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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sotah
HE ALSO ABOLISHED THE WAKERS. What does 'WAKERS' mean? — Rehabah said: The Levites used daily to stand upon the dais and exclaim, Awake, why sleepest Thou, O Lord?14 He said to them, Does, then, the All-Present sleep? Has it not been stated: Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep!15 But so long as Israel abides in trouble and the Gentiles are in peace and comfort, the words 'Awake, why sleepest Thou, O Lord'? [should be uttered].16
AND KNOCKERS. What does 'KNOCKERS' mean? — Rab Judah said in the name of Samuel: They used to make an incision on the calf between its horns17 so that the blood should flow into its eyes.18 [Johanan] came and abolished the practice because it appeared as though [the animal had] a blemish. There is a Baraitha which teaches: They used to strike [the animal] with clubs as is the practice with idolatry. [Johanan] said to them, How long will you feed the altar with nebeloth!19 [How could he have described the carcasses as] nebeloth when they had been properly slaughtered! — Rather [should they be described as] terefoth,20 since the membrane of the brain may have been perforated. He [thereupon] arose and ordained rings for them in the ground.21
UP TO HIS DAYS THE HAMMER USED TO STRIKE IN JERUSALEM. On the intermediate days of the Festival.22
ALL HIS DAYS23 THERE WAS NO NEED TO INQUIRE ABOUT DEMAI. As we have explained above.24
MISHNAH. WHEN THE SANHEDRIN CEASED [TO FUNCTION], SONG CEASED FROM THE PLACES OF FEASTING; AS IT IS SAID, THEY SHALL NOT DRINK WINE WITH A SONG ETC.25
WHEN THE FORMER PROPHETS26 DIED, THE URIM AND THUMMIM27 CEASED. WHEN [THE SECOND] TEMPLE WAS DESTROYED, THE SHAMIR AND NOPHETH ZUFIM28 CEASED, AND MEN OF FAITH DISAPPEARED FROM ISRAEL; AS IT IS SAID, HELP, LORD, FOR THE GODLY MAN CEASETH ETC.29 RABBAN SIMEON B. GAMALIEL SAYS: R. JOSHUA TESTIFIED THAT FROM THE DAY THE TEMPLE WAS DESTROYED, THERE IS NO DAY WITHOUT A CURSE, THE DEW HAS NOT DESCENDED FOR A BLESSING, AND THE FLAVOUR HAS DEPARTED FROM THE FRUITS. R. JOSE SAYS: THE FATNESS30 WAS ALSO REMOVED FROM THE FRUITS.
R. SIMEON B. ELEAZAR SAYS; [THE CESSATION OF] PURITY HAS REMOVED TASTE AND FRAGRANCE [FROM FRUITS]; [THE CESSATION OF] THE TITHES HAS REMOVED THE FATNESS OF CORN. BUT THE SAGES SAY: IMMORALITY AND WITCHCRAFT DESTROYED EVERYTHING.
GEMARA. How do we know that the text, ['They shall not drink wine with a song'] — applies to the time when the Sanhedrin ceased? — R. Huna, son of R. Joshua, said: Because Scripture states: The elders have ceased from the gate, the young men from their music.31
Rab said: The ear which listens to song should be torn off. Raba said: When there is song in a house there is destruction on its threshold; as it is stated: Their voice shall sing in the windows, desolation shall be in the thresholds, for He hath laid bare the cedar work.32 What means 'for he hath laid bare ['erah] the cedar work'? — R. Isaac said: Is a house panelled with cedar-wood a city ['irah]?33 But [the meaning is] even a house panelled with cedars will be overthrown [mithro'ea'].34 R. Ashi said: Infer from this that when destruction begins, it begins on the threshold; as it is stated: 'Desolation shall be in the thresholds' — Or if you will, deduce it from here: And the gate is smitten with destruction.35 Mar, son of R. Ashi said: I have personally seen him,36 and he gores like an ox.
R. Huna said: The singing of sailors and ploughmen is permitted, but that of weavers is prohibited.37 R. Huna abolished singing, and a hundred geese were priced at a zuz38 and a hundred se'ahs of wheat at a zuz and there was no demand for them [even at that price];39 R. Hisda came and [ordered R. Huna's edict to be] disregarded, and a goose was required [even at the high price of] a zuz but was not to be found.40 R. Joseph said: When men sing and women join in it is licentiousness; when women sing and men join in it is like fire in tow.41 For what practical purpose is this mentioned? — To abolish the latter before the former.42
R. Johanan said: Whoever drinks to the accompaniment of the four musical instruments43 brings five punishments to the world; as it is stated: Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink, that tarry late into the night, till wine inflame them! And the harp, and the lute, the tabret and the pipe, and wine, are in their feasts; but they regard not the work of the Lord.44 What is written after this? 'Therefore My people are gone into captivity for lack of knowledge' — they therefore cause captivity in the world; 'and their honourable men are famished' — they therefore bring hunger into the world; and their multitude are parched with thirst45 — they therefore cause Torah to be forgotten by its students. And the mean man is bowed down and the great man is humbled46 — they therefore cause humiliation to the haters of God47 — and 'man' signifies none other than the Holy One, blessed be He, as it is said: The Lord is a man of war,'48 'and the eyes of the lofty are humbled' they therefore cause the humiliation of Israel. And what is written after that? Therefore
Sotah 48bSheol hath enlarged her desire and opened her mouth without measure; and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth among them, descend into it.1
WHEN THE FORMER PROPHETS DIED. Who are the former prophets? — R. Huna said: They are David, Samuel and Solomon. R. Nahman said: During the days of David, they were Sometimes successful2 and at other times unsuccessful; for behold, Zadok consulted it and succeeded, whereas Abiathar consulted it and was not successful, as it is said. And Abiathar went up.3 Rabbah b. Samuel objected: [It is written], And he4 set himself to seek God all5 the days of Zechariah who had understanding in the vision of God.6 Was this not by means of the urim and Thummim?7 — No, it was through the prophets.
