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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Shabbath

Folio 110a

officer of Pumbeditha was bitten by a snake. Now there were thirteen white asses in Pumbeditha; they were all torn open and found to be terefah. There was another on the other side of Pumbeditha, [but] before they could go and bring it a lion devoured it. [Thereupon] Abaye observed to them. 'Perhaps he was bitten by a snake of the Rabbis,1  for which there is no cure, as it is written, and whoso breaketh through a fence,2  a serpent shall bite him?'3  'Indeed so, Rabbi,' answered they. For when Rab died, R. Isaac b. Bisna decreed that none should bring myrtles and palm-branches to a wedding feast to the' sound of a tabla,4  yet he went and brought myrtle and palm-branches at a wedding to the sound of the tabla; [so] a snake bit him and he died.

If a snake winds itself around a person, let him go down into water, put a basket over its head and force it [the snake] away from himself, and when it goes on to it [the basket], he should throw it into the water, ascend and make off.

If a man is scented by a snake,5  if his companion is with him, he should make him ride four cubits.6  If not, let him jump a ditch.7  If not, let him cross a river; and at night place his bed on four barrels and sleep under the stars,8  and bring four cats and tie them to the four legs of the bed. Then he should fetch rubbish9  and throw it there, so that when they hear a sound they [the cats] will devour it.

If a man is chased by one [a snake], he should flee into sandy places.10

If a woman sees a snake and does not know whether it has turned its attention to her or not, let her remove her garments and throw them in front of it; if it winds itself around them, its mind is upon her; if not, its mind is not upon her. What can she do? She should cohabit [with her husband] in front of it. Others say, That will even strengthen its instincts. Rather she should take some of her hair and nails and throw them at it and say, 'I am menstruous'.

If a snake enters a woman, let her spread her legs and place them on two barrels; fat meat must be brought and cast on the burning coals; a basket of cress must be brought together with fragrant wine and placed there, and be well beaten together.11  They should take a pair of tongs in their hand, for when it smells the fragrance it will come out, so that it can be seized and burnt in the fire, as otherwise it will re-enter.

EXCEPT WATER OF PALM TREES. It was taught: Except water that pierces. He who teaches, water that pierces, [calls it thus] because it pierces the gall.12  And he who says WATER OF PALM TREES, that is because it comes forth from [between] two palm trees. What is water of palm trees?13  — Rabbah b. Beruna said: There are two tali14  in the west [Palestine] and a spring of water issues from between them. The first cup [thereof] loosens, the second causes motion, and the third passes out just as it enters. 'Ulla said: I myself drank Babylonian beer and it is more efficacious than these [waters];15  provided, however, that one had discontinued [drinking] it for forty days.16

R. Joseph said: Egyptian beer consists of one part barley, one part safflower, and one part salt. R. Papa said: One part wheat, one part safflower, and one part salt. And the token is sisane.17  And it is drunk between Passover18  and Pentecost; upon him who is constipated it acts as a laxative, while him who suffers with diarrhoea it binds.

AND A POTION OF ROOTS. What is a POTION OF ROOTS? Said R. Johanan: The weight of a zuz19  of Alexandrian gum is brought, a zuz weight of liquid alum and a zuz weight of garden crocus, and they are powdered together. For a zabah, a third thereof [mixed] with wine [is efficacious] that she shall not become barren. For jaundice two thirds thereof [mixed] with beer [is drunk], and he [the sufferer] then becomes impotent.20  'For a zabah, a third thereof [mixed] with win [is efficacious] that she shall not become barren': but if not,21  let them procure three

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. I.e., as a punishment for disobeying the Rabbis.
  2. Rabbinical laws were often so called; cf. Aboth, I, 13.
  3. Eccl. X, 8.
  4. A bell or a collection of bells forming an instrument specially used at public processions, weddings, etc.
  5. Which pursues him.
  6. To break the track of the scent.
  7. The water breaks the scent.
  8. So that the snake cannot attack him either from below or above.
  9. Rashi: branches, twigs, etc., which rustle and make a noise when anything passes over them. 'Ar: refuse of reeds.
  10. Where the snake cannot follow.
  11. To cause their fragrance to ascend.
  12. I.e., makes it function.
  13. BaH deletes this question.
  14. A species of palms.
  15. Sc. of the well just mentioned.
  16. Otherwise the system does not react to it.
  17. A basket made of twigs. Sisane contains two sameks; thus R. Joseph ([H]) mentioned barley ([H]) — the samek and sin being interchangeable.
  18. Lit., 'the sacrifice'.
  19. Three and five hundred eighty-five thousand grammes; v. J.E. Weights and Measures, XII, p. 486: Other Weights and Table on p. 489.
  20. Though cured of his illness.
  21. If it is unavailable or fails to cure.

