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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin

Folio 26a

whereupon they all hid themselves. When the officer arrived [and rebuked him for failing in his duty,] he would say: Of whom shall I make the demand?1

Before he died, he said: Take the thirteen ma'ahs2  that are tied in my sheets and return them to so and so, for I took them from him [by way of tax] and have had no need for them.

R. SIMEON SAID, AT FIRST … GATHERERS OF THE PRODUCE OF THE SABBATICAL YEAR. What does he mean? — Rab Judah said: This; at first they [the Rabbis] ruled that gatherers of the Sabbatical produce3  are eligible, but traders in it are not. But when they saw that large numbers offered money to the poor,4  who then went, gathered the produce and brought it to them, they revised the law and enacted that both [gatherers and traders] are ineligible. The sons of Rehabah5  objected to this: Does this mean, WHEN THE OPPRESSORS GREW IN NUMBER? It should then have been worded: When the traders grew in number! But we may explain it thus: At first they ruled that both [even gatherers] were ineligible. But when THE OPPRESSORS GREW IN NUMBER, viz., the [collectors of] Arnona6  (judging by R. Jannai's proclamation, 'Go and sow your seed [even] in the Sabbatical year, because of the [collectors of] Arnona,')7  they revised the law and enacted that only traders were disqualified but not gatherers.8

R. Hiyya b. Zarnuki and R. Simeon b. Jehozadak once went to Assia9  to intercalate the year.10  They were met by Resh Lakish, who joined them, saying, 'I will come and see their procedure.'11  On the way, he saw a man ploughing, and remarked to them, 'That man who is ploughing is a priest.'12  But they replied, 'Can he not say: I am an imperial servant13  on the estate?' Further on he saw a man pruning his vineyard, and again observed, 'That pruner is a priest.' 'But', they demurred, 'he might say: I need [the twigs] to make a bale14  ['akkel] for the wine-press, [a legitimate purpose].' 'The heart knows whether it is for 'akkel' or 'akalkaloth [perverseness]', he retorted.15  — Now, which remark did he make first? Shall we say, his first remark was the one first recorded: then for the other too they could have suggested [the same excuse], 'I am an imperial servant on the estate.' Hence the latter remark must have come first: and only subsequently did he make the other observation.

Why was each assumed to be a priest? — Because they [the priests] are suspected of breaking the Sabbatical laws, as it has been taught; If a se'ah of Terumah16  [accidentally] fall into a hundred se'ahs of Sabbatical produce, it [the Terumah] is neutralised.17  In case of a lesser quantity [of Sabbatical produce], the whole must be left to rot.18  Now, we raised the question, Why must it be left to rot? Why not let it be sold to a priest at a price of Terumah19  less the value of the one se'ah!20  To which R. Hiyya replied on the authority of 'Ulla: This fact21  proves that the priests were suspected of violating the laws of the Sabbatical year.22

[To resume the narrative.] They said:23  He is a troublesome person, and so, on reaching their destination, they ascended to the upper chamber,24  and removed the ladder.25  Thereupon he [Resh Lakish] went before R. Johanan and asked: Are people suspected of trespassing Sabbatical laws26  qualified to intercalate the year? But on second thoughts he said: This presents no difficulty, for there is a similar case of three cowherds,27  upon whose calculations the Rabbis relied. Subsequently, however, he said: There is no comparison between the two cases; there it was the Rabbis who eventually decided28  and declared the year intercalated,29  whereas here, it is a confederacy of wicked men,30  such as may not be counted [on the intercalary board]. R. Johanan replied: That is a misfortune.31

When they32  came before R. Johanan, they complained: He described us as cowherds, and you made no objection whatever.33  R. Johanan answered: Even had he called you shepherds,34  what could I have said?

What is [the reference to] 'a confederacy of wicked men'? — [It is as follows:] Shebna35  expounded [the law] before thirteen myriads,36  whereas Hezekiah expounded it only before eleven. When Sennacherib37  came and besieged Jerusalem, Shebna wrote a note, which he shot on an arrow [into the enemy's camp, declaring]: Shebna and his followers are willing to conclude peace; Hezekiah and his followers are not. Thus it is written, For lo, the wicked bend the bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string.38  So Hezekiah was afraid, and said: Perhaps, Heaven forfend, the mind of the Holy One, blessed be He, is with the majority; and since they wish to surrender, we must do likewise! Thereupon the Prophet came and reassured him: Say ye not a confederacy, concerning all of whom this people do say, A confederacy;39  it is a confederacy of the wicked, and as such cannot be counted [for the purpose of a decision].

