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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin
1 And again it is written, And they could not read the writing nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof.2 Further, it is written: And he shall write the copy [mishneh] of this law,3 — in writing which was destined to be changed.4 Why is it called Ashshurith? — Because it came with them from Assyria.5
It has been taught: Rabbi said: The Torah was originally given to Israel in this [Ashshurith] writing. When they sinned, it was changed into Ro'az.6 But when they repented,7 the [Assyrian characters] were re-introduced, as it is written: Turn ye to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope; even to-day do I declare that I will bring back the Mishneh unto thee.8 Why [then] was it named Ashshurith?9 — Because its script was upright [me'ushshar].
R. Simeon b. Eliezer said on the authority of R. Eliezer b. Parta, who spoke on the authority of R. Eleazar of Modin: This writing [of the law] was never changed, for it is written: The 'waws' [hooks] of the pillars.10 As the word 'pillars' had not changed, neither had the word 'wawim' [hooks].11 Again it is written, And unto the Jews, according to their writing and language;12 as their language had not changed, neither had their writing. Then how shall I interpret the words, and he shall write for himself Mishneh [a copy] of this law?13 — As indicating the need of two written Torahs; the one to go in and out with him; the other to be deposited by him in his treasure-house. The one that is to go in and out with him, he is to write in the form of an amulet and attach to his arm, as it is written, I have set God always before me.14 But how does the other [who maintains that the writing was changed]15 interpret, I have set [etc.]? — He employs it as R. Hanah b. Bizna, who said in the name of R. Simeon the Pious: He who prays should regard himself [i.e., behave] as if the Shechinah were before him, as it is written, I have set God always before me.16
But what can the phrase, they could not read the writing, mean [on the view of R. Simeon, who asserts that this writing was not changed]? — Rab said: The passage was written in Gematria:17 Y-T-T. Y-T-T. 'A-D-K. P-U-G-H-M-T.18 How did he interpret it to them? — As M-N-A. M-N-A. T-K-L. U-F-R-S-Y-N.19 — 'Mene', God has numbered thy kingdom and brought it to an end. 'Tekel', thou art weighed in the balances and art found wanting. 'Peres', thy kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.
Samuel said: [It was written thus:] M-M-T-U-S. N-N-K-F-Y. 'A-'A-L-R-N.20 R. Johanan said: [It was written:] A-N-M. A-N-M. L-K-T-N-Y-S-R-F-U;21 while R. Ashi says: It was written: N-M-A. N-M-A. K-T-L. F-U-R-S-Y-N.22
MISHNAH. NO ONE MAY RIDE ON HIS [THE KING'S] HORSE, OR SIT ON HIS THRONE, OR MAKE USE OF HIS SCEPTRE, NO ONE MAY SEE HIM WHEN HIS HAIR IS BEING CUT, OR WHEN HE IS NAKED, OR WHEN IN HIS BATH, FOR IT IS WRITTEN: THOU SHALT SURELY SET OVER THEE A KING23 — THAT HIS AWE MAY BE OVER THEE.
GEMARA. R. Jacob said in R. Johanan's name: Abishag was permitted to Solomon [in marriage]24 but not to Adonijah.25 She was permitted to Solomon, for he was a king, and a king may make use of the king's sceptre;26 but she was forbidden to Adonijah, for he was a commoner.
