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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Shabbath

Folio 149a

GEMARA. What is the reason? — R. Bibi said: It is a preventive measure, lest he erase.1  Abaye said: It is a preventive measure, lest he read.2  Wherein do they differ? — They differ where it is written high up on the wall: according to him who says, Lest he erase, we do not fear; but according to him who says, Lest he read [secular documents], we do fear. Now, as to him who says, 'Lest he erase', let us fear lest he read [secular documents]? Moreover, have we no fear that he may erase?3  Surely we learnt: One may not read by the light of a lamp; whereon Rabbah said: Even if it is as high as twice a man's stature, even if it is as high as [the measurement of] two ox-goads, or even as ten houses on top of each other, he must not read?4  — Rather they differ where it is written on the wall and is low down: according to him who says, 'Lest he erase', we fear; [but] according to him who says, 'Lest he read [secular documents]', we do not fear, [for] one will not confuse a wall with a document.5

Now, according to him who says, 'Lest he read [etc.]', let us fear lest he erase? — Rather they differ where it is engraved on a tablet or a board: on the view that it is 'lest he erase', we have no fear; but on the view that it is 'lest he read', we do fear. But according to him who says, lest he erase, let us fear lest he read [etc.]? And should you answer, a tablet or a board cannot be confused with a document, — surely it was taught: A man may count how many shall be within and how many without6  and how many portions he is to set before them, from writing on a wall, but not from writing on a tablet or a board. How is it meant? Shall we say that it is indeed written, wherein does one differ from the other? Hence it must surely mean that it is engraved, yet he states, 'from writing on the wall, but not from writing on a tablet or a board'? — Rather [say thus]: In truth [they differ] where it is written high up on the wall, and as for your difficulty about Rabbah's [ruling], [the ruling] of Rabbah is dependent on Tannaim. For it was taught: A man may count his guests and his dainty portions by word of mouth, but not from writing. R. Aha permits [it] from writing on the wall. How is it meant: Shall we say that it is written low down, — then let us fear lest he erase it? Hence it must surely mean that it is written high up, which proves that Rabah's [ruling] is dependent on Tannaim.

Now these Tannaim are as the following: For it was taught: One must not look in a mirror on the Sabbath; R. Meir permits [one to look]7  in a mirror that is fixed to the wall. Why is one fixed to the wall different? — [Presumably] because in the meanwhile8  he will recollect!9  then even if it is not fixed, he will recollect? — We treat here of a metal mirror, and [the reason is] in accordance with R. Nahman's [dictum] in Rabbah b. Abbuha's name. For R. Nahman said in Rabbah b. Abbuha's name: Why was it ruled that a metal mirror is forbidden? Because a man usually removes straggling hairs with it.10

Our Rabbis taught: The writing under a painting or an image11  may not be read on the Sabbath. And as for the image itself, one must not look at it even on weekdays, because it is said, Turn ye not unto idols.12  How is that taught? — Said R. Hanin: [Its interpretation is,] Turn not unto that conceived in your own minds.13

A MAN MAY CAST LOTS WITH HIS SONS, etc. Only with his sons and household, but not with strangers:14  what is the reason? As Rab Judah said in Samuel's name. For Rab Judah said in Samuel's name: The members of a company who are particular with each other15  transgress [the prohibitions of] measure, weight, number, borrowing and repaying on the Festival,16