[Later, when] Shebna went to hew out for himself a sepulchre among the sepulchres of the house of David, the Prophet came and said to him: What hast thou here and whom hast thou here that thou hast hewn here a sepulchre? Behold, the Lord will hurl thee down as a man is hurled.40  Rab observed: Exile is a greater hardship for men than for women.41

Yea, He will surely cover thee42  R. Jose son of R. Hanina said: This teaches that he was stricken with leprosy: here it is written, surely cover; and elsewhere [in reference to a leper] it is said, And he shall cover his upper lip.43

He will violently roll and toss thee like a ball into a large country.44  It has been taught: He [Shebna] sought the shame of his master's house: therefore his own glory was turned to shame.45  [For] when he went out [on his way to surrender to Sennacherib], Gabriel came and shut the city gate in the face of his servants

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. [The demand here was not for the regular poll-tax, but in respect of a special imposition, v. Obermeyer, op. cit. 237.]
  2. Small coins, one ma'ah = 1/2 a silver dinar.
  3. It was permissible to gather Sabbatical produce and keep it as long as the same kind was available for the beasts of the field too. But when that was consumed, private possession was forbidden, and the produce had to be removed from the house and deposited in the fields, where it would be free to all. Now, in the case under discussion, it might have been possible for the gatherers to consume all they had gathered before the 'time of removal', in which case they committed no transgression; therefore they were not disqualified. [Yad Ramah adds 'even if they happened to sell any of the hoard'.]
  4. The poor could gather from all fields irrespective of the 'time of removal' (cf. Sheb. IX, 8; Nahmanides on Lev. XXV, 7), but only for their personal use. Thus, these wealthy men were disqualified because they virtually bribed the poor to trade therein. According to this, the Mishnah must be explained thus: At first, these were only regarded as gatherers (from the poor), and therefore eligible. But subsequently, when owing to the increase of oppressors (q.v. Mishnah), the practice of making gifts to the poor grew apace, the donors were classed as traders, not merely gatherers, and therefore disqualified (Rashi). [According to Yad Ramah it was the poor who were declared disqualified, as traffickers in Sabbatical produce.]
  5. [Efo and Abimi, v. supra 17b.]
  6. An adaptation of annona, the annual income of natural products. Hence taxes paid in kind.
  7. The observance of the Sabbatical year in post-Temple times was merely Rabbinical and therefore R. Jannai felt justified in abrogating it in the face of dire necessity (Rashi). [The privilege which the Jews enjoyed since the days of Caesar exempting them from taxes in the Sabbatical year (v. Josephus, Ant. XIV, 10, 5-6) was abrogated in the year 261 C.E. V. Graetz IV, 213, and Auerbach, M., Jahrb. d. jud. liter. Gesel. V, 155-188].
  8. Accordingly, the Mishnah is thus to be interpreted: AT FIRST … GATHERERS etc. i.e., even gatherers were classed amongst the ineligibles; BUT … TRADERS, i.e., only the latter were so designated, but not the former.
  9. Tosaf. regards it as a district outside Palestine and, since it was thus not qualified as a place for the intercalation of a year (cf. supra 11b), suggests that they must have gone there only for the purpose of calculating. (V. Yeb. 164). It is, however, probably Essa, east of the lake Tiberias, Neub. p. 38. 'Weinstein maintains that it is identical with Callirhoe and its surroundings on the east of the Jordan, near the Dead Sea (Jast.). [Halevy, Doroth, Ie, 787, suggests that Assia was specially chosen for the Intercalation as it was considered a safe place owing to its hot springs which attracted many visitors from far and wide, and the arrival of the Rabbis would not rouse the suspicion of the Romans.]
