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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Shabbath

Folio 21a

What is the practical bearing of this? — In respect of buying and selling.1

Our Rabbis taught: All those of which they ruled that you must not light [the Sabbath lamp] therewith on the Sabbath, yet a fire may be made of them, both for warming oneself and for using the light thereof, whether on the earth or on the stove;2  and they merely prohibited the making of a wick of them for a [Sabbath] lamp.

NOR WITH KIK OIL. Samuel said: I asked all seafarers about it, and they told me that there is a certain bird in the sea towns called kik.3  R. Isaac son of Rab Judah said: It is cotton-seed oil; Resh Lakish said: Oil from Jonah's kikayon.4  Rabbah b. Bar Hanah said: I myself have seen Jonah's kikayon; it resembles the ricinus tree and grows in ditches. It is set up at the entrance of shops;5  I from its kernels oil is manufactured, and under its branches rest all the sick of the West [i.e., Palestine].

Raba said: As to the wicks which the Sages said that you must not kindle therewith for the Sabbath, [the reason] is because their flame burns unevenly.6  The oils which the Sages said you must not kindle therewith is because they do not flow [freely] to the wick.7  Abaye asked Rabbah: As to the oils which the Sages said you must not kindle therewith for the Sabbath, is it permissible to pour a little [good] oil into them and light [therewith]? Do we forbid it, lest one come to light therewith [the forbidden oil in its unmixed state, or not? He answered him, You must not light [therewith]. What is the reason? — Because you must not light.8

He raised an objection: if one wraps a material which may be used [as a wick] for lighting around a material which may not be lit, one must not light therewith. R. Simeon b. Gamaliel said: In my father's house a wick was wound over a nut and they did light therewith. Thus he teaches that one may light!9 — He replied: Instead of refuting me by R. Simeon b. Gamaliel's view, support me by the first Tanna's [ruling]!- That is no difficulty: an act is [more] weighty.10  Thus the difficulty still remains, [for] surely it was for lighting?11 — No: for floating.12  If for floating, what is the reason of the first Tanna?13 — It is all R. Simeon b. Gamaliel, but there is a lacuna, and it was taught thus: If one wraps a material which may be used for lighting around a material which may not be lit, you must not light therewith. When is that said? For lighting; but for floating it is permitted, for R. Simeon b. Gamaliel said, In my father's house a wick was wound about a nut and lit.

Yet that is not so, for R. Beruna said in Rab's name: The melted tallow and the dissolved inwards of fish, one may pour a little oil and light [therewith]?14 — These flow [freely] in their natural state, while those [in the Mishnah] do not flow [freely] in their natural state,15  but that the Rabbis forbade melted tallow on account of unmelted tallow and the dissolved inwards of fish on account of the undissolved inwards of fish.16  Then let us prohibit melted tallow and the dissolved inwards of fish diluted with oil on account of the same without an admixture of oil?17 — That itself is [merely] a preventive measure, and are we to arise and enact one preventive measure to safeguard18  another preventive measure?

Rami b. Hama recited: The wicks and oil which the Sages said, One may not light therewith on the Sabbath, one must [also] not light therewith in the Temple, because it is said, to cause a lamp to burn continually.19 — He recited and he interpreted it: the flame must ascend of itself, and not through something else.20  We learnt: The outworn breeches and girdles of priests were unravelled, and with these they kindled [the lights]?21 — The rejoicing of the Water-Drawing22  was different.23  Come and hear: Worn out priestly garments were unravelled, and of these wicks were made for the Temple. Surely that means [the garments] of composite materials?24 — No: [the garments] of linen [are meant].25

R. Huna said: With regard to the wicks and oils which the Sages said, One must not light therewith on the Sabbath, one may not light therewith on Hanukkah,26  either on the Sabbath or on weekdays. Raba observed, What is R. Huna's reason? He holds that if it [the Hanukkah lamp] goes out, one must attend thereto,27  and one may make use of its light.28  R. Hisda maintained: One may light therewith on weekdays, but not on the Sabbath. He holds, If it goes out,