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. He may find too many names on the list and erase some before instructing his servant to invite the guests.
  2. Secular documents.
  3. If the list is high up.
  4. V. supra 11a. Though he could not reach the lamp to tilt it; hence the same reasoning applies here.
  5. No one is likely to think that since he may read something written on a wall he may also read business documents.
  6. I.e., how many guests shall be placed at the top of the table — 'within' the privileged circle — and how many at the bottom — 'without'.
  7. Lest he see uneven locks of hair and trim them
  8. While he goes for a pair of scissors.
  9. That it is the Sabbath.
  10. Its edge being sharpened. Now the first Tanna forbids all mirrors, drawing no distinctions; whilst R. Meir does draw a distinction. That is similar to the matter just debated
  11. I.e., the written legend beneath a picture.
  12. Lev. XIX, 4.
  13. Tosaf.: the interdict is only against images (or perhaps statues — Jast.) made for idolatrous purposes, but others are permitted.
  14. For otherwise the Tanna would simply teach, A MAN MAY CAST LOTS.
  15. I.e., members of a company at one table, each of whom has his own provisions, and when one borrows from another, are particular to weigh, measure, or count, that the exact quantity may be returned.
  16. On Festivals one may borrow from his neighbour. but not by weight, measure or number. Likewise, he may not use the terms 'lend' and 'repay'. for these belong to monetary transactions. When members of a company are particular with each other, they are likely to be led into a transgression of these prohibitions.

Shabbath 149b

and according to Beth1  Hillel, usury too.2  If so, the same applies to his sons and household? — As for his sons and household, this is the reason, as Rab Judah [said] in Rab's name. For Rab Judah said in Rab's name: One may lend to his sons and household on interest, in order to give them experience thereof.3  If so, a large portion [set off] against a small portion [should be permitted] too? — That indeed is so, and there is a lacuna, while it is thus taught: 'A MAN MAY CAST LOTS FOR HIS SONS AND HOUSEHOLD FOR THE TABLE, even [setting] a large portion against a small portion'. What is the reason? — As Rab Judah['s dictum] in Rab's name. Yet only for his sons and household, but not for strangers. What is the reason? — As Rab Judah['s dictum] in Samuel's name. [Further, 'setting] A LARGE PORTION AGAINST A SMALL PORTION is forbidden even on weekdays in the case of strangers'. What is the reason? — On account of gambling.4

AND [PRIESTS] MAY CAST LOTS FOR, etc. What does BUT NOT FOR THE PORTIONS mean? — Said R. Jacob the son of the daughter of Jacob: But [one must not cast lots] for the portions of weekday [sacrifices] on the Festivals. That is obvious? You might argue, since it is written, for thy people are like the Priests that quarrel,5  even the portions of weekdays too:6  therefore he informs us [that it is not so].

R. Jacob son of Jacob's daughter also said: He through whom his neighbour is punished is not permitted to enter within the barrier [precincts] of the Holy One, blessed be He. How do we know this? Shall we say, because it is written, And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? And one said on this manner; and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him. And he said, I will go forth and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his Prophets. And he [the Lord] said, Thou shalt entice him, and shalt prevail also: go forth, and do so.7  Now we discussed, What spirit is meant? And R. Johanan answered: The spirit of Naboth the Jezreelite.8  And what does 'go forth' mean? Said Rab, Go forth from within My precincts!9  But perhaps there this is the reason, [viz.,] because it is written, He that speaketh falsehood shall not be established before mine eyes?10  Again, [if] it is derived from here: Thou art filled with shame for glory: drink thou also, and be as one uncircumcised, etc.;11  and it is maintained: 'Thou art filled with shame for glory' refers to Nebuchadnezzar: [whilst] 'drink thou also and be as one uncircumcised', refers to Zedekiah,12  — one [objection] is that the whole verse is written in reference to Nebuchadnezzar;13  and further, what could the righteous Zedekiah have done to him, for Rab Judah said in Rab's name: When that wicked man [Nebuchadnezzar] wished to do thus to that righteous man [Zedekiah]. etc.?14  Rather [it follows] from this: Also to punish the righteous is not good.15  Now, 'is not good' can mean nought but [that he is] evil,16  and it is written, For thou art a God that hath no pleasure in wickedness, evil shall not sojourn with thee, [which means,] Thou art righteous, therefore evil shall not sojourn in thy habitation.17

How is it implied that HALASHIM18  connotes lots? — Because it is written, How art thou fallen from heaven, O day star, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground thou holesh [who didst cast lots]19  over the nations, etc.20  Rabbah son of R. Huna said: This teaches that he [Nebuchadnezzar] cast lots over the royal chiefs21  to ascertain whose turn22  it was for pederasty. And it is written, All the kings of the nations, all of them, [sleep in glory. etc.].23  R. Johanan said: That means that they rested from pederasty.24

R. Johanan also said: As long as that wicked man lived mirth was never heard25  in the mouth of any living being, for it is written, the whole world is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing:26  whence it follows that hitherto27  there was no singing.

