Tractate Taanit: Chapter 3
Regulations concerning occurrences on account of which fast-days are ordered, or alarms are sounded. When fasting on account of rain is stopped.
Regulations concerning occurrences on account of which fast-days are ordered, or alarms are sounded. When fasting on account of rain is stopped.
MISHNA: The order of procedure on fast-days, as mentioned (in the preceding Mishna) above, applies only when the first fructifying rains do not descend; but when the sprouts commence to degenerate, they shall immediately commence to sound an alarm. It should also be immediately sounded if there be an interval of forty days between each rain; for that is a general plague on the land, causing dearth.
If sufficient rain for the growth of sprouts and herbs had fallen, but not for the growth of trees; or sufficient for the growth of trees, but not enough for the growth of herbs; or sufficient for both, but not enough to fill the wells, cisterns, and caves (creeks), an alarm is immediately to be sounded.
Thus, also, if no rain should have fallen over some particular city, similar to that which is written [Amos, iv. 7]: "I caused it to rain upon one city, and upon another city I caused it not to rain; one piece of land was rained upon," etc.--the inhabitants of such a city must fast and sound an alarm, and those of the circumjacent places shall fast, but not sound. R. Aqiba, however, says, "They are to sound, but not to fast."
Thus, also, when pestilence is raging in a city, or when the walls fall down, the inhabitants of such a city must fast, and those of the adjacent places should fast, but not sound. R. Aqiba, however, says: "They should sound the alarm, but not fast." What is considered a pestilence? If in a city capable of furnishing five hundred able-bodied men three persons die in three consecutive days, it is a pestilence; less than this is not a pestilence.
An alarm should be sounded in all places for the following plagues: For a corn-blast, mildew, locusts, crickets, attacks of wild beasts, and hosts of armed men; for all these an alarm should be sounded, because they are spreading evils.
It once happened that some elders going from Jerusalem, each to his own place, decreed a fast, because a corn-blast, the grainless stalks of which were sufficient to heat an oven, had been seen near Ascalon.
They also decreed a fast on account of two children having been devoured by wolves on the other side of Jordan. R. Jose says: "It was not ordered because of the wolves having devoured the children, but because of their presence (in the towns prowling for food)."
On account of the following calamities an alarm should be sounded even on the Sabbath: For a city surrounded by enemies, for a flood threatening to inundate the country, and for a ship in imminent danger of being wrecked at sea. R. Jose says: "This sounding is intended to obtain assistance from men, and not as an imploring cry to God." Simeon the Temanite says: "They shall also sound on the Sabbath in case of pestilence"; but the sages did not coincide with him.
On account of every plague--with which may the community never be visited!--an alarm should be sounded except on account of an excess of rain.
It once happened that Honi Hama'gel (the circle-drawer) was asked by the people to pray for them, that rain might descend. Said he to them: "Go and bring in the Passover ovens, 1 that they may not be spoiled by the rain." He prayed, but the rain did not descend. What did he then? He drew (marked out) a circle around him, and placing himself within it, prayed as follows: "Creator of the Universe! Thy children have always looked up to me as being like a son of Thy house before Thee. I swear, therefore, by Thy Great Name, that I will not move from this place until Thou wilt have compassion on Thy children." Whereupon the rain commenced to drop down gently. Said he: "It was not for this I prayed, but for rain sufficient to fill the wells, cisterns, and caves." The rain then fell in torrents, and he said: "Not for such rain have I prayed, but for mild, felicitous, and liberal showers." The rain then descended in the usual manner, until the Israelites of Jerusalem were obliged to seek refuge from the city to the Temple Mount, on account of the rain. They came and said to Honi: "Even as thou didst pray that the rain might descend, so pray now that it may cease."
[paragraph continues] And he replied: "Go and see whether the stone To'yim 1 is covered by the waters." Simeon b. Sheta'h sent him word, saying: "If thou wert not Honi, I would order that thou be anathematized. But what shall I do with thee, since thou art petulant towards God, and yet He forgiveth and indulgeth thee like a petted child who is petulant towards his father and is nevertheless forgiven and indulged? To thee may be applied the passage [Prov. xxiii. 25]: 'Let thy father and thy mother rejoice, and let her that hath born thee be glad.'"
If, while the people are fasting, rain should fall before sunrise, they shall not continue to fast the whole day; but they must do so if the rain fall after sunrise. R. Eliezer says: "If it rains before noon, they need not continue to fast the whole day; but they must do so if the rain commenced after noon is passed." It once happened that a fast was ordered in Lydda and it rained before noon, whereupon R. Tarphon said unto the people: "Go, eat and drink, and make a feast." They went, ate and drank, and made a feast; but in the evening they returned and sang the great Hallel.
GEMARA: "When the first fructifying rains do not descend." A contradiction was made: "We have learned in a Boraitha: 'If the first and second fructifying rains did not descend, prayers for rain must be commenced, and only if the third fructifying rain was withheld fasting is resorted to'?" Said R. Juhudah: "The Mishna means to say this: If the time for the first, second, and third fructification had passed without rain having descended, then the order of fasting goes into effect; but if the first fructification has taken place, yet the seed had not sprouted, or the sprouts had degenerated, then the alarm must be sounded." Said R. Na'hman: "Only if the sprouts had degenerated the alarm is sounded, but not if they had withered (for in the latter event there is still hope that they might revive). Is this not self-evident? It says, distinctly, 'if the sprouts had degenerated'?" R. Na'hman means to say that, even if the sprouts had already reached the stage of stalks and had then withered, it might be assumed that there was no hope of their ever again reviving-hence we are told that all hope is not yet lost.
"For that is a general plague on the land, causing dearth." What is considered a "plague causing dearth"? Said R. Jehudah: "That is a plague which eventually results in a famine." Said R. Na'hman: "If a town had no grain, but could procure a supply from another town by means of ships, it cannot be said to be suffering from an actual famine, but merely from temporary want; but if the entire land has no grain and it can procure a supply only from another country, and not by means of ships but by means of asses, then a state of famine can be said to exist."
R. Hanina said: "Even if the price of grain has reached the sum of one Sela for one Saah, but at that price it is obtainable, this would merely constitute a case of want; if, however, the price of grain remained one Sela for four Saah, but it was not obtainable at all, then a state of famine actually exists." Said R. Johanan: "All this applies when grain is dear but money is plentiful; if, however, grain is not dear but money is scarce, an alarm must immediately be sounded; for I recollect it happened at one time in Tiberias that although four Saah of grain were to be had for one Sela, still many people were starving to death, because they did not have the necessary coin with which to purchase their grain."
"If sufficient rain for the growth of sprouts . . . had fallen," etc. It may well be that sufficient rain can descend for the growth of sprouts that would not be beneficial to the growth of trees--for instance, a heavy rain; or that the rain be sufficient for trees but inadequate for the growth of sprouts--for instance, a light rain (see page 5). It might also be that sufficient rain should descend for both the trees and the sprouts, which would, however, be inadequate to fill the wells, cisterns, and caves; but how can that take place, after what we have learned in a Boraitha, namely: "that sufficient rain descended to fill the wells, cisterns, and caves, which was, however, inadequate for the trees and sprouts"? That (Boraitha) refers to a rain which fell in torrents and filled up the wells, etc., but did no good to the trees and sprouts.
The rabbis taught: In the midst of Passover, if sufficient rain had not yet fallen for the trees, the alarm is already to be sounded; and if there was not sufficient rain by the time the middle (day) of the Feast of Tabernacles was reached, the alarm must immediately be sounded; and at all times where there is not sufficient drinking-water on hand, the alarm should at once be sounded, What is meant by "at once"? The Monday,
Thursday, and Monday following; and the sounding must be effected in the capital of the province concerned.
