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Tractate Shabbat: Chapter 18

Regulations regarding the clearing off of required space, the assistance to be given cattle when given birth to their young and to women about to be confined.

Regulations regarding the clearing off of required space, the assistance to be given cattle when given birth to their young and to women about to be confined.

MISHNA: One may even clear off four or five chests of straw or grain, in order to provide room for guests, and to remove obstacles to instruction; but one must not clear out a whole barn. Further, one may clear off: heave-offerings, grain (of which it is not certain that the tithes have been set apart), first tithes of which the heave-offering has been taken off, second tithes and consecrated things which have been redeemed, and dried broad-beans, which serve the poor (others say, the goats) for food. But one must not clear off mixed grain (of which tithes have not yet been separated), nor first tithes. of which the heave-offering had not yet been taken off, nor second tithes nor consecrated things which had not yet been redeemed, nor arum (wake-robin) nor mustard. R. Simeon ben Gamaliel permits arum (wake-robin) to be cleared off, because it serves the (house) raven for food.

Bundles of straw, bundles of stalks, and bundles of reeds may be handled, provided they are designed for cattle-fodder, otherwise they must not be handled.

GEMARA: The Mishna says, "four or five chests." Why say four or five? If five may be cleared off, surely four may! Said Samuel: This is said only as a customary saying; but in reality it means to say that any number maybe cleared off; but by saying "one must not clear off a whole barn," the Mishna means to state, that all the straw should not be removed for fear lest pits be noticed in the ground, and the man might fill them up. Even if the whole barn be full and as yet untouched, one may commence to remove as much as is necessary, and the Mishna is in accordance with the opinion of R. Simeon, who disregards the law of Muktza.

The rabbis taught: One may not commence on a full barn, but one may remove enough, when entering, with his feet, to provide an entrance, and when going out to make a way of egress.

The rabbis taught: A sheaf of grain, if commenced prior to the Sabbath, may be used on the Sabbath; but if not, it must not be used on Sabbath, so saith R. A'ha, but R. Simeon permits this to be done. How large should the sheaf be? We have learned in a Boraitha that it should measure one Lethach. 1

The schoolmen propounded a question (not having heard Samuel's explanation): "How is the term 'four or five chests' to be understood? Should a man clear off only four or five chests, even if that be not room enough for his guests; or should he do so in proportion to the number of his guests? If according to the number of his guests, does it mean to say, that one man should clear off sufficient for all, or every man for himself?" Come and hear: Rabba told in the name of R. Hyya: It once happened that Rabbi went out on a Sabbath to a certain place, and saw that the place assigned to him for lecturing was too small; so he went out into the field, and found the whole field full of sheaves. He cleared off the field, and provided sufficient room." Thence we see that he did so in proportion to the number of his guests; but this narration decides only one part of the schoolmen's question, viz.: the one relating to the number of sheaves to be cleared off, but not the one relating to whether one man may clear off sufficient for all, or every man for himself. Come and hear: "Rabbi cleared off the field," etc. (that is, one man for all). And what think you, that Rabbi did this himself? he certainly must have ordered this to be done, so it is not known whether one man did it, or each man for himself.

"For guests," etc. R. Johanan said: "The reward for hospitality is equal to that for visiting the house of learning, for the Mishna saith for guests and for obstacles to instruction, thus putting the two causes on a par." Said R. Dimi: "Hospitality is even a greater virtue, for it is given the precedence over instruction."

R. Jehudah said in the name of Rabh: Hospitality is even a greater merit than receiving the Shekhina, as it is written [Genesis xviii. 3]: "And he said, My Lord, if now I have found favor in thy eyes, pass not away," etc. (showing that Abraham let the Lord wait while he went to receive his guests). Said R. Elazar: Come and see how the custom of the Holy One, blessed be He, is unlike that of human beings. An insignificant man cannot say to a great man: "Stay here until I come back again," whereas to the Holy One, blessed be He, Abraham said as mentioned above.