  10. From the context it appears that the incident must have happened in a Sabbatical year. But no intercalation could take place in such a year, (v. supra 12a) hence, as has been said, Tosaf. suggests that they must have gone there only for the purpose of making the necessary calculations. But even a Sabbatical year may be intercalated in an emergency. Cf. Yad, Kid. Hahodesh, 4, 16.
  11. V. supra 11a with reference to Samuel the Small.
  12. The reason for this statement is given below.
  13. Heb. [H] or [H] (Augustanus, Augustanius), a servant in a colonia Augustana (Jast.); an imperial servant, and therefore engaged in permissible labour. [Krauss, Lehnworter, derives it from [G], 'a farmer-tenant.']
  14. 'A bale of loose texture containing the olive pulp to be pressed' (Jast.).
  15. The root of both words being 'bend' or 'twist' — i.e. either woven, or crooked.
  16. V. Glos.
  17. So that the whole may be eaten by a non-priest. In the case of other forbidden objects, a quantity of permitted food in a ratio of 60-1, is necessary for neutralisation (v. Hul. 98a); but in the case of Terumah, a hundred fold is necessary. Cf. Ter. IV, 7.
  18. I.e., no one may make use of it. Tosef. Ter. VI.
  19. Which is lower than that of ordinary produce, owing to the small demand for it, as only priests may consume it.
  20. Which in any case belonged to the priest. Sabbatical produce may be sold on condition that both the produce itself, and the money paid for it, be consumed before the 'time of removal'.
  21. That it may not be sold to a priest.
  22. By benefiting from the produce after the 'time of removal'. This suspicion arose because they claimed that just as Terumah and other consecrated objects were permitted to them, though not to other Israelites, so should Sabbatical produce.
  23. R. Hiyya b. Zarnuki and R. Simeon b. Jehozadak, on observing that he was ready to find fault.
  24. Lit., 'roof'. Cf. supra 11a, where it is stated that intercalators met in an upper chamber.
  25. So as to prevent him from following them.
  26. Basing this allegation on the ground of their having tried to justify the actions of those mentioned by him as trespassers.
  27. Who offered information to the Rabbis. V. supra 18b.
  28. Lit., 'took a majority vote'.
  29. Notwithstanding the fact that they were aided by the observations of the cowherds, the decision was taken by the Rabbis themselves.
  30. I.e., the actual Board consists of such.
  31. I.e., your attack on them is distressing. He thus reproached him for his intolerance.
  32. R. Hiyya b. Zarnuki and R. Simeon b. Jehozadak.
  33. Probably they were not aware of his more serious slander.
  34. Which is a still lower rank: v supra 25b.
  35. Chamberlain of the Palace of King Hezekiah (Isa. XXII, 15).
  36. 'Great men', according to others.
  37. King of Assyria, 705-681 B.C.E. Invaded Judah in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah's reign).
  38. That they may shoot in darkness against the upright heart i.e., Hezekiah. Ps. XI, 2.
  39. Isa. VIII, 12.
  40. Isa. XXII, 16: i.e., will carry thee away with the captivity of a mighty man.
  41. Deducing this from the verse quoted, 'hurl' referring to exile. Through exile a man loses the sphere of his livelihood, but a woman can assure hers by marriage.
  42. E. V. 'wind thee round and round' Ibid.
  43. Lev. XIII, 45.
  44. Isa. XXII, 18.
  45. Cf. end of verse 18, Thou shame of thy Lord's house.
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Sanhedrin 26b

