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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Shabbath

Folio 60a

in the case of a rack,1  go after its nails;2  in the case of a ladder, go after its rungs; in the case of a weighing machine, go after its chains.3  But the Sages maintain: Everything depends on the support.4

Raba said: It is taught disjunctively:5  if it has a signet, it is a man's ornament; if it has no signet, it is a woman's ornament. R. Nahman b. Isaac answered: Do you oppose uncleanness to the Sabbath!6  [In respect to] uncleanness, the Divine Law said, utensils [fit] for work,7  and this [a signet ring] is a utensil. But the Sabbath [interdiction] was imposed by the Divine Law on account of the burden: if it has no signet, it is an ornament; if it has a signet, it is a burden.

NOR WITH A NEEDLE WHICH IS UNPIERCED. What is it fit for?8  — Said R. Joseph: Since a woman tidies9  her hair with it [it is therefore ornamental]. Said Abaye objected: Let it be as a garter, which is clean, and hence permitted?10  But R. Adda of Naresh11  interpreted it before R. Joseph: Since a woman parts her hair with it, [it is ornamental]. What is it fit for on the Sabbath?12  — Said Raba: It has a golden plaque at the end thereof:13  on weekdays she parts her hair therewith, [while] on the Sabbath she lets it lie against her forehead.14


GEMARA. A NAIL-STUDDED SANDAL: What is the reason? — Said Samuel: It was at the end of the period of persecution.17  and they [some fugitives] were hiding in a cave. They proclaimed, 'He who would enter, let him enter,18  but he who would go out, let him not go out.'19  Now, the sandal of one of them became reversed, so that they thought that one of them had gone out and been seen by the enemies, who would now fall upon them. Thereupon they pressed against each other,20  and they killed of each other more than their enemies slew of them. R. Ila'i b. Eleazar said: They were stationed in a cave when they heard a sound [proceeding] from above the cave. Thinking that the enemy was coming upon them, they pressed against each other and slew amongst themselves more than the enemy had slain of them. Rami b. Ezekiel said: They were stationed in a Synagogue, when they heard a sound from behind the synagogue. Thinking that the enemy was coming upon them, they pressed against each other and slew amongst themselves more than the enemy had slain of them. In that hour it was enacted: A man must not go out with a nail-studded sandal.21  If so, it should be forbidden on weekdays too? — The incident happened on the Sabbath.22  Then let it be permitted on Festivals! Why did we learn:

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Placed outside a shop and fitted with nails and hooks for exhibiting goods.
  2. If they are of metal, the whole is susceptible to uncleanness.
  3. The machine itself was of wood.
  4. E.g., the ladder depends on its frame, not on the rungs, etc. — Hence, according to R. Nehemiah the signet is the chief part of the ring, and since a signet is not ornamental, a sin-offering is incurred. But the Rabbis hold that the ring itself is the chief part, and that is an ornament.
  5. Lit., 'to (separate) sides'. The clause 'and a ring whether it has a signet etc.' is not included in the definition of 'women's ornaments'.
  6. He likewise treats the clause 'and a ring etc.' as independent of the preceding but as referring to the general laws of uncleanness.
  7. Num. XXXI. 51; i.e., which have a definite function.
  8. How can it be regarded as an ornament? V. p. 266, n. 1.
  9. Lit., 'gathers up': if some wisps of hair stray out from under her wig, they are wound about this needle or bodkin and pushed back (Rashi). Tosaf.: the needle is thrust through the wig to keep the hair in order and prevent it from straying out. 'Aruch reads: ogedeth, she fastens.
  10. V. infra 63a. So here too, since the bodkin is required to keep the hair in order, and uncovered hair is considered disgraceful (v. Sanh. 58b), a woman will certainly not remove it for display.
  11. Identical with Nahras or Nahr-sar, on the canal of the same name, which was a tributary falling into the Euphrates on its eastern bank; Obermeyer, pp. 307 seq.
  12. When parting the hair is forbidden.
  13. One end was needle-like while the other was flattened and broadened into a plaque.
  14. She thrusts the needle end into her wig, letting the other end come over her forehead as an ornament.
  15. Either because he may be suspected of carrying the other sandal under his garments (T.J.), or because he may evoke ridicule, which will cause him to remove and carry it. But when one foot is wounded, there is no fear of this. V. Rashi.
  16. Because these are garments in war, hence do not rank as burdens.
  17. So Jast. Rashi: There were fugitives from persecution. [The reference is generally held to be to the Syrian persecutions under Antiochus Epiphanes; v. Berliner, Hoffmann Magazin XX, p. 123].
  18. As he could see beforehand whether the enemies' spies were on the watch.
  19. For fear of spies, lest their whereabouts be disclosed.
  20. Panic stricken, in order to flee.
  21. According to Samuel, because this had led them astray. According to R. Ila'i b. Eleazar and Rami b. Ezekiel, because the carnage had been wrought by their nail-studded sandals.
  22. The interdict was felt to be in memory of the disaster rather than through actual fear of its repetition, and therefore confined to the Sabbath.

