the angels before the Holy One, blessed be He, "Lord of the Universe! What has one born of a woman to do among us?"
The Lord answered: "He came to receive the Torah." Said the angels again: "Wouldst Thou give a precious thing that Thou hast preserved since nine hundred and seventy-four generations before the creation of the world to a being of flesh and blood? (It is written [Psalms, viii. 5]): What is the mortal, that thou rememberest him? and the son of man, that thou thinkest of him?" Said the Holy One, blessed be He, unto Moses: "Give thou them an answer!" Answered Moses before the Lord: "Lord of the Universe! What is written in the law, which Thou gavest unto me?" [Ex. xx. 2]. "I am the Lord, thy God, who have brought thee out of the land of Egypt." Moses then said to the angels: Were ye in Egypt? Have ye served Pharaoh? Of what use can the Torah be unto you? Further, what is written in the Torah [ibid. 3]: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Are ye among the nations that worship idols? And furthermore, what is written in the Torah? [ibid. 8]: "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." Do ye any labor on the week-days? [Ibid. 7]: "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." Are ye merchants, that ye must swear? [Ibid. 13]: "Honor thy father and thy mother." Have ye fathers and mothers to honor? [Ibid. 12]: "Thou shalt not kill," etc. Is there any jealousy among you? Have ye any evil intent?
Then the angels confessed and praised the Holy One, blessed be He, as it is written [Psalms, viii. 10]: "O Eternal One, our Lord, how excellent is thy name on all the earth!" but the ending of the verse [ibid. 2], "Thou who hast set thy majesty above the heavens," is not cited in this verse. Then every one of the angels befriended Moses and each of them disclosed some mystery to him, as it is written [Psalms, lxviii. 19]: "Thou didst ascend on high, lead away captives, receive gifts among men," which means that because at first the angels called Moses one born of a woman (man), they at the close gave him gifts, and even the Angel of Death disclosed a mystery to him, as it is written [Num. xvii. 12 and 13]: "And he put on the incense, and made an atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living." Now if the Angel of Death had not disclosed unto Moses this mystery, how could he have imparted it to Aaron?
Said R. Jehoshua b. Levi again: When Moses descended from Heaven, Satan came before the Holy One, blessed be He, and said: "Lord of the universe! Where is the Torah?" And the Lord answered: "I have given it to the earth." Satan descended to earth and said to it: "Where is the Torah?" And the earth answered [Job, xxviii. 23]: "God (alone) understandeth her way, and he knoweth her place." Satan then went to the sea, and the sea said: "She is not with me." He then went to the deep, and the deep answered: "Not in me is she," as it is written [ibid. 14]: "The deep saith, Not in me is she; and the sea saith, She is not with me." [Ibid. 22]: "Perdition and death say: With our ears have we heard a report of her." Satan then ascended before the Holy One, blessed be He, and said: "Lord of the Universe! I have looked for the Torah on the whole earth and could not find it." Then said the Lord unto him: "Go unto the son of Amram." And Satan went to Moses and said to him: "Where is the Torah which the Holy One, blessed be He, gave unto thee?" And Moses answered: "Who am I, that the Holy One, blessed be He, should give me the Torah?" Said the Lord unto Moses: "Moses, art thou a liar?" Said Moses before the Lord: "Lord of the Universe! Shall I claim that Thou hast given unto me a precious thing which Thou didst fondle every day?" Said the Holy One, blessed be He, unto Moses: "Because thou hast humbled thyself, the Torah shall bear thy name," as it is written [Malachi, iii. 22]: "Remember ye the law of Moses my servant."
The same rabbi said again: When Moses ascended unto Heaven (and he was silent), the Lord said unto him: "Moses, is there no peace in thy city?" And Moses answered: "Is it then proper that a slave should salute his Master?" Said the Lord: "Still thou shouldst have wished me well." Then said Moses before the Lord [Numbers, xiv. 17]: "And now, I beseech thee, let the greatness of the power of the Lord be made manifest as thou hast spoken."
"A string of crimson wool," etc. Did not the passage say (Kashanim) 1 "like years" and not like crimson, for were it like crimson it would read Kashani? Said R. Itz'hak: "The passage is thus to be explained: The Lord said unto Israel: If your sins all lie before me as the years that have passed since the creation, they shall nevertheless become white as snow."
