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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Shabbath

Folio 26a

Let the Master say, because it is volatile?1  — He states, one thing and yet another.' One thing, because it is volatile; and yet another, as a preventive measure, lest he draw supplies from it.

A certain mother-in-law hated her daughter-in-law. Said she to her, 'Go and adorn yourself with balsam oil.'2  She went and adorned herself. On her return she said to her, 'Go and light the lamp.' She went and lit the lamp: a spark flew out on her and consumed her.

But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers [kormim] and husbandmen [yogbim].3  'Kornim:' R. Joseph learnt: This means balsamum gatherers from the En Gedi to Ramah. Yogbim: These are those which catch hilazon4  from the promontory of Tyre as far as Haifa.5

Our Rabbis taught: One must not feed a lamp with unclean tebel6  on weekdays, and all the more so on the Sabbath. Similarly, one must not light [a lamp] with white naphtha on weekdays, and all the more so on the Sabbath. As for white naphtha, that is well, [the reason being] because it is volatile. But what is the reason of unclean tebel? — Scripture saith, And I, behold, I have given thee the charge of mine heave-offerings [terumothai]:7  the Writ refers to two terumoth, clean and unclean terumah:8  just as you enjoy nought of clean terumah save from its separation and onwards,9  So also unclean terumah, you may enjoy nought thereof save from its separation and onwards.10

[To turn to] the main text: R. Simeon b. Eleazar said: One may not kindle [the Sabbath lamp] with balsam. And thus did R. Simeon b. Eleazar say: Balsam [zari] is merely the sap of resinous trees. R. Ishmael said: All that proceeds from trees, one may not light. R. Ishmael b. Berokah said: One may light only with the produce of fruit.11  R. Tarfon said: One may light [the Sabbath lamp] with nought but olive oil. Thereupon R. Johanan b. Nuri rose to his feet and exclaimed, What shall the Babylonians do, who have only sesame oil? And what shall the Medeans do, who have only nut oil? And what shall the Alexandrians do, who have only radish oil? And what shall the people of Cappadocia12  do, who have neither the one nor the other, save naphtha? But you have nought else but that concerning which the Sages said, One may not kindle [therewith].13  And one may kindle with fish oil and 'itran.14  R. Simeon Shezuri15  said: One may kindle with oil of gourds and with naphtha. Symmachos said: All that which comes from flesh, we may not kindle therewith, except fish oil. But Symmachos is identical with the earlier Tanna?16 — They differ in respect to R. Beruna's dictum in Rab's name,17  but it is not clearly defined.18

It was taught, R. Simeon b. Eleazar said: Whatever comes forth from trees is not subject to the law of three by three fingerbreadths,19  and one may cover [a booth] therewith,20  except flax.21  Abaye observed,

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Explosive and dangerous.
  2. Anointing with oil is and was a common practice in the hot eastern countries; Krauss, T.A. I, 229 and 233.
  3. Jer. LII, 16.
  4. Purple-fish, used for dyeing tekeleth, a peculiar kind of blue.
  5. [H] is derived from [H] 'to split', with reference to the splitting of the mollusc in order to extract the dye; v. infra 76a.
  6. V. Glos.
  7. Num. XVIII, 8.
  8. V. supra 25a.
  9. Clean terumah is used for human consumption, and before it is actually separated it is forbidden, even to the priest, i.e., he may not enjoy the produce in which it is contained.
  10. Unclean terumah can be used only as fuel, and the analogy shows that this is permitted only when it is actually separated, but not while it is yet tebel.
  11. Excluding fish and mineral oil, and oil tapped direct from the tree.
  12. A district of Asia Minor.
  13. You cannot add to the list of forbidden oils enumerated on 20b.
  14. A sort of resin.
  15. Of Shezor, supposed to be Sheghor, near Kefar Anan in Galilee, v. Neub., Geogr., p. 278.
  16. Sc. R. Johanan b. Nuri.
  17. V. supra 11a. One holds that tallow, being flesh, may not be used at all, even if mixed with oil, thus rejecting the view expressed there, and the other maintains that the mixture is permitted.
  18. Who accepts R. Beruna's dictum and who rejects it.
  19. A piece of cloth three fingerbreadths square (or more) is liable to become unclean. R. Simeon b. Eleazar excepts the produce of trees, e.g., cotton cloth.
  20. The booth (sukkah), in which one must dwell during the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. XXIII, 42), must be covered with a material that is not liable to defilement (Suk. 12.b); hence the produce of trees is fit for this purpose.
  21. Even if not made up into a garment and as yet merely spun (v. infra 27b). Though not liable to defilement by reptiles it is subject to the uncleanness of leprosy.

