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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Berakoth

Folio 59a

and in fact it looks like a piece torn off;1  and the reason why she follows her is because she is saying to her: Give me my children. For at the time when the Holy One, blessed be He, wanted to bring a flood upon the world, He took two stars from Kimah and brought a flood upon the world. And when He wanted to stop it, He took two stars from 'Ayish and stopped it. But why did He not put the other two back? — A pit cannot be filled with its own clods;2  or another reason is, the accuser cannot become advocate. Then He should have created two other stars for it? — There is nothing new under the sun.3  R. Nahman said: The Holy one, blessed be He, will one day restore them to her, as it says: and 'Ayish will be comforted for her children.4

AND OVER EARTHQUAKES [ZEWA'OTH]. What are ZEWA'OTH? R. Kattina said: A rumbling of the earth. R. Kattina was once going along the road, and when he came to the door of the house of a certain necromancer, there was a rumbling of the earth. He said: Does the necromancer know what this rumbling is? He called after him, Kattina, Kattina, why should I not know? When the Holy One, blessed be He, calls to mind His children, who are plunged in suffering among the nations of the world, He lets fall two tears into the ocean, and the sound is heard from one end of the world to the other, and that is the rumbling. Said R. Kattina: The necromancer is a liar and his words are false. If it was as he says, there should be one rumbling after another! He did not really mean this, however. There really was one rumbling after another, and the reason why he did not admit it was so that people should not go astray after him. R. Kattina, for his own part, said: [God] clasps His hands, as it says: I will also smite my hands together, and I will satisfy my fury.5  R. Nathan said: [God] emits a sigh, as it is said: I will satisfy my fury upon them and I will be eased.6  And the Rabbis said: He treads upon the firmament, as it says: He giveth a noise as they that tread grapes against all the inhabitants of the earth.7  R. Aha b. Jacob says: He presses his feet together beneath the throne of glory, as it says: Thus saith the Lord, the heaven is my throne and the earth is my foot-stool.8

AND OVER THUNDERS [RE'AMIM]. What are RE'AMIM? — Clouds in a whirl, as it says: The voice of Thy thunder was in the whirlwind; the lightning lighted up the world, the earth trembled and shook.9  The Rabbis, however, say: The clouds pouring water into one another, as it says: At the sound of His giving a multitude of waters in the heavens.10  R. Aha b. Jacob said: A powerful lightning flash that strikes the clouds and breaks off hailstones. R. Ashi said: The clouds are puffed out and a blast of wind comes and blows across the mouth of them and it makes a sound like wind blowing across the mouth of a jar. The most probable view is that of R. Aha b. Jacob; for the lightning flashes and the clouds rumble and then rain falls.

AND OVER STORMS [RUHOTH]. What are RUHOTH? — Abaye said: A hurricane. Abaye further said: We have a tradition that a hurricane never comes at night. But we see that it does come? — It must have commenced by day. Abaye further said: We have a tradition that a hurricane does not last two hours, to fulfil the words of Scripture, Troubles shall not rise up the second time.11  But we have seen it lasting as long? — There was an interval in the middle.

OVER LIGHTNINGS [BERAKIM] ONE SAYS, BLESSED IS HE WHOSE STRENGTH AND MIGHT FILL THE WORLD. What are BERAKIM? Raba said: Lightning. Rab also said: A single flash, white lightning, blue lightning, clouds that rise in the west and come from the south, and two clouds that rise facing one another are all [signs of] trouble. What is the practical bearing of this remark? That prayer is needed [to avert the omen]. This is only the case by night; but in the daytime there is no significance in them. R. Samuel b. Isaac said: Those morning clouds have no significance,12  as it is said: Your goodness is as a morning cloud.13  Said R. Papa to Abaye: But there is a popular saying: When on opening the door you find rain, ass-driver, put down your sack and go to sleep [on it]?14  — There is no contradiction; in the one case the sky is covered with thick clouds, in the other with light clouds.

R. Alexandri said in the name of R. Joshua b. Levi: Thunder was created only to straighten out the crookedness of the heart, as it says: God hath so made it that men should fear before him.15  R. Alexandri also said in the name of R. Joshua b. Levi: One who sees the rainbow in the clouds should fall on his face, as it says, As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud, and when I saw it I fell upon my face.16  In the West [Palestine] they cursed anyone who did this, because it looks as if he was bowing down to the rainbow; but he certainly makes a blessing. What blessing does he say? — 'Blessed is He who remembers the Covenant'. In a Baraitha it was taught: R. Ishmael the son of R. Johanan b. Beroka says: He says: Who is faithful with his Covenant and fulfils his word.