On account of croup (quinsy or whooping-cough), if fatalities arise therefrom, the alarm must be sounded; but if all affected become cured an alarm is not necessary. On account of locusts (Gobai), 1 as soon as they make their appearance the alarm is to be sounded. R. Simeon ben Elazar said: "Also on account of grasshoppers" (Chagabim). 2
The rabbis taught: An alarm may be sounded on account of the trees (when they have not succeeded) in ordinary years; but when there is a want of rain for the wells, cisterns, and caves, this may be done even in the Sabbatical years. R. Simeon b. Gamaliel, however, said: "It may so be done in Sabbatical years even on account of the trees, as they constitute the means of livelihood of the poor." The same we have learned in another Boraitha, with the addition that even on account of the . . . it may be done, as they are the means of livelihood of the poor.
The rabbis taught: It once happened that the Israelites came to Jerusalem for the festivals, and there was not sufficient water for drinking purposes. So Nakdimon ben Gurion went to a certain master (a heathen), and requested him to lend him twelve wells of water for the pilgrims, promising to return either the twelve wells of water or in lieu thereof twelve talents of silver, at a certain time. When the time arrived, the master sent to Nakdimon in the morning demanding either the wells of water or the silver, and Nakdimon replied: "I have still the whole day's time." At noon the same demand was made, and the same answer given. Late in the afternoon the master sent the same demand, and received a reply that the day had not yet passed. So the master laughed at the idea, saying that if a whole year had elapsed without it having rained, was it possible that it should still rain on that day? and went to his bath rejoicing over the prospect of soon possessing the money due him. At the same time that he entered his bathroom, Nakdimon went into the Temple, wrapped himself in his cloak, and commenced to pray, saying: "Creator of the Universe! It is known to Thee, that not for the sake of glory for me nor for my father's house, but
for the glory of Thy name, that the pilgrims in Jerusalem might have water, did I borrow those wells." Immediately upon this the sky became clouded, rain began to fall, and the twelve wells became filled up to overflowing.
When the master stepped out of his bath-house, Nakdimon went out of the Temple, and they met. Said Nakdimon to him: "Refund to me the amount for the water in excess of that which I borrowed from thee." And he replied: "I know well that the Holy One, blessed be He, caused the world to storm only on thy account, yet I can still claim the amount due me, for the sun has already set and the rain descended after the stated time had expired." Nakdimon then reëntered the Temple, again wrapped himself in his cloak and commenced to pray, saying: "Creator of the Universe! Announce to the world that Thou hast favorites here on earth!" Whereupon the clouds immediately scattered, and the sun again commenced to shine. The master seeing Nakdimon, said to him: "Had the sun not reappeared, I should have had a valid claim for the amount of money due me." We have learned in a Boraitha: His name was not Nakdimon, but Boni, and he was called Nakdimon because on his account the sun hastened. 1
The rabbis taught: "For the sake of each of three men alone the sun shone, and they are Moses, Joshua, and Nakdimon ben Gurion." This is correct in the case of Nakdimon ben Gurion, from the above-mentioned tradition. In the case of Joshua it is also correct, because so is it written [Joshua, x. 13]: "And the sun stood still in the midst of the heavens." But whence do they adduce that the sun shone for Moses alone? Said R. Elazar: This may be inferred from the analogous term: "I will commence." It is written [Deut. ii. 25]: "This day will I commence to put the dread of thee," and [Joshua, iii. 7]: "This day will I commence to make thee great," etc. R. Johanan said: "(No analogous comparison is necessary, for) it may be adduced from the passage itself [Deut. ii. 25]: 'Whoever will hear of thee shall tremble and shall quake because of thee.' Why will they do this? Because on Moses' account alone the sun shone."
The rabbis taught: A man should always be soft (i.e., pliable, yielding) as a reed, and not hard as a cedar-tree. It once
happened that R. Elazar ben R. Simeon (should rather be R. Simeon ben Elazar) went from the tower of Gador, where resided his Master, riding on an ass. He rode leisurely on the banks of the river, being greatly rejoiced and feeling very proud on account of the wealth of knowledge he had accumulated from his Master. On the way he met a man who was terribly ugly (of face). 1 That man greeted R. Elazar respectfully, and said to him: "Peace be with thee, Rabbi!" The rabbi did not, however, return the greeting, and, moreover, said: "Vain man, how terribly ugly art thou! Are all thy townsmen as ugly as thou art?" And the man replied: "That I know not; but it would be seemly if thou wert to go to the Creator who formed me and say to Him: 'How ungainly is the creature Thou hast made!'" Realizing that he had offended against the man, R. Elazar dismounted and, making an obeisance, said: "I have sinned against thee--forgive me, I pray!" But the man refused, saying: "Nay, I shall not forgive thee until thou shalt go to the Creator and say to Him: 'How ungainly is the creature Thou hast made!'" R. Elazar, however, would not leave the man, and followed him on foot until they reached the city where R. Elazar dwelt. As soon as the townsmen perceived him they thronged towards him with greetings. "Peace be with thee, Rabbi, Rabbi! Master, Master!" The ugly man who preceded R. Elazar asked them whom they were addressing with "Rabbi" and "Master," and they answered: "The man who is following thee." Said he: "If he be a rabbi, may there not be many like him in Israel." And they asked: "Why not?" So he replied that thus and so had he been served by him. They then pleaded with him: "Still forgive him, for he is a great man in the study of the Law." And he said: "For your sakes I will forgive him, but upon the condition that he shall not do likewise again." Immediately following this, R. Elazar went forth and preached: "A man should be soft as a reed and not hard as a cedar."
On account of having been compared with man, it was destined for a reed that the Scrolls, Phylacteries, and Mezuzoth should be written with it.
"When walls fall down." The rabbis taught: "By 'walls' are meant sound walls; i.e., such as were not expected to fall,
but not such as were tottering." What is meant by "such as are tottering"? Walls that stand on the banks of a stream. As it once happened in Neherdai there was a wall resting on a weak foundation; and although it had been standing for thirteen years, Rabh and Samuel would never pass by beneath it. One day R. Ada bar Ahabha came to Neherdai, and together with Rabh and Samuel set out to go somewhere. Said Samuel to Rabh:, Let the Master go with me in a roundabout way, so as to avoid the wall." But Rabh replied: "To-day this is not necessary. For R. Ada is with us, and his merits are such that a wall would not fall where he is about to walk; hence I have no fear."
R. Huna had wine in a room which was in an unsafe condition, and the walls of which were momentarily expected to fall. He wished to remove the wine, but was afraid to enter the room. So he got R. Ada bar Ahabha to enter the room with him, engaged him in a discussion concerning a halakhah, and while they were arguing R. Huna's men removed the wine. After they left, the walls of the room fell in. When R. Ada realized how he had been used, he became angry.
(What R. Ada did to be so eminently favored will be related in Tract Megilla.)
Rabha asked Raphram bar Papa: "Canst thou not relate to me the good things which R. Huna did?" And he replied: "I do not remember anything of his youth; but when he was of mature age, I know that whenever there was a storm in the city where he lived, which caused any damage to the buildings, he would have himself carried about in a golden palanquin and examine the city, and wherever he noticed an unsafe wall, would order its demolition. Wherever the owner of that building could not afford to have it rebuilt, R. Huna would have it done at his own expense. On every eve of Sabbath he would send his servants to the markets with instructions to purchase all the vegetables, which the marketers had left on their hands, and throw them into the stream, in order that they might not be put on sale again the following week in an unwholesome condition." [Why did he not rather distribute them among the poor than throw them into the stream? Because the poor would depend upon receiving them free the second time, and would not buy any at all. Then why did he not use them as food for the animals? Because R. Huna held that articles which a man can use as food should not be purchased as fodder for cattle to commence
with.] "Whenever the sickness of Shaibatha 1 occurred in his city, he would examine it and give the sufferers relief; outside of his house he placed a jar of water for the use of all who desired him to relieve them. When sitting down to a meal, he would order a servant to throw open the doors and call out: Whoever desires to eat, let him come in and do so."
