Traditional Jewish Talmud - cover

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New York, Purim, 5660 March 15th, 1900

Next: Introduction to Section Jurisprudence

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WITH the present volume we begin the Section “Damages,” also called “Jurisprudence,” from the occurrence of discussions on criminal law. This section forms the fourth in the old edition, and comprises the following treatises: “First Gate,” “Middle Gate,” “Last Gate,” “Sanhedrin,” “Stripes,” “Oaths,” “Testimonies,” “Idolatry,” “Fathers” (or “Ethics of the Fathers of the Synagogue”), and “Decisions.”

Notwithstanding the fact that in the old edition of the Talmud “Fathers” stands next to the last tract, we have placed it at the head of the section, relying upon the decision of Sherira Gaon in his letter (Goldberg edition, Mayence, 1872, p. 14) declaring that it is perfectly permissible to change the order of sequence of tracts in the several sections. Therefore, because the treatise entitled “Fathers” deals entirely with the ethics of life, we have deemed it best to give it precedence over the other treatises. Just as in the Pentateuch we find the ten commandments– the basis of all ethical religion–heading the subsequent detailed laws and ordinances, so it seems but fit that the Section ”Damages” should be headed by the tract setting forth the main ethical principles, and be continued by the detailed discussions. We are further borne out by the Talmud itself, which reads (First Gate, Chap. III., Mishna 3): “One who wishes to be pious should observe the laws of damages. Rabhina said: ‘He should observe the teachings of the Fathers.'” Rabhina’s statement should, in our opinion, not be taken literally, but as indicative of the opinion that the decisions contained both in “Fathers” and in “Damages” generally are equivalent.

“Fathers” is one of the few treatises which consists of Mishna only; i.e., has no supplementary Gemara either in the Babylonian or the Palestinian Talmud, although interspersed throughout the contents of the entire Talmud may be found amplifications or comments on some of the sentences of the “Fathers.” There is, however, a Tosephtha entitled “Fathers of Rabbi

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[paragraph continues] Nathan” which discusses most sentences of the original “Fathers” separately; in fact, begins the discussion of each sentence with the interrogation “How so?” Forming, therefore, a valuable addition to the much-valued literature of the “Fathers,” we have considered it our duty to incorporate it in our edition, and we have therefore inserted the said Tosephtha in the place where, in other tracts, we have placed the Gemara.

Owing to the fact that the Tosephtha named above bears the name of Rabbi Nathan of Babylon, one of the most distinguished masters of his generation, but at the same time contains ethics similar to those of the Mishna, as well as lectures and discussions which could not have been compiled by that author and are evidently contributions from scholars of a later period, the historians of modern times, from Zunz in his “Gottesdienstliche Vortraege” to Brill in his

“Jahrbuecher” and Weiss in his “Dor Dor Vedorshov,” engage in elaborate speculation as to who was the compiler of the “Fathers of R. Nathan” and at what time it was compiled. The complicated nature of the Tosephtha in question brought to the front a number of commentators and text-revisers, and finally Solomon Tausik and Solomon Shechter made a search of manuscripts, and published new editions of the Tosephtha, with additions from the material found in the manuscripts. The latter, in fact, searched so thoroughly that he found an entirely different version of the Tosephtha, and then published in his edition two separate texts, calling them First Text and Second Text, respectively, with his own corrections, notes, and a long introduction (Vienna, 1887).

True to our methods of translating the Talmud, we have, however, ignored the new versions of “Fathers of Rabbi Nathan,” and have merely adapted the old version which forms part of the Talmud, simply adhering to the corrections made by Elias Wilner and the commentaries of Joshua Falk and others contained in the great Wilna (1890) edition of the Talmud. Further, in accordance with our wont we have omitted such of the passages as have already appeared in the preceding tracts of our edition, merely indicating the places where they can be found. Wherever necessary, of course, we have added footnotes, remarks, etc.

Our reasons for not making use of the new versions of the Tosephtha in question are as follows:

In a previous article touching upon the subject, which appeared in our publication “Hakol,” we have pointed out that

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we cannot give preference to recently discovered manuscripts over those used by the compilers of the Talmud, and for a reason that is perfectly obvious, viz.: If those manuscripts were in existence during the construction period of the Talmud, the compilers, who sifted every manuscript with the utmost care, undoubtedly rejected them as valueless. If, on the other hand, they were at that time not in existence, but were written at a later period, they certainly cannot be used as a medium for correcting the antedating manuscripts.