What are the facts regarding Abishag? — It is written: King David was old, stricken in years etc. His servants said unto him, Let there be sought etc. Further it is written, They sought for him a fair damsel etc.; and it is written, And the damsel [Abishag] was very fair, and she became a companion to the king and ministered unto him.27 She said to him, 'Let us marry,' but he [David] said: 'Thou art forbidden to me.'28 'When courage fails the thief, he becomes virtuous,'29 she gibed. Then he said to them [his servants], 'Call me Bath-Sheba'. And we read: And Bath-Sheba went to the king into the chamber.30 Rab Judah said in Rab's name: On that occasion Bath-Sheba dried herself thirteen times.31
R. Shaman b. Abba said: Come and see with what great reluctance is divorce granted; King David was permitted yihud [with Abishag], yet not divorce [of one of his wives].32
R. Eliezer33 said: For him who divorces the first wife, the very altar sheds tears, as it is written: And this further ye do, ye cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and with sighing, in so much that he regardeth not the offering any more, neither receiveth it with good will at your hand.34 Further it is written: Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously, though she is thy companion and the wife of thy covenant.35
R. Johanan or, as some say, R. Eleazar said: The death of a man's wife may only be ascribed to his failure to pay his debts,36 as it is said: If thou hast not wherewith to pay, why should he take away the bed from under thee?37 R. Johanan also said: He whose first wife has died, [is grieved as much] as if the destruction of the Temple had taken place in his days, as it is written: Son of man, behold I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke; yet thou shalt not make lamentation nor weep; neither shall thy tears run down.38 Again it is written, And I spoke unto the people in the morning, and at even my wife died. And further it is written, Behold I will profane my Sanctuary, the pride of your power, the desire of your eyes.39
R. Alexandri said: The world is darkened for him whose wife has died in his days [i.e., predeceased him], as it is written, The light shall be dark because of his tent40 and his lamp over him shall be put out.41 R. Jose b. Hanina said: His steps grow short,42 as it is said: The steps of his strength shall be straightened.43 R. Abbahu said: His wits collapse, as it is written, And his own counsel shall cast him down.44
Rabbah b. Bar Hannah said in R. Johanan's name: To effect a union between man and woman is as difficult as the dividing of the Red Sea,45 as it is written: God maketh the solitary dwell in houses; He bringeth out the prisoners unto prosperity.46 But is it really so? Did not Rab Judah say in Rab's name: Forty days before the embryo is formed, a heavenly voice goes forth and says: The daughter of so and so for so and so?47 — There is no difficulty: this applies to the first marriage; the earlier statement, to the second.
R. Samuel b. Nahman said: All things can be replaced, except the wife of one's youth, as it is written, And a wife of [one's] youth, can she be rejected?48
Rab Judah taught his son R. Isaac: Only with one's first wife does one find pleasure,49 as it is said: Let thy fountain be blessed and have joy of the wife of
1 'Of what kind of woman do you speak?' he asked him. — 'Of such as your mother', was the reply. But is this true? Had not Rab Judah taught his son R. Isaac, the verse: And I find more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets,2 and he [the son] asked him: 'What kind of woman?' He answered. 'Such as your mother'? — True, she was a quick-tempered woman but nevertheless easily appeased with a word.
R. Samuel b. Unya said in the name of Rab: A woman [before marriage] is a shapeless lump,3 and concludes a covenant only with him who transforms her [into] a [useful] vessel, as it is written: For thy maker is thy husband; the Lord of Hosts is his name.4
A Tanna taught: The death of a man is felt by none but his wife; and that of a woman, but her husband. Regarding the former, it is said: And Elimelech, Naomi's5 husband, died.6 And regarding the latter it is written: And as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died unto me.7
NOR MAY ONE SEE HIM etc. Our Rabbis taught: The king has his hair trimmed every day; the High Priest, every eve of the Sabbath, and a common Priest, once in thirty days.
