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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Berakoth
Shall we say that it has not rested on account of work [done by it], even permissible work?1 But it has been taught: A blessing may be said over a light used for a woman in confinement or for the sake of a sick person? — R. Nahman b. Isaac replied: What is meant by 'rested'? That it rested from work which is a transgression on Sabbath. It has been taught to the same effect: A blessing may be said over a lamp which has been burning throughout the day2 to the conclusion of Sabbath.3
Our Rabbis taught: We may say the blessing over a light kindled by a Gentile4 from an Israelite or by an Israelite from a Gentile, but not by a Gentile from a Gentile. What is the reason for barring a light kindled by a Gentile from a Gentile? Because it may not have rested.5 But a light kindled by an Israelite from a Gentile also may not have rested? Perhaps you will say that the prohibited [flame] has vanished and the light is now a different one and is reborn in the hand of the Israelite.6 What then of this which has been taught: If one carries out a flame to the public way [on Sabbath],7 he is liable to a penalty.8 Why is he liable? That which he took up he did not set down and that which he set down he did not take up?9 — We must say therefore that [in our present case] the prohibited flame is still present, only the blessing which he says is said over the additional permitted part. If that is the case [a blessing over] a light kindled by a Gentile from a Gentile should also be permitted? — That is so; but [the prohibition is] a precaution on account of the first Gentile10 and the first flame.11
Our Rabbis taught: If one was walking [at the termination of Sabbath] outside the town and saw a light, if the majority [of the inhabitants] are Gentiles he should not say a benediction, but if the majority are Israelites he may say the benediction. This statement is self-contradictory. You first say, 'if the majority are Gentiles, he may not say the blessing', which implies that if they are half and half he may say it, and then it states, 'if the majority are Israelites, he may say it', which implies that if they are half and half he may not say it! — Strictly speaking, even if they are half and half he may say it, but since in the first clause it says 'the majority are Gentiles', in the second clause it says 'the majority are Israelites'.
Our Rabbis taught: If a man was walking outside the town and saw a child with a torch in its hands, he makes inquiries about it; if it is an Israelite child, he may say the benediction, but if it is a Gentile he may not. Why does it speak of a child? The same applies even to a grown-up! — Rab Judah said in the name of Rab: We suppose this to happen immediately after sunset. In the case of a grown-up it is obvious that he must be a Gentile.12 In the case of a child, I can suppose that it is an Israelite child who happened to take hold [of the light].
Our Rabbis taught: If one was walking outside the town at the termination of Sabbath and saw a light, if it is thick like the opening of a furnace he may say the benediction over it,13 otherwise not. One [authority] states: A benediction may be said over the light of a furnace, while another says that it may not! — There is no contradiction: one speaks of the beginning of the fire, the other of the end.14 One [authority] teaches: A benediction may be said over the light of an oven or a stove, while another says that it may not, and there is no contradiction: one speaks of the beginning of the fire, the other of the end.15 One [authority] teaches: The benediction may be said over the light of the synagogue or the Beth ha-Midrash, while another says it may not, and there is no contradiction: one speaks of a case where an eminent man is present,16 the other of a case where no eminent man is present. Or if you like, I can say that both speak of where an eminent man is present, and there is no contradiction: one speaks of where there is a beadle,17 and the other of where there is no beadle. Or if you like, I can say that both speak of where there is a beadle, and there is no contradiction; one speaks of where there is moonlight,18 the other of where there is no moonlight.
Out Rabbis taught: If people were sitting in the Beth ha-Midrash and light was brought in [at the termination of the Sabbath], Beth Shammai say that each one says a blessing over it for himself, while Beth Hillel say that one says a blessing on behalf of all, because it says, In the multitude of people is the King's glory.19 Beth Hillel at any rate explain their reason; but what is the reason of Beth Shammai? — It is probably to avoid an interruption of study.20 It has been taught similarly: The members of the household of Rabban Gamaliel did not use to say 'Good health'21 in the Beth ha-Midrash so as not to interrupt their study.