Said Rabha: "I could accomplish all that R. Huna did, with the exception of throwing open my doors and inviting everybody to eat; for there are a great many poor people in Mehuzza, and I could not feed them all." (According to another version, he said that he could not do this on account of the many soldiers and Persians stationed in Mehuzza, who would take advantage of such an invitation and eat him out of house and home.)
Ilpha and R. Johanan studied the Law together. They were in very poor circumstances and were in want of food. So they said: "We will lay aside our studies and engage in some remunerative occupation, thereby carrying out what is written [Deut. xv. 4]: 'Indeed, there should be no needy man among thee.'" In the meantime they sat down to eat beneath an unsafe wall. So two angels appeared, and R. Johanan heard one of them say to the other: "Let us throw this wall down upon them, for they are about to leave the pursuit of the future life in order to obtain a worldly livelihood." But the other angel replied: "Let them be; for there is one of them whom the time will succor and who will shortly become great." R. Johanan heard this, but Ilpha did not, and the former asked "Did Master hear anything?" And Ilpha replied: "Nay; I heard nothing." So R. Johanan thought: "Because I heard it and Ilpha did not, in all probability I am the one who is referred to as shortly to become great." And he said to Ilpha: "I have reconsidered it and will return to the study of the Law, thus fulfilling what is written in another passage [ibid. 11]: 'For the needy will not cease out of the land.'" Thus R. Johanan returned to his studies and Ilpha engaged in business. By the time Ilpha returned, R. Johanan became the chief of the college. The schoolmen afterwards
said to Ilpha: If thou hadst stayed here with us, we would have made thee the chief of the college. 1
It was said of Nahum the man of Gim-Zu--who was blind in both eyes, crippled in both hands, both of whose legs were crushed and whose whole body was covered with sores, and who was lying on a bed the feet of which stood in buckets of water so as to prevent worms from reaching his body, and his bed stood in a house which was in a tottering condition--that his disciples at one time wished to remove his bed from that house and then remove all the other vessels contained therein. So he said to them: "My children! First take out everything contained in this house and then remove my bed; for ye can rest assured that as long as I am in this house it will not fall." They did so, and after removing his bed the house fell in. Said the disciples to him: "As we can perceive, Master, thou art a truly upright man. Why, then, art thou so terribly afflicted?" And he replied: "My children! I myself am the cause of it. I was at one time on my way to the house of my father-in-law and had with me three asses, one laden with food, another with drink, and the third with delicacies. In the course of my journey a poor man came to me and said: 'Master, give me some food,' and I answered: 'Wait until I can unload my asses.' But before I had done so, the poor man expired. So I fell on his face and said: 'My eyes, which had no compassion on thy eyes, may they become blind! My hands, which had no mercy upon thy hands, may they become crippled! My feet, which had not pity with thy feet, may they be crushed!' And I could not assuage my grief until I had said May my whole body become covered with sores.'" Said the disciples to him: "Woe is unto us that we must see thee in this condition." And he replied: "Woe would be unto me if ye did not see me in this condition."
Why was he called Nahum the man of Gim-Zu? 2 Because whenever something happened to him he would say: "Gam Zu Le-Toboh" (This also is for good).
It once happened that the Israelites had to send a present to the imperial house, and Nahum was selected to carry out the mission, because it was quite usual for miracles to be performed
on his account. They intrusted to him a casket containing precious stones and pearls. When he arrived at his quarters for the night, thieves became aware of his treasure, and they removed the valuables contained in the casket, substituting therefor dry earth. When he arrived at the imperial palace, the casket was opened, and it being observed that it contained nothing but earth, the emperor became very wroth and determined to destroy all the Jews, thinking that they had merely mocked him. Nahum, however, said to himself: "Even this will lead to good." When a conference was held as to the manner in which the Jews were to be destroyed, Elijah appeared disguised as one of the councillors, and after the conference said: "Perhaps this earth is of the greatest value, as it may be the same earth which Abraham their father had within his domain, and which possessed the merit of turning into swords which would cut down the enemy when thrown at a hostile army. The coarser pieces would turn into arrows when thrown at the enemy, as it is written [Isaiah, xli. 2]: He rendered as earth his sword, as driven stubble his bow.'" 1
His advice was taken, and they said: "There is one land which we cannot conquer, let us try this earth and test its powers." This was done, and the land was conquered. The earth was thereupon deposited in the treasury, and the casket filled with precious stones and pearls. Nahum (who had been kept a prisoner in the meantime) was sent away with an escort and laden with great honors. On the return, it happened that Nahum and his escort had to pass the night in the same quarters where the precious stones had previously been stolen. When it was observed with what honors Nahum returned, he was asked what gifts he had brought the emperor, to be thus honored. He replied: "I brought the same casket there that I took away with me from this place." The men then, thinking that their earth was so valuable, tore down their houses, gathered up the earth, and sent it to the emperor, saying: "The earth which Nahum brought thee was our earth and not that of the Jews, for we took out the precious stones contained in his casket when he spent the night here and substituted this earth." The earth was examined and found to be unlike the other, so the senders were all put to death.
"What is considered a pestilence? If in a city capable of furnishing
[paragraph continues] five hundred able-bodied men," etc. The rabbis taught: A town that can furnish fifteen hundred able-bodied men--as, e.g., the village of Ako--and nine deaths occurred in three days, i.e., three deaths each on three consecutive days, is said to be afflicted with pestilence. If, however, all the nine died in one day or in four days, it is not considered a pestilence. A town that has not more than five hundred able-bodied persons--e.g., the village of Amigo--and three deaths occurred in three days, i.e., one on each consecutive day, can be said to be afflicted with a pestilence. If, however, all three died in one day or in four days, no pestilence can be said to exist (for it is considered as only an accident).
In the town of Darograth, which had five hundred able-bodied persons, three deaths occurred in one day, and R. Na'hman the son of R. Hisda ordered a fast-day. Said R. Na'hman bar Itz'hak', to him: "Thou art presumably of the opinion of R. Meir, who regards a bull as vicious if he had gored three men in one day (as explained in Tract Baba Kamma)."
R. Na'hman bar Hisda requested R. Na'hman bar Itz'hak to remove to his (the former's) city (so that they could study together). Said the latter: We have learned in a Boraitha: R. Jose said: Not the place where he lives makes the man distinguished, but the man makes the place distinguished. And so we find with respect to Mount Sinai, that so long as the Shekhina rested there, cattle were not allowed to graze even near the mountain, as it is written [Exod. xxxiv. 3]: "Neither let, flocks or herds feed near the mount," and after the Shekhina, had withdrawn from the mount, it is written [Exod. xix. 13]: "They may come up to the mount." A similar instance can be found with respect to the Tabernacle, near which the leprous could not come (as well be explained in Tract Menachoth).
Said R. Na'hman bar Hisda to him: "If this be so, then will I go to the place where thou, Master, dwellest." And he answered: "Nay, that would not be right; for thou art a rabbi and a son of a rabbi, while I am the son of one who was not among the scholars; therefore it would be more fitting that I should come to thee."
It happened that pestilence raged in Sura, but in the neighborhood where Rabh resided the pestilence was not prevalent. The townsmen concluded that this was due to the especial merits of Rabh; but in a dream they were told that this would be but a small object wherewith to demonstrate Rabh's merits, and that
this was so in consideration of the merits of a man who lends his hoe and other digging-tools used for burials, without compensation.
In Darograth there was a great conflagration, but in the neighborhood where R. Huna lived the fire did not reach, and it was thought that it was on account of the merits of R. Huna that it was spared; but they were also told in a dream that this would be but a small recognition of R. Huna's merits, and that it was merely in consideration of a certain woman who would heat her oven and then place it at the disposal of such as desired to bake their bread, without remuneration.