Said R. Jehudah bar Shila in the name of R. Assi, quoting R. Johanan: "There are six things, the interest on which a man consumes on earth, while the principal is given him in the world to come. They are: Hospitality, visiting the sick, contemplation before prayer, attending the house of learning, educating children in the Law, and charity in judging others." Is this so? Have we not learned in a Mishna: These are the things the interest of which a man consumes on earth and the principal of which is given him in the world to come? "Honoring father and mother, doing favors to neighbors, peace-making among men, and, above all, the study of the Law." Now, if the Mishna says "these are the things," it means no others! Nay; the six things previously mentioned are included in those subsequently enumerated (hospitality and visiting the sick are included in doing favors to neighbors; contemplation before prayer is a favor to one's self, as it is written [Proverbs xi. 17]: "The man of kindness doth good to his own soul"; attending the house of learning and educating children in the Law is included in the study of the Law; charity in judging others is included in peacemaking among men, and R. Johanan does not dispute the Mishna, but merely expounds it).

The rabbis taught: One who exercises charity in judging others is charitably dealt with when judged above. It once happened that a man came from upper Galilee and hired out to a master in southern Palestine for three years. On the last eve of the Day of Atonement (when his term was up) he asked his master for his wages, so that he could return to his wife and children. The master replied that he had no money. Said the man: "Then give me my money's worth in grain." And the master answered: "I have it not." Said the man again: "Give me my money's worth in land," and again the master replied: "I have it not." "Then give me my money's worth in cattle." "I have it not," was the reply. "I will take my money's worth in bolsters or bed-clothes," Pleaded the man, but the answer was still the same. The poor man shouldered his bundle and sorrowfully went away. After the holidays the master took the hired man's wages and, besides, three asses; one laden with victuals, the second with beverages, and the third with spices, and went to his hired man's house in Galilee. After having partaken of a meal together, the master paid him his wages, and asked him: "When I told thee that I had not the money to pay thee thy wages, what didst thou suspect me of?" The man answered: "I thought that perhaps thou hadst come across a bargain and hadst paid out all thy ready money." "And when thou askedst me for cattle and I refused thee, what didst thou think then?" "I thought that thou hadst hired out thy cattle on some other farm, and thou couldst not give me any at the time." "And when thou askedst me for grain and I refused?" "I thought perhaps thou hadst not yet paid thy tithes and hence thou couldst not give me any." "And when I refused thee land?" "I thought perhaps thou hadst rented it out." "And when I refused thee bed-clothes?" "Then I thought that thou hadst devoted all thy possessions in honor of the Lord." "I swear to thee, then, that such was really the case. I had made a vow to give away all my possessions for charitable purposes, because my son Hurkenes did not want to study the Law. Afterwards, when I came to my comrades in the South they released me from my vow, and as thou didst judge me in kindness, so may God judge thee in kindness."

The rabbis taught: A pious man once ransomed a Jewish maiden from captivity. When they came to a lodging-place at night, he laid her down at his feet. On the morrow he bathed, and then went out to teach his disciples. During the lesson, he asked his disciples: "When I laid the damsel down at my feet last night, what did you suspect me of?" And they answered: "Perhaps there may be one among us who has not yet been tried and thou couldst not trust him, so thou laidst her near thee." "And when I went in the morning and bathed, what did you suspect?" "Perhaps, on account of the hardships on the way, thy seed of copulation ran out from thee and thou wert compelled to bathe." "By the Lord," said the master, "so it was; and as ye have judged me in kindness, so may the Lord judge you in kindness."

The rabbis taught: It happened that the sages had business with a Roman matron to whom all the great men of Rome came for advice, and they could not decide who should go to her. Finally R. Jehoshua volunteered to go, and so he and his disciples went to her. Four ells from the door of her house, R. Jehoshua removed his phylacteries and went in, locking the door behind him. When he came back he bathed, and then went back and taught his disciples. During the lesson he asked: "When I removed my phylacteries, what did ye suspect? "And they answered: "The phylacteries are holy, and thou didst not wish to bring them into a profane place." "And when I locked the door behind me, what did ye suspect?" "We thought perhaps thou hadst a secret political affair to transact and didst not wish us to enter." "And when I came out and bathed, what did you suspect?" And they replied: "We thought perhaps some of the matron's spittle had accidentally dropped on thy garments and thou hadst to bathe." "By the Lord," said R. Jehoshua, "so it happened; and as ye judged me in kindness, so may the Lord also judge you in kindness."

