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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Bathra

Folio 123a

his share, [when he is co-heir] with one [is to be compared with] his share [when he is co-heir] with five; as [in the case of inheriting] his share with one [brother, he receives] twice as much as the one1  so [in the case when he inherits] his share with five [brothers he should also receive only] twice as much as one. Or perhaps argue this way:2  [let] his share [when he is co-heir] with one [brother] be compared with his share [when co-heir] with five [brothers]; as his share [when co-heir] with one is a double portion in all the estate3  so [is the case when he inherits] his share with five [he should also receive] a double portion in all the estate?4  — It was expressly taught, Then it shall be in the day that he causeth his sons to inherit,5  the Torah [thus] assigned the greater portion to the brothers.6  Consequently, the deduction is not to be made according to the second proposition7  but according to the first.8  Furthermore it is said, And the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel; for he was the firstborn; but forasmuch as he defiled his father's couch, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel, yet not so that he was to be reckoned in the genealogy of firstborn.9  Furthermore it is said, For Judah prevailed above his brethren and of him came he that is the prince; but the birthright was Joseph's.10  'Birthright' was said [in relation] to Joseph10  and 'birthright' was said [in relation] to [coming] generations,11  just as the birthright that was said [in relation] to Joseph [consisted in his receiving a portion] twice as much [as any] one [of the others]12  so the birthright that was said [in relation] to the [coming] generations13  [is to consist in the receiving of a portion] twice as much as [any] one [of the others]. Furthermore it is said, Moreover I have given thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.13  Did he take [it] with his sword and with his bow'? Surely it has already been said, For I trust not in my bow, neither can my sword save me!14  But, my sword, means 'prayer' [and] my bow, means supplication'.15

What need was there for quoting the several Scriptural verses?16  — In case you should suggest [that] that [verse17  was required] for [the indication that the law is] in accordance with [the view of] R. Johanan b. Beroka,18  — Come and hear [the verse], And the sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel. And in case you should suggest [that] birthright19  from his birthright20  may not be deduced, Come and hear [the verse], But the birthright was Joseph's.21  And in case you should say whence [is it proved] that Joseph himself [received] twice as much as [any] one [of the others], — Come and hear [the verse], Moreover I have given thee one portion above thy brethren.

R. Papa said to Abaye: Might [it not] be suggested [that Joseph received] merely a palm tree?22  — He replied unto him: For your sake23  Scripture said, Ephraim and Manasseh, even as Reuben and Simeon shall be mine.24

R. Helbo enquired of R. Samuel b. Nahmani: What [reason] did Jacob see for taking away the birthright from Reuben and giving it to Joseph? — What did he see? [Surely] it is written, Forasmuch as he defiled his father's couch! But, [this is the question]: What [reason] did he see for giving it to Joseph? — Let me give you a parable. This thing may be compared25  to a host26  who brought up an orphan27  at his house. After a time that orphan became rich28  and declared: 'I would let the host have [some] benefit from my wealth',29  He said unto him: But had not Reuben sinned, [Jacob] would not have bestowed upon Joseph any benefit at all?30  But R. Jonathan your master did not say so.31  The birthright, [he said], should have emanated from Rachel, as it is written, These are the generations of Jacob, Joseph,32  but Leah anticipated [her with her prayers for] mercy. On account, [however], of the modesty, which was characteristic of Rachel, the Holy One, blessed he He, restored it to her. What [was it that caused] Leah to anticipate her with [her supplications for] mercy? — It is written And the eyes of Leah were weak.33  What [is meant by] weak?34  If it is suggested [that the meaning is that her eyes were] actually weak, [is this, it may be asked,] conceivable? [If] Scripture did not speak disparagingly of an unclean animal, for it is written, of the clean beasts, and of the beasts that are not clean,35  [would] Scripture speak disparagingly of the righteous?36  — But, said R. Eleazar, [the meaning of rakkoth37  is] that her bounties were extensive.38  Rab said: [Her eyes were] indeed actually weak, but that was no disgrace to her but a credit; for at the crossroads39  she heard people saying: Rebecca has two sons, [and] Laban has two daughters; the elder [daughter should be married] to the elder [son] and the younger [daughter should be married] to the younger [son]. And she sat at the crossroads and inquired: 'How does the elder one conduct himself?'40  [And the answer came that he was] a wicked man, a highway robber.41  'How does the younger man conduct himself?' — 'A quiet man dwelling in tents'.42  And she wept until her eyelashes dropped.43  And this accounts for the Scriptural text, And the Lord saw that Leah was hated.44  What [could be the meaning of] 'hated'? If it is suggested [that it means that she was] actually hated, [surely] it may be retorted, is this] conceivable? [If] Scripture did not speak disparagingly of an unclean animal, [would] it speak disparagingly of the righteous? But the [meaning is this]: The Holy One, blessed be He, saw that Esau's conduct was hateful to her, so he opened her womb.45

