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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Shabbath

Folio 108a

fungus from the handle of a pitcher is liable on account of uprooting something from the place of its growth. R. Oshaia objected: If one detaches [aught] from a perforated pot, he is culpable; if it is unperforated, he is exempt? — There, that is not its [normal place for] growing; but here this is its [normal place for] growing.1

AN ANIMAL OR A BIRD, etc. R. Huna said: Tefillin may be written upon the skin of a clean bird. R. Joseph demurred: What does he inform us? That it has a skin!2  [But] we have [already] learnt it: HE WHO WOUNDS IT IS CULPABLE?3  Said Abaye to him, He informs us much. For if we [deduced] from our Mishnah, I might object, Since it is perforated all over,4  it may not [be thus used]; hence he informs us as they say in the West [Palestine]: Any hole over which the ink can pass is not a hole.

R. Zera objected: [And he shall rend it] by the wings thereof:5  this is to teach that the skin is fit.6  Now if you think that it is [a separate] skin, how can Scripture include it?7 — Said Abaye to him, it is [indeed a separate] skin, but the Divine Law includes it.8  Others state, R. Zera said: We too learnt thus: 'By the wings thereof'; — this is to include the skin. Now, if you say that it is [a separate] skin, it is well: hence a verse is required for including it. But if you say that it is not skin, why is a verse required for including it? Said Abaye to him, in truth I may tell you that it is not [a separate] skin, yet it is necessary. I might argue, Since it is covered with splits [holes], it is repulsive. [Hence] we are informed [otherwise].

Mar son of Rabina asked R. Nahman b. Isaac: May tefillin be written upon the skin of a clean fish? If Elijah will come and declare, he replied. What does 'if Elijah will come and declare' mean. Shall we say, whether it has a [separate] skin or not, — but we see that it has a skin? Moreover we learnt: The bones of a fish and its skin afford protection in the tent wherein is a corpse!9  Rather [he meant]: If Elijah comes and tells [us] whether its foul smell10  evaporates or not.

Samuel and Karna were sitting by the bank of the Nehar Malka,11  and saw the water rising and becoming discoloured. Said Samuel to Karna, A great man is arriving from the West who suffers from stomach trouble, and the water is rising to give him a welcome, Go and smell his bottle!12  So he went and met Rab. He asked him, How do we know that tefillin maybe written only on the skin of a clean [edible] animal? Because it is written, that the Law of the Lord may be in thy mouth,13  [meaning] of that which is permitted in thy mouth, he replied. How do we know that blood is red? he asked.14  — Because it is said, and the Moabites saw the water over against them as red as blood.15  How do we know that circumcision [must be performed] in that [particular] place? — 'His 'orlah'16  is stated here, and 'its 'orlah'17  is stated elsewhere: just as there something that produces fruit [is meant], so here too something [the limb] that produces fruit [is meant]. Perhaps it means the heart, for it is written, Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart?18  Perhaps it means the ear, for it is written, behold, their ear is uncircumcised?19  — We learn the complete [word] 'orlatho from the complete [word] 'orlatho, but we do not learn the complete 'orlatho from 'orlath, which is incomplete.20  'What is your name?' he asked. Karna. 'May it be [His] will that a horn [karna] shall sprout out from between his eyes!' he retorted.21  Subsequently Samuel took him into his house, gave him barley bread and a fish pie to eat, and strong liquor to drink,22  but did not show him the privy, that he might be eased.23  Rab cursed, saying, He who causes me pain, may no sons arise from him — And thus it was.

This is a controversy of Tannaim. How do we know that circumcision [must be performed] in that place? 'Orlatho is stated here, and 'orlatho is stated elsewhere: just as there something that produces fruit [is meant], so here too something that produces fruit [is meant]: that is R. Josiah's view. R. Nathan said: It is unnecessary: surely it is said, And the uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin: — [that indicates] the place where the male sex is differentiated from the female sex.

Our Rabbis taught: Tefillin can be written upon the skin of clean animals and upon the skin of clean beasts, and24  upon the skin of their nebeloth or terefoth,25  and they are tied round with their hair,26  and sewn with their tendons. And it is a halachah from Moses at Sinai27  that tefillin are tied round with their hair and sewn with their tendons. But we may not write [them] upon the skin of unclean animals or upon the skin of unclean beasts, and the skin of their nebeloth and terefoth need not be stated;28  nor may they be tied round with their hair or sewn with their tendons. And this question a certain Boethusian29  asked R. Joshua the grits dealer: How do we know that tefillin may not be written upon the skin of an unclean animal? Because it is written, 'that the law of thy Lord may be in thy mouth' [implying] of that which is permitted in thy mouth. If so, they should not be written on the skin of nebeloth and terefoth.? Said he to him, I will give you a comparison. What does this resemble? Two men who were condemned to death by the State, one being executed by the king and the other by the executioner. Who stands higher? Surely he who was slain by the king!30  If so, let them be eaten? The Torah saith, Ye shall not eat any nebelah,31  he retorted, yet you say, let them be eaten! Well spoken!32  admitted he.


Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. The reference being to a moss or fungus which sprouts up in such places.
  2. Distinct from its flesh.
  3. Which shows that it has a distinct skin, v. p. 518, n. 2.
  4. Lit., 'it has holes (and) holes'- where the feathers are set.
  5. Lev. I, 17. The reference is to a fowl burnt-offering, whose wings were burnt upon the altar.
  6. To be burnt on the altar, it being unnecessary to skin the bird first.
  7. It should be the same as the skin of all animal, which must be first removed, v. 6.
  8. This verse shows that the skin of a bird is not the same as that of an animal.
  9. If food is in a vessel which is covered by the bones or the skin of a fish, or if the whole vessel, which is closed, is made from these materials, the food is protected from contamination; v. Num. XIX, 15. — Thus the skin is mentioned as a separate entity.
  10. Lit., 'filth'.
  11. The Royal Canal. The Canal connecting the Euphrates and the Tigris at Nehardea and Mahoza respectively; Obermeyer, 244f.
  12. Examine his knowledge-a humorous allusion to Karna's ability to judge whether wine was good or not merely by smelling the bottle, Keth. 105a. V. Obermeyer. op. cit., p. 247 and notes.
  13. Ex. XIII, 9.
  14. Only blood that is red or of colours akin to redness defiles a woman as a menstruant (Nid. 19a), and this was the point of his question.
  15. II Kings III, 22.
  16. Gen. XVII, 14, in connection with circumcision (E.V. foreskin).
  17. Lev. XIX, 23, in reference to the fruit of a tree within the first three years of its planting, which may not be eaten (E.V. uncircumcision).
  18. Deut. X, 16. This question of course was not mentioned seriously, but was put merely to point out that 'circumcision' is mentioned in connection with other organs too.
  19. Jer. VI, 10.
  20. 'Orlatho' is written in both verses quoted by Rab, whereas 'orlah and 'orlath are written in the verses proposed by Karna.
  21. He was probably annoyed at Karna's temerity in thus examining him.
  22. All this he gave him to act as a laxative.
  23. This, too, was part of the treatment. Samuel was a doctor.
  24. Behemah denotes a domestic animal; hayyah, a wild animal.
  25. V. Glos.
  26. The slips of parchment are rolled up and tied round with hair of these animals.
  27. V. p. 123, n. 7.
  28. As unfit.
  29. The Boethusians were a sect similar to the Sadducees, and disagreed with the Pharisees on certain religious beliefs, such as immortality and its concomitant, reward and punishment in the hereafter, and resurrection, which they rejected; and in certain practices, viz., the date of Pentecost and the method of preparing incense on the Day of Atonement (Men. X, 3; Tosaf. Yoma I, 8-the parallel passage in Yoma 39a has 'Sadducees'). The opinion most generally held is that the Boethusians were a variety of the Sadducees.
  30. Similarly, nebeloth and terefoth may be regarded as slain by God.
  31. Deut, XIV, 21. (E.V.: 'of anything that dieth of itself').
  32. The same law applies to both — either both are forbidden or both are permitted.
  33. Before the salt is put into it.

Shabbath 108b


GEMARA. What does he [the first Tanna] mean?4  Said Rab Judah in Samuel's name, He means this: One may not prepare a large quantity of salt water, but one may prepare a small quantity of salt water.

SAID R. JOSE, BUT THAT IS BRINE, WHETHER [ONE PREPARES] MUCH OR LITTLE? The scholars asked: Does R. Jose [mean] to forbid [both] or to permit [both]? — Said Rab Judah: He [means] to permit [both], since it is not stated, R. Jose forbids. Said Rabbah to him: But since the final clause states, RATHER THIS IS THE SALT WATER THAT IS PERMITTED, it follows that R. Jose [means] to forbid [in the first clause]! Rather said Rabbah: He [means] to forbid; and thus did R. Johanan say: He [means] to forbid. It was taught likewise: One may not prepare a large quantity of salt water for putting into preserved vegetables in a mutilated vessel;5  but one may prepare a little salt water and eat his bread therewith or put it into a stew. Said R. Jose: Is it just because this is in large quantity and this is in small, that the one is forbidden and the other is permitted? then it will be said, Much work is forbidden but a little work is permitted! Rather both are forbidden, and this is the salt water that is permitted: one puts oil and salt [mixed into water] or oil and water [over salt], but provided that water and salt are not mixed at the outset.