"Further, one may clear off heave-offerings," etc. Is this not self-evident? It might be assumed that the heave-offerings being in possession of a plebeian who is not allowed to partake of them, they must not be handled; but the Mishna comes to teach us, that because a priest is allowed to eat them, they may be handled by everybody. 1

"And dried broad-beans." The rabbis taught: Hatzav (a certain plant the roots of which grow deep into the ground but do not spread) may be handled on the Sabbath, because it is food for deer. Mustard may be handled, because it is food for doves. R. Simeon ben Gamaliel said that pieces of glass may be handled, because ostriches eat them. Said R. Nathan: "In this case twigs may be handled, because they serve elephants for food." What did R. Simeon answer R. Nathan? Ostriches are more frequently owned by men than elephants. Said Ameimar: "R. Simeon ben Gamaliel means to say, that only one who possesses ostriches may handle pieces of glass?" Said R. Ashi to Ameimar: "If this is so, what did R. Nathan question? If one possesses elephants, he may surely handle twigs. So R. Nathan means to say, that because twigs serve as food for elephants, anybody may handle them; and the same applies to pieces of glass, because they serve ostriches for food, everybody may handle them (on the Sabbath)."

"Bundles of straw," etc. The rabbis taught: "Bundles of straw, bundles of stalks, and bundles of reeds may be handled, provided they are designed for cattle-fodder; otherwise, they must not be handled." R. Simeon ben Gamaliel said: "If the bundles can be lifted with one hand they may be handled, but if not they must not be handled."

Bundles of satureia, abrotanum, and thyme, if prepared for fuel, must not be used on Sabbath, but if prepared for cattle-food may be used. Grain from an ear (of wheat, etc.) may be taken by hand only, but not with a vessel. One may even take a few grains from growing ears with his fingers, and eat them, but must not take them with a vessel, so saith R. Jehudah; but the sages say, that one may do this with his fingers, but not with both hands, as usually done on week-days. The same ordinance holds good for any other spices.

It was taught: Salt meat may be handled on Sabbath, but fresh meat must not be handled, according to R. Hisda; but R. Huna permits this.

The rabbis taught: Salt fish may be handled, but not stale unsalted fish, and meat may be handled, be it fresh or salt.

The rabbis taught: Bones may be handled, because dogs eat them; putrid meat may be handled, because beasts of prey eat it. Uncovered water 1 may be handled, because cats drink it. R. Simeon ben Gamaliel, however, said, that all these things should not be kept in the house even on week-days, because they are dangerous.

MISHNA: One may set a basket on end for chickens, in order that they may climb up or down upon it. A runaway hen may be chased until she goes back again. One may lead about calves or young asses to exercise them. A woman may lead her son about to give him exercise. R. Jehudah says: "When (may she do) this? If the child lifts one foot and sets down the other; but if it trails (its leg) behind, she must not."

GEMARA: Said R. Jehudah in the name of Rabh: "If a cow fall into a lake, it is allowed to throw into the lake bolsters, bundles, vessels, etc., in order to give the cow a foothold and enable her to get out." An objection was made: We have learned in a Boraitha: "If a cow fall into a lake, food may be brought to her in order that she may not starve to death." So it refers only to food, but nothing is said in reference to bolsters, etc. This presents no difficulty. Where food can be brought it may be done, but when the cow cannot be reached, bolsters, etc., may be brought. But a vessel that is prepared for other purposes is thereby destroyed? That is simply a rabbinical ordinance, but pity for creatures is a Mosaic law and has precedence.

"A runaway hen may be chased," etc. The hen may be chased, but not led. This is a similar teaching to that of another Boraitha, wherein we have learned, that all animals and birds may be led about in private ground with the exception of a hen. Why not a hen. Said Abayi: "Because a hen, when led, will not walk, but will jump and fly, and the man leading her will be forced to carry her."