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. When one orders 'itrona or wax, he must be supplied with the residue of pitch or honey respectively.
  2. Var. lec.: in the lamp.
  3. Jast. identifies it with the pelican.
  4. V. Jonah IV, 6. E.V. gourd, Jast.: ricinus tree, or the sprout bearing the castor-berry.
  5. To provide shade and fragrance.
  6. In a notched manner, as it were (Rashi). Jast.: the flame nibbles at them, producing sputtering sparks.
  7. And so one may trim the wick or tilt the lamp on the Sabbath; hence they are forbidden, Riban states the reason because the lamp may go out, thus destroying the cheerfulness of the Sabbath.
  8. Rashi: you must not light it when unmixed, and therefore when mixed too it is forbidden, as a preventive measure. The 'Aruk explains; Because etc., i.e., there is a tradition to that effect. But there is also another reading: because it cannot be lit., i.e., the mixture has the same defects as the forbidden oil itself.
  9. Though a nut itself is not fit.
  10. Lit., 'an act is a teacher'. Since R. Simeon b. Gamaliel relates that this was actually done, it must be presumed that this is the halachah, for an individual did not act upon his view in opposition to the majority
  11. I.e., the wick and the nut were meant to burn together.
  12. To enable the wick to float on the surface of the oil instead of sinking.
  13. Why does he forbid it?
  14. Though tallow itself is forbidden (supra 20b), which refutes Raba.
  15. The Mishnah speaks of unmelted tallow.
  16. But the prohibition went no further; hence if diluted with oil, it is permissible.
  17. If the former is permitted, the latter too may be used.
  18. Lit., 'for'.
  19. Ex. XXVII, 21.
  20. Le-ha'aloth (E.V. to burn) literally means to cause to go up.-These wicks and oils do not burn of themselves but need frequent attention. V. p. 84, n. 9.
  21. The girdles contained wool, which, as stated on 20b, was added to the forbidden materials enumerated in the Mishnah. The reference is to the Temple, and thus this refutes Rami b. Hama.
  22. Lit., 'the house of drawing'.
  23. At the daily morning service during the Feast of Tabernacles a libation of water, in addition to the usual libation of wine, was poured out on the altar. This was drawn from the Pool of Siloam on the night of the first day, and carried in procession to the Temple amid great rejoicing; cf. Suk. 53a: 'He who has not seen the rejoicing of the Water-Drawing has never seen rejoicing in his life.' The outer court of the Temple was brilliantly illuminated, and for this, not for the ordinary Temple lamp, the unravelled breeches and girdles were used. Rashi observes: because this was not a Biblical precept. Another reason may be that so much was used that it was really a fire, rather than a flame, which is permitted supra. V. J.E. XII, 476 2.
  24. Of wool and linen. I.e., the girdles; v. n. i.
  25. The breeches.
  26. V. infra b.
  27. I.e., relight it. Therefore it must be made of good oil in the first place, lest it go out and is not relit.-This, of course, can only apply to weekdays.
  28. E.g., for reading. Therefore these wicks and oils are forbidden on the Sabbath as the first reason in p. 88, n. 5, which applies here too.

Shabbath 21b

it does not require attention, and one may make use of its light. R. Zera said in R. Mattenah's name — others state, R. Zera said in Rab's name—: Regarding the wicks and oils which the Sages said, One must not light therewith on the Sabbath, one may light therewith on Hanukkah, either on weekdays or on the Sabbath. Said R. Jeremiah, What is Rab's reason? He holds, If it goes out, it does not require attention, and one may not make use of its light.1  The Rabbis stated this before Abaye in R. Jeremiah's name, but he did not accept it. [But] when Rabin came,2  the Rabbis stated it before Abaye in R. Johanan's name, whereupon he accepted it.3  Had I, he observed, merited the great fortune,4  I would have learnt this dictum originally. But he learnt it [now]? — The difference is in respect of the studies of one's youth.5

Now, if it goes out, does it not require attention? But the following contradicts it: Its observance is from sunset until there is no wayfarer in6  the street. Does that not mean that if it goes out [within that period] it must be relit? — No: if one has not yet lit, he must light it;7  or, in respect of the statutory period.8

'Until there is no wayfarer in the street.' Until when [is that]? — Rabbah b. Bar Hanah said in R. Johanan's name: Until the Palmyreans have departed.9

Our Rabbis taught: The precept of Hanukkah [demands] one light for a man and his household;10  the zealous [kindle] a light for each member [of the household]; and the extremely zealous, — Beth Shammai maintain: On the first day eight lights are lit and thereafter they are gradually reduced;11  but Beth Hillel say: On the first day one is lit and thereafter they are progressively increased.12  'Ulla said: In the West [Palestine] two amoraim,13  R. Jose b. Abin and R. Jose b. Zebida, differ therein: one maintains, The reason of Beth Shammai is that it shall correspond to the days still to come,14  and that of Beth Hillel is that it shall correspond to the days that are gone; but another maintains: Beth Shammai's reason is that it shall correspond to the bullocks of the Festival;15  whilst Beth Hillel's reason is that we promote in [matters of] sanctity but do not reduce.

Rabbah b. Bar Hana said: There were two old men16  in Sidon:17  one did as Beth Shammai and the other as Beth Hillel: the former gave the reason of his action that it should correspond to the bullocks of the Festival, while the latter stated his reason because we promote in [matters of] sanctity but do not reduce.

Our Rabbis taught: It is incumbent to place the Hanukkah lamp by the door of one's house on the outside;18  if one dwells in an upper chamber, he places it at the window nearest the street. But in times of danger19  it is sufficient to place it on the table. Raba said: Another lamp is required for its light to be used;20  yet if there is a blazing fire it is unnecessary. But in the case of an important person,21  even if there is a blazing fire another lamp is required.