Rabha lectured: It is written [Isaiah, i. 18]: "Go now, 2 and let us reason together, said the Lord." It should not read "go now" but "come now," and not "saith the Lord" but "said the Lord." The passage should be explained: In the future the Lord will say unto Israel: Go to your ancestors and they shall rebuke you; and Israel will say before the Lord: Lord of the Universe, to whom shall we go? Shall we go to Abraham, to whom Thou hast said: "Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land which is not theirs, and they will make them serve," and he did not pray for us? Shall we go to Isaac, who, when blessing Esau, said [Gen. xxvii. 40]: "And it shall come to pass that when thou shalt have the dominion thou canst break his yoke from off thy neck," and he also did not pray for us? Shall we go to Jacob, to whom Thou didst say [Gen. xlvi. 4]: "I will go down with thee into Egypt," and not even he prayed for us? To whom shall we go now? Then the Lord will say unto Israel: "Inasmuch as ye have attached yourselves to me, though your sins should be as scarlet, they shall become white as snow."
Said R. Samuel b. Na'hmeni in the name of R. Jonathan: It is written [Isaiah, lxiii. 16]: "For Thou art our Father; for Abraham knoweth nothing of us, and Israel recognizeth us not; Thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer from everlasting is thy name." In the future the Holy One, blessed be He, will say to Abraham: "Thy children have sinned before me," and Abraham will answer: "Let them be wiped off (the face of the earth) for the sake of the holiness of Thy name." The Holy One, blessed be He, will then say: "I shall tell this to Jacob, who had trouble in rearing his own children; perhaps he will pay for the present generation." The Lord said to Jacob: "Thy children have sinned before me," and Jacob gave the same reply as Abraham. Then said the Lord: "Not with the aged can feeling be found, nor with the young wise counsel." The Lord then said to Isaac: "Thy children have sinned before me." Then said Isaac before the Lord: "Creator of the universe! Thou sayest my children, are they not Thine? When they answered before Thee, 'We will do,' and (then) 'obey,' Thou calledst them 'My son, my first-born,' and now they are my children and not Thine! And furthermore, how long a time have they sinned before Thee? Let us see; what is the duration of a man's life? Only seventy years. Take off the twenty years that Thou dost not punish for sin and only fifty remain. Take off the nights and only twenty-five full years remain. Deduct again twelve years and six months spent in praying, eating, and in the performance of other necessities, only twelve and one-half years remain. If Thou wilt bear the whole it is well, but if not let me bear half and Thou the other half. If Thou wilt say that I must bear the whole, did I not sacrifice myself for Thee?" Then Israel said (unto Isaac): "For thou (alone) art our father." Said Isaac unto them: "Instead of praising me, praise ye the Holy One, blessed be He," and he pointed them on high with his finger. "There is the Lord!" Then they lifted up their eyes unto Heaven and said: Thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer from everlasting is Thy name.
R. Hyya b. Aba said in the name of R. Johanan: "Jacob deserved to go down into Egypt in iron shackles (because that is the usual way of going into exile), but his merits precluded such a thing, as it is written: "With human cords I ever drew them forward, with leading-strings of love; and I was to them as those that lift off the yoke from their jaws, and I held out unto them food" [Hosea, xi. 4].
MISHNA V.: The prescribed quantity for wood is as much as suffices. to cook an (easily boiled) egg; for spices as much as would suffice to spice such an egg--and the different spices are counted together; nut-shells, pomegranate peel, isatis, and cochineal, as much as suffices to dye the edge of a small piece of cloth; alum, native carbonate of soda, Cimolia chalk, vegetable soap, as much as suffices to wash the edge of a small piece of cloth. R. Jehudah says as much as will suffice to remove a blood stain.
GEMARA: Have we not learned this already? Reeds, split, as much as will suffice to cook an egg? In that case we must assume that the reeds could not be used for any other purpose, but wood which can be put to a multitude of uses, as, for instance, to make the handle for a key, (should be limited to a smaller quantity). He comes to teach us that the same quantity also applies in this case.
"Nut-shells," etc. Is this not a contradiction to what we have learned elsewhere, that dyes may not be carried in quantities sufficient to exhibit a sample of the color in the market? Said R. Na'hman in the name of Rabba b. Abuhu: "Because one will not take the trouble to make dye sufficient only for a sample."
"Native carbonate," etc. A Boraitha in addition to this states, that coming from Alexandria but not from Anphantrin.
"Vegetable soap" (Ashleg). Said Samuel: "I have inquired of a number of seafaring men and they have told me that the name for it is Ashalgoh; it is found in the shells of a pearl-oyster and it is extracted with iron needles."