MISHNA: On a feast-day one must not deliver cattle, about to give birth, of their young, but may be of assistance to them in any other manner. One may give a woman (about to give birth to a child) all assistance possible, even call a midwife from a distance; one may violate the Sabbath on her account and tie the navel-string. R. Jose says: One may also cut the string. Lastly, one may accomplish anything necessary for the circumcision on the Sabbath.

GEMARA: What is meant by "being of assistance"? Said R. Jehudah: "To hold up the young, that it may not fall," and R. Na'hman said: "To pull out the young by pressing the sides." R. Jehudah's explanation is supported by the following Boraitha: "How is an animal assisted in giving birth to her young? By holding up the young, blowing air into its nostrils, and leading it to its mother's breast, so that it may suck."

R. Simeon ben Gamaliel said: "When a clean animal (one that may be eaten) gave birth to her young on a festival and would not take to it, we would coerce her into taking to her offspring." How would this be done? Said Abayi: "They would bring a handful of salt, lay it in the mother's womb, and the pain that would be caused thereby would remind the mother of her young, and she would immediately take to them, and they would pour the water discharged by the mother on the young, so that the mother would scent it and seek her young. This was done, however, only with a clean animal, but not with ail unclean animal. Wily so? Because usually an unclean animal will not cast off her young, and should she do so, she will never take to them again."

"One may give a woman (about to give birth to a child) all assistance possible." Let us see! The Mishna says, that one may call a midwife even from a distance, and then, that one may violate the Sabbath on her account. What is the object in particularizing what may be done? The Mishna means to tell us, what the rabbis taught, viz.: "If a woman lying in is in need of a light, another woman may light a candle for her; and if she needs oil, the waitress may bring her oil through public ground in her hands; should that not be sufficient she may bring it in her hair, and if that does not suffice she may bring it in a vessel."

The master said: "If a woman lying in is in need of a candle, another woman may light it for her." Is this not self-evident? He means to tell us, that even if the woman lying in be blind, and one might say, that being blind she needs no candle, hence it should not be lit; the candle should her at all events, for she may need a thing that others could not see without a light, while, by aid of the light, they would find it and hand it to her.

Further, it says, that a woman may bring her oil in her hair. This would be worse still, for the hair would have to be wrung, and that would make the woman (who brought the oil) guilty of wringing (on Sabbath). Rabba and R. Joseph both said, that wringing hair does not constitute wringing within the meaning of the law. R. Ashi said: "Even if wringing the hair would constitute wringing within the meaning of the law, the woman should bring the oil in a vessel which should be placed on the hair (head); for any work which must of a necessity be performed on a Sabbath, should be performed in as far different a manner from that done on a week-day as possible."

R. Jehudah said in the name of Samuel: "As long as the womb of a woman lying in is still open, whether she says she must have it done or not, the Sabbath may be violated for her. As soon, however, as the womb is closed, the Sabbath may be violated only if she says she must have it done; otherwise, it must not be violated, so taught Mar Zutra." R. Ashi, however, taught in the name of the preceding authority, that as soon as the womb is closed, even if the woman says she must have it done, the Sabbath must not be violated on her account.

Said Rabhina to Mareimar: "Mar Zutra is more lenient in his teaching, and R. Ashi the stricter; according to whom does the halakhah prevail?" Answered Mareimar: "The halakhah according to Mar Zutra prevails, for it is the general rule, that wherever human lives are concerned, the more lenient teaching is always accepted as final."

At what time is the womb considered to be open? Abayi said: "From the time the woman commences to give birth." R. Huna the son of R. Jehoshua said: "From the time blood commences to flow", and others say, from the time that she becomes helpless and her attendants lay her on the bed.