R. Jehudah was apprised of the fact that locusts had made their appearance, and he ordered a fast-day. Subsequently he was told that the locusts were not doing any damage, and he replied: "Did the locusts then bring their food with them?"
R. Jehudah was also advised that a pest had broken out among, the swine, and he ordered a fast-day. Does then R. Jehudah hold that if a pest break out among one kind of animals it affects all others? Nay; but with swine it is different, for the entrails of a swine are similar to those of a human being (and the pest may prove contagious).
Samuel was told that a pest had broken out in Huzai, so he ordered a fast-day. He was reminded, however, that the place was a great distance off, and he replied "Is there then a partition between here and there that would prevent the entrance of the pest in this place?
R. Na'hman was told that a pest had broken out in Palestine, so he ordered a fast-day, saying: "If the princess is stricken, surely the slaves are affected." Is it only when a princess is stricken that a slave is affected? What about slave and slave? Did not Samuel order a fast-day in Neherdai when Huzai was stricken? From Huzai to Neherdai there was a regular caravan traffic, and Samuel apprehended lest one of the caravans should carry the pest. from Huzai into Neherdai.
Abba the (expert) bleeder received greetings every day from the heavenly college; Abayi received such a greeting only once every eve of Sabbath; and Rabha would receive such a greeting only once every eve of the Day, of Atonement. Abayi was grieved because of the greater distinction conferred upon Abba, and he was told: "The thing.; that Abba does, thou canst not do." [What did Abba do that was so inimitable? First of all, he had a separate place for bleeding men and a separate place for
women. Then he had a certain garment for women with which he would clothe them, and which was split so that he could insert the lancet at any place without looking at the woman. Then he had a certain place where his fee for bleeding was deposited, and which was so arranged that as soon as it was touched a ring was heard; but he never looked at the amount deposited, and, those that had not the necessary amount would merely touch the place and depart. If a young scholar came to him to be bled, he would not alone refuse to accept money, but would give him money, saying: "Take this and become well, for after bleeding a good meal should be eaten."]
One day Abayi sent two of his disciples to Abba to examine into his actions. Abba entertained them with meat and drink, and even made for them couches of fine wool to use as beds. On the morrow the disciples folded up their woollen couches and carried them into the market in order to sell them. They there encountered Abba. Said they to him: "Let Master estimate the worth of these." And he said: "So much." And they rejoined: "Perhaps they are worth more." And he answered: "For so much money I can purchase them," Said they to him: "These couches are thine; we took them from thee." And they continued: "What didst thou suspect us of?" And he replied: "I thought that perhaps some prisoners had to be ransomed, and ye did not wish to tell me what amount that would require last night. So ye took the couches, and probably thought to tell me this day." They then said: "Then take them back; they are thine." But he answered: "Nay; I have already made up my mind to devote them to charitable purposes, and hence I cannot take them back."
Rabha was grieved over the greater distinction conferred upon Abayi, who was greeted on the eve of every Sabbath, while he only received the heavenly greeting on the eve of every Day of Atonement; so he was told that it was sufficient for him that the entire town where he lived profited by his merits,
To R. Beroka of Huzaah, Elijah would frequently appear, when he (R. Beroka) would be standing in the market of Be-Lepht. One day he asked Elijah whether there was any one in the market who would have a share in the world to come, and Elijah answered: "Nay." Suddenly Elijah perceived a man wearing black shoes, and the garments of that man had no show-threads. So he pointed him out to R. Beroka, and said: "That man will have a share in the world to come." R. Beroka ran up
to the man and asked him his occupation, and the man answered: "I have not time to-day. Come on the morrow." On the morrow R. Beroka again approached him and asked to know his occupation. The man replied: "I am a warden of a prison; I keep the men and women prisoners in separate compartments, and my own bed stands between the two compartments. There I sleep alone, and take care that no evil acts are perpetrated. If there is a daughter of Israel upon whom evil eyes have been cast (by the higher officials), I do my utmost, even at a personal sacrifice, to save her. One day it happened that a betrothed girl, upon whom the higher officials had cast an eye, was brought to my prison; so I took lees of wine, spread them over her couch, and said to the officials that she was suffering from her menstruation and could not be approached."
R. Beroka then asked the warden why he wore black shoes and garments without show-threads, and he replied: "In order that I should not be recognized as a Jew; for thus, if I hear of any plots that are formed against the welfare of my co-religionists, I can immediately advise the rabbis that they may pray to God to avert the impending calamity. And yesterday, when thou didst approach me, I told thee to come on the morrow, because I had heard a discussion pertaining to action to be taken against the Jews and I hastened to learn the true facts of the case."
Again it happened that two brothers were passing by, and Elijah said to R. Beroka: "These two brothers shall also have a share in the world to come." R. Beroka approached them and asked to know their occupations, and they replied: "Our occupation is to cheer and comfort all those who are downcast, and when we see two men quarrelling, to make peace between them."
"An alarm should be sounded in all places for the following plagues," etc. The rabbis taught: For a corn-blast, mildew, locusts, crickets, and attacks of wild beasts an alarm must be sounded wherever they make their appearance. And R. Aqiba said: "For the first two, as soon as they make their appearance ever so slightly in any place, an alarm must be sounded; but for locusts, as soon as the wing of one single locust is perceived in Palestine, an alarm must be immediately sounded."
"Attacks of wild beasts." The rabbis taught: "For attacks of wild beasts an alarm should be sounded only if it is obvious that the attacks are in the nature of a curse, but otherwise no alarm need be sounded. How can the distinction be made? If the wild beasts are seen in a city, then it is to be considered in
the nature of a curse; but if they are seen in the field, it is nothing unusual. If seen in the day it is a curse, at night it is not. If the wild beast saw and pursued two men together, then it is a curse; but if it slank away and sought to hide, it is not. If the wild beast killed two men and only devoured one, it is to be considered a curse; but if it devoured both (then it was simply hungry, and) it is not considered a curse. If the beast climbed up on a roof and snatched a child from the cradle, it is most assuredly a curse.
"Hosts of armed men." The rabbis taught: Even if hosts of armed men are seen, who have no intention of attacking the place, but merely desire to pass through to make war upon others, an alarm must nevertheless be sounded; for there can be no more friendly intentions in a host of armed men than in that which was sent by Necho, King of Egypt, to Josiah, King of Judah, and still Josiah lost his life on their account, as it is written [II Chron. xxxv. 21]: "But he (Necho, King of Egypt) sent ambassadors to him (Josiah), saying: What have I to do with thee, thou King of Judah? I come not against thee this day, but against the house wherewith I have war, and God hath commanded me to make haste: forbear thee from meddling with God who is with me, that He may not destroy thee." What is meant by "God who is with me"? What God could Necho have had with him? Said R. Jehudah in the name of Rabh: "It was an idol, and for the reason that Necho had confidence in the idol, Josiah thought that he could surely vanquish him in battle."
Further it says [ibid. 23]: "And the archers shot at King Josiah; and the king said to his servants: Carry me away; for I am sorely wounded." What is meant by "sorely wounded"? Said R. Jehudah in the name of Rabh: "From that it may be inferred that his whole body was perforated by the arrows like a sieve." Before Josiah died, Jeremiah the prophet noticed that his lips were moving, and thinking that, God forbid, he was saying something blasphemous on account of the terrible pain he was suffering, Jeremiah stooped down and heard Josiah justifying the judgment which had befallen him, saying the passage f, [Lament. i. 18]: "Righteous is the Lord; for against his orders have I rebelled." Whereupon Jeremiah lamented his death with the words [ibid. iv. 20]: "The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of our Lord, was caught in their pits."
