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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sotah

Folio 36a

According to whom is this? — According to R. Simeon.

Come and see how many miracles were performed on that day. Israel crossed the Jordan, came to mount Gerizim and mount Ebal [thus traversing a distance of] more than sixty mil, no creature was able to withstand them and whoever withstood them was immediately panic-stricken; as it is said: I will send My terror before thee, and will discomfort all the people to whom thou shalt come, etc.,1  and it states: Terror and dread falleth upon them … till Thy people pass over, O Lord.2  This alludes to the first advance [of Israel in the days of Joshua]; and 'Till the people pass over which Thou hast gotten'2  alludes to the second advance [in the days of Ezra]. Conclude from this that the Israelites were worthy that a miracle should be performed on their behalf during the second advance as in the first advance, but sin caused [it to be withheld].

After that they brought the stones, built the altar, and plastered it with plaster, and inscribed thereon all the words of the Torah in seventy languages; as it is said: Very plainly.3  Then they sacrificed burnt-offerings and peace-offerings, ate and drank and rejoiced, pronounced the blessings and the curses,4  packed up the stones, and came and lodged in Gilgal; as it is said: Carry them over with you and lay them down in the lodging place.5  It is possible [to think that they were to deposit them] in any lodging place; therefore there is a text to state, Where ye shall lodge this night,5  and then it is written: And those twelve stones, which they took [out of Jordan, did Joshua set up in Gilgal].6

A Tanna taught: The hornet did not pass over [Jordan] with them; but behold it is written: And I will send the hornet before thee!7  — R. Simeon b. Lakish said: It stood by the bank of the Jordan and injected a virus [into the Canaanites] which blinded their eyes above and castrated them below; as it is said: Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit from above and his roots from beneath etc.8  R. Papa said: There were two hornets, one in the period of Moses and the other in the period of Joshua; the former did not pass over [Jordan] but the other did.

SIX TRIBES ASCENDED THE SUMMIT OF MOUNT GERIZIM etc. What means and the half of them?9  — R. Kahana said: As they were divided here [on the mounts]10  so were they divided on the stones of the ephod.11  An objection was raised: The High priest had two precious stones on his shoulders, one on this side and one on the other side; upon them were inscribed the names of the twelve tribes, six on one stone and six on the other, as it is said: Six of their names on the one stone, [and the names of the six that remain on the other stone, according to their birth].12  [This indicates that] the second six were to be according to their birth, but the first six were not to be according to their birth; because [the name of] Judah came first, and there were fifty letters, twenty-five on each stone. R. Hanina b. Gamaliel says:

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Ex, XXIII. 27.
  2. Ibid. XV, 16.
  3. Deut. XXVII. 8.
  4. [Wilna Gaon deletes 'and the curses', and refers the blessings to the Grace after meals, since the blessings and curses on the Mounts were pronounced before the altar was built, v. Mishnah.]
  5. Josh. IV, 3.
  6. Ibid. 20.
  7. Ex. XXIII, 28.
  8. Amos II, 9.
  9. Josh. VIII, 33. The Hebrew has the definite article which seems superfluous.
  10. Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin on Mount Gerizim, and Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali on Mount Ebal, v. Deut. XXVII, 12-13.
  11. Six tribes in the same order on each stone; v. Ex. XXVIII, 9ff.
  12. Ibid. 10.
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Sotah 36b

They were not apportioned upon the stones as they were apportioned in the Book of Numbers1  but as they were apportioned in the second Book of the Pentateuch.2  How then [were they arranged]? The sons of Leah in order of seniority [on one stone, and on the other] the sons of Rachel, one on top and the other at the bottom, with the sons of the hand-maids in the centre.3  In that case, how am I to explain 'according to their birth'? [It means that the inscription was] according to the names which their father called them and not according to the names which Moses called them — Reuben and not Reubeni, Simeon and not Simeoni, Dan and not had-Dani, Gad and not hag-Gadi.4  This is a refutation of R. Kahana!5  The refutation [is unanswered].