How long is the womb considered to be open? Abayi said, for three days after birth, and Rabha in the name of R. Jehudah said, for seven days, and others say for thirty days. The scholars of Neherdai divide the time of a woman lying in into three periods of three, seven, and thirty days each. During the first period, whether the woman says she must have it done or whether she says it need not be done, the Sabbath may be violated for her. During the second period, if she says it must be done, the Sabbath may be violated; but if she says it need not be done, it must not be violated; and during the third period, even if she says she must have it done, the Sabbath must not be violated by Israelites, but it may be done by Gentiles. This is according to R. Ula the son of R. Ilai, who says, that everything which must be done for a sick person on the Sabbath should be done by Gentiles, and also according to R. Hamnuna, who said, that all things which are to be done for a person who is not dangerously ill, should be ordered done by a Gentile. As it happened with the daughter of R. Hisda (the wife of Rabba), who took a bath in her husband's absence, before the thirty days were up, and caught cold, and friends were compelled to bring her, still lying in bed, to Rabba in Pumbaditha.

Said R. Jehudah in the name of Samuel: "A woman lying in should be given thirty days." For what law should she be given thirty days? The men of Neherdai said, for bathing (that is, she should not bathe for thirty days, in order that she may not catch cold). Said Rabha: This rule applies to women whose husbands are not at home, for when the husband is at home, he can take care of his wife and prevent any bad consequences.

R. Jehudah in the name of Samuel said again: One may kindle a fire for a woman lying in, on the Sabbath, and not only for a woman lying in, but also for a sick person; not only in the winter but also in the summer-time, as R. Hyya bar Abhin said in the name of Samuel, that one, who was bled and caught cold, may have a fire made for him on Sabbath not only in the winter, but also in the summer-time. Samuel once was bled and caught cold, so a chair made of elm-wood was chopped up and a fire made for him (on Sabbath). The same thing happened to R. Jehudah; so a table of cedar-wood was chopped up and a fire made for him. Rabba had the same experience and a stool was used to make a fire, and when told by Abayi that he was, guilty of destroying a useful article said My personal welfare is dearer to me than the article."

Said R. Jehudah in the name of Rabh: "A man should sell even the roof of his house and buy shoes for himself if in need of them; but if he had recently been bled and feels hungry, he should sell even these shoes and buy food with the proceeds." What kind of food should he purchase? Rabh said meat, and Samuel, wine. Rabh said meat, as being a substitute for flesh lost through bleeding, and Samuel said (red) wine, as a substitute for (red) blood.

When Samuel had himself bled, a dish made of milt was prepared for him, and R. Johanan would drink wine until it could be smelt through his ears. R. Na'hman would drink wine until his spleen would float in wine. R. Joseph would drink wine until his veins would swell so that the lancet would be forced out, and Rabha would drink only wine that was three years old.

Said R. Na'hman bar Itz'hak to his disciples: I beg of you, that on the day on which you have yourselves bled, you should go home and say that Na'hman will come to visit you. (In consequence a good meal and wine will be prepared, and you can partake of it.) Deceit is not permitted under any circumstances, but those mentioned as follows:

One who is bled, and has not the money to buy wine, should take a mutilated Zuz and go to seven wine-dealers. When asking for wine he will be given some to taste, and when offering his money, it will be rejected. He will then proceed to another dealer, and keep on until he will have drunk a quarter of a lug. One who cannot even do this, should eat at least seven black dates and should put oil on his temples, then lie down in the sun and go to sleep.

Abhlat (a Persian official) found Samuel sleeping in the sun and said to him: "Thou leader of Jews! Can a good thing emanate from a bad one?" Samuel answered: "This is my bleeding-day." In reality this was not so, but there are days when sleeping in the sun is healthful; for instance, on the day when the Tamuz (July) equinox falls, but Samuel, who was a physician, would not tell this to Abhlat.

Rabh and Samuel both said: "The man who eats a light meal on the day when he is bled, has light earnings decreed for him in heaven for the following year, because if he himself has no pity for his own body, he is not worthy of being pitied by the heavenly host." The same two authorities also said, that one who was bled should not sit where the wind blows; for it may be that the surgeon who bled him allowed too much blood to escape, and the wind might force still more blood from him, and thus become dangerous. Samuel was always bled in a house the walls of which were of seven bricks' thickness, and at one time it happened that he felt weak; he looked up, and noticed that a brick was missing from the wall.

