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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Shabbath

Folio 119a

I made it a festive day for the scholars. Raba said: May I be rewarded for that when a disciple came before me in a lawsuit, I did not lay my head upon my pillow before I had sought [points in] his favour.1  Mar son of R. Ashi said: I am unfit to judge in a scholar's lawsuit. What is the reason? He is as dear to me as myself, and a man cannot see [anything] to his own disadvantage.

R. Hanina robed himself and stood at sunset of Sabbath eve [and] exclaimed, 'Come and let us go forth to welcome the queen Sabbath.'2  R. Jannai donned his robes, on Sabbath eve and exclaimed, 'Come, O bride, Come, O bride!'

Rabbah son of R. Huna visited the home of Rabbah son of R. Nahman, [and] was offered three se'ahs of oiled cakes. 'Did you know that I was coming?' asked he. 'Are you then more important3  to us than it [the Sabbath]?' replied he.4

R. Abba bought meat for thirteen istira peshita5  from thirteen butchers6  and handed it over to them [his servants]7  as soon as the door was turned8  and urged them, 'Make haste, Quick Make haste, Quick!'9

R. Abbabu used to sit on an ivory stool and fan the fire. R. 'Anan used to wear an overall;10  for the School of R. Ishmael taught: The clothes in which one cooks a dish for his master, let him not pour out11  a cup [of wine] for his master in them. R. Safra would singe the head [of an animal]. Raba salted shibuta.12  R. Huna lit the lamp. R. Papa plaited the wicks. R. Hisda cut up the beetroots. Rabbah and R. Joseph chopped wood. R. Zera kindled the fire. R. Nahman b. Isaac carried13  in and out,14  saying,'If R. Ammi and R. Assi visited me, would I not carry for them?'15 Others state: R. Ammi and R. Assi carried in and out, saying, 'If R. Johanan visited us, would we not carry before him?'16

Joseph-who-honours-the-Sabbaths had in his victory a certain gentile who owned much property. Soothsayers17  told him, 'Joseph-who-honours-the-Sabbaths will consume all your property.18  — [So] he went, sold all his property, and bought a precious stone with the proceeds, which he set in his turban. As he was crossing a bridge the wind blew it off and cast it into the water, [and] a fish swallowed it. [Subsequently] it [the fish] was hauled up and brought [to market] on the Sabbath eve towards sunset. 'Who will buy now?' cried they. 'Go and take them to Joseph-who-honours-the-Sabbaths,' they were told, 'as he is accustomed to buy.' So they took it to him. He bought it, opened it, found the jewel therein, and sold it for thirteen roomfuls19  of gold denarii.20  A certain old man met him [and] said, 'He who lends to the Sabbath,21  the Sabbath repays him.'

Rabbi asked R. Ishmael son of R. Jose, The wealthy in Palestine, whereby do they merit [wealth]?22  — Because they give tithes, he replied, as it is written, 'Asser te'asser23  [which means], give tithes ['asser] so that thou mayest become wealthy [tith'asser].24  Those in Babylon, wherewith do they merit [it]? — Because they honour the Torah, replied he. And those in other countries, whereby do they merit it? — Because they honour the Sabbath, answered he. For R. Hiyya b. Abba related: I was once a guest of a man in Laodicea,25  and a golden table was brought before him, which had to be carried by sixteen men; sixteen silver chains were fixed in it, and plates, goblets, pitchers and flasks were set thereon, thereon,26  and upon it were all kinds of food, dainties and spices. When they set it down they recited, The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof;27  and when they removed it [after the meal] they recited, The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, But the earth hath he given to the children of men.28  Said I to him, 'My son! whereby hast thou merited this?' 'I was a butcher,' replied he, 'and of every fine beast I used to say, "'This shall be for the Sabbath"'. Said I to him, 'Happy art thou that thou hast [so] merited, and praised be the Omnipresent who has permitted thee to enjoy [all] this.'

The emperor said to R. Joshua b. Hanania,29  'Why has the Sabbath dish such a fragrant odour?' 'We have a certain seasoning,' replied he, 'called the Sabbath, which we put into it, and that gives it a fragrant odour.' 'Give us some of it,' asked he. 'To him who keeps the Sabbath,' retorted he, 'it is efficacious; but to him who does not keep the Sabbath it is of no use.'

The Resh Galutha30  asked R. Hamnuna: What is meant by the verse, [and thou shalt call …] the holy of the Lord honourable?31  — This32  refers to the Day of Atonement, replied he, in which there is neither eating nor drinking, [hence] the Torah instructed, Honour it with clean [festive] garments. And thou shalt honour it:33  Rab said: By fixing [it] earlier;34  Samuel maintained: By postponing [it].35  The sons of R. Papa b. Abba asked R. Papa: We, for instance, who have meat and wine every day, how shall we mark a change? If you are accustomed to [dine] early,36  postpone it, if you are accustomed to [dine] late, have it earlier, answered he.