Shabbath 110b

kapiza1  of Persian onions, boil them in wine, make her drink it, and say to her, 'Cease your discharge.' But if not, she should be made to sit at cross-roads, hold a cup of wine in her hand, and a man comes up from behind, frightens her and exclaims, 'Cease your discharge!' But if not, a handful of cummin, a handful of saffron, and a handful of fenugreek are brought and boiled in wine, she is made to drink it, and they say to her, 'Cease your discharge'. But if not, let sixty pieces of sealing clay of a [wine] vessel be brought, and let them smear her2  [therewith] and say to her, 'Cease your discharge'. But if not, let one take a fern,3  boil it in wine, smear her with it and say to her, 'Cease your discharge'. But if not, let one take a thistle growing among Roman thorns,4  burn it, and gather it up in linen rags in summer and in cotton rags in winter. If not, let one dig seven holes and burn therein a young shoot of 'orlah,5  put a cup of wine into her hand, then make her rise from one [hole] and seat her on the next, make her rise from that and seat her on the following [and so on], and at each one he should say to her, 'Cease your discharge'. But if not, let one take the flour, rub her from the lower half downwards and say to her, 'Cease your discharge'. If not; let him take an ostrich egg, burn it, and wrap it in linen rags in summer and in cotton rags in winter. If not, let him broach a barrel of wine specially for her sake. If not, let him fetch barley grain which is found in the dung of a white mule: if she holds it one day, it [her discharge] will cease (or two days; if she holds it two days, it will cease for three days; but if she holds it three days, it will cease for ever.

'For jaundice two thirds thereof with beer [is drunk], and he [the sufferer] then becomes impotent.' But if not, let him take the head of a salted shibuta,6  boil it in beer and drink it. If not, let him take brine of locusts. If brine of locusts is not available, let him take brine of small birds,7  carry it into the baths and rub himself [therewith]. If there are no baths, he should be placed between the stove and the wall.8

R. Johanan said: If one wishes to make him [the sufferer from jaundice] warm, he should wrap him well9  in his sheet. R. Aha b. Jacob suffered therewith, so R. Kahana treated him thus and he recovered. But if not, let him take three kapiza of Persian dates, three kapiza of dripping wax,10  and three kapiza of purple aloes, boil them in beer and drink it. If not, let him take a young ass; then he [the invalid] shaves half his head, draws blood from its forehead and applies it to his [own] head, but he must take care of his eyes, lest it [the blood] blind him. If not, let him take a buck's head which has lain in preserves [vinegar], boil it in beer and drink it. If not, let him take a speckled swine, tear it open and apply it to his heart: If not, let him take porret [leeks] from the wastes of the valley.11  A certain Arab suffered with it. Said he to a gardener, Take my robe and give me some leeks from the wastes of the valley.12  He gave them to him [and] he ate them. Then he requested, Lend me your robe and I will sleep in it. He singed it, wrapped himself therein and slept. As he became heated through and got up, it fell away from him bit by bit.13

'For jaundice two [thirds thereof] with beer, and he becomes impotent.' But is this permitted? Surely it was taught: How do we know that the castration of a man is forbidden? From the verse, neither shall ye do thus in your land:14  [this means], ye shall not do [thus] to yourselves: the words of R. Hanina! — That is only if he intends [it so], but here it is automatic. For R. Johanan said: If one wishes to castrate a cock, let him cut off its crest, and it is automatically castrated.15  But R. Ashi said: There it suffers from conceit?16  Rather [the reference here is to] one who is [already] a castrate.17  But R. Hiyya b. Abba said in R. Johanan's name:

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. v. p. 492, n. 6.
  2. Rashi: after soaking it in water.
  3. Pastina. The word means a low, spreading plant.
  4. Jast.: probably corduelis spinosa.
  5. v. Glos.
  6. Name of a fish, probably mullet (Jast.).
  7. 'Aruch: clear fish brine.
  8. To make him perspire.
  9. Or, rub him.
  10. That drips down from an overful honeycomb.
  11. Jast., who also suggests an alternative: of the after-crops of valleys. Rash: from the middle of the furrow, where the leeks are sharp.
  12. Or, as Rash. V. preceding note.
  13. From the feverish heat of the sleeper.
  14. Lev. XXII, 24 v. preceding part of the verse.
  15. Thus direct castration only is prohibited, but not indirect, and the same applies here.
  16. It grieves that its crest is removed add refuses to copulate, but actually it is not castrated.
  17. Who suffers from jaundice.