Shabbath 60b

But one may not [send] a nail-studded sandal or an unsewn shoe [on Festivals]?1  — What is the reason of the Sabbath?2  Because there is a gathering [of people]. So on Festivals too there is a gathering. But there is a gathering on a public fast day:3  let it be forbidden [then too]? — The incident happened on a day of assembly when there is an interdict [against work]; but here it is [a day of] assembly when it is permitted [to work]. And even according to R. Hanina b. Akiba who maintained, They enacted a prohibition only in respect of the Jordan and a ship, just as the incident that occurred:4  that applies only to the Jordan, which differs from other rivers;5  but Festivals and the Sabbath are alike, for we learnt: There is no difference between Festivals and the Sabbath save in respect of food consumption.6 

Rab Judah said in Samuel's name: They learnt this only [where the nails are] to strengthen [the sandal], but where they are ornamental, it is permitted.7  And how many [nails] constitute an ornament? — R. Johanan said: Five on each; R. Hanina maintained: Seven on each8  and one on [each of] the straps; according to R. Hanina, there are three on each side9  and one in the strapping.

An objection is raised: For an inclining sandal10  one inserts seven [nails]; this is R. Nathan's view. But Rabbi permits thirteen.11  As for R. Hanina, It Is well: he rules as R. Nathan. But whose view does R. Johanan state? — He rules as R. Nehorai. For it was taught, R. Nehorai said: Five are permitted, but seven are forbidden. Efah said to Rabbah b. Bar Hanah: You, as disciples of R. Johanan, should act as R. Johanan; but we will act as R. Hanina.

R. Huna asked R. Ashi: What of five [nails]? — Even seven are permitted, he answered him. What of nine? Even eight are forbidden, was his reply. A certain shoe-maker asked R. Ammi: What if it is sewn from within?12  It is permitted, replied he, but I do not know what is the reason.13  Said R. Ashi, And does not the Master know what is the reason?14  Since it was sewn from within, it becomes a shoe:15  the Rabbis enacted a decree in respect to a sandal, but in respect of a shoe they did not enact any decree.

R. Abba b. Zabda asked R. Abba b. Abina: What if he arranged them [the nails] zigzag-shape?16  — It is permitted, he answered him. It was stated likewise: R. Jose b. R. Hanina said: If they are arranged zigzag-shape, it is permitted.

R. Shesheth said: If the whole of it [the sole] is covered with nails [underneath] so that the ground should not wear it away. it is permitted. It was taught in accordance with R. Shesheth, A man may not go out wearing a nail-studded sandal, nor may he stroll [in it] from house to house,17  and even from bed to bed. But it may be handled in order to cover a utensil or support the legs of a bed therewith;18  but R. Eleazar b. R. Simeon forbids this.19  If most of its nails are fallen out, but four or five are left, it is permitted; while Rabbi permits it up to seven. If one covers it with leather underneath and drives nails into it on top, it is permitted.20  If one arranges them [the nails] zigzag-fashion,21  or flattens [them] out, or points [them],22  or covers the whole of it with nails so that the ground should not wear it out, it is permitted. Now, this is self-contradictory: You say, if most of the nails are fallen out, [implying], even if many are left [it may be worn]; then it is taught, only four or five, but not more? — Said R. Shesheth, There is no difficulty: in the one case they are scooped out; in the other they are pulled out.23

'[If] four or five [are left], it is permitted.' Seeing that it is permitted [with] five, need four be stated? — Said R. Hisda: [It means] four in a small sandal and five in a large sandal.