'The king has his hair trimmed every day.' as it is written, Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty.8 'The High Priest, every eve of the Sabbath.' R. Samuel b. Nahman said in R. Johanan's name: This is because of the [weekly] renewal of the priestly watches.9
'The common Priest, once in thirty days,' because it is written: Neither shall they shave their heads nor suffer their locks [pera'] to grow: they shall only poll their heads.10 Identity of law is deduced from [the use of] pera' here and in the section on the Nazirite; here it is written, They shall not let their locks [pera'] grow; while there it is stated, He shall let the locks [pera'] of the hair of his head grow long;11 Just as there, [a] thirty days' [growth is meant], so here too.12 And we also learnt:13 The period for unspecified neziruth14 is thirty days. Whence do we deduce this in the other passage? — R. Mathna said: Scripture states, He shall be [yihyeh] holy;15 the gematria16 of yihyeh being thirty.17
R. Papa said to Abaye: But perhaps [it means] that they shall not [let their hair] grow so long — [i.e. for a full month]?18 — He answered: Were it written, 'They shall not let [their hair] grow to become 'pera''; it would have meant what you suggest. But since the text reads, And their locks [pera'] they shall not let grow, it implies that they may let it become 'pera'' but thereafter must not let it grow longer. If so [that the prohibition is based on that verse], it should [hold good] even nowadays, [when there is no Temple]! — This [restriction] is analogous to [that of] wine: just as wine was forbidden [them] only when they entered [the Temple],19 but permitted at any other time, so is the growing of hair forbidden only when there is entry [into the Temple] and permitted at all other times. But is wine permitted them when there is no entering into the Temple? Has it not been taught: Rabbi said: In my opinion, Priests should by right be at all times forbidden to drink wine,20 but what can I do, seeing that 'their calamity [the destruction of the Temple] has been to their advantage in the matter?21 Whereon Abaye said: In agreement with whom do priests drink wine nowadays? In agreement with Rabbi. It may therefore be inferred that the Rabbis forbid it!22 — In that case, the reason is this: the Temple might speedily be rebuilt and when a priest suitable for its service is required, he might not be found. Then here too [i.e., regarding the restriction of hair-growth] may not the same thing happen? — In the latter case, it is possible to trim the hair and [immediately] enter. But there too [sc. wine drinking], one can slumber a while [i.e., sleep it off] and then enter? For R. Aha said: A mil's walk or a little sleep counteracts [the effects of] wine. But surely it was stated of this: R. Nahman said in R. Abbahu's name: This applies only to one who has drunk not more than a rebi'ith;23 but if he has drunk more, the walk will only cause more fatigue, and the sleep more drunkenness!
R. Ashi said: Since those drunk with wine defile the service [if they officiate], the Rabbis enacted that precautionary measure;24 but seeing that those with long hair do not defile the service, they made no decree against them.
An objection is raised: The following [priests] are liable to death: those who let their hair grow and those who are drunk with wine.25 Now, as for those drunk with wine, it is correct, because it is written, Drink no wine nor strong drink, thou nor thy sons with thee, that ye die not.26 But whence do we know it of those with long hair? — Because the former is assimilated to the latter, for it is written, Neither shall they shave their heads nor suffer their locks to grow long, which is followed by, Neither shall they drink wine etc. Hence, just as drunkenness [during the service] is punishable by death, so is the growth of long hair. And it also follows, just as drunkenness defiles the Temple service, so does the growing of long hair!27 This is a difficulty.28
Rabina said to R. Ashi: Before Ezekiel came, and told us this [that those who let their hair grow and officiate thus are punishable by death], who stated it?29 — But according to your view,30 what of R. Hisda's statement, [viz.,] This law31 was not learnt from the teaching of Moses our teacher, until Ezekiel came and taught, No alien, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh shall enter into my Sanctuary to serve me.32 But before Ezekiel came, who stated it? Consequently, it must have been a tradition, and then Ezekiel came and found a support for it in Scripture [i.e., the Pentateuch]. Similarly, here too, [in the question of hair-growth] it was a traditional teaching, and Ezekiel merely upheld it in the passage quoted [further, the Halachah, as handed down, states only that they are liable to death, but not that they defile the Temple-service].33
What is the meaning of, They shall only poll their heads? — A Tanna taught: Hair cut in the Julian style.34 What was that? — Rab Judah said in Samuel's name: A unique manner of hairdressing. Yet what was it like? R. Ashi said: The ends of one row [of hair] lay alongside the roots of the next.
Rabbi was asked: In what fashion was the hair of the High Priest cut? — He answered: Go and observe the haircut of Ben Eleasa.35 It has been taught: Not for nothing did Ben Eleasa expend money so lavishly upon his hairdressing, but to display the High-Priestly fashion.
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