Rabh and Samuel also said, that a man who was bled should not go out into the street without having partaken of something. If he does and meets a corpse, his face turns yellow, and if he should happen to meet a murderer he will die himself, and if he meets a pig he will become scabby. They also said, that after bleeding a man should not rise immediately, but should rest a while and then get up; for the master said, that five things are more conducive to death than to life. They are: Eating and arising immediately, drinking and arising, sleeping and arising, being bled and arising, and having sexual intercourse and arising immediately afterwards.

Samuel said: "A young man should be bled every thirty days until he is forty years of age. From fort), to sixty, he should be bled every two months, and after sixty he should be bled every three or four months."

Samuel said again: The fourth day of the week, if falling on the fourth, fourteenth, or twenty-fourth day of the month, or if it is a Wednesday after which there are less than four days to the end of the month, is a dangerous day for bleeding. Bleeding on the first and second of every month produces weakness, and on the third day it is dangerous. Bleeding on the eve of any biblical festival produces weakness, and on the eve of Pentecost it is dangerous, in consequence of which the rabbis instituted the precautionary measure, that no man should be bled on the eve of a festival, for fear that he might have it done on the eve of Pentecost.

Again Samuel said: "One who had eaten heartily of wheaten food is not wholly benefited by being bled, but is simply cased for the time being." This means to say, then, that one who has a heavy feeling can ease himself temporarily by being bled after a meal, but is not permanently benefited thereby. After being bled one may drink immediately, but should not eat until the time in which he could walk half a mile had elapsed.

(On a day when nothing profitable had been performed) Rabh used to proclaim (the following simile): If one bled a hundred persons, he earned a Zuz for each; if he cut the hair of a hundred persons, he earned a Zuz for each; but if he trimmed the mustaches of a hundred men, he labored in vain. 1 (There was no charge made for trimming mustaches when done in conjunction with hair-cutting or bleeding.) Said R. Joseph: We learned at the college of R. Huna, that a day on which the disciples did not study was called a mustache-day, and I did not understand the meaning of the term; but now I can see the significance of the expression, for it means to say that the day was lost.

"And tie the navel-string." The rabbis taught: "One may tie the navel-string," and R. Jose said: "One may cut it also on the Sabbath and deposit the afterbirth, which is supposed to be a remedy to keep the child warm." R. Simeon ben Gamaliel said: "Daughters of kings would deposit the afterbirth in a bowl of oil and rich men's daughters would deposit it in carded wool. Poor people would deposit it in feathers." Said R. Na'hman in the name of Rabba bar Abuha, quoting Rabh: "The halakhah according to R. Jose prevails."

R. Na'hman said again, quoting the same authorities: "The rabbis agree with R. Jose, that when two children were born, both attached to one navel-string, the latter may be cut, because otherwise it would be dangerous." He also said again, in the name of the same authorities: All that is contained in the sermon of Ezekiel may be done for a woman lying in on Sabbath, as it is written [Ezekiel xvi. 4]: "And as for thy birth, on the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, nor wast thou washed in water to be cleansed; and thou wast not rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling clothes." "And as for thy birth," from this we may infer, that one may assist in the birth of a child on Sabbath. "Thy navel was not cut," from this we infer, that the navel may be cut on Sabbath. "Nor wast thou washed in water to be cleansed." This teaches us that the child may be washed on Sabbath. "Thou wast not rubbed with salt." From this we know, that a child may be rubbed with salt on Sabbath. "Nor wrapped in swaddling clothes." This teaches us, that we may wrap a child in clothes on the Sabbath.


277:1 A measure of grain spoken of in Hosea iii. 2, and presumably a half of a Kur.

280:1 The discussions concerning the mixed grain and all the other subjects enumerated in the above Mishna appear again in Tract Berachoth, where we shall render them in the course of our work.

281:1 Water was never kept uncovered in the Orient for fear of snakes, and any water that was found uncovered was immediately thrown out.

287:1 This explanation is the one given by the commentary of Tosphath, which seems to us to be more to the point than the one given by Rashi.

Sources: Sacred Texts