"Should be sounded even on Sabbath." The rabbis taught
[paragraph continues] On account of a city surrounded by foes, a ship that was wrecked at sea, or even on account of an individual pursued by foes, robbers, or evil spirits, a man may keep a fast-day himself (without waiting for the order instituting it). R. Jose, however, said: "A man is not allowed to do this by himself, lest he become weak through fasting and unable to work, when he would become dependent upon others who might have no pity for him, because he himself was the one responsible for his condition." Said R. Jehudah in the name of Rabh: "What reason has R. Jose for this assertion? Because it is written [Genesis, ii. 7]: 'And the man became a living being,' which implies, that man should let the living soul, given him by the Creator, live and not wilfully kill it."
"Simeon the Temanite says," etc. We have learned in a Boraitha: For a pest an alarm should be sounded on a Sabbath, and so much the more on a week-day; but R. Hanan bar Pitom, the disciple of R. Aqiba, said in the name of his Master that for a pest no alarm need be sounded even on a week-day.
"On account of every plague," etc. The rabbis taught: On account of every plague--with which may the community never be visited--an alarm should be sounded, except on account of an excess of rain. What is the reason? Said R. Johanan: "Because it is not permitted to pray for the cessation of too much good." Said Rami bar R. Jod: "In the land of exile (Babylon) an alarm should be sounded for an excess of rain." We have also learned in a Boraitha that in a year when there is an excess of rain the priests of the weekly watch would send word to the standing men: "Take care of your brethren in exile, that their houses may not become their graves."
The rabbis taught: It is written [Lev. xxvi. 4]: "Then will I give you rains in their due season," which means, that the earth s all not become too full of water nor that it shall be thirsty, but have just sufficient; for if there is too much rain, the earth becomes too sodden and fruit cannot grow. Another explanation of the term "in their due season" is, that the rains will fall on the night of the fourth day of the week and on the night of Sabbath, when men do not go out; for so do we find, that in the days of Simeon ben Sheta'h rain fell only on those nights, and grain prospered so that wheat-grains became as testicles, barleycorns as the kernels of olives, and lentils as golden Dinars; and part of these fruits of the earth were preserved to show to future generations, in order to demonstrate to them that the only reason
why crops were not as prosperous as they formerly were was because of the transgression-; of the people, as it is written [Jeremiah, v. 25]: "Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden what is good from you."
So it was also at the time when Herod built the new Temple. It would rain only at night, and in the morning the wind would disperse the clouds, the sun would commence to shine, and the people would go to their work in peace, so that all men knew that they were engaged in a heavenly undertaking.
"It once happened that Honi Hama'gel," etc. The rabbis taught: It once happened the greater part of the month of Adar had passed, and no rain had yet fallen. Honi Hama'gel was thereupon requested to pray for rain. He prayed, but no rain descended. So he marked out a circle around him, the same as Habakkuk did, as it is written [Habakkuk, ii. 1]: "Upon my watch will I stand, and place myself upon the tower," placed himself in the midst of it, and said: "Creator of the universe! Thy children have always looked up towards me as being like a son of Thy house before Thee. I swear therefore, by Thy great Name, that I shall not move from this place until Thou shalt have compassion upon Thy children." Whereupon the rain commenced to drop down gently. Said the disciples to him: "May it be that we may see thee and not die; for we think that the rain is merely dropping in order to release thee from thy vow." And he replied: "It was not for this I prayed, but for rain sufficient to fill the wells, cisterns, and caves." The rain then fell in torrents, each drop being as large as the mouth of a barrel, and the sages opined that each drop contained no less than a lug of water. The disciples again said to him: "Rabbi, may we see thee and not die! We believe that the rain is falling in order to destroy the world." He again said: "Not for such rains have I prayed; but for mild, felicitous, and liberal showers." The rain then descended in the usual manner, until the Israelites of Jerusalem were obliged to seek refuge from the city to the Temple mount on account of the rain. They then came to him and said: "Rabbi, even as thou didst pray that the rain might descend, thus pray now that it may cease." And he replied: "I have a tradition that it is not permitted to pray for a cessation of too much good. Still, bring me a praise-offering." It was accordingly brought to him, and putting both hands upon it, he said: "Creator of the universe! Thy people which Thou hast brought out of Egypt cannot be sustained either with too much evil or too
much good. When Thou becamest angry with them, they could no longer bear it; and now that Thou hast showered too much good (rain) upon them, they cannot bear it either. Let it be Thy will that the rains may cease and the world become happy." Thereupon a wind came up, dispersed the clouds, the sun commenced to shine, and the people went out into the fields and brought back mushrooms.
Simeon ben Sheta'h then sent him word, saying: If thou wert not Honi, I would order that thou be anathematized; for were these years as those when Elijah said that no rain should fall and when he had the key to the rain, thou wouldst have merely desecrated the Holy Name; but what shall I do with thee, since thou art petulant towards God, and yet He forgiveth and indulgeth thee like a petted child who is petulant towards its father, and says: "Father, bathe me in hot water, bathe me in cold water, give me nuts, almonds, apricots, and pomegranates," and is nevertheless forgiven and indulged? To thee maybe applied the passage [Prov. xxiii. 25]: "Let thy father and thy mother rejoice, and let her that hath born thee be glad."
The rabbis taught: What was the word which the Sanhedrin sitting in the chamber of marble sent to Honi Hama'gel after the occurrence? They cited the passage [Job, xxii. 28]: "And if thou decree a thing, it will be fulfilled unto thee; and upon thy ways the light will shine," and said: "Thou hast decreed below, and the Holy One, blessed be He, ratified it above, and the generation which was in darkness thou hast enlightened with thy prayer.
R. Johanan said: All the days of this righteous man (Honi), he troubled himself concerning the meaning of the passage [Psalms, cxxvi. 1]: "When the Lord bringeth back again the captivity of Zion, then shall we be like dreamers." Honi would constantly say: "How can a man sleep or be like a dreamer for seventy years?" Once he was travelling on the road, and he noticed a man planting a carob-tree. He asked him how many years it would take before the tree would bear fruit, and the man answered: "Seventy years." Honi then asked: "Art thou, then, sure that thou wilt live seventy years?" And the man replied: "I found carob-trees in existence when I came into the world, consequently my ancestors must have planted them. Why should I not also plant them for my children?" About that time Honi became hungry, and sat down to eat near the newly
planted tree. After the meal he fell asleep, and a bay 1 formed about him so that he could not be noticed, and thus he slept for seventy years. When he awoke, he observed a man gathering the fruit from the carob-tree; and he asked the man: "Didst thou plant this tree?" The man replied: "Nay; I am the grandson of the man that planted it." Honi then realized that he must have slept for seventy years, and when he looked around for his ass, he noticed that there were many smaller asses. He then went to his home, and inquired whether the son of Honi Hama'gel was still alive. He was told that the son was no longer living, but that a son of the son was alive. He then said: "I am Honi Hama'gel"; but they would not believe him. He went to the house of learning and heard them say: "To-day the Halakhoth are as clear as in the days of Honi Hama'gel, who would immediately render a clear decision when any questions whatever were put to him by the rabbis." He went in and said to them: "I am that Honi"; but they would not believe him, nor would they accord him due respect. This caused him to become downcast and despondent, and he prayed to God that he might die, and so he died. Said Rabha: "This illustrates the saying: 'Give me the glory due me, or give me death.'"
Abba Helkyah was a grandson of Honi Hama'gel. When the country was in need of rain the rabbis would send to him, and he would pray for rain, which thereupon commenced to fall. One day the country was in need of rain, and the rabbis sent a committee of two younger rabbis to him, with the request that he pray for rain. They came to his house, but did not find him. They went to his field, and found him weeding it. They greeted him, but he made no reply. On his way back to his home, he placed some wood and the hoe on one shoulder and a garment on the other shoulder. The entire way he did not wear shoes, but whenever he came to water which he had to ford he would put them on. When he came to a thorny path, he would raise his garments. When he came to the city, his wife met him dressed in fine apparel. When he reached his house, his wife entered first, then he, and finally the two young rabbis entered. He sat down to his meal, but extended no invitation to the rabbis to join him. When dealing out bread to his children, he gave the elder one loaf and the younger two. Afterwards he
said to his wife in a low voice: "I know that these rabbis came on account of rain. Come, let us go up into the attic and pray for rain, and should the Lord have mercy on His children and cause it to rain, it will not appear as if it came about through us." They went up into the attic, and he stood in one corner, while she stood in another. The rain-cloud appeared in the direction where the wife was standing.