Come and hear: When the first Temple was destroyed — the cities with pasture land8 were abolished, the Urim and Thummim ceased, there was no more a king from the House of David; and if anyone incites you to quote, And the governor said unto them that they should not eat of the most holy things till there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim,9 reply to him: [It is only a phrase for the very remote future] as when one man says to another, 'Until the dead revive and the Messiah, son of David, comes'! — But, said R. Nahman: Who are the former prophets? [The term 'former'] excludes Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi who are the latter [prophets]. For our Rabbis have taught: When Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi died, the Holy Spirit10 departed from Israel; nevertheless they made use of the Bath Kol.11 On one occasion [some Rabbis] were sitting in the upper chamber of Gurya's house in Jericho; a Bath Kol was granted to them from heaven which announced, 'There is in your midst one man who is deserving that the Shechinah should alight upon him, but his generation is unworthy of it'. They all looked at Hillel the elder; and when he died, they lamented over him, 'Alas, the pious man! Alas, the humble man! Disciple of Ezra!' On another occasion they were sitting in an upper chamber in Jabneh; a Bath Kol was granted to them from heaven which announced, 'There is in your midst one man who is deserving that the Shechinah should alight upon him, but his generation is unworthy of it'. They all looked at Samuel the Little;12 and when he died, they lamented over him, 'Alas, the humble man! Alas, the pious man! Disciple of Hillel!' At the time of his death he also said,13 'Simeon and Ishmael14 [are destined] for the sword and their colleagues for death, and the rest of the people for spoliation, and great distress will come upon the nation.' They also wished to lament over R. Judah b. Baba,15 'Alas, the pious man! Alas, the humble man!' But the times were disturbed and they could not lament publicly over those who had been slain by the government.
WHEN [THE SECOND] TEMPLE WAS DESTROYED, THE SHAMIR CEASED etc. Our Rabbis taught: With the Shamir Solomon built the Temple,16 as it is said: And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready at the quarry.17 The words are to be understood as they are written;18 such is the statement of R. Judah. R. Nehemiah asked him, Is it possible to say so? Has it not been stated: All these were of costly stones … sawed with saws!19 If that be so, why is there a text to State, There was neither hammer, nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in the building?20 [It means] that they prepared them outside and brought them within. Rabbi said: The statement of R. Judah is probable in connection with the stones of the Sanctuary, and the statement of R. Nehamiah in connection with [Solomon's] house. For what purpose, then, according to R. Nehemiah, was the Shamir necessary? — It was required as taught in the following: We may not write with ink upon these stones,21 because it is said: Like the engravings of a signet,22 nor cut into them with a knife because it is said: In their settings;23 but he writes with ink upon them, shows the Shamir [the written strokes] on the outside, and these split of their own accord,24 like a fig which splits open in summer and nothing at all is lost, or like a valley which splits asunder in the rainy season and nothing at all is lost.
Our Rabbis taught: The Shamir is a creature about the size of a barley-corn, and was created during the six days of Creation.25 No hard substance can withstand it. How is it kept? They wrap it in tufts of wool and place it in a leaden tube full of barley-bran.
R. Ammi said: When the first Temple was destroyed, fringed26 silk and white glass27 ceased to be used. There is a teaching to the same effect: When the first Temple was destroyed, fringed silk and white glass and iron chariots ceased to be used. Some say: Also wine-jelly28 which comes from Senir29 and resembles cakes of figs.
AND NOFETH ZUFIM. What means NOFETH ZUFIM? — Rab said: The fine flour which floats [zofah] upon the top of a sieve [nafah] and resembles dough kneaded with honey and oil. Levi said: It is two loaves attached to [opposite sides of] an oven which keep on swelling until they touch one another.30 R. Joshua b. Levi said: It is the honey which comes from the hills [zofim].31 How is this known?32 — As R. Shesheth33 translated:34 When the bees spring forth and fly in the heights of the world and collect honey from the herbage on the mountains.
We have learnt there:35 Whatever is poured out36 is clean with the exception of thick honey and batter.37 What means zifim [thick]? — R. Johanan said: Honey used for adulteration [ziyyef]; and Resh Lakish said: It is named after its place, as it is written: Zif, Telem and Bealoth.38 You may similarly quote, When the Zifites came and said to Saul, Doth not David etc.39 What means Zifites? — R. Johanan said: Men who falsify their words; and R. Eliezer says: They are named after their place, as it is written: Zif Telem, and Bealoth.38
AND MEN OF FAITH DISAPPEARED. R. Isaac said: These are men who had faith in the Holy One, blessed be He. For it has been taught: R. Eliezer the Great40 declares: Whoever has a piece of bread in his basket and Says. 'What shall I eat tomorrow?' belongs only to them who are little in faith. And that is what R. Eleazar said: What means that which is written: For who hath despised the day of small things?41 [It signifies,] What is the cause that the tables of the righteous are despoiled in the Hereafter?42 The smallness [of faith] which was in them, that they did not trust in the Holy One, blessed be He. Raba said: They are the little ones43 among the children of the wicked of Israel
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