MISHNA VI.: The prescribed quantity for (aromatic) pepper (pimento) is the least possible amount; for tar it is the same; for different kinds of spices and metals it is also the same; for the stone and the earth of the altar, torn pieces of the scroll of laws or its cover, it is also the same, because such things are generally preserved by men. R. Jehudah said: The same quantity applies to everything pertaining to the worship of idols, because it is written [Deut. xiii. 18]: "And there shall not cleave to thy hand aught of the devoted things."
GEMARA: To what use can such a small quantity of pepper be put? It may be used by one whose breath is foul.
"For tar." For what purpose can tar in so small a quantity be used? It may be used by one who has the sickness Tzilchathah (an illness where only one-half of the head aches).
"For different kinds of spices." The rabbis taught: The prescribed quantity both for aromatic spices as well as for ill-smelling oils is the same (least possible quantity); for purple dye also the same, and for roses only one rosebud.
"And metals." Of what use are they? We have learned, R. Simon b. Elazar said: They can be used to make a goad.
"The torn pieces of the scroll of laws." Said R. Jehudah: Book-worms, silk-worms, vine-worms, date-worms, and pomegranate-worms are all dangerous to human life. There was a disciple sitting before R. Johanan eating dates, and the disciple said to him: "Rabbi, there are thorns in the dates." Said the rabbi: "The date-worm (Pah) has killed this man."
MISHNA VII.: One who carries the chest of a spice dealer is liable for one sin-offering only, although there may be many spices in the chest. The prescribed quantity for garden seeds is the equivalent in size to a dried fig. R. Jehudah b. Bathyra said. Five different seeds. The prescribed quantity for cucumber seeds are two, for pumpkin seeds the same, for Egyptian beans the same; a living locust (which may be eaten), be it ever so small, must not be carried, but dead locusts may be carried in quantities less than a dried fig. The prescribed quantity for vineyard birds 1 living or dead is the smallest possible quantity, because they were preserved for medicinal purposes. R. Jehudah said: One must not carry out a living locust, (which must not be eaten), be it ever so small, because such locusts were kept as playthings for small children.
GEMARA: "Cucumber seeds." The rabbis taught: The prescribed quantity for seeds used for planting is two, but for seeds used for food it is the equivalent of a pig's mouthful. How much is a pig's mouthful? The seeds of one cucumber. For cucumber seeds used as fuel the prescribed quantity is as much as will suffice to cook an egg; for cucumber seeds used as counters (for figures) only two. Anonymous teachers say five.
The rabbis taught: One who carries two hairs from the tail of a horse or a cow is culpable, because the hairs are always preserved for making nets. The prescribed quantity for hog bristles is only one; for willows (used for wickerwork) two; for tree-bark 1 one strip.
"R. Jehudah says: A locust (which must not be eaten)," etc. Why did not the first Tana of the Mishna mention this? Because in his opinion it is forbidden to carry it even on week-days, lest one eat it. If such is the case, why should an eatable locust be allowed to be carried? Did not R. Kahana stand before Rabh and a small locust lighted on his lips: Rabh said to him. (R. Kahana), Take it away, lest people say that thou hast eaten it and thou hast violated the commandment [Leviticus, xi. 43]: "Ye shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creepeth"? Nay; there was no fear that the locust would be eaten alive, but they apprehended lest it die and then be eaten. (An eatable locust would not matter, but an uneatable locust would be a violation of the law.) If that is the case, why does R. Jehudah permit this? R. Jehudah holds that there is no fear of the locust being eaten when dead, as the child will mourn its death.
155:2 The term "it is certain" (peshitah) is generally used by the Gemara in the sense of the question, "Is it not self-evident?" In the above case, however, it is intended for an explanation of the reason for R. Aqiba's adduction. See Rashi.
163:1 It is not meant a real Sadducee, as they did not yet exist in Rabha's time, but one of the other sects which opposed the oral law; and the name may be here a correction of the censor instead of Akum, as there are many such corrections of the censor. It may also be another sect for which the name Sadducee was borrowed.
166:1 Shanah in Hebrew means year (Shanim, plural, years). Shany means crimson, but the latter is used only once (Prov. xxxi. 21) in plural; the former, however, is generally used in plural, as, for many years. As here it is in plural (Kashanim) he declares it like years.
Sources: Sacred Texts