R. Shesheth used to place his scholars in a place exposed to the sun in summer, and in a shady place in winter, so that they should arise quickly.37  R. Zera

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Certainly not in a spirit of partiality, but because he had such a high opinion of scholars that he felt that they would not engage in a lawsuit unless they know right to be on their side (Maharsha).
  2. Cf. Elbogen, op. cit., p. 108.
  3. Lit., 'better'.
  4. We prepared them in honour of the Sabbath.
  5. An istira peshita=a half zuz.
  6. To make sure that some of it at least would be the best obtainable. 'Thirteen' is not meant literally, but merely denotes many; cf. P. 586, n. 4.
  7. Or, paid them.
  8. Lit., by the pivot of the door'.'
  9. All in honour of the Sabbath.
  10. Whilst attending to the cooking etc.
  11. Lit., mix'.
  12. A kind of fish, probably mullet.
  13. Lit., 'carried'.
  14. Whatever was necessary for the Sabbath.
  15. E.g., place a seat for them.
  16. The point of all these statements is that the Rabbis did not think it beneath their dignity to engage in menial labour in honour of the Sabbath.
  17. Lit., 'Chaldeans'.
  18. It will eventually pass into his possession.
  19. R. Tam translates: vessels.
  20. This, of course is an exaggeration, and merely implies much money, 'thirteen' often being used figuratively in that sense, cf. supra p. 585, n. 6; Hul. 95b (Rashi).
  21. I.e., expends money in its honour.
  22. The verb denotes to obtain through merit.
  23. E. V. 'Thou shalt surely tithe', Deut. XIV, 22.
  24. A play on words.
  25. Several towns bore this name.
  26. Kebu'oth denotes that they were fastened thereto — probably by the chains.
  27. Ps. XXIV, 1.
  28. Ps. CXV, 16.
  29. The emperor referred to is Hadrian, his contemporary, with whom he had much intercourse; cf. Gen. Rab. X, 3; Hul. 59b, 60a; Ber. 56a.
  30. V. P. 217, n. 7.
  31. Isa. LVIII, 13.
  32. 'The holy of the Lord'.
  33. Ibid. With reference to the Sabbath.
  34. One honours the Sabbath by dining at an earlier hour than usual.
  35. To a later hour, as one eats then with a better appetite — this view would naturally commend itself to Samuel on medical grounds.
  36. Rashi: with reference to the midday meal.
  37. This was on the Sabbath. He himself was blind, and he did not wish them to stay too long in the Beth Hamidrash.

Shabbath 119b

used to seek out pairs of scholars1  and say to them, 'I beg of you, do not profane it.'2

Raba-others state, R. Joshua b. Levi said: Even if an individual prays on the eve of the Sabbath, he must recite, And [the heaven and the earth] were finished [etc.];3  for R. Hamnuna said: He who prays on the eve of the Sabbath and recites 'and [the heaven and the earth] were finished,' the Writ treats of him as though he had become a partner with the Holy One, blessed be He, in the Creation, for it is said, Wa-yekullu [and they were finished]; read not wa-yekullu but wa-yekallu [and they finished].4  R. Eleazar said: How do we know that speech is like action? Because it is said, By the word of the Lord were the heavens made.5  R. Hisda said in Mar 'Ukba's name: He who prays on the eve of the Sabbath and recites and [the heaven and the earth] were finished, the two ministering angels who accompany man place their hands on his head and say to him, and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.6

It was taught, R. Jose son of R. Judah said: Two ministering angels accompany man on the eve of the Sabbath from the synagogue to his home, one a good [angel] and one an evil [one]. And when he arrives home and finds the lamp burning, the table laid and the couch [bed] covered with a spread, the good angel exclaims, 'May it be even thus on another Sabbath [too],' and the evil angel unwillingly responds 'amen'. But if not,7  the evil angel exclaims, 'May it be even thus on another Sabbath [tool,' and the good angel unwillingly responds, 'amen'.

R. Eleazar said: One should always set his table on the eve of the Sabbath, even if he needs only the size of an olive. While R. Hanina said: One should always set his table on the termination of the Sabbath, even if he merely requires as much as an olive.8  Hot water after the termination of the Sabbath is soothing; fresh. [warm] bread after the termination of the Sabbath is soothing.9

A three-year old10  calf used to be prepared for R. Abbahu on the termination of the Sabbath, of which he ate a kidney. When his son Abimi grew up he said to him, Why should you waste so much? let us leave over a kidney from Sabbath eve. So he left it over, and a lion came and devoured it.11

R. Joshua b. Levi said: He who responds, 'Amen, May His great Name be blessed,' with all his might, his decreed sentence12  is torn up, as it is said, When retribution was annulled13  in Israel, For that the people offered themselves willingly, Bless ye the Lord:14  why when retribution was annulled'? Because they blessed the Lord. R. Hiyya b. Abba said in R. Johanan's name: Even if he has a taint of idolatry, he is forgiven: it is written here, 'when retribution was annulled [bifroa' pera'oth]'; whilst elsewhere it is written, And Moses saw that the people were broken loose [parua']; for Aaron had let them loose.15

Resh Lakish said: He who responds 'Amen' with all his might, has the gates of Paradise opened for him, as it is written, Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth truth [shomer emunim] may enter in:16  read not 'shomer emunim' but 'she'omrim amen' [that say, amen]. What does 'amen' mean? — Said R. Hanina: God, faithful King.17

Rab Judah son of R. Samuel said in Rab's name: An [outbreak of] fire occurs only in a place where there is desecration of the Sabbath, for it is said, But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the Sabbath day and not to bear a burden … then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.18  What does 'and it shall not be quenched' mean? — Said R. Nahman b. Isaac: At the time when no people are available to quench it.