Shabbath 26b

R. Simeon b. Eleazar and the Tanna of the School of R. Ishmael1  said the same thing. R. Simeon b. Eleazar, as stated. The Tanna of the School of R. Ishmael: what is that? For the School of R. Ishmael taught: Since garments are mentioned in the Torah unspecified, while the Writ specified wool and flax in the case of one of them: [then] just as there, wool and flax [are specified], so all [garments] are of wool and flax.2  Raba said: They differ in respect to three [handbreadths] by three in other clothes [not wool or linen]: R. Simeon b. Eleazar accepts [their liability to defilement],3  whilst the Tanna of the School of R. Ishmael rejects it.4

Now all at least agree that an area of three [fingerbreadths] of wool or linen is subject to the defilement of leprosy. How do we know it? Because it was taught, A garment:5  I know it only of a [complete] garment; whence do I learn it of [cloth] three [fingerbreadths] square? From the verse, and the garment.6  Yet say that it is to include three [handbreadths] square?7 — Does that not follow a minori: if a warp and a woof become unclean,8  is there a question of three [handbreadths] square?9  If so, if it is three [fingerbreadths] square, let it also be deduced a minori?10  — Rather, [this is the reply]: three [handbreadths] square, which is of use11  both to the wealthy and to the poor, can be deduced a minori12  three [fingerbreadths] square, which is of use to the poor only, but not to the rich,13  cannot be learnt a minori: hence it is only because Scripture wrote it; but had Scripture not written it, we could not deduce it a minori.

Yet say [that its purpose is] to include three [handbreadths] square of other materials?14 — Scripture saith, a woollen garment, or a linen garment:15  only a woollen or a linen garment, but not anything else. Yet say, when it is excluded it is from [the defilement of] three [fingerbreadths] square, but three [handbreadths] square can become unclean? — Two limitations are written: 'a woollen garment or a linen garment',16  [hence] one is to exclude [them] from [the defilement of] three [fingerbreadths] square, and the other to exclude them from [the defilement of] three [handbreadths] square.

Now, according to Raba, who said, They differ in respect of three [handbreadths] by three in other cloths, R. Simeon b. Eleazar accepting [their liability to defilement], whilst the Tanna of the School of R. Ishmael rejects it, — how does he [R. Simeon b. Eleazar] know [the defilement of] three [handbreadths] square of other materials?

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. No particular Tanna is meant, but the collective view of that School.
  2. E.g., the uncleanness of garments caused by the carcases of forbidden animals (Lev. II, 25) or reptiles (v. 32): there the garments are unspecified. On the other hand, with respect to leprosy in garments wool and flax are specified: The garment also that the plague of leprosy is in, whether it be a woollen garment, or a linen garment.-Lev. XIII, 47.
  3. In his statement he employs the word shalosh, feminine, which must refer to fingerbreadths (ezba'oth, fem.). Hence they are not subject to the stricter law that even when only three fingerbreadths square they shall be liable to defilement. Whence it follows that they are subject to the next standard of liability, viz., three handbreadths (sheloshah, masc. agreeing with tefahim, handbreadths); v. infra.
  4. For he simply rules that wherever 'garments' is stated it means wool or flax.
  5. Lev. XIII, 47: referring to leprosy.
  6. We-habeged, E.V. The garment also, 'And' is regarded as an extension.
  7. But not the smaller standard.-Shalosh refers to ezba'oth, fingerbreadths; sheloshah to tefahim, handbreadths; v. n. 1.
  8. Lev. ibid.
  9. No extension is needed for that.
  10. Since cloth containing a warp and a woof can be less.
  11. Lit., 'fit'.
  12. For it is then nearer to an actual garment.
  13. A rich man would not trouble to save it for some possible service-hence it is further removed from 'garment'.
  14. Lit., 'garments'.
  15. Lev. XIII, 48; these are also specified in v. 47.
  16. V. P. 115, n. 13.