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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Shabbath

Folio 28a

from the Tabernacle. Here it is written, This is the law when a man dieth in a tent [ohel];1  and there it is written, and he spread the tent [ohel] over the Tabernacle:2  just as there [the covering] of linen is designated tent, so here too, [a covering] of linen is designated tent.3  If so, just as there it was twisted and the thread was doubled sixfold,4  so here too it must be twisted and its thread doubled sixfold?5 — The repetition of tent6  is an extension.7  If the repetition of tent is an extension, then everything else8  too should be included? — If so, what avails the gezerah shawah?9  Yet [perhaps] say, just as there [the Tabernacle was of] boards, so here too [a tent of] boards [is meant]? — Scripture saith, And thou shalt make boards for the tabernacle:10  the tabernacle11  is called tabernacle, but the boards are not designated tabernacle. If so, [when it is stated,] and thou shalt make a covering12  for the tent [ohel],13  is the covering indeed not designated tent [ohel]? But when R. Eleazar propounded: Can the skin of an unclean animal14  be defiled by overshadowing15  the dead? — [What doubt was there] seeing that the skin of a clean animal cannot be defiled,16  is there a question of the skin of an unclean animal17  — There it is different, because Scripture restored it,18  as it is written, they shall bear the curtains of the tabernacle, and the tent of meeting, its covering and the covering of sealskin that is above it:19  thus the upper [covering]20  is assimilated to the lower:21  just as the lower is designated tent,22  so is the upper designated tent.

[To revert to] the main text: 'R. Eleazar propounded: Can the skin23  of an unclean animal be defiled with the defilement of tents?'24  What is his problem?25 — Said R. Adda b. Ahabah: His question relates to the tahash which was in the days of Moses,26 — was it unclean or clean? R. Joseph observed, What question is this to him? We learnt it! For the sacred work none but the skin of a clean animal was declared fit.

R. Abba objected: R. Judah said: There were two coverings, one of dyed rams' skins, and one of tahash skins. R. Nehemiah said: There was one covering27  and it was like a squirrel['s].28  But the squirrel is unclean!-This is its meaning: like a squirrel['s], which has many colours, yet not [actually] the squirrel, for that is unclean, whilst here a clean [animal is meant]. Said R. Joseph: That being so, that is why we translate it sasgawna [meaning] that it rejoices in many colours.29

Raba said: That the skin of an unclean animal is defiled by overshadowing30  the dead [is inferred] from the following. For it was taught: [Scripture could state] skin; [by stating or in] skin31  it extends [the law to] the skin of an unclean animal and to one which was smitten [with leprosy] in the priests hand.32  If one cuts off [pieces] of all these33  and makes one [piece] out of them, how do we know [it]?34  From the verse, 'or in any thing [meleketh] made of skin'.35  But this [Raba's statement] can be refuted: as for leprosy, [the reason36  is] because the warp and the wool is defiled in their case?37  Rather it is learnt from leprosy. For it was taught: Skin:38  I know it only of the skin of a clean animal; how do I know it of the skin of an unclean animal? Therefore it is stated, or skin.39  But this may be refuted: as for reptiles, [the reason is] they defile by the size of a lentil.40  Let leprosy prove it.41  And thus the argument revolves: the characteristic of one is not that of the other, and vice versa: the feature common to both is that skin is unclean in their case, and the skin of an unclean animal was assimilated to that of a clean animal: so also do I adduce the tent of the dead, that skin is unclean in its case,42  and the skin of an unclean animal is assimilated to that of a clean animal.

Raba of Barnesh43  observed to R. Ashi: But this can be refuted: as for the feature common to both, it is that they defile others in less than the size of an olive:44  will you say [the same] of the dead, which defiles only by the size of an olive? Rather, said Raba of Barnesh,