When he went down again, he said to the rabbis: "What hath brought the rabbis here?" And they replied: "The rabbis have sent us to Master that he may pray for rain." And he answered: "Blessed be the Lord, that ye no longer need Abba Helkyah's favor." Said they to him: "We well know that this rain is come only on account of Master, still we should like to know the reason for several actions on his part which appear to us surprising. Why, when we greeted the Master, did he not turn his face towards us?" He replied: "I hired myself out for the day and my time was not my own, hence I did not wish to waste any." "Why did the Master carry the wood on one shoulder and the garment on the other?" "Because the garment was borrowed by me to wear, but not to use as a pad for wood." "Why did the Master go barefooted all the way, and put on his shoes when coming to water?" "Because the entire way I could see what I was stepping on, but in water I could not." "Why did the Master raise his dress when walking in a thorny path?" "Because if my flesh should receive a scratch, it will heal; but if the garment should become torn it cannot be mended." "Why, when the Master came to the city, did his wife come forth to meet him, dressed in her best apparel?" "In order that I may not look at any other woman." "Why did she enter first, then the Master, and then we?" "Because I know nothing about you." "Why, when the Master sat down to eat, did he not invite us to partake also?" "Because there was not sufficient bread for all, and I did not wish to invite you merely to receive your thanks in vain." "Why did the Master give the elder child one loaf and the younger two?" "Because the elder was at home all day and probably helped himself previously, but the younger was at school all day and more hungry." Why did the rain-cloud appear first in thy wife's corner?" "Because my wife is always at home, and when a poor man begs for a meal she always gives it to him readily, while I can but give him a Zuz and he must first go and purchase food for it. Thus her charity is more effective than mine."
Hanan the Hidden was a son of the daughter of Honi Hama'gel. When the country was in need of rain, the rabbis would send the school-children to him, who would surround him, take hold of his garments, and cry: "Father, father, give us rain!" And he would say to the Holy One, blessed be He: "Creator of the universe! Cause rain to descend, for the sake of those who cannot distinguish between a father capable of giving rain and one who is not." Why was he called Hanan the Hidden? Because whenever he would do some good, he would hide himself so as not to be observed.
Said R. Z'reiqa to R. Saphra: "Come and see the difference between the pious of Babylon and the righteous of Palestine. The pious of Babylon--e.g., R. Huna and R. Hisda--when the country was in need of rain, would say: "Let us combine and pray to God, perhaps we shall find favor in His eyes, and He will give us rain"; and the righteous of Palestine--e.g., R. Jonah the father of R. Mani--when the country was needing rain, would go to his house, ask for a sack, and say: "I will go to the market and buy a Zuz' worth of grain." When going out he would seek a deep place, as it is written [Psalms, cxxx. 1]: "Out of the depths have I called to thee, O Lord," and he would station himself in a hidden place, cover himself with the sack, and offer up a prayer for rain to the Lord, and forthwith rain would descend. When returning home, he would be asked: "Didst thou buy the grain for a Zuz?" And he would reply: "I noticed that it commenced to rain, and hence thought it unnecessary to go to the market for it, as it can be had now anywhere."
Again it happened that R. Mani the son of Jonah was sorely troubled by the members of the house of the Nassi (prince); so he went and threw himself on his father's grave, exclaiming: "Father, father, the men of the house of the Nassi are troubling me." One day the retainers of the Nassi were riding by the burial ground where Jonah was interred, and their horses Could not proceed until they vowed not to trouble R. Mani any more.
R. Mani would frequently come to the house of R. Itz'hak ben Aliashib, and he once told R. Itz'hak that the members of his father-in-law's family were giving him much trouble. Said R. Itz'hak: "May they become poor!" and they really did become poor. R. Mani then came again, and complained that now his relatives were poor they were compelling him to support them. Said R. Itz'hak: "May they then become rich again!" and accordingly they became rich.
At another time R. Mani complained to R. Itz'hak that his wife was too ill-favored. Said R. Itz'hak: "What is her name?" And R. Mani replied: "Hannah." Said R. Itz'hak: "May Hannah become handsome!" and accordingly she became handsome. Subsequently R. Mani came again, and complained that now his wife had become handsome she made life a burden to him by her vanity, and R. Itz'hak said: "May I Hannah again become ugly!" and Hannah again became ugly.
Some time later, two disciples of R. Itz'hak ben Aliashib begged him to pray to the Lord for them, that they might become wiser and more capable for study. Said he to them: "I used to do that at one time and would succeed; but I have stopped that practice and shall not do it again."
Elazar the man of Birtha would be shunned by the men who were sent out to collect money for charitable purposes, because he would give away everything he had. One day he went out into the market to buy the articles necessary for the proper celebration of his daughter's marriage. The collectors of alms perceived him, and hid themselves. He, however, pursued and overtook them, and said: "I adjure you, tell me for what purpose ye are sent out now and what ye need." And they answered: "We are collecting money for two orphans who are about to be married." Said he: "I vow they have precedence over my daughter." And he gave them everything he had, with the exception of one Zuz, for which he bought some wheat and deposited it in his storehouse. The mother (Elazar's wife) said to the daughter: "What did your father bring?" And the daughter replied: "All that he brought he deposited in the storehouse." She then went to the storehouse, but could not open the door, as the wheat was piled up so high and the storehouse was so full that the wheat forced its way through the cracks in the walls. Thereupon she betook herself to the house of learning, where Elazar her husband was studying, and calling him out, said: "Come and see what thy friend did for thee." Arriving at the storehouse, Elazar said "I vow that all this wheat is devoted to the poor, and thou hast but a share in it equal to the other poor."
R. Jehudah Hanassi (the Second) once ordered a fast-day and prayed for rain, but without success. Said he: "What a difference there is between Samuel the prophet and Jehudah the son of Gamaliel! Woe is to the generation that has retrograded to such an extent and woe to the Nassi (prince) who hath witnessed
it." He became very despondent, and forthwith rain began to fall.
A fast-day was ordered from the house of the Nassi, and no previous notice thereof was given to R. Johanan and Resh Lakish. Said R. Johanan to Resh Lakish: "What shall we do? We did not take it upon ourselves to fast to-day or yesterday? Replied Resh Lakish: "We are dependent upon the Nassi; hence it is not necessary for us to take it upon ourselves a day in advance."
Again it happened that the house of the Nassi ordered a fast. day; but no rain descended. So Oshiya, the youngest of the colleagues, taught: It is written [Numb. xv. 24]: "Then shall it be, if through inadvertence of the congregation it was committed by ignorance," which is a simile to a bride in the house of her father--if she have beautiful eyes, there is no need of examining her body, but if her eyes be bad her entire body should be examined (i.e., if the prince of the congregation be a righteous man, the congregation need not be tried, but if he be wicked the congregation itself must be examined). So the servants of the Nassi came to Oshiya, threw a cloth over his neck, and tortured him. Said the townsfolk to the servants: "Let him be, for though he often offends us with his sayings, still, as we see that he means well and does so for our good, we let him have his own way."
Rabbi once ordered a fast-day, but no rain descended. So Ilpha, others say R. Ilphi, went up to the reading-desk to pray. As soon as he came to the sentence, "He causeth the wind to blow," a wind sprang up; and when he said, "He causeth the rain to descend," rain began to fall. So Rabbi asked Ilpha: "What are thy merits?" And he answered: "I live in a very small town, where it is almost impossible to obtain any wine for the Kiddush and the Habdalah on the Sabbath; but I go to great trouble to procure it and distribute among my townsmen, and when reciting the Kiddush prayer I also include my townsmen in the prayer."
