Saturday, August 27, 2005

Give tithes and honor the sabbath: honor the sabbath and it will honor you


R. Hiyya b. Abba said in R. Johanan's name: He who observes the Sabbath according to its laws, even if he practises idolatry like the generation of Enosh, is forgiven, for it is said, Blessed is Enosh that does this ... [that keeps the Sabbath mehallelo from profaning it]: read not mehallelo but mahul lo [he is forgiven].

Rab Judah said in Rab's name: Had Israel kept the first Sabbath, no nation or tongue would have enjoyed dominion over them, for it is said, And it came to pass on the seventh day, that there went out some of the people for to gather; which is followed by, Then came Amalek. R. Johanan said in the name of R. Simeon b. Yohai: If Israel were to keep two Sabbaths according to the laws thereof, they would be redeemed immediately, for it is said, Thus saith the Lord of the eunuch that keep my Sabbaths, which is followed by, even them will I bring to my holy mountain, etc.

And from today's daf 119a:

Joseph-who-honours-the-Sabbaths had in his victory a certain gentile who owned much property. Soothsayers17 told him, ‘Joseph-who-honours-the-Sabbaths will consume all your property. — [So] he went, sold all his property, and bought a precious stone with the proceeds, which he set in his turban. As he was crossing a bridge the wind blew it off and cast it into the water, [and] a fish swallowed it. [Subsequently] it [the fish] was hauled up and brought [to market] on the Sabbath eve towards sunset. ‘Who will buy now?’ cried they. ‘Go and take them to Joseph-who-honours-the-Sabbaths,’ they were told, ‘as he is accustomed to buy.’ So they took it to him. He bought it, opened it, found the jewel therein, and sold it for thirteen roomfuls of gold denarii. A certain old man met him [and] said, ‘He who lends to the Sabbath, the Sabbath repays him.’

Rabbi asked R. Ishmael son of R. Jose, The wealthy in Palestine, whereby do they merit [wealth]? — Because they give tithes, he replied, as it is written, ‘Asser te'asser [which means], give tithes [‘asser] so that thou mayest become wealthy [tith'asser]. Those in Babylon, wherewith do they merit [it]? — Because they honour the Torah, replied he. And those in other countries, whereby do they merit it? — Because they honour the Sabbath, answered he. For R. Hiyya b. Abba related: I was once a guest of a man in Laodicea, and a golden table was brought before him, which had to be carried by sixteen men; sixteen silver chains were fixed in it, and plates, goblets, pitchers and flasks were set thereon, thereon, and upon it were all kinds of food, dainties and spices. When they set it down they recited, The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; and when they removed it [after the meal] they recited, The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, But the earth hath he given to the children of men. Said I to him, ‘My son! whereby hast thou merited this?’ ‘I was a butcher,’ replied he, ‘and of every fine beast I used to say, "’This shall be for the Sabbath"’. Said I to him, ‘Happy art thou that thou hast [so] merited, and praised be the Omnipresent who has permitted thee to enjoy [all] this.’

The emperor said to R. Joshua b. Hanania, ‘Why has the Sabbath dish such a fragrant odour?’ ‘We have a certain seasoning,’ replied he, ‘called the Sabbath, which we put into it, and that gives it a fragrant odour.’ ‘Give us some of it,’ asked he. ‘To him who keeps the Sabbath,’ retorted he, ‘it is efficacious; but to him who does not keep the Sabbath it is of no use.’