A BENEDICTION MAY NOT BE SAID OVER THE LIGHTS OR THE SPICES OF THE DEAD. What is the reason? — The light is kindled only in honour of the dead, the spices are to remove the bad smell. Rab Judah said in the name of Rab: Wherever [the person buried is of such consequence that] a light would be carried before him either by day or by night, we do not say a blessing over the light [if he is buried on the termination of Sabbath];22 but if he is one before whom a light would be carried only at night, we may say the blessing.23
R. Huna said: A blessing is not said over spices used in a privy24 or oil used for removing grease [from the hands].25 This implies that wherever [spice] is not used for scent no blessing is said over it. An objection was raised [to this]: If one enters a spice-dealer's shop and smells the fragrance, even though he sits there the whole day he makes only one blessing, but if he is constantly going in and out he makes a blessing each time he enters. Now here is a case where it is not used for smell,26 and yet one makes a blessing? — In fact it is used for smell, the object being that people should smell and come and make purchases thereof.
Our Rabbis taught: If one was walking outside the town and smelt an odour [of spices], if the majority of the inhabitants are idolaters he does not say a blessing, but if the majority are Israelites he does say a blessing. R. Jose says: Even if the majority are Israelites he does not say a blessing, because the daughters of Israel use incense for witchcraft. Do all of them use incense for witchcraft? — The fact is that a small part is used for witchcraft and a small part for scenting garments, with the result that the greater part of it is not used for smell, and wherever the greater part is not used for smell a blessing is not said over it. R. Hiyya b. Abba said in the name of R. Johanan: If one was walking on the eve of Sabbath in Tiberias, or at the conclusion of Sabbath in Sepphoris, and smelt an odour [of spices], he does not say a blessing, because the probability is that they are being used only to perfume garments. Our Rabbis taught: If one was walking in a street of idolaters and smelt the spices willingly, he is a sinner.
. A BLESSING IS NOT SAID OVER THE LIGHT TILL IT HAS BEEN UTILIZED. Rab Judah said in the name of Rab: This does not mean literally till it has been utilized, but it means a light which can be serviceable if one stands near enough to it, and then even those at a distance [may say the blessing]. So too said R. Ashi: We have learnt that it serves for those at a distance.
An objection was raised: If one had a light hidden in the folds of his dress or in a lamp, or if he could see a flame but could not use its light, or if he could do something by the light but saw no flame, he should not say the blessing; he must both see a flame and be able to use the light. We understand the statement 'he can use its light but sees no flame'; this can happen when the light is in a corner. But how can it happen that he sees the flame and cannot make use of the light? Is it not when he is at a distance? — No; it is when, for instance, the flame keeps on flickering.
Our Rabbis taught: We may say the blessing over glowing coals but not over dying coals. How do you define 'glowing'? — R. Hisda replied: This means coals from which a chip, if inserted between them, will catch of itself. The question was asked: Is the proper form omemoth or 'omemoth?1 — Come and hear: for R. Hisda b. Abdimi quoted the verse, The cedars in the garden of God could not darken ['amamuhu] it.2
Rab, however,3 said that [the Mishnah means literally] 'utilize it'. How near must one be? — 'Ulla said: Near enough to distinguish between an as and a dupondium.4 Hezekiah said: Near enough to distinguish between a meluzma5 of Tiberias and one of Sepphoris. Rab Judah used to say the blessing over the light in the house of Adda the waiter.6 Raba said the blessing over the light in the house of Guria b. Hama.7 Abaye said it over the light in the house of Bar Abbuha. Rab Judah said in the name of Rab: We do not go looking for a light8 in the same way as we do in the case of other commandments. R. Zera said: At first I used to go looking for a light. But since hearing this statement of Rab Judah reporting Rab, I also do not look for one, but if one comes my way I say the blessing over it.