'While Rabbi permits it up to seven.' But it was taught: Rabbi permits it up to thirteen? An inclining [sandal] is different.24  Now that you have arrived at this [distinction], on R. Johanan's view too there is no difficulty: an inclining [sandal] is different.25

R. Mattenah — others state, R. Ahadboi b. Mattenah in R. Mattenah's name — said: The halachah is not as R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon. But that is obvious: [where] one disagrees with many, the halachah is as the majority? — You might argue, R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon's view is logical here;26  hence we are informed [that we do not follow him].

R. Hiyya said: But that I would be dubbed a Babylonian who permits forbidden things,27  I would permit more. And how many, — In Pumbeditha they say, Twenty-four; in Sura, twenty-two. R. Nahman b. Isaac said: And your sign [to remember this is]: by the time he [R. Hiyya] travelled from Pumbeditha to Sura28  two [nails] were missing [from his sandals].


Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. V. Bez. 14b. These may not be sent because they cannot be used for the Festival. — A sandal ([H]) consists only of a sole and straps, while a shoe ([H]) has uppers in addition, Levi, Worterbuch, s.v. [H].
  2. Why was it forbidden then?
  3. V. Ta'an. 15a.
  4. V. Hag. 23a. It once happened that the purification water (v. Num. XIX, 9 Seq.) was carried in a boat over the Jordan, when a portion of a corpse was found in the bottom of the boat, whereby the water itself was defiled. The Rabbis maintain that it was then enacted that the water of lustration must not be carried over any river, whether in a boat or over a bridge. But R. Hanina disputes this, as quoted. It might therefore be thought that in the matter under discussion he maintains that there was no prohibition in respect to Festivals.
  5. In breadth, depth, current, etc.
  6. Lit., 'food for a person', which may be prepared on Festivals (Ex. XII, 16) but not on the Sabbath.
  7. To go out wearing the sandal on the Sabbath. Nails are normally put in to strengthen the sandal, and such must have been worn on the occasion of the tragedy; hence the decree was only in respect of same.
  8. But if there are more, their purpose is to strengthen, not ornamental.
  9. Of the sandal, one at the heel and the other at the toe.
  10. The sole of which is thicker at one side than at the other. It is leveled by nails inserted at the thin end.
  11. These too are ornamental, not for strength. But if there are more, the sandal may not be worn on the Sabbath, as above.
  12. Rashi. i.e., a leather shoe was placed inside a sandal and sewn thereto.
  13. He had heard this ruling, but did not know why.
  14. [MS.M. omits 'but I do not know' and 'does not the Master … reason'. This reading is preferable as R. Ashi and R. Ammi were not contemporaries].
  15. A sandal ([H]) is merely a sole, while a shoe ([H]) has uppers too.
  16. Kalbus is a tongs or pinchers, which presumably opened X-wise.
  17. Probably from room to room in the same house, where each room has a separate occupant.
  18. Because it ranks as a utensil; v. Supra 46a, p. 211.
  19. Lest he put it on.
  20. Because the sandal is not exactly similar to that which caused the disaster.
  21. BaH deletes this.
  22. These refer to the tops of the nails (Rashi).
  23. If they are levelled down, leaving marks of nails on the sole, then even if more than four or five are left it is permissible, since the sandal was obviously not made like this originally. But if they are clean pulled out, leaving no mark on the wood of the sole, the sandal may appear to have been originally manufactured thus, and therefore not more than five are permitted. Others reverse the translation, but the sense remains the same.
  24. All are necessary to level it up, and none are for strength.
  25. V. supra.
  26. V. p. 283, n. 4.
  27. He was a Babylonian who went to study in Palestine; Suk. 20a. This may indicate that the Palestinians on the whole were stricter.
  28. On his way to Palestine.