[who were following him].' On being asked, 'Where are your followers' he answered, 'They have deserted me.' 'Then you were merely ridiculing us' they (the Assyrians) exclaimed. So they bored holes through his heels, tied him to the tails of their horses, and dragged him over thorns and thistles.

R. Eliezer said: Shebna was a Sybarite. Here it is written, Get thee unto ha-soken [the steward];1  and elsewhere it is written, And she [the Shunamite] became a sokeneth [companion] unto him.2

When the foundations [ha-shathoth] are destroyed, what hath the righteous wrought?3  Rab Judah and R. 'Ena [both explained the verse]. One interpreted it thus: If Hezekiah and his followers had been destroyed [by the plot of Shebna], what would the Righteous [sc. God] have achieved?4  The other: If the Temple had been destroyed, what would the Righteous have achieved?5  'Ulla interpreted it: Had the designs of that wicked man [Shebna] not been frustrated, how would the righteous [Hezekiah] have been rewarded?6

Now, according to the [last] explanation, viz., Had the designs of the wicked man [etc.], it is well: hence it is written, When ha-shathoth are destroyed.7  The explanation which refers it to the Temple is likewise [acceptable]. For we learnt:8  A stone lay there [beneath the Ark] ever since the time of the Early Prophets and it was called 'shethiyah'.9  But as for its interpretation as referring to Hezekiah and his party: where do we find the righteous designated as 'foundations'? — In the verse, For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's and He hath set [wa-yasheth] the world upon them.10  Alternatively [it may be deduced] from the following, Wonderful is His counsel and great his Tushiyah [wisdom].11

R. Hanin said: Why is the Torah called Tushiyah? — Because it weakens the strength of man [through constant study].12  Another interpretation: Tushiyah because it was given to Moses in secret, on account of Satan.13  Or again, because it is composed of words, which are immaterial, upon which the world is [nevertheless] founded.14

'Ulla said: Anxiety15  [adversely] affects [one's] learning,16  for it is written, He abolisheth the thoughts of the skilled [i.e., scholars], lest their hands perform nothing substantial.17  Rabbah said: [But] if they study it [the Torah] for its own sake, it [anxiety] has no [adverse] effect, as it is written, There are many thoughts in man's heart, but the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand:18  counsel in which there is the word of God [i.e., study of the Torah] will stand for ever [under all circumstances].

R. JUDAH SAID: WHEN etc. R. Abbahu said in R. Eleazar's name: The halachah rests with R. Judah. R. Abbahu also said in R. Eleazar's name: All [those] enumerated in the Mishnah as ineligible must be proclaimed at the Beth din [as such]. As for a shepherd, R. Aha and Rabina differ therein: one maintains that proclamation must be made; the other holds that it is unnecessary.19

Now, on the view that it is not required, it is correct: hence the dictum of Rab Judah in Rab's name, viz., a shepherd in general is incompetent.20  But according to the view that a proclamation is necessary, what is meant by 'a shepherd in general is incompetent'?21  — That in general22  he is proclaimed so.

A certain deed of gift was witnessed by two robbers. Now, R. Papa b. Samuel wished to declare it valid, since their [the robbers'] ineligibility as witnesses had not been publicly announced. But Raba said to him: Granted that proclamation is required in the case of persons declared only by the Rabbis as robbers;23  must those defined as such by Biblical law also be proclaimed?24

(Mnemonic: Dabar, wa-Arayoth, Ganab).25

R. Nahman said: Those who accept charity from Gentiles26  are incompetent as witnesses;27  provided, however, that they accept it publicly, but not if they accept it in private. And even if publicly [accepted], the law is applicable only if, when it was possible for them to obtain it privately they yet degraded themselves by open acceptance. But where [private receipt] is impossible, it [public acceptance] is vitally necessary.28

R. Nahman said: One who is suspected of adultery is [nevertheless] eligible as a witness. Said R. Shesheth: Answer me,29  Master; forty stripes on his shoulders,30  and yet [you say] he is eligible!31  Raba observed: Even R. Nahman admits that he is incompetent to testify in matrimonial matters. Rabina — others state R. Papa — said: That is only where his evidence is to free her;32  but if it is to bind her,33  there is no objection [to him]. But is this not obvious?34  — I might think that he would prefer this,35  even as it is written, Stolen waters are sweet;36  therefore he teaches us that as long as she is in her present [unmarried] state, she is even more within his reach.37

R. Nahman said further: One who steals [produce from the fields] in Nisan, and [fruit from the orchards] in Tishri38  is not regarded as a thief.39  But this is only in case of a metayer,40  where the quantity is small and the produce is ripe41  [and no longer needs tending].

One of R. Zebid's farm-labourers' stole a kab of barley, and another a cluster of unripe dates. So he disqualified them [from acting as witnesses].

Certain grave diggers buried a corpse on the first day festival 'Azereth,42  so R. Papa excommunicated them, and disqualified them as witnesses.43  R. Huna the son of R. Joshua, however, removed their disqualification; whereupon R. Papa protested: 'But surely, they are wicked men!' — 'They might have thought that they were doing a good deed!' 'But did I not excommunicate them?'44  — They might have thought that the Rabbis thereby effected expiation for them.45

It has been stated:

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Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Isa. XXII, 15.
  2. I Kings I, 4. A play on the different meanings of the verb [H], to serve, to administer, to associate, or to be a companion of one (of the opposite sex).
  3. Ps. XI, 3.
  4. Where is the fulfilment of the promise to him?
  5. Where is God's miraculous power? people would ask.
  6. He translates: For the designs (of the wicked) shall be overthrown; (otherwise) what would the Righteous have achieved?
  7. From the verb [H] 'to set' — set one's thoughts. Cf. Ex. VII, 23. In some editions there follows, 'as it is written, And David laid (wa-yasheth) those words on his heart.' This verse, however, appears nowhere in Scripture, and Rashi here quotes Ex. VII, 23, but not this phrase. Hence Maharsha a.l. deletes it as an erroneous interpolation.
  8. Yoma 53b.
  9. [H], i.e., foundation stone. 'Ha-shathoth' therefore, may refer to the foundations of the Temple.
  10. I Sam. II, 8. And the righteous are considered the foundations of the world. Cf. Prov. X, 25: But the righteous are the foundation of the universe. (This verse could not be quoted, as a different word is used there.)
  11. Isa. XXVIII, 29. Referring to the Torah, upon the teachings of which the world was established. [H], is here connected with [H].
  12. Connecting [H] with [H], to weaken.
  13. Satan was purposely kept in ignorance of the giving of the law, since he had opposed its being delivered into Moses's hands, on the ground that forty days later the Israelites would violate it by worshipping the golden calf. Cf. Tosaf. Shab. 89a quoting Midrash.
  14. Tohu-shuthath, indicated by the syllables composing Tushiyah [H], — [H] void; [H] — [H] foundation.
  15. Lit., 'thought' — about one's livelihood etc.
  16. Lit., 'words of the Torah'.
  17. Job V, 12; i.e., he frees them from thoughtful anxiety (by providing them with food), for otherwise they could not progress in their studies. Both Rashi and Tosaf. offer additional interpretations.
  18. Prov. XIX, 21.
  19. For if he had trespassed in other persons' fields, it would be known.
  20. Cf. B.M. 5b.
  21. Once a proclamation is made, he ceases to be 'a shepherd in general' and becomes an individualized person.
  22. Even if there are no witnesses that he has led his flocks into other people's fields.
  23. Such as those enumerated in the Mishnah.
  24. Surely not! hence the deed is invalid. A robber, according to Biblical law, is one who, without judicial sanction, has seized the movable property of another by force or intimidation. Cf. B.K. 79b.
  25. On mnemonics v. p. 21, n. 5. The phrase reads: A Thing, and Incest, Theft.
  26. Lit., 'Those who eat of a thing unnamed (other).' [H] is the colloquial term for pork; the whole expression is metaphorical, and is meant as translated in the text. (V. Rashi and Tosaf.).
  27. For such an action is regarded as a profanation of 'The Name', and he who performs it is regarded as wicked.
  28. Lit., 'it is a matter of life'. Cf. Yoma 82a, 'Nothing stands in the way of saving life'.
  29. So Rashi. Jast.: 'Be slow', 'beg pardon'.
  30. I.e., even though he is liable to flagellation.
  31. Surely not! Though by Biblical law punishment could not be imposed without evidence and warning, it was nevertheless meted out on the ground of strong suspicion. Cf. Kid. 81a where Rab said: We impose the punishment of lashes even on the ground of an evil report alone, as it is written, For it is no good report which I hear (I Sam. II, 24).
  32. E.g., when he testifies to the death of her husband or that she was divorced from him. His purpose is then quite obvious, and therefore his evidence is suspect.
  33. Lit., 'to bring her into' (the married state).
  34. Since no selfish interests can animate him.
  35. I.e., to keep her in a forbidden state to him, for then her occasional company would be more pleasurable.
  36. Prov. IX, 17.
  37. And that this factor is bound to outweigh the other; therefore his evidence is admissible.
  38. Its these months cereals and fruits ripen respectively.
  39. In respect of bearing witness.
  40. Who works for a certain share in the produce.
  41. Lit., 'its work is completed.'
  42. [H] solemn assembly. The Talmudic name for the Feast of Weeks. (Cf. Lev. XXIII, 9 ff). Burial is forbidden on the first day of a Festival. Cf. Bez. 6a top.
  43. Since they violated the law for the sake of gain. It should be observed that this is the main test of eligibility.
  44. That should have indicated to them that their action was not right; yet they repeated their action.
  45. For the desecration of the day, though their act in itself was meritorious.
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