Wherein did Rachel's modesty lie? — It is written, And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's brother and that he was Rebecca's son.46  Was he not the son of her father's sister? But he said to her, '[Will] you marry me?'47  [And] she replied to him, 'Yes, but father is a sharper, and you will not he able [to hold your own against] him'. ''Wherein,' he asked her, 'does his sharp dealing lie?' — 'I have,' she said, 'a sister who is older than I, and he will not allow me to be married before her' — 'I am his brother', he said to her, 'in sharp dealing'. — 'But,' she said to him, 'may the righteous indulge in sharp dealing?' — 'Yes,' [he replied]. 'With the pure, [Scripture says], Thou dost show thyself pure, and with the crooked Thou dost show thyself subtle.'48  [Thereupon] he entrusted her [with certain identification] marks.49  While Leah was being led into [the bridal chamber] she50  thought, 'my sister will now be disgraced', [and so] she entrusted her [with] these very [marks]. And this accounts for the Scriptural text, And it came to pass in the morning that, behold, it was Leah,51  which seems to imply that until then she was not Leah! But, [this is the explanation]: On account of the [identification] marks which Jacob had entrusted to Rachel who had entrusted them to Leah, he knew not [who] she [was] until that moment.

Abba Halifa of Keruya enquired of R. Hiyya b. Abba: [With regard to those who entered Egypt with Jacob], Why do you find [the number] seventy in their total52  and [only] seventy minus one in their detailed enumeration?53  — He said unto him: A twin [sister] was [born] with Dinah; for it is written, With [eth] his daughter Dinah.54  But if so,55  was there [also] a twin [sister] with Benjamin, for it is written

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. For in whatever way the double portion is arrived at, it would, in this case, inevitably consist of a shore which is double the size of that of the other brother.
  2. Lit., 'or turn (finish and go) to this way'.
  3. I.e., two thirds of the estate. In whatever way the division is arrived at, the double portion will, in this case, always consist of two thirds of the entire estate.
  4. The firstborn should receive two thirds of the estate, and all the others together one third.
  5. Deut. XXI, 16.
  6. Since this verse is altogether superfluous, the law of the right of the firstborn being specifically mentioned in v. 17, it is assumed to imply that where there are three brothers or more they must get the larger share of the estate. Hence, the firstborn cannot receive two thirds of the estate.
  7. Cf. p. 507 n. 12.
  8. Cf. p. 507, n. 13.
  9. I Chron. V, 1. He was not to hove the designation of the 'first-born', which was the prerogative of Reuben, nad his birthright was only to entitle him to receive a double portion.
  10. Ibid. v. 2.
  11. The low of the birthright, Deut. XXI, 17.
  12. As will be shown infra.
  13. Gen. XLVIII, 22.
  14. Ps. XLIV, 7.
  15. ['Sword' or 'bow' are taken to denote spiritual weapons.]
  16. Lit., 'why and he says'.
  17. Deut. XXI, 16, quoted first.
  18. V. 130a.
  19. [H] ibid. V, 17.
  20. [H] I Chron. V, 1.
  21. In this verse, as in Deut. XXI, 17, the noun Bekorah, without a suffix, is used.
  22. I.e., some small gift. 'A portion above thy brethren', does not prove that he received a double portion.
  23. Lit., 'upon', or 'for thee'.
  24. Gen. XLVIII, 5. Reuben and Simeon were two separate tribes, and Joseph was promised two shares as if he represented two distinct tribes.
  25. Lit., 'to what is the thing like'.
  26. Joseph, who maintained his father. V., Gen. XLVII, 12.
  27. Jacob, whose livelihood during the famine, was entirely dependent on Joseph.
  28. The disposal of the birthright came into the hands of Jacob, through Reuben's offence.
  29. Jacob gave Joseph the birthright in recognition for the hospitality he afforded him and his family.
  30. Surely, his recognition of Joseph's services should not have depended on the remote chance of a birthright becoming available for disposal.
  31. Jacob gave to Joseph, in recognition of his benefaction, other gifts and blessings, while the change of the birthright was due to other causes.
  32. Gen. XXXVII, 2, implying that Joseph, the first-born son of Rachel, should also have been the firstborn of Jacob.
  33. Ibid. XXIX, 17.
  34. [H]
  35. Ibid. VII, 8. Instead of the brief, but disparaging expression [H] (unclean), the longer, and more euphemistic expression lo [H] (not clean) is used.
  36. Lit., 'of the disgrace of the righteous'.
  37. V. note 4.
  38. Rakkoth is taken to be an abbreviation of [H] 'long', i.e., she had many privileges. Priests and Levites through Levi, and kings through Judah, descended from her.
  39. Where people of all classes and localities meet.
  40. Lit., 'what are his deeds'.
  41. Lit., 'robbing people'.
  42. Gen. XXV, 27.
  43. From their lids.
  44. Ibid. XXIX, 31.
  45. Ibid. v. 31.
  46. Ibid. v. 12.
  47. Lit., 'be married to me'.
  48. II Sam. XXII, 27.
  49. By which he might know her in the dark.
  50. Rachel.
  51. Gen. XXIX, 25.
  52. Ibid. XLVI, 27.
  53. V. ibid. 8ff.
  54. Ibid. 15. The superfluous 'with', Heb. eth [H] implies the birth of a twin sister.
  55. Lit., 'from now'. If eth implies the birth of a twin.
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Baba Bathra 123b

