Thursday, 22 September 2011

Some extracts from the Talmud

Some extracts from the remarkable Jewish holy text known as the Talmud.

Not one single thing has God created in vain. He created the snail as a remedy for a blister; the fly for the sting of a wasp; the gnat for the bite of a serpent; the serpent itself for healing the itch (or the scab); and the lizard (or the spider) for the sting of a scorpion.

Shabbath, fol. 77, col 1


For the sake of one righteous man the whole world is preserved in existence, as it is written (Prov. 10.25), "The righteous man is an everlasting foundation."

Yoma, fol. 38, col 2


It is written (Gen. 28.11), "And he took from the stones of the place;" and again it is written (ver. 18), "And he took the stone." Rabbi Isaac says this teaches that all these stones gathered themselves together into one place, as if each were eager that the saint should lay his head upon it. It happened, as the Rabbis tell us, that all the stones were swallowed up by one another, and thus merged into one stone.

Chullin, fol. 91, col 2


Every man as he goes on the eve of the Sabbath from the synagogue to his house is escorted by two angels, one of which is a good angel and the other an evil. When the man comes home and finds the lamps lit, the table spread, and the bed in order, the good angel says, "May the coming Sabbath be even as the present;" to which the evil angel (though with reluctance) is obliged to say, "Amen." But if all be in disorder, then the bad angel says, "May the coming Sabbath be even as the present," and the good angel is (with equal reluctance) obliged to say "Amen" to it.

Shabbath, fol. 19, col 2


If Israel kept only two Sabbaths, according to the strict requirement of the law, they would be freed at once from their compelled dispersion; for it is written (Isa. 56.4,7), "Thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my Sabbaths (שבתותי, dual form), Even them will I bring to my holy mountain."

Shabbath, fol. 118, col 2


If Israel had not sinned they would have had no other Scriptures than the five-fifths of the law (that is, the Pentateuch) and the book of Joshua, which last is indispensable, because therein is recorded how the land was distributed among the sons of Israel; but the remainder was added, "Because in much wisdom is much grief" (Eccles. 1.18).

Nedarim, fol. 22, col. 2


Rabbi Yochanan plaintively records, "I remember the time when a young man and a young woman sixteen or seventeen years of age could walk together in the streets and no harm came of it."

Bava Bathra, fol. 91, col. 2


All the prophets were rich men. This we infer from the account of Moses, Samuel, Amos, and Jonah. Of Moses, as it is written (Num. 16.15), "I have not taken one ass from them." Of Samuel, as it is written (1 Sam. 12.3), "Behold, here I am; witness against me before the Lord, and before His anointed, whose ox have I taken? Or whose ass have I taken?" Of Amos, it is written (Amos 7.14), "I was a herdsman and gatherer of sycamore fruit," i.e., I am proprietor of my herds and own sycamores in the valley. Of Jonah, as it is written (Jonah 1.3), "So he paid the fare thereof and went down into it." Rabbi Yochanan says he hired the whole ship, Rabbi Rumanus says the hire of the ship amounted to four thousand golden denarii.

Nedarim, fol. 38, col. 1


Thousands on thousands in Israel were named after Aaron; for had it not been for Aaron these thousands of thousands would not have been born. Aaron went about making peace between quarrelling couples, and those who were born after the reconciliation were regularly named after him.

Avoth d'Rab. Nathan, chap. 12


Abba Benjamin says, "If our eye were permitted to see the malignant sprites that beset us, we could not rest on account of them." Abaii has said, "They outnumber us, they surround us as the earthed-up soil on our garden-beds." Rav Hunna says, "Every one has a thousand at his left side and ten thousand at his right" (Ps. 91.7). Rava adds, "The crowding at the schools is caused by their pushing in; they cause the weariness which the Rabbis experience in their knees, and even tear their clothes by hustling against them. If one would discover traces of their presence, let him sift some ashes upon the floor at his bedside, and next morning he will see, as it were, the footmarks of fowls on the surface. But if one would see the demons themselves, he must burn to ashes the after-birth of a first-born black kitten, the offspring of a first-born black cat, and then put a little of the ashes into his eyes, and he will not fail to see them," &c., &c.

Berachoth, fol. 6, col. 1