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Num. XIX, 14.
  2. Ex. XL, 19.
  3. The only covering of vegetable growth of the Tabernacle was linen.
  4. Deduced in Yoma 71b.
  5. Otherwise it should not be defiled.
  6. Lit., 'tent, tent': 'tent' is mentioned three times in Num. XIX, 14 in reference to defilement.
  7. Extending the law to a linen tent even if not made in the same way as the covering of the tabernacle.
  8. Any other material.
  9. V. Glos.
  10. Ex. XXVI, 15.
  11. E.g., the ten curtains on the roof curtains thereof, ibid 1.
  12. Of animal skins.
  13. ibid. 14.
  14. I.e., which is not fit for food.
  15. Lit., 'by the uncleanness of tents'.
  16. On the present hypothesis that the covering, which included ramskins (Ex. XXVI, 14; the ram is a clean animal), is not a tent, hence excluded from Num. XIX, 14.
  17. For this is less likely to suffer such defilement, as is shown below, where a superfluous word is necessary to include it, and also in the Sifra, Thazria'.
  18. To be included in the term 'tent' (ohel).
  19. Num. IV 25.
  20. The covering of animal skins.
  21. Viz., the eleven curtains of goats' hair, v. Ex. XVI, 7.
  22. The 'tent of meeting' is understood to refer not to the Tabernacle as a whole but to these curtains.
  23. It is so designated in verse 7.
  24. The wording is not exactly as above, but the sense is.
  25. How can he think that it is subject to such defilement, seeing that he learns the definition of 'tent' from the Tabernacle (supra 27b bottom), where the skins of clean animals alone were used?
  26. A.V. badger; R.V. seal, Levy, Worterbuch: marter, others: badges, sea-dog, seal, cf. Lewysohn, Zool. d. Tal. I, 95f. Tahash skins formed one of the coverings of the Tabernacle; verse quoted supra et passim.
  27. Consisting half of rams' skin and half of tahash skins.-I.e., apart from the coverings of linen, etc. and of goats' hair.
  28. Jast., lit.,'hanging on the tree'. It is doubtful, however, whether a squirrel is meant, as the context shows that a striped (or speckled) animal of many colours is referred to.
  29. Sas, it rejoices, be-gawwanim, in colours. R. Joseph was an expert in the Targumim (Aramaic translations of the Bible), and given to quoting them.
  30. Lit., 'by the tent of a dead'.
  31. Lev. XIII, 48.
  32. In Heb. [H] is an extension (Rashi). Even if the skin was not leprous when the priest was sent for, but became affected whilst he was examining it (or after), it is unclean. By analogy, the skin of an unclean animal too is defiled by overshadowing the dead.
  33. Materials mentioned in the verse, q.v.
  34. That it is liable to defilement.
  35. Meleketh, melakah, work, suggests a manufactured article, and is therefore applied to a combination Of materials.
  36. Sc. the defilement of the skin of an unclean animal.
  37. Which is not the case with corpse defilement, v. infra 64a.
  38. Ibid. XI, 32. This refers to the materials liable to defilement by reptiles.
  39. Or is an extension. By analogy the same applies to the defilement of the dead.
  40. V. p. 116, n. 14. But the minimum portion of a human corpse is the size of an olive, which is larger than a lentil. Since the defilement of reptiles is stricter in that respect, it may also be stricter in respect of the skin of an unclean animal.
  41. The minimum for leprosy is the size of a bean.
  42. I.e., if it forms a tent,
  43. In Babylon on the canal of the same name, near the town of Mehasia, and some three parasangs from a synagogue named after Daniel; Obermeyer, Landschaft, p. 302.
  44. A bean too is less.

Shabbath 28b

it is inferred a minori from goats' hair, which is not defiled by leprosy, yet is defiled by overshadowing the dead; then the skin of an unclean animal, which is defiled by leprosy, is surely defiled by overshadowing the dead.

Then when R. Joseph recited, 'For the sacred work none but the skin of a clean animal was considered fit,' for what practical law [did he say it]?1 — In respect of phylacteries.2  Of phylacteries it is explicitly stated, that the law of the Lord may be in thy mouth,3  [meaning] of that which is permitted in thy mouth?4  Rather in respect of their hide.5  But Abaye said, The skin of phylacteries is a law of Moses from Sinai?6  — Rather, it is in respect of tying it with hair and sewing it with its tendons.7  But that is a law of Moses from Sinai. For it was taught: Rectangular phylacteries8  are a law of Moses from Sinal: they must be tied with their hair and sewn with their tendons.9  — Rather it is in respect of their straps.10  But R. Isaac said, Black straps are a law of Moses from Sinai? Granted that black is traditional, is clean traditional?11

What is our conclusion with respect to the tahash which existed in Moses' days? — Said R. Elai in the name of R. Simeon b. Lakish, R. Meir used to maintain, The tahash of Moses' day was a separate species, and the Sages could not decide whether it belonged to the genus of wild beasts or to the genus of domestic animals; and it bad one horn in its forehead, and it came to Moses' hand [providentially] just for the occasion,12  and he made the [covering of the] Tabernacle, and then it was hidden. Now, since he says that it had one horn in its forehead, it follows that it was clean. For R. Judah said, The ox which Adam the first [man] sacrificed had one horn in its forehead, for it is said, and it shall please the Lord better than an ox, or a bullock that hath a horn [sic] and hoofs.13  But makrin14  implies two? — Said R. Nahman b. Isaac: Mi-keren15  is written.16  Then let us solve thence that it was a genus of domestic animal?17  — Since there is the keresh,18  which is a species of beast, and it has only one horn, one can say that it [the tahash] is a kind of wild beast.