With [eth] Benjamin, his brother, his mother's son?1  — He said: I possessed a precious pearl2  and you seek to deprive me of it.3  Thus said4  R. Hama b. Hanina, 'It5  was Jochebed who was conceived on the way6  and born between the walls [of Egypt], for it is said, Who was born to Levi in Egypt,7  [which implies that] her birth was in Egypt but her conception was not in Egypt'.

R. Helbo enquired of R. Samuel b. Nahmani: It is written, And it came to pass, when Rachel had born Joseph etc.;8  why9  just when Joseph was horn? He replied to him: Jacob our father saw that Esau's seed would be delivered only into the hands of Joseph's seed for it is said, And the house of Jacob shall be a fire and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble etc.10

He pointed out to him the following objection: And David smote them from the twilight even unto the evening of the next day!11  — He replied to him: He who taught you the Prophets did not teach you the Writings,12  for it is written, As he went to Zicklag, there fell to him of Manasseh, Adnah and Jozabad and Jediael and Michael and Jozabad and Elihu, and Zillethai, captains of thousands that were of Manasseh.13

R. Joseph raised an objection; And some of them, even of the sons of Simeon, five hundred men, went to Mount Seir, having for their captains Palatiah and Neariah, and Raphaiah and Uzziel, the sons of Ishi. And they smote the remnant of the Amalekites that escaped, and dwelt there unto this day!14  — Rabbah b. Shila replied; Ishi descended from the sons of Manasseh, for it is written, And the sons of Manasseh were Hepher and Ishi.15

Our Rabbis taught: The firstborn son [of a priest] takes a double portion in the shoulder, and the [two] cheeks, and the maw,16  in consecrated objects and in the [natural] appreciation of an estate that accrued after the death of the father.17  How [is this to be understood]? — [If] their father had bequeathed to them a cow [that was] rented out to others [for half profit], or given on hire [at a fixed rate], or feeding in the meadow, and it gave birth to a firstling, he18  takes [in it] a double portion;19  but if they20  built houses or planted vineyards, the firstborn does not take [in them] a double portion.21

How is one to understand [the statement about] the shoulder, and the [two] cheeks, and the maw? If these were already in the possession22  of their father, [it is] obvious [that the firstborn is to take a double portion]; and if they were not already in the possession of their father, [at the time of his death], this [is a case of] prospective [property]23  and, [surely], a firstborn does not take [a double portion] in prospective [property] as [he does] in that which [was] in the [actual] possession [of his father at the time of his death]! — [The law], here, relates to the case where [the givers24  were] acquaintances of the priest,25  and [the beast] was [ritually] killed in the lifetime of the father;26  and [the Tanna] holds that the [priestly] gifts are regarded as [already] given,27  [even though] they have not [actually] been given.28