What, then, is the meaning of 'and the half of them'? — It has been taught: 'The half in front of mount Gerizim was larger than that in front of mount Ebal, because [the tribe of] Levi was below [with the ark].'6  On the contrary, for the reason that Levi was below it must have been smaller!7  — This is what he intends: Although Levi was below [the party on mount Gerizim was still larger] because the sons of Joseph were included with them [and they were very numerous]; as it is said: And the children of Joseph spake unto Joshua, saying: Why hast thou given me but one lot and one part for an inheritance, seeing I am a great people? … And Joshua said unto them, If thou be a great people, get thee up to the forest.8  He said to them, 'Go, hide yourselves in the forests that the evil eye9  may not have sway over you'. They replied to him, 'The evil eye can bear no sway over the seed of Joseph'; for it is written: Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a fountain,10  and R. Abbahu said: Read not 'ale 'ayin [by a fountain] but 'ole 'ayin [overcoming the eye]. R. Jose b. Hanina said: [It is derived] from this passage, And let them grow [we-yidgu] into a multitude in the midst of the earth11  — as the water covers the fish [dagim] in the sea so that the [evil] eye bears no sway over them, so the [evil] eye bears no sway over the seed of Joseph.

[It was stated above that on the stones of the ephod] were fifty letters; but there were fifty less one! — R. Isaac said: One letter was added to the name of Joseph, as it is said: He appointed it in Joseph for a testimony, when he went out over the land of Egypt.12  R. Nahman b. Isaac objected: We require according to their birth!13  — But [the correct explanation is] that throughout the whole Torah Benjamin's name is spelt without the letter yod [before the final letter], but here [on the ephod] it was spelt complete with yod; as it is written: But his father called him Benjamin.14

R. Hana15  b. Bizna said in the name of R. Simeon the Pious: Because Joseph sanctified the heavenly Name in private one letter was added to him from the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He; but because Judah sanctified the heavenly Name in public, the whole of his name was called after the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He. How was it with Joseph [that he sanctified the Name]? — As it is written: And it came to pass about this time, that he went into the house to do his work.16  R. Johanan said: This teaches that both [Joseph and Potiphar's wife] had the intention of acting immorally. 'He went into the house to do his work' — Rab and Samuel [differ in their interpretation]. One said that it really means to do his work; but the other said that he went to satisfy his desires.17  'And there was none of the men of the house etc. — is it possible that there was no man in a huge house like that of this wicked [Potiphar]! — It was taught in the School of R. Ishmael: That day was their feast-day, and they had all gone to their idolatrous temple; but she had pretended to be ill because she thought, I shall not have an opportunity like to-day for Joseph to associate with me. And she caught him by his garment, saying etc.18  At that moment his father's image came and appeared to him through the window and said: 'Joseph, thy brothers will have their names inscribed upon the stones of the ephod and thine amongst theirs; is it thy wish to have thy name expunged from amongst theirs and be called an associate of harlots?' (As it is written: He that keepeth company with harlots wasteth his substance.)19  Immediately his bow abode in strength20  — R. Johanan said in the name of R. Meir: [This means] that his passion subsided. And the arms of his hands were made active20  — he stuck his hands in the ground so that his lust came out from between his finger-nails. 'By the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob'20  — Who caused his name to be engraven upon the stones of the ephod but the Mighty One of Jacob? 'From thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel'21  — from there was he worthy to be made a shepherd, as it is said: Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, Thou that leadest like the flock of Joseph.22

It has been taught: Joseph was worthy that twelve tribes should issue from him as they issued from his father Jacob, as it is said: These are the generations of Jacob, Joseph;23  but his lust came out from between his finger-nails.24  Nevertheless they25  issued from his brother Benjamin and were given names on his own account; as it is said: And the sons of Benjamin: Bela and Becher and Ashbel etc.26  [He was called] Bela, because [Joseph] was swallowed up [nibla'] among the peoples. [He was called] Becher, because [Joseph] was the firstborn [bekor] of his mother. [He was called] Ashbel, because God sent [Joseph] into captivity [sheba'o el]. [He was called] Gera, because [Joseph] dwelt [gar] in lodgings [in a strange land]. [He was called] Naaman, because he was especially beloved [na'im]. [They were called] Ehi and Rosh, because [Joseph] is my brother [ahi] and chief [rosh]. [They were called] Muppim and Huppim, because [Benjamin said: Joseph] did not see my marriage-canopy [huppah] and I did not see his.27  [He was called] Ard, because [Joseph] descended [yarad] among the peoples. Others explain [that he was called] Ard, because [Joseph's] face was like a rose [wered].