Rabh came to a certain place and ordered a fast-day, but no rain descended. The minister of the congregation went up to the reading-desk and commenced to pray. Arriving at the sentence, "He causeth the wind to blow," a wind sprang up; and as soon as he said, "He causeth the rain to descend," rain began to fall. Said Rabh to him: "What are thy merits?" And he answered: "I teach little children, and treat the children of the
poor like the children of the rich. Those that cannot afford to pay, I teach without remuneration; and being also a fisherman, I persuade those who do not wish to come and learn, to do so by giving them fish to take home with them."
R. Na'hman ordered a communal fast. He prayed for rain, which, however, did not come. And he said to the people: "Take ye Na'hman and throw him from the roof to the ground." He became downcast, and rain commenced to fall. Rabba ordered a fast, he prayed, and no rain came. And they said to him: "But when R. Jehudah orders a fast, then rain comes." He replied: "What can I do? In point of learning we are better than they; for in the years of R. Jehudah all their studies were confined to the Section of Damages, while we study now all the six sections. And when R. Jehudah came to the Section of Taharath (Purification), Tract Uqtsin, and the halakhah, 'When a woman put herbs in a pot,' or, according to others, to the halakhah, 'If olives were soaked with their leaves, they are clean,' 1 R. Jehudah used to say: 'I find it as deep as would befit the times of Rabh and Samuel.' But we have thirteen colleges which are studying the Tract Uqtsin, and nevertheless when R. Jehudah would put off one shoe, the rain would come; and we are crying the whole day, and there is nobody to look at us. And if one might say, R. Jehudah was better than we by his deeds, then if there is any one here that knows we have not acted rightly, let him say so; but the true reason is, what can the leaders of the generation do, when the generation itself is not good?"
R. Jehudah saw once two men throwing bread at each other, and he said: "I see from this that there is plenty in the world." He cast an evil eye, and a famine began. Said the rabbis to R. Kahna the son of R. Nahuniah: "We have heard that the Master frequents the house of R. Jehudah: cause him to go into the market (he should become aware that a famine reigns)." He did so, and took him out into the market. He saw a crowd of men. He asked: "What is the matter?" He was answered: "There is a measure of dates for sale, and each is eager to obtain it." Said he: "I perceive from this that there is famine in the world." He said to his servant: "Take off my shoes." He had taken off but one of his shoes, when it began to rain.
R. Mari the son of the daughter of Samuel said: "At that time, when R. Jehudah had his shoes taken off, I stood on the
bank of the River Papa. I saw angels clad like sailors, who took sand, filled the ships therewith, and it was turned to fine flour, and the whole world came to buy it. I said to the persons of my household: 'Do not buy of it, for it is only through a miracle, and I wish to derive no benefit from miracles.' I waited till the morrow, when ships laden with wheat actually arrived from Parzina."
It happened once that Rabha came to the city of Hagrunia, and he ordered a fast, but no rain came. Said he to the people: "Fast over night." On the morrow morning he said to them: "If any one saw something in a dream, he should come to tell what he saw in the dream." R. Elazar of the same city related that he had been told in a dream the following words: "Good peace to the good master who received his knowledge from a good master, and who with his goodness is doing good to his people." Said Rabha: "I infer from this that it is a favorable time." He prayed again, and rain came.
It happened once that a man had committed a crime for which he had to receive stripes in a court where Rabha was the chief judge. Rabha had the penalty inflicted on him. He could not endure it, and died. When the government of Sabbor the king heard of this, they wanted to cause trouble to Rabha. Said Iphra Harmyz, the king Sabbor's mother, to her son: "I advise you to have nothing to do with the Jews, for all that they request of their God, He grants to them." Said he: "What, for example?" Said she: "Whenever they pray to God for rain, it rains." Said he to them: "That is only because they pray in the season when it has to rain. Now, when it is Tamuz [July], when it ought not to rain, let them pray for rain, and you shall see that it will not come." So she sent for Rabha, and said to him: "Fix your mind on it, and pray to God to send rain." He prayed, and no rain came. Said he: "Before the Lord of the universe [Ps. xliv. 2] God, with our ears have we heard, our fathers have told us . . . in times of old, but we with our eyes do not see it." Then it rained so much that all the canals of Me'huza overflowed and the water spread in the streets into the River Tigris. His father appeared to him in a dream and told him: "Is there any other man who gives so many pains to Heaven? Go and change the place of your couch." On the morrow he found marks of a knife with which his bed had been slashed.
R. Papa also ordered a fast: no rain came. Meanwhile he
felt too weak from fasting. He took a spoonful of daitha [a kind of dish], and went on praying. Still, however, no rain came. R. Na'hman, his fellow-lodger in the inn, 1 said to him: "If the Master would partake of another spoon of daitha, then rain would surely come" (ironically). He felt shame, he became downcast, and rain came. (See Yomah, p. 76: "R. Hanina b. Dosa," etc.)
Said R. Jehudah in the name of Rabh: "Every day a heavenly Voice goes forth and says: 'The whole world is nourished merely by the merits of Hanina my son, and for Hanina alone one Kabh of carobs is sufficient from one Sabbath-eve to the other.'"
The wife of Hanina would make a fire in her oven on the eve of every Sabbath in order not to be ashamed before her neighbors. She had, however, one bad neighbor who said: "I know that Hanina and his wife have nothing to cook for the Sabbath, why does she make fire in her oven? I shall go and see." She went and knocked at the threshold, and Hanina's wife became ashamed and went into another room. In the meantime a miracle happened, and the oven became filled with bread. The neighbor, noticing the bread in the oven, called to Hanina's wife: "Bring the bread-shovel, or the bread will be burned!" And she replied: "I just went in for that purpose." We have learned in a Boraitha: Hanina's wife really did go into the next room for a shovel, because she was accustomed to have miracles happen to her.
One day the wife of R. Hanina said to him: "How long shall we yet be troubled with the want of our daily bread?" And he replied: "What can I do?" Said she: "Pray to God that He should give thee something." He accordingly went and prayed. A hand came forth and gave him a leg of a golden table. Subsequently his wife saw in a dream that all the righteous in heaven ate on golden tables having three legs, while her table only had two. Said she to Hanina: "Wouldst thou then like it, that all should eat at a table having three legs, while we should eat at one only having two? Pray to God that the golden leg may be taken back." He prayed, and the leg was taken back. We have learned in a Boraitha that this latter miracle was even greater than the former; for we have a tradition, that it is usual for heaven to bestow but not to take back.
One eve of Sabbath Hanina noticed his daughter in a despondent mood. Upon asking her what the trouble was, she replied: "I got the two vessels containing oil and vinegar mixed, and poured the latter into the Sabbath lamp and lit it." Said he: "My daughter! why should that trouble thee? He who hath ordained that oil should burn can also ordain that vinegar should burn." We have learned in a Boraitha that the vinegar in that lamp burned all night and all day, till some of it was used for the Habdalah prayer.
R. Hanina ben Dosa had a few goats, and he was told that his goats caused damage to others. Said he: "If my goats do damage, may wolves devour them; but if they do not, may they each bring a bear impaled upon their horns." That same evening, each goat really brought in a bear mounted on its horns.
How did Hanina happen to have goats? Was he not a poor man? Said R. Pinchas: "It once happened that a man left a few chickens at the house of Hanina, and the latter said to his wife: 'Do not use the eggs, for the chickens do not belong to us.'" Accordingly the eggs were left untouched, and in the course of time quite a number of chickens were produced, so that they became too troublesome, and Hanina sold them and with the proceeds purchased goats. Subsequently the man who left the chickens returned to claim them. He was asked for a description of his property, which he gave correctly, whereupon Hanina turned over the goats to him, and these are the goats that brought bears upon their horns. 1
The same Hanina had a neighbor who was building a house, and the beams were too short. So she came to him, and said: "I have built my house, but my beams do not reach far enough." And he asked her her name. And she answered: "Aikho." He then said: "Aikho, may thy beams become longer." We have learned in a Boraitha that they really became so long that they protruded an ell on each side, while others say that pieces were conjoined with the beams so that they attained the required length. We have learned in another Boraitha: "Plimo said: 'I saw that house and noticed that the beams protruded an ell on each side. And I was told that the house was the one for which Hanina prayed to have the beams become longer.'"