IF ONE HAS EATEN etc. R. Zebid, or as some say R. Dimi b. Abba, said: Opinions differ only in the case where one forgot, but if he omitted wilfully he must return to his place and say grace. This is obvious! The Mishnah says 'HAS FORGOTTEN'? — You might think that the rule is the same even if he did it purposely, and the reason why it says 'HAS FORGOTTEN' is to show you how far Beth Shammai are prepared to go. Therefore we are told [that this is not so]. It has been taught: Beth Hillel said to Beth Shammai: according to you, if one ate at the top of the Temple Mount and forgot and descended without having said grace, he should return to the top of the Temple Mount and say grace? Beth Shammai replied to Beth Hillel: According to you, if one forgot a purse at the top of the Temple Mount, is he not to go up and get it? And if he will ascend for his own sake, surely he should do so all the more for the honour of Heaven!
There were once two disciples who omitted to say grace. One who did it accidentally followed the rule of Beth Shammai9 and found a purse of gold, while the other who did it purposely10 followed the rule of Beth Hillel,11 and he was eaten by a lion. Rabbah b. Bar Hanah was once travelling with a caravan, and he took a meal and forgot to say grace. He said to himself: What shall I do? If I say to the others, I have forgotten to say grace, they will say to me, Say it [here]: wherever you say the benediction you are saying it to the All-Merciful. I had better tell them that I have forgotten a golden dove. So he said to them: Wait for me, because I have forgotten a golden dove. He went back and said grace and found a golden dove. Why should it have been just a dove? — Because the community of Israel are compared to a dove, as it is written, The wings of the dove are covered with silver, and her pinions with the shimmer of gold.12 Just as the dove is saved only by her wings, so Israel are saved only by the precepts.
UNTIL WHEN CAN HE SAY THE GRACE. How long does it take to digest a meal? — R. Johanan said: Until he becomes hungry again; Resh Lakish said: As long as one is thirsty on account of the meal. Said R. Yemar b. Shelemia to Mar Zutra, or, according to others R. Yemar b. Shezbi to Mar Zutra: Can Resh Lakish have said this? Has not R. Ammi said in the name of Resh Lakish: How long does it take to digest a meal? Long enough for one to walk four mil? — There is no contradiction: one statement refers to a light meal, the other to a heavy one.13
IF WINE IS SERVED etc. This implies, [if] an Israelite [says the grace],14 even though one has not heard the whole of it he responds [Amen]. But if he has not heard how can he have performed his duty by doing so?15 Hiyya b. Rab replied: This applies to one who has not joined in the meal. Similarly said R. Nahman in the name of Rabbah b. Abbuha: It refers to one who has not joined in the meal. Said Rab to his son Hiyya: My son, snatch [the cup of wine] and say grace.16 And so said R. Huna to his son Rabbah: My son, snatch and say grace. This implies that he who says the grace is superior to one who answers, Amen. But it has been taught: 'R. Jose says: Greater is he who answers, Amen than he who says the blessing? — Said R. Nehorai to him: I swear to you by heaven that it is so. The proof is that while the common soldiers advance and open the battle, it is the seasoned warriors who go down to win the victory!' — On this point there is a difference between Tannaim, as it has been taught: Both he who says the blessing and he who answers, Amen are equally implied,17 only he who says the blessing is more quickly [rewarded] than he who answers, Amen.
Samuel inquired of Rab: Should one respond Amen after [a blessing said by] schoolchildren? — He replied: We respond Amen after everyone except children in school, because they are merely learning. This is the case only when it is not the time for them to say the haftarah;18 but when it is the time for them to say the haftarah, we respond Amen after them.
Our Rabbis taught: The absence of oil19 is a bar to the saying of grace. So said R. Zilai. R. Ziwai said: It is no bar. R. Aha said: Good oil is indispensable. R. Zuhamai said: Just as a dirty person is unfit for the Temple service, so dirty hands unfit one for saying grace. R. Nahman b. Isaac said: I know nothing either of Zilai or Ziwai or Zuhamai, but I do know the following teaching, viz.: Rab Judah said in the name of Rab: some say it was taught in a Baraitha, Sanctify yourselves:20 this refers to washing of the hands before the meal;21 And be ye holy: this refers to washing of the hands after the meal;22 'For holy': this refers to the oil; 'Am I the Lord your God': this refers to the grace.
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