[Mnemonic: Strong radish and citron.]6  R. Judah b. Habiba recited: We may not prepare strong salt water. What is strong salt water? — Rabbah and R. Joseph b. Abba both say: Such that an egg floats in it. And how much is that? — Said Abaye: Two parts of salt and one part of water. For what is it made? Said R. Abbahu: For muries.7

R. Judah b. Habiba recited: One may not salt a radish or an egg on the Sabbath.8  R. Hezekiah said in Abaye's name: Radish is forbidden, but an egg is permitted. R. Nahman said: Originally I used to salt radish, arguing, I do indeed spoil it, for Samuel said, Sharp radish is [more] beneficial. But when I heard what 'Ulla said when he came,9  viz., In the West [Palestine] they salt them slice by slice,10  I no longer salt them,11  but I certainly do drop them [in salt].12

R. Judah b. Habiba recited: A citron, radish, and egg, but for their outer shell,13  would never leave the stomach.14

When R. Dimi came,15  he said: No man ever sank in the Lake of Sodom.16  R. Joseph observed: Sodom was overturned and the statement about it is topsy-turvy:17  No man sank [in it], but a plank did?18  Said Abaye to him, He states the more surprising thing.19  It is unnecessary [to mention] a plank, seeing that it does not sink in any water; but not even a man, who sinks in all [other] waters of the world, [ever] sank in the Lake of Sodom. What difference does that make? — Even as it once happened that Rabin was walking behind R. Jeremiah by the bank of the Lake of Sodom, [and] he asked him, May one wash with this water on the Sabbath?20  — It is well, he replied.21  Is it permissible to shut and open [one's eyes]?22  I have not heard this, he answered, [but] I have heard something similar; for R. Zera said, at times in R. Mattenah's name, at others in Mar 'Ukba's name, and both [R. Mattenah and Mar 'Ukba] said it in the names of Samuel's father and Levi: one said: [To put] wine into one's eye23  is forbidden; [to put it] on the eye, is permitted.24  Whilst the other said: [To put] tasteless saliva,25  even on the eye, is forbidden. It may be proved that it was Samuel's father who ruled, '[To put] wine into one's eye is forbidden; on the eye, is permitted': for Samuel said: One may soak bread in wine and place it on his eye on the Sabbath. Now, from whom, did he hear this, surely he heard it from his father? — But then on your reasoning, when Samuel said: [To apply] tasteless saliva even on the eye is forbidden; from whom did he hear it? Shall we say that he heard it from his father, — then Levi did not state any one [of these laws]! Hence he [must have] heard one from his father and one from Levi, but we do not know which from his father and which from Levi.

Mar 'Ukba said in Samuel's name: One may steep collyrium [an eye salve] on the eve of the Sabbath and place it upon his eyes on the Sabbath without fear.26  Bar Lewai was standing before Mar 'Ukba, and saw him opening and shutting [his eyes].27  To this extent Mar Samuel certainly did not give permission, he observed to him.28  R. Jannai sent [word] to Mar 'Ukba, Send us some of Mar Samuel's eye-salves.29  He sent back [word], I do indeed send [them] to you, lest you accuse me of meanness; but thus did Samuel say: A drop of cold water in the morning, and bathing the hands and feet in hot water in the evening, is better than all the eye-salves in the world. It was taught likewise: R. Muna said in R. Judah's name: A drop of cold water in the morning and bathing the hands and feet [in hot water]30  in the evening is better than all the eye-salves in the world. He [R. Muna] used to say: If the hand [be put] to the eye, let it be cut off;31  the hand to the nose, let it be cut off: the hand to the mouth, let it be cut off; the hand to the ear, let it be cut off; the hand to the vein [opened for blood letting], let it be cut off; the hand to the membrum, let it be cut off; the hand to the anus, let it be cut off; the hand

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. [G].
  2. This is forbidden under 'salting', v. supra 73a.
  3. Before the salt is put into the water. The oil weakens the salt in both cases.
  4. Surely brine and salt water are identical.
  5. Which is specially set aside for pickling.
  6. A mnemonic is a string of words to aid the memory.
  7. A pickle containing fish hash and sometimes wine (Jast.).
  8. A number of slices at the same time (Rashi).
  9. Cf p. 12, n. 9,
  10. Eating the one before the next is salted.
  11. More than one slice. Two slices at once (Rashi).
  12. Each radish as I eat it.
  13. This refers to the white of the egg, not what is generally called the shell.
  14. They are very constipating.
  15. V. p. 12, n. 9.
  16. Owing to its high specific gravity due to its large proportion of salt.
  17. Lit., 'overturned'.
  18. Surely a plank is even lighter.
  19. Lit., 'he says, it is unnecessary (to state)'.
  20. Its saltiness conferred healing properties upon it; hence the question, since one may not heal on the Sabbath.
  21. For it is not evident that one washes himself for that reason. [Healing is forbidden only for fear lest one crushes the necessary ingredients, but it is not labour in itself: consequently the Rabbis did not impose this interdict unless one is obviously performing a cure.]
  22. Several times in succession, for the salt to enter and heal them. The purpose is more obvious here.
  23. By opening and shutting it. This is similar to Rabin's question, Thus the saltiness of the Lake of Sodom has a practical bearing in law.
  24. For it looks as though he is merely washing himself.
  25. I.e., saliva of a person who has tasted nothing after sleeping.
  26. Of transgression.
  27. For the salve to enter right in.
  28. Surely one was reported in his name!
  29. Samuel was a doctor.
  30. So the text is emended in 'Aruch.
  31. R causes it injury, and so the rest. In nearly all cases it means before washing in the morning.