R. Isaac also said in R. Johanan's name: One may not stand in that wicked man's palace, for it is said, and satyrs shall dance there.28

Rab Judah said in Rab's name: When that wicked man [Nebuchadnezzar] wished to treat that righteous one [Zedekiah] thus,29  his membrum was extended three hundred cubits and wagged in front of the whole company [of captive kings]. for it is said, Thou art filled with shame for glory: drink thou also, and be as one uncircumcised [he'orel]: the numerical value of 'orel' is three hundred.

Rab Judah also said in Rab's name: When that wicked man descended to Gehenna,30  all who had [previously] descended thither trembled, saying, Does he come to rule over us, or to be as weak as we [are], for it is said, Art thou also become weak as we? or art thou to rule over us?31  A Heavenly Echo went forth and declared, Whom dost thou pass in beauty? go down with, and be thou laid with the uncircumcised.32

How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city [madhebah] ceased.33  Rab Judah said in Rab's name: This people hath ceased, that demanded,

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Var. lec. omit 'Beth', v. supra 148b.
  2. When they are not particular with each other, and one borrows and returns the same amount after its price advances, there is no usury, since neither cares whether the exact amount is returned or not. But there every change in value is scrupulously noted, and therefore if it advances there is usury. This does not refer particularly to Festivals.
  3. Lit., 'to let them know the taste of usury', i.e., the grief and anxiety it causes.
  4. Which this resembles.
  5. Hos. IV, 4 (E. V. 'for thy people are as they that strive with the priest)'.
  6. To save them from quarrelling.
  7. 1 Kings XXII, 20ff
  8. This is deduced from the employment of the def. art. in Hebrew: 'and the spirit came forth', implying a particular one, viz., that of Naboth the Jezreelite, whom Ahab had turned from a living human being into a spirit — by judicial murder; v. ibid, ch. XXI.
  9. Because he lured Ahab, to destruction, which proves the dictum of R. Jacob.
  10. Ps. CI, 7. Though God sought to lure Ahab to his doom, He nevertheless desired it to be done by arguments drawn from true facts (Maharsha in Sanh. 89a).
  11. Hab. II, 16.
  12. And the verse is interpreted in the sense that Zedekiah too is regarded as uncircumcised and not permitted to enter the precincts of the Almighty, because Nebuchadnezzar was punished on his account.
  13. I.e., it can be so interpreted.
  14. V. infra for the complete allusion.
  15. Prov. XVII, 26.
  16. Translating the verse thus: even the righteous, when made the cause or vehicle of punishment, is accounted evil.
  17. Ps. V, 5 (E.V. 4).
  18. The word used in the Mishnah.
  19. Which didst lay low.
  20. Isa. XIV, 12.
  21. The kings he had captured in battle.
  22. Lit., 'day'.
  23. Ibid. 18.
  24. The ascription of pederasty to Nebuchadnezzar may be a covert allusion to the fact that the Romans were addicted to this vice; v. Weiss, Dor, II, 21.
  25. Lit., 'found'.
  26. Isa. XIV, 7.
  27. I.e., before Nebuchadnezzar's death.
  28. Ibid. Xlii, 21.
  29. I.e., submit him to sexual abuse.
  30. V. p. 153, n. 8.
  31. Isa. XIV, 10. This connects [H] with [H], to rule E.V.: art thou become like unto us.
  32. Ezek. XXXII, 19.
  33. Isa. XIV, 4.