As for Schechter’s revised and corrected texts, we cannot accept them for the reason that he presumes to remark, anent Elias Wilner’s corrections, “I do not favor them,” or, “They are unnecessary.” After careful investigation we have, however, found that almost all the corrections made by Elias Wilner, and adopted by us, are founded directly on Talmudical and Midrashic passages scattered throughout the Talmud, a fact the learned Dr. Schechter no doubt overlooked.

On the other hand, we find that the commentaries published in the above-mentioned Wilna edition and credited to Joshua Falk, Chayim Joseph David Azulayi, and Baruch Frankel Theomim are referred directly to passages of the Talmud in the several treatises. Therefore we have used these well-known authorities in our translation, eliminating merely their lengthy discussions and adductions of proof.

As to the origin of the sayings of the “Fathers of Rabbi Nathan,” the period during which they were compiled, and other historical events attending their conception, we refrain from rendering our opinion, even though it has become customary to do this in an introduction, leaving these

matters to the philologists and historians in whose province such discussions properly fall. Our sole reason for the translation is that the said sayings have never before been rendered into any modern language and without them our work would not be complete.

The “Fathers of Rabbi Nathan” contains in the original forty-one chapters. As we render them, however, in the form of a Gemara to the Mishna of “Fathers,” we have not numbered the chapters, but merely indicated at the foot of the page to which chapter each paragraph belongs.

Regarding the translation of “Fathers,” i.e., the original Mishna in the first five chapters, we have found that the translation of C. Taylor (Cambridge, 1877) is entirely too literal and almost incomprehensible without foot-notes and commentaries.

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On the other hand, the partial translation contained in the Home Prayer Book, compiled in the main by Dr. G. Gottheil and Dr. F. De Sola Mendes, is lucid and in accord with the original text. We have therefore made use of the latter rendition, with slight changes. The part remaining untranslated in the Prayer Book we have adapted from C. Taylor’s version, rendering it somewhat more comprehensively. In the rendition of the sixth chapter, which does not really form part of the Mishna but is added by the sages in Mishnaic language, we have followed Taylor, making numerous notes and corrections, in order to make it intelligible to the lay reader.

We have not deemed it necessary to add a commentary to the “Fathers” as we did to Tracts Shekalim and Ebel Rabbathi, because the “Fathers” has been translated into all modern languages and because there is already considerable literature concerning the ethics of Judaism, especially the recent publication by Prof. Dr. M. Lazarus entitled “Ethik des Judenthums” an admirable work, issued at Leipzig (1899), and giving a masterly exposition of the philosophical tendencies of “Fathers.” We have also devoted a special chapter to this subject in our forthcoming “History of the Talmud.”

We have also thought it well to give in this volume, which treats exclusively of the ethics of Judaism, the two Tracts Derech Eretz (Rabba and Zuta), which contain the essential “rules of conduct of life,” as construed by Dr. Mielziner, or Worldly Affairs, as named by us, which latter is the prevailing interpretation among Hebrew readers.

As to the origin of these two tracts, elaborate discussions may be found in Zunz, “Gottesdienstliche Vortraege,” pp. 110-112, as well as in “Der Talmud–Tract Derech Erez Sutta Kritisch bearbeitet, übersetzt und erläutert” (Berlin, 1885), by Abr. Tawrogi. For Tawrogi’s reasons for not translating Derech Eretz Rabba, see his work; nevertheless, inasmuch as Derech Eretz Rabba has never been translated into any language, a d of Derech Eretz Zuta, while there is a critical translation into German, there is none in English, in order to make this volume, which treats of the ethics of Judaism, complete, we have considered it expedient to translate into English both tracts almost literally, although they are not counted among the thirty-seven treatises proper of the Babylonian Talmud, but only among the minor treatises added to them.

We do not, however, deem it necessary to add any commentary, for the reason that the sayings

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are very plain and lucid, and can easily be understood even by those who are not students of the Talmud.

Because of the similarity in language and style of these two treatises and of the so-called Mishnayoth of the sixth chapter of Aboth, they appear in the same large type as the Mishnayoth. Following this treatise will be published the other tracts of this section in the regular sequence of the old edition.


NEW YORK, March, 1900.