FOR MOUNTAINS AND HILLS, etc. Do all the things we have mentioned hitherto not belong to the work of creation? Is it not written, He maketh lightnings for the rain?17  — Abaye said: Combine the two statements.18  Raba said: In the former cases he says two blessings, 'Blessed be He whose strength fills the world and who has wrought the work of creation'; in this case there is ground for saying 'Who has wrought creation' but not for 'Whose strength fills the world'.19

R. Joshua b. Levi said: If one sees the sky in all its purity, he says: Blessed is He who has wrought the work of creation. When does he say so? — Abaye said: When there has been rain all the night, and in the morning the north wind comes and clears the heavens. And they differ from Rafram b. Papa quoting R. Hisda. For Rafram b. Papa said in the name of R. Hisda: Since the day when the Temple was destroyed there has never been a perfectly clear sky, since it says: I clothe the heavens with blackness

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. And then stuck on artificially.
  2. V. supra, p. 10, n. 1.
  3. Eccl. 1, 9.
  4. Job. XXXVIII, 32. E.V. 'or canst thou guide the Bear with her sons'.
  5. Ezek. XXI, 22.
  6. Ibid. V, 13.
  7. Jer. XXV, 30.
  8. Isa. LXVI, 1.
  9. Ps. LXXVII, 19.
  10. Jer. X, 13.
  11. Nahum I, 9.
  12. I.e., do not portend a good fall of rain.
  13. Hosea VI, 4.
  14. Because corn will be cheap on account of the abundant rain.
  15. Eccl. III, 14.
  16. Ezek. I, 28.
  17. Ps. CXXXV, 7.
  18. I.e., say in all cases the double blessing.
  19. Because the mountains are not all in one place.
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Berakoth 59b

and I make a sackcloth their covering.1

Our Rabbis taught:2  He who sees the sun at its turning point,3  the moon in its power,4  the planets in their orbits,5  and the signs of the zodiac in their orderly progress,6  should say: Blessed be He who has wrought the work of creation. And when [does this happen]?7  — Abaye said: Every twenty-eight years when the cycle8  begins again and the Nisan [Spring] equinox falls in Saturn on the evening of Tuesday,9  going into Wednesday.

R. JUDAH SAYS: IF ONE SEES THE GREAT SEA etc. How long must the intervals be? Rami b. Abba said in the name of R. Isaac: From thirty days. Rami b. Abba also said in the name of R. Isaac: If one sees the River Euphrates by the Bridge of Babylon, he says: Blessed is He who has wrought the work of creation.10  Now, however, that the Persians have changed it,11  only if he sees it from Be Shapor12  and upwards. R. Joseph says: From Ihi Dekira13  and upwards. Rami b. Abba also said: If one sees the Tigris by the Bridge of Shabistana,14  he says: Blessed is He who wrought the work of creation. Why is it [the Tigris] called Hiddekel?15  — R. Ashi said: Because its waters are sharp [had] and swift [kal]. Why is it [the Euphrates] called Perath? — Because its waters are fruitful [parim] and multiply. Raba also said: The reason why people of Mahoza are so sharp is because they drink the waters of the Tigris; the reason why they have red spots is because they indulge in sexual intercourse in the daytime; the reason why their eyes blink is because they live in dark houses.16

FOR THE RAIN etc. Is the benediction for rain 'Who is good and does good'? Has not R. Abbahu said — some say it has been taught in a Baraitha: From when do they say the blessing over rain? From the time when the bridegroom goes out to meet his bride.17  What blessing do they say? R. Judah said: We give thanks to Thee for every drop which Thou hast caused to fall for us; and R. Johanan concluded thus: 'If our mouths were full of song like the sea … we could not sufficiently give thanks unto Thee, O Lord our God, etc.' up to 'shall prostrate itself before Thee. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, to whom abundant thanksgivings are due'.18  (Is it abundant thanksgivings and not all thanksgivings? — Raba said: Say, 'the God to whom thanksgivings are due'. R. Papa said: Therefore let us say both 'to whom abundant thanksgivings are due' and 'God of thanksgivings'.) But after all there is a contradiction? — There is no contradiction; the one blessing19  is said by one who has heard [that it has been raining]; the other by one who has seen it. But one who hears of it hears good tidings, and we have learnt: For good tidings one says: Blessed is He who is good and does good?20  In fact both are said by one who sees it, and still there is no contradiction: the one is said if only a little falls, the other, if much falls. Or if you like, I can say that both are said for a heavy fall, and still there is no contradiction: the one is said by a man who has land, the other by one who has no land. Does one who has land say the blessing, 'Who is good and does good'? Has it not been taught: One who has built a new house or bought new clothes says: Blessed is He who has kept us alive and brought us to this season; [if it is] for himself along with others, he says: 'Who is good and does good'?21  This is no contradiction. The one blessing22  is said if he has a partnerships the others if he has no partnership. And thus it has been taught: In a word, for his own things he says: Blessed is He who has kept us alive and preserved us; for things which belong to him in conjunction with this neighbour, he says: Blessed is He who is good and does good.23  And if no-one is associated with him in the ownership, does he never say the blessing, Who is good and does good? Has it not been taught: If a man is told that his wife has borne a son, he says: Blessed is He that is good and does good? — In that case, too, his wife is associated with him, because she is glad to have a son. Come and hear: If a man's father dies and he is his heir, first he says: Blessed is the true Judge, and afterwards he says: Blessed is He who is good and does good? — There, too, it is a case where there are brothers who inherit with him. Come and hear: Over a new kind of wine24  there is no need to make a blessing; but if one goes to another place,25  he must say a blessing again; and R. Joseph b. Abba said in the name of R. Johanan: Although they said that over a fresh kind of wine there is no need to make a blessing, still he says: Blessed is He who is good and does good? — There, too, It is a case where there are other members of the company who drink with him.