R. Hama bar Hanina ordered a fast-day, but no rain descended,
and he was told: "Why, R. Jehoshua ben Levi would order a fast-day, and rain would commence to fall!" Said he: "That was the son of Levi, and not I!" And they said: "We meant to say, that we should again congregate, and perhaps, if we prove contrite of heart, the rain will descend." They did so, and still no rain descended. Said he to them: "Think ye that ye deserve rain to descend for you?" And they answered: "Yea." Said he to the sky: "Cover thy countenance." No results, however, were produced, and he exclaimed: "How impudent are the skies!" Whereupon they became covered, and rain commenced to fall.
Levi ordered a fast-day, but no rain descended. Said he: "Creator of the universe! Thou didst ascend to the heavens, and didst sit down, but hast no compassion upon thy children." Whereupon rain descended, but Levi fell and became lame.
R. Hyya bar Lolaini heard one cloud say to another: "Come, let us go and deposit our waters in the lands of Ammon and Moab." Said R. Hyya: "Creator of the universe! when thou gavest Thy Law to Israel, Thou hadst gone to other nations, offering it to them, and they would not accept it; and now Thou wouldst allow the clouds to pour forth their waters on their lands!" and turning to the clouds, he exclaimed: "Pour forth your waters on this spot," and they did so.
The same R. Hyya preached: "It is written [Psalms, xcii. 13]: 'The righteous shall spring up like the palm-tree; like a cedar in Lebanon shall he grow high.' Why are both the palm-tree and the cedar mentioned? If the palm-tree only were mentioned, I would say that as a branch of the palm-tree which is broken off does not grow out again, so it will be with the righteous--if he dies, he will leave no one in his stead; therefore a cedar is also mentioned, for with a cedar it is not so. And if a cedar only were mentioned, I might say that as the cedar does not bear fruit, so will it also be with the righteous (which may God forbid). Hence the palm-tree is also mentioned."
The rabbis taught: It once happened that R. Eliezer ordered thirteen fast-days, but no rain descended. When the congregation dispersed after the thirteenth fast-day, he asked them if they had already ordered their graves, and they commenced to weep aloud, whereupon rain commenced to fall.
Another time it happened that R. Eliezer recited the twenty-four benedictions at prayer, but he was not answered. R. Aqiba followed him at the reading-desk, and said: "Father and
King! we have no other king but Thee. Only for Thy sake have mercy upon us!" And his prayer was answered. The people then began to murmur (and say that R. Aqiba was a greater man than R. Eliezer). A heavenly Voice went forth and said: Not because R. Aqiba is a greater man than R. Eliezer was his prayer answered, but because he always gives in to another, while R. Eliezer never did that."
The rabbis taught: How much rain should fall in order that the congregation may stop fasting? When the rain fills up a furrow made with a plough. So said R. Meir, but the sages say: If the water is a span deep on dry land, two spans on moist earth, and three spans on ploughed soil.
"If while the people are fasting rain should fall before sunrise." The rabbis taught: "If while the people are fasting rain should fall before sunrise they may stop fasting, but if after sunrise they must not. Such is the dictum of R. Meir. But R. Jehudah said: If it fell before noon they may stop fasting, but if after noon they should not. R. Jose, however, said: They may stop if rain fell before the end of the ninth hour (3 P. M.), but not if it fell after that hour. And so we find in the case of Achab, King of Israel, who fasted from the ninth hour on, and further, as it is written [I Kings, xxii. 29]: "Hast thou seen how Achab hath humbled himself before me?" (It is explained, elsewhere that king used to eat their meal at the ninth hour.)
R. Jehudah Nesseah (the Second) ordered a fast-day, and rain commenced to fall after sunrise. He thereupon desired to stop fasting, but R. Ami said to him: "We have learned that if rain falls before noon or after noon there is a difference of opinion, but after sunrise all agree that fasting may be stopped."
Samuel the Little ordered a fast-day, and rain descended before sunrise. The people wanted to infer therefrom that it was in praise of the congregation; for as soon as a fast was ordered, rain commenced to fall. Said Samuel to them: "This can be compared to a case of where a slave begs for something of his master, and the master says Give it to him! I do not care even to hear his voice."
Again it happened that the same Samuel ordered a fast-day, and rain fell after sunset. Then said the people: "Surely this is in praise of the congregation that after fasting and praying rain came." Said he to them again: "Nay, this is not to be considered; for it can be compared to a slave begging of his master, who says: 'Let him pray and trouble himself for some time before
[paragraph continues] I will give it to him.'" What, then, does Samuel consider as praise for the congregation? If when the sentence is read, "He causeth the wind to blow," a wind springs up, and when the sentence, "He causeth the rain to descend," is read, rain commences to fall.
"In the evening they returned and sang the great Hallel." Why should they return in the evening and say the Hallel? Let them say it beforehand? Abayi and Rabha both say: "Hallel is not sung except with a satisfied soul and a well-filled stomach." This is not so! For did it not happen that R. Papa ordered a fast-day in the synagogue of Abi Gober, and rain descended before noon, when they sang the Hallel, and then ate and drank? With the inhabitants of Me'huza it is different, for they are generally drunkards.
48:1 The ovens were movable, and were used to roast the paschal lamb on the Passover. When not in use they were kept outside of the house.
49:1 This was the name of a high stone in Jerusalem, where the finders of lost articles would deposit what they had found, and then proclaim that they had found something. The owners would then come, and upon sufficient identification of the lost article it would be restored to them.
51:1 In Tract Chullin, 65 a, it says Go-bai zeh Arbah = Gobai, and means locust.
51:2 Chagab is also a locust, and presumably a grasshopper. See Numbers, xiii. 33; Isaiah, xl. 22, etc.
52:1 Hastening is called in Hebrew "K'dimah," and Nakdimon is derived from K'dimah, according to the annotations of Joel Sirkosh.
53:1 In Tract Derech Eretz, as well as in the commentaries of Rashi and Tosphath, this man is said to have been Elijah the Prophet, who assumed that disguise in order to humble R. Elazar.
55:1 Concerning the sickness of Shaibatha there is a lengthy discussion among the commentators of the Talmud. Some say that it was a muscular disease peculiar to children between the age of two months and seven years. Others say that it was a disease produced by evil spirits, etc. No definite term for the word can be found. The Aruch devotes two whole pages to the different opinions regarding this disease.
56:1 Here follow the questions put to and answered by Ilpha, which are, however, not essential in this tract, and which will appear in Tract Kethuboth.
56:2 According to Zach. Frankel, in his work about the generations of the Tanaim and Amoraim, and also according to Dr. I. M. Wise, Dr. H. Strack, and Mielziner, Nahum was a resident of Gimzo, a town in southwestern Judea.
57:1 This is a literal and not a figurative translation of that verse.
66:1 The Hebrew term is "Meshunitha." Rashi explains it to mean a rock, while the dictionaries define it as given in our text.
71:1 This will be explained in its place in Tract Uqtsin.
73:1 According to the Aruch the text should read, "Bar-Ushpirti," i.e., the son of Ushpirti, who was the mother of R. Papa, and he said to him thus: "You, son of Ushpirti," etc.
74:1 According to Hananel and other commentaries the whole paragraph was inserted here from other sources than the Gemara. In the Ain Jacob this is not to be found.
Sources: Sacred Texts