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The aleph-bet is explained

Talmud Shabbat 104a

It was stated above, Rabbi CHisda said: The mem and the samek which were in the Tables stood [there] by a miracle. R. Hisda also said: The writing of the Tables could be read from within and without, e.g., nebub [hollow] would be read buban;-behar [in the mountain] [as] rahab; saru [they departed] [as] waras. The Rabbis told R. Joshua ben Levi: Children have come to the Bet Hamidrash and said things the like of which was not said even in the days of Joshua the son of Nun. [Thus:] alef Bet [means] ‘learn wisdom [alef Binah]; Gimmel Dalet, show kindness to the Poor [Gemol Dallim]. Why is the foot of the Gimmel stretched toward the Dalet? Because it is fitting for the benevolent to run after [seek out] the poor. And why is the roof of the Dalet stretched out toward the Gimmel? Because he [the poor] must make himself available to him. And why is the face of the Dalet turned away from the Gimmel? Because he must give him [help] in secret, lest he be ashamed of him. He, Waw, that is the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He; Zayyin, Het, Tet, Yod, Kaf, Lamed: [this sequence teaches,] and if thou doest thus, the Holy One, blessed be He, will sustain [Zan] thee, be gracious [Hen] unto thee, show goodness [metib] to thee, give thee a heritage [Yerushah], and bind a crown [Keter] on thee in the world to come. The open Mem and the closed Mem [denote] open teaching [Ma'amar] and closed [esoteric] teaching. The bent Nun and the straight Nun: the faithful [Ne'eman] if bent [humble], [will ultimately be] the faithful, straightened. Samek, ‘ayyin: support [Semak] the poor [‘aniyyim]. Another interpretation: devise [‘aseh] mnemonics [Simanin] in the Torah and [thus] acquire [memorize] it. The bent pe and the straight pe [intimate] an open mouth [peh], a closed mouth. A bent tzadde and a straight tzadde: the righteous [tzaddik] is bent [in this world]; the righteous is straightened [in the next world]. But that is identical with the faithful bent [and] the faithful straightened?-The Writ added humility to his humility; hence [we learn that] the Torah was given under great submissiveness. Kuf [stands for] Kadosh [holy]; Resh [for] Rasha’ [wicked]: why is the face of the Kuf averted from, the Resh? The Holy One, blessed be He, said: I cannot look at the wicked. And why is the crown of the Kuf turned toward the Resh? The Holy One, blessed be He, saith: If he repents, I will bind a crown on him like Mine. And why is the foot of the Kuf suspended? [To show] that if he repents, he can enter and be brought in [to God's favour] through this [opening]. This supports Resh Lakish, for Resh Lakish said: What is meant by, Surely he scorneth the scorners, But he giveth grace unto the lowly? If one comes to defile himself, he is given an opening; if one comes to cleanse himself, he is helped. SHin [stands for] SHeker [falsehood]; Tav [for] emet [truth]: why are the letters of Sheker close together, whilst those of ‘emet are far apart? Falsehood is frequent, truth is rare. And why does falsehood [stand] on one foot, whilst truth has a brick-like foundation? Truth can stand, falsehood cannot stand.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Our father, Isaac

I'm a little behind in my daf yomi, but I did find this interesting piece of Aggada (Shabbat 89b). Usually Isaac is kind of a bland character, but here he plays a role not unlike that of Rachel in the midrash.

R. Samuel b. Nakhmani also said in R. Yonathan's name: What is meant by, For thou art our father, though Abraham knoweth is not, and Israel doth not acknowledge us: thou, O Lord, art our father; our redeemer from everlasting is thy name?
In the future to come the Holy One, blessed be He, will say to Abraham. ‘Thy children have sinned against Me.’ He shall answer Him, ‘Sovereign of the Universe! Let them be wiped out for the sanctification of Thy Name.’ Then shall He say, ‘I will say this to Jacob, who experienced the pain of bringing up children: peradventure he will supplicate mercy for them. ‘So He will say to him, ‘Thy children have sinned.’ He [too] shall answer Him, ‘Sovereign of the Universe! Let them be wiped out for the sanctification of Thy Name.’ He shall retort, ‘There is no reason in old men, and no counsel in children!’ Then shall he say to Isaac, ‘Thy children have sinned against me.’ But he shall answer Him, ‘Sovereign of the Universe! Are they my children and not Thy children. When they gave precedence to "we will do" over "we will hearken" before Thee, Thou calledst them, Israel my son, my firstborn:11 now they are my sons, not Thy sons! Moreover, how much have they sinned? How many are the years of man? Seventy. Subtract twenty, for which Thou dost not punish, [and] there remain fifty. Subtract twenty-five which comprise the nights, [and] there remain twenty-five. Subtract twelve and a half of prayer, eating, and Nature's calls, [and] there remain twelve and a half. If Thou wilt bear all, ‘tis well; if not, half be upon me and half upon Thee. And shouldst Thou say, they must all be upon me, lo! I offered myself up before Thee [as a sacrifice]!’ [Thereupon] they shall commence and say, ‘For thou [i.e., Isaac] art our father.’ Then shall Isaac say to them, ‘Instead of praising me, praise the Holy One, blessed be He,’ and Isaac shall show them the Holy One, blessed be He, with their own eyes. Immediately they shall lift up their eyes on high and exclaim, ‘Thou, O Lord, art our father; our redeemer from everlasting is thy name.’