What is [the reason of] Hanukkah? For our Rabbis taught: On the twenty-fifth of Kislew22  [commence] the days of Hanukkah, which are eight on which a lamentation for the dead and fasting are forbidden.23  For when the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled all the oils therein, and when the Hasmonean dynasty prevailed against and defeated them, they made search and found only one cruse of oil which lay with the seal of the High Priest,24  but which contained sufficient for one day's lighting only; yet a miracle was wrought therein and they lit [the lamp] therewith for eight days. The following year these [days] were appointed a Festival with [the recital of] Hallel25  and thanksgiving.26

We learnt elsewhere: If a spark which flies from the anvil goes forth and causes damage, he [the smith] is liable. If a camel laden with flax passes through a street, and the flax overflows into a shop, catches fire at the shopkeeper's lamp, and sets the building alight, the camel owner is liable; but if the shopkeeper placed the light outside, the shopkeeper is liable.27  R. Judah said: In the case of a Hanukkah lamp he is exempt.28  Rabina said in Rab's name: This proves that the Hanukkah lamp should [in the first instance] be placed within ten.29  For should you think, above ten, let him say to him, 'You ought to have placed it higher than a camel and his rider.' 'Yet perhaps if he is put to too much trouble, he may refrain from the [observance of the] precept'.30

R. Kahana said, R. Nathan b. Minyomi expounded in R. Tanhum's name:

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. To show that it was lit in celebration of Hanukkah, not merely for illumination.
  2. V. p. 12, n. 9.
  3. R. Johanan being a greater authority than R. Jeremiah.
  4. The verb denotes both to be fortunate and to merit.
  5. These are more abiding. Abaye felt that he would have had a surer hold upon it had he learned it earlier.
  6. Lit., 'Until the foot ceases from'.
  7. Anytime within that period.
  8. I.e., the lamp must contain sufficient oil to burn for that period. Nevertheless, if it goes out sooner, it need not be rekindled.
  9. Lit., 'until the feet of the Tarmodians have ceased'. Tarmod or Tadmor is Palmyra, an oasis of the Syrian desert. They sold lighting materials and went about in the streets later than the general populace as their wares might be needed.
  10. I.e., one light is lit every evening of the eight days (v.infra) for the entire household.
  11. One less each day.
  12. Up to eight.
  13. V. Glos.
  14. I.e., each evening one must kindle as many lights as the number of days of Hanukkah yet to come.
  15. 'The Festival', without a determinate, always refers to Tabernacles (Sukkoth). Thirteen bullocks were sacrificed on the first day, twelve on the second, and so on, one less each succeeding day; v, Num. XXIX, 12 seqq.
  16. The Heb. zaken, pl. zekenim, frequently means learned men, without particular reference to age (Kid. 32b), and may connote this here.
  17. On the coast of Phoenicia.
  18. To advertise the miracle. Their houses did not open directly on to the street but into a courtyard, and there the lamp was to be placed (Rashi); v., however, Tosaf, a.l.
  19. When there is religious persecution.
  20. Agreeing with the view supra that the light of the Hanukkah lamp may not be used.
  21. Who is not accustomed to work at the light of a blazing fire.
  22. The ninth month of the Jewish year, corresponding to about December.
  23. This is an extract of the Megillath Ta'anith, lit., 'the scroll of fasting'.
  24. Hence untouched and undefiled.
  25. 'Praise', Ps. CXIII-CXVIII, recited on all Festivals; v. Weiss, Dor, I, p. 108, n. 1.
  26. This lighting took place in 165 B.C.E. Exactly three years before, on the same day, Antiochus Epiphanes had a pagan altar erected in the Temple, upon which sacrifices were offered (I Macc. I, 41-64). Apart from the Talmudic reason stated here, Judas Maccabeus chose 25th of Kislew as the anniversary of the Temple's defilement, and the dedication of the new altar was celebrated with lights for eight days, similarly to the Feast of Tabernacles, which lasted eight days and was celebrated by illuminations (I Macc. IV, 36; II Macc. X, 6; supra a, p. 90, n. 3). Actually the revolt was against the Syrians, of whom Antiochus Epiphanes was king, but the term 'Greeks' is used loosely, because the Seleucid Empire was part of the older Empire founded by Alexander the Great of Macedon, and because it was a reaction against the attempted Hellenization of Judea. The historic data are contained in the First Book of the Maccabees.
  27. For the loss of the flax.
  28. Because, as stated above, it should be placed outside; the onus then lies upon the camel driver.
  29. Handbreadths from the ground.
  30. Possibly the lamp may be placed at the outset higher, yet the Rabbis did not wish to make the precept too burdensome.