GEMARA. As for the matter of uncleanness, it is well, [for] they differ in this: R. Eliezer holds that twisting is of no effect, and it remains in its previous condition;20  while R. Akiba holds that twisting is effective, and it [its previous condition] is indeed annulled. But with reference to lighting, wherein do they differ? — R. Eleazar said in R. Oshaia's name, and R. Adda b. Ahabah said likewise: The reference here is to [a rag] exactly three [fingerbreadths] square;21  and also to a Festival falling on the eve of the Sabbath. Now, all agree with R. Judah, who maintained, One may fire [an oven, etc.,] with [whole] utensils, but not with broken utensils.22  Further, all agree with 'Ulla's dictum, viz.: He who lights must light the greater part [of the wick] which protrudes. R. Eliezer holds that twisting is of no avail, and immediately one kindles it slightly it becomes a broken utensil,23  and when he goes on kindling it,24  he kindles a broken utensil. But R. Akiba holds that twisting is effective, and it does not bear the character of a utensil, and therefore when he kindles, he kindles a mere piece of wood.25  R. Joseph observed: This is what I learnt, exactly three [fingerbreadths] square, but did not know in reference to what law.

Now, since R. Adda b. Ahabah explains it in accordance with R. Judah,26  it follows that he himself holds as R. Judah. Yet did R. Adda b. Ahabah say thus? Surely R. Adda b. Ahabah said:

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. As a mere historical fact it is of no importance. Hence what is its purpose, seeing that it does not teach that the skin of an unclean animal is not defiled by overshadowing the dead, as one wished to deduce supra a?
  2. That the parchment of these must be made of the skin of a clean animal.
  3. Ex. XIII, 9; the reference is to tefillin (v. Glos.).
  4. Cf. p. 118, n. 2 (on explicitness).
  5. The leather of the capsules in which the parchment is placed. This cannot be deduced from the verse quoted, for 'the law of the Lord' was not written upon them.
  6. The letter shin (a) is stamped out of the leather itself at the side of the capsule. This is part of the Name Shaddai ([H]) and therefore comes within the meaning of 'the law of the Lord'. — With respect to the meaning of 'a law of Moses from Sinai', some take it literally: this was handed down direct from Moses; others understand it in a more figurative sense: it is traditional, but its exact origin is unknown, and hence ascribed to Moses, who in general is the source of Jewish law. V. Weiss, Dor, I, 71 seq.
  7. The parchment within the phylacteries, on which Biblical passages are written, is rolled up and tied round with animal hair. The receptacles themselves are sewn together with the tendons of animals. Both must be from clean animals.
  8. I.e., the faces of the capsules must be rectangular in shape, the whole forming a cube.
  9. 'Their' meaning of the same animal or species which furnishes the parchment and the leather. Thus they must be all of a clean animal and this is a traditional law.
  10. These must be of the skin of a clean animal.
  11. I.e., is there a tradition that they must be of the skin of a clean animal? Surely not! Hence R. Joseph's teaching is necessary.
  12. Lit., 'garment'.
  13. Ps. LXIX, 32.
  14. E. V. 'that hath horns.'
  15. Than a horn,
  16. I.e., [H] which is normally punctuated [H] (mi-keren), but here [H] makrin. On the identification of this ox with that sacrificed by Adam v. A.Z. 8a.
  17. Viz., an ox or bullock.
  18. Jast.: a kind of antelope, unicorn.
  19. The reasons are discussed in the Gemara,
  20. A rag, being part of a garment, is liable to become unclean, a wick does not become unclean. R. Eliezer holds that mere twisting without singeing-this was done to facilitate the lighting-does not make it a wick, and therefore it is still subject to uncleanness.
  21. This is the smallest size liable to defilement (supra 26b); in that sense it is regarded as a whole garment (or utensil).
  22. On Festivals. A whole utensil may be handled on Festivals, and therefore it may be taken for burning. But if a utensil is broken on the Festival so that it can now be used as fuel only, it is regarded as a thing newly-created (nolad v. Glos.)-i.e., a new use for it has just been created-and such may not be handled on Festivals.
  23. Since it was the minimum size originally.
  24. Until the greater part is alight.
  25. I.e., this twisted rag is just like a piece of wood,
  26. That nolad (v. n. 3) is forbidden.