'Consecrated things' [surely], are not his!29  — [The law here relates to] consecrated objects of a minor degree and [it is] in accordance with [the view of] R. Jose the Galilean who holds that they30  are the property of the owner.31  For it was taught: And commit a trespass against the Lord [and deal falsely with his neighbour etc.]32  includes consecrated things of a minor degree which are the property of the owner33  — these are the words of R. Jose the Galilean. 'If their father had bequeathed to them a cow that was rented out to others [for half profit], or given on hire [at a fixed rate], or feeding in the meadow, and it gave birth to a firstling, he takes [in it] a double portion.' Since it was said that he takes [a double portion in the case of a cow that was] rented out or given on hire, though, [in both cases,] it is not standing in the domain of its owner, is there any need [to mention the case when] it feeds in the meadow?34  It is this that was [intended to be] taught: That one rented out or given on hire [is subject to] the same [law as] one that feeds in the meadow. As [in the case of the] one that feeds in the meadow, the appreciation [is such] as comes naturally, and they35  do not lose [the cost of its] food36

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Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Ibid. XLIII, 29.
  2. R. Hama's exposition.
  3. I.e., to make it public. R. Hiyya's remarks were intended to raise the interest of the students in what he was going to tell them.
  4. Supran 120a, Sotah, 12a.
  5. The person whose name was omitted from the detailed enumeration.
  6. From Canaan to Egypt.
  7. Num. XXVI, 59.
  8. Gen. XXX, 25.
  9. Why did Jacob say to Laban, 'send me away to my country' (ibid).
  10. Obad. I, 18.
  11. I Sam. XXX, 17. This shows that a descendant of Judah (David) defeated the descendants of Esau (Amalek, cf. Gen. XXXVI, 12). How, then, could it be said that Esau's seed would fall into the hands of Joseph's seed only?
  12. The Hagiographa.
  13. I Chron. XII, 20. The victory of David was accordingly due to the help he received from the men of Manasseh who descended from Joseph.
  14. Ibid. IV, 42f. This proves that Esau's seed fell also into the hands of the descendants of Simeon. How, then, could it be said that only Joseph's descendants could overcome Esau's seed?
  15. This quotation does not occur in our Bible text. The nearest approach is I Chron. V, 24, 'And these were the heads of their father's houses, Epher and Ishi'.
  16. The priests' due from people who offer sacrifices. V., Deut. XVIII, 3.
  17. Of the heirs.
  18. The firstborn.
  19. Since the appreciation was natural, it is regarded as having formed part in the original estate in their father's lifetime.
  20. The heirs.
  21. Since the appreciation of the estate was due to human effort, it cannot be regarded as having formed part of the original estate. V. Tosef. Bek. VI.
  22. Lit., 'they came into the hand'.
  23. The case of these priestly gifts is altogether different from that of the natural appreciation of an estate. In the latter case, the estate itself was in the possession of the deceased, and its natural appreciation may consequently be regarded as an integral part of the original estate. The priestly gifts, on the other hand, were never, directly or indirectly, in the possession of the deceased.
  24. Of the priestly gifts mentioned.
  25. [H], Makkire Kehunah. Lit., 'acquaintances of priesthood'. Friends of the deceased who were in the habit of giving him all their priestly gifts, which, consequently, become his as soon as the beast had been killed. [Klein S., regards the phrase as terminus technicus for the 'watches' ([H]) of priests in attendance at the Temple service for one week at a time. He connects it with [H] in Deut. XVIII, 8, which is thus understood by the Talmud, Suk. 46a. V., MGWJ. 77, 185ff.]
  26. Of the heirs.
  27. Lit., 'lifted' 'separated'.
  28. Hence, the gifts are regarded as having been in the actual possession of the deceased, and the firstborn is, therefore, entitled to a double portion.
  29. Consecrated objects such, e.g., as sin, or guilt offerings, are devoted to the Lord, not to the priest; why' then, should the firstborn be entitled to a double portion in that which did not belong personally to his father?
  30. Objects, such as live beasts consecrated as peace offerings.
  31. Having been, accordingly, the property of the father, the firstborn son is entitled to the double portion.
  32. Lev. V, 21.
  33. Since Scripture speaks of a trespass against the Lord and of dealing falsely with one's neighbour, it must refer to consecrated objects of a minor degree, such as live peace offerings, a share of which (the flesh and skin) belongs to the owner, and a share is either given to the priest or burnt on the altar.
  34. Where it is entirely in the possession of the heirs.
  35. The heirs.
  36. Feeding in the meadow is free.
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