ONE WHO HAS BUILT A NEW HOUSE OR BOUGHT NEW VESSELS etc. R. Huna said: This is the rule only if he does not possess similar things; but if he has similar ones, he need not say the blessing. R. Johanan, however, says: Even if he has similar ones26  he must make the blessing.27

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Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Isa. L. 3.
  2. (*) Note 6 [note 3 on this web page] and the notes on the following page are based on material supplied by the late Dr. W. M. Feldman, M.D., B.S., F.R.C.P., F.R.A.S., F.R.S. (Edin.), shortly before his death on July 1st, 1939.
  3. In its apparent motion in the ecliptic, the sun has four 'turning points' which mark the beginnings of the four respective seasons. These points are generically referred to as the tekufoth (sing. tekufah). They are: the two equinoctial points when the sun crosses the equator at the beginning of spring and autumn respectively, and 'turns' from one side of the equator to the other; and the two solstices, when the sun is at its maximum distance, or declination, from the equator, at one or other side of it, at the beginning of summer and winter respectively, and instead of progressively increasing its declination it 'turns' to decrease it progressively. (It may be mentioned that the term 'tekufah' is also used not only for the beginning of a season but for the whole of the season itself.)
  4. As the sun and moon were created to rule the day and night respectively (Gen. I, 16), they are necessarily endowed with the attribute of power (cf. Sabbath Liturgy [H] ). In this passage, however, 'the moon in its power' may have a special significance, because at the Nisan, or spring equinox, the spring tides are greatest, owing to the combined action of the sun and the moon in conjunction, or new moon. The moon in its power to cause tides (a fact known to Pliny and Aristotle, and referred to by Maimonides (Guide II, 10), although never directly mentioned in the Talmud), is therefore best seen at this time.
  5. The orbits of the planets which are now known to be ellipses, were, on the Ptolemaic system, which prevailed at that time, assumed to be traced out by a most ingenious combination of eccentric circles and epicycles, (v. for instance, the epicyclic theory of the moon in Feldman W.M., Rabbinical Mathematics and Astronomy, London, 1931, pp. 132ff). Hence the contemplation of the planets in their orbits was an adequate reason for pronouncing the blessing.
  6. The vernal or autumnal equinox is not a fixed point in relation to the signs of the zodiac, but keeps on changing its position to the extent of 50.1". (50.1 seconds of arc) per year. This movement which is called 'precession of the equinoxes' is due to the continual shifting of the point of intersection of the ecliptic with the equator, but was believed by the ancients to be due to the progressive movement of the signs of the zodiac. As the result of precession, the equinoctial point which 2,000 years ago was the beginning of the sign Ram (first point of Aries) has since shifted 30" to the sign Pisces, although it is still spoken of as the first point of Aries.
  7. The reference is to the sun at its turning point (Rashi).
  8. This means here the Big or Solar Cycle. Taking a Samuel, or Julian, year to consist of 365 1/4 days or 52 weeks 1/4 days, every tekufah occurs 1 1/4 days later in the week every consecutive year, so that after 4 years it occurs at the same time of the day but (1 1/4 X 4 =) 5 days later in the week. After 28, or 4 X 7 years, the tekufah will recur not only at the same time of the day, but also on the same day of the week. V. Feldman, op. cit. p. 199.
  9. As the sun and moon were created on the 4th day, the beginning of the 28 years cycle is always on a Wednesday which begins at the vernal equinox at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. This, according to computation coincides with the rise of Saturn, v. Rashi.
  10. Because it was supposed that the River Euphrates from that point upwards had never changed its course since the days of Adam (Rashi).
  11. By making canals.
  12. Piruz Shabur on the eastern side of the Euphrates at the part where the Nahr Isa Canal branches off from the Euphrates connecting it at Bagdad with the Tigris (Obermeyer P. 57).
  13. The modern Hit.
  14. The bridge on the southern Tigris forming part of the great trading route between Khurzistan and Babylon during the Persian period (Obermeyer pp. 62ff.). For a full discussion and explanation of this whole passage v. Obermeyer pp. 52ff.
  15. Gen. II, 14.
  16. I.e., well-shaded from the sun.
  17. I.e., when the drops commence to rebound from the earth.
  18. V. P.B. p. 125.
  19. I.e., 'Who is good and does good'.
  20. And why should we be taught this again in the case of rain?
  21. And a landowner presumably does not share his land with others.
  22. The blessing, 'Who has kept us alive, etc.'.
  23. And the landowner shares the rain with all other landowners. (V. Rashi and Asheri).
  24. I.e., if one drinks a new (and better) kind of wine in the course of a meal.
  25. To finish his meal, and wine is brought to him there.
  26. E.g., from an inheritance.
  27. Because the buying at any rate is fresh.
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