Abaye said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because the Sabbath was desecrated therein, as it is said, and they have hid their eyes from My sabbaths, therefore I am profaned among them.19

R. Abbahu said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because the reading of the shema'20  morning and evening was neglected [therein], for it is said, Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink [etc.]; and it is written, And the harp and the lute, the tabret and the pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the Lord; and it is written, Therefore my people are gone into captivity, for lack of knowledge.21

R. Hamnuna said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because they neglected [the education of] school children; for it is said, pour it out [sc. God's wrath] because of the children in the street:22  why pour it out? Because the child is in the street.23

'Ulla said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because they [its inhabitants] were not ashamed of each other, for it is written, Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed [... therefore they shall fall].24

R. Isaac said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because the small and the great were made equal, for it is said, And it shall be, like people like priest; which is followed by, The earth shall be utterly emptied.25  25

R. Amram son of R. Simeon b. Abba said in R. Simeon b. Abba's name in R. Hanina's name: Jerusalem was destroyed only because they did not rebuke each other: for it is said, Her princes are become like harts that find no pasture:26  Just as the hart, the head of one is at the side of the others's tail, so Israel of that generation hid their faces in the earth,27  and did not rebuke each other.

Rab Judah said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because scholars were despised therein: for it is said, but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and scoffed at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy.28  What does 'till there was no remedy' intimate? Said Rab Judah in Rab's name: He who despises a scholar, has no remedy for his wounds.

Rab Judah said in Rab's name: What is meant by. Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm?29  Touch not mine anointed' refers to school children;30  'and do my prophets no harm', to disciples of the Sages. Resh Lakish said in the name of R. Judah the Prince:31  The world endures only for the sake of the breath of school children. Said R. Papa to Abaye, What about mine and yours? Breath in which there is sin is not like breath in which there is no sin, replied he. Resh Lakish also said in the name of R. Judah the Prince: School children may not be made to neglect [their studies] even for the building of the Temple. Resh Lakish also said to R. Judah the Prince: I have this tradition from my fathers — others state, from your fathers: Every town in which there are no school children shall be destroyed. Rabina said: It shall be laid desolate.32

Raba said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because men of faith33  ceased therein: for it is said, Run ye to and fro in the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that doeth justly, that seeketh faithfulness; and I will pardon her.34  But that is not so? For R. Kattina said: Even at the time of Jerusalem's downfall men of faith did not cease therein, for it is said, When a man shall take hold of his brother in the house of his father, saying, Thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler:35  [this means,] things wherewith men cover themselves as [with] a garment36  are in thy hand. And let this stumbling37  be under thy hand:38

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Engaged in halachic discussions.
  2. The Sabbath, by neglecting its delights and good cheer.
  3. Gen. II, 1.
  4. 'They' referring to God and to him who praises God for the Creation.
  5. Ps. XXXIII, 6.
  6. Isa. VI, 7.
  7. If everything is in disorder and gloomy.
  8. That too honours the Sabbath, just as a royal visitor is not allowed to depart without a retinue accompanying him.
  9. That would not be difficult to obtain, as bread is baked very quickly in the East.
  10. Or, a third grown; or, third born.
  11. The calf that would have been killed.
  12. If Heaven has decreed evil for him.
  13. Sic. E. V.: 'For that the leaders took the lead'.
  14. Judg. V, 2.
  15. Ex. XXXII, 25; the reference is to the idolatrous worship of the Golden Calf.
  16. Isa. XXVI, 2.
  17. Interpreting it as an abbreviation: el melek ne'eman.
  18. Jer. XVII, 27.
  19. Ezek. XXII, 26. God's name is profane when the holy city lies in ruins.
  20. V. Glos.
  21. Isa. V. 11-13.
  22. Jer. VI, 11.
  23. Instead of having schools provided for him.
  24. Ibid. 15.
  25. Isa. XXIV, 2f. 'People' is understood as a synonym for the humble masses; 'priest' symbolizes the great.
  26. Lam. I, 6.
  27. A metaphor for deliberately shutting their eyes to evil.
  28. II Chron. XXXVI, 16.
  29. I Chron. XVI, 22.
  30. Whom it was customary to anoint with oil, cf. supra 10b.
  31. Nesi'ah, Judah II.
  32. This is more thorough-going than the former.
  33. I.e., men completely truthful and trustworthy.
  34. Jer. V, 1.
  35. Or, judge, Isa. III, 6.
  36. Rashi: when questioned on learning they hide themselves, pretending not to hear, because they cannot answer.
  37. E.V. 'ruin'.
  38. Ibid.