R. Hiyya b. Abba said in the name of R. Johanan: At the moment when Pharaoh said to Joseph, And without thee shall no man lift up his hand etc.,28  Pharaoh's astrologers exclaimed: 'Wilt thou set in power over us a slave whom his master bought for twenty pieces of silver!' He replied to them, 'I discern in him royal characteristics.' They said to him, 'In that case he must be acquainted with the seventy languages'. Gabriel came and taught [Joseph] the seventy languages, but he could not learn them. Thereupon [Gabriel] added to his name a letter from the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He, and he learnt [the languages] as it is said: He appointed it in Joseph29  for a testimony, when he went out over the land of Egypt, where I [Joseph] heard a language that I knew not.30  On the morrow, in whatever language Pharaoh conversed with him he replied to him; but when [Joseph] spoke to him in the holy tongue he did not understand what he said. So he asked him to teach it to him; he taught it to him but he could not learn it. [Pharaoh] said to him, 'Swear to me that thou wilt not reveal this';31  and he swore to him. When [Joseph] later said to him, My father made me swear, saying,32  he remarked to him, 'Go, ask [to be released from] thine oath.'33  He replied to him, 'I will also ask [to be released from my oath] concerning thee'.34  Therefore, although it was displeasing to him, [Pharaoh] said to him, Go up and bury thy father, according as he made thee swear.35

What was it that Judah did?36  — As it has been taught: R. Meir said: When the Israelites stood by the Red Sea, the tribes strove with one another, each wishing to descend into the sea first. Then sprang forward

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Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. V. I, 5ff.
  2. V. Ex. I, 2ff.
  3. On the one stone were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun; on the other Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher and Joseph.
  4. The latter are the tribal as distinct from the personal names.
  5. Who said that the tribes were divided on the stones of the ephod as on the two mounts; and this has been shewn to be incorrect.
  6. [The article 'the' denotes that those who stood on Ebal represented the full contingent of half the tribes. Whereas on Gerizim one of the tribes — Levi — was missing (Maharsha)].
  7. Since Levi should have been among the first six tribes.
  8. Josh. XVII, 14f.
  9. The personification of envy which causes harm to those who enjoy good fortune. Their numerical strength would excite envy.
  10. Gen. XLIX, 22.
  11. Ibid. XLVIII, 16, referring to Joseph's sons.
  12. Ps. LXXXI, 6. In this verse Joseph's name is spelt with five letters instead of the usual four, v, supra p. 50, n. 2.
  13. As explained above, viz., the name as given by Jacob; consequently we cannot use the exceptional form of his name as it occurs here.
  14. Gen. XXXV, 28; here it is spelt with the yod.
  15. In the parallel passage, supra 10b the name is Hanin.
  16. Ibid. XXXIX, 11.
  17. I.e., for an immoral purpose.
  18. Ibid. 12.
  19. Prov. XXIX. 3.
  20. Gen. XLIX, 24.
  21. Gen. XLIX, 24.
  22. Ps. LXXX, 2, E.V. 1., sic. Hence Israel is called Joseph's flock and he is the shepherd.
  23. Gen. XXXVII, 2.
  24. As mentioned above, and so his power to beget was diminished.
  25. I.e., ten sons, who, added to Joseph's two, made the total of twelve.
  26. Ibid. XLVI, 21.
  27. The derivation of Muppim has fallen out of the text, but is found in Tanhuma to Genesis (ed. Buber, p. 206), viz., his mouth (pi) was like that of our father, i.e., he learnt Torah from Joseph as from Jacob.
  28. Ibid. XLI, 44
  29. V. p. 179, n. 7.
  30. Ps. LXXXI, 6.
  31. That he was ignorant of Hebrew, and a king was expected to know every language.
  32. Ibid. L, 5, viz., that he should inter his body in Canaan.
  33. In Jewish Law only proper authorities could release a man from his oath. Pharaoh did not wish Joseph to leave Egypt to bury his father.
  34. I.e., if Pharaoh refused him permission, he would take steps to enable him to disclose the king's ignorance of Hebrew.
  35. Ibid. 6.
  36. That he sanctified God's Name publicly.
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