Next: Synopsis of Tract Aboth (Fathers of the Synagogue).

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[Several requests have been received by the translator that an index should be made to the volumes of the Talmud, as is customary with all modern works. It would be an utter impossibility to give a complete index of everything contained in the Talmud. Were it like other scientific works, which treat each subject separately, this could easily be done; but with the Talmud it is different. On one page many different subjects may be discussed, and again a single subject may occupy several pages. The Talmud, therefore, has never had an index.

After careful examination of the volumes, page by page, it has been decided to make a synopsis, i.e., to give briefly the heads of the discussions and conversations upon each Mishna, indicating the page where the Mishna is to be found, and the Gemara of each one, which serves as a commentary. By this the reader should be able to refer to what he desires to know.

A synopsis is therefore given of every Mishna which discusses a single subject, with its accompanying Gemara–in this volume, the Tosephtha; but when several short Mishnas cover the same subject, a single synopsis is given of the whole, including the Gemara of each one; and where a chapter is short, a synopsis of the whole chapter is made, without dividing it into Mishnas.

This is the best that can be done, and it is hoped that readers will find it satisfactory.]


MISHNA A. The Great Assembly originated three maxims. Be deliberate in judgment. How so? The books of Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes were hidden. How was Adam created? Why was Adam created on the last hour of the sixth day? On the same day on which he was formed, on the very same day his countenance was created. According to others: “Be deliberate in judgment” means not to have an irascible manner. Erect safeguards for the Law. The safeguard of the Lord, of Adam the First. The legend about Eve and the serpent, etc. The ten curses with which Eve was cursed at that time. “Shall I and my cattle eat out of the same trough?” The tradition about the ox of Adam, the steer of Noah, and the ram sacrificed by Abraham, 1-11

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CONTINUATION OF CHAPTER II. OF TOSEPHTHA.–What is the safeguard that the Torah made to its words? What Elijah the prophet answered the widow of the scholar who died in the prime of his life. What is the safe guard that Moses made to his words? The reason why Moses broke the Tables? What is the safeguard that Job made to his words? The safe guard that the prophets made to their words. The safeguard that the Hagiographers made to their words. The safeguard that the sages made to their words, 11-19

CONTINUATION OF CHAPTER III. OF TOSEPHTHA.–Whoever takes a coin from charity when not in need of it, etc. Study the Law in thy old age, even if thou hast studied it in thy youth. If you gave a coin to a poor man in the morning, and another one begs of you in the evening, give him also. What happened to a poor man with R. Aqiba. What happened to Benjamin the just, 19-21

MISHNA B. The motto of Simeon the Just. Upon the Torah, how so? Upon service, how so? Upon bestowal of favors, how so? Rabban Johanan b. Zakkai and Vespasian. In three things mankind differ one from the other, 22-26

MISHNAS C AND D. Be not like slaves who serve their masters for the sake of compensation. Let the fear of Heaven be upon you. Let your house be the meeting place of the wise. How did

R. Aqiba begin his wonderful career? Not less astonishing was the literary career of R. Eliezer. How his father Hyrkanus reached the seats of Ben Zizith Ha Kesseth, Nakdimon b. Gurion, and Calba Shebua, 26-32

MISHNAS E AND F. Let thy house be wide open for the poor. When the great affliction came upon Job, he prayed, etc. Teach thy house humility–the different explanations of this saying. Get thee a wise teacher. Judge everyone from his favorable side. The legend about a maiden who was led into captivity and the pious men who went to redeem her. Not only were the upright of former times themselves very strict and particular, but also their cattle were so. The ass of R. Hanina b. Dosa, 32-38

MISHNA G. Keep aloof from a wicked neighbor. Slanderers are punished with plagues. The legend about Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. Do not consider thyself exempt from God’s chastisement, 38-41

MISHNAS H TO K. Make thyself not as those that predispose the Judges. Love work–how so? Do not care for superiority. See to it that your name be not known to the Government. Ye wise, be guarded in your words. Love peace–how so? Moses desired to die the same death Aaron did– how so? The legend of the death of Moses, at length. Pursue peace–how so? Love all men too, and bring them nigh unto the Law, 41-50

MISHNAS L TO Q. If I do not look to myself, who will do so? And if not now, when? He who does not desire to learn from his masters is not worthy to live. He who increases not, decreases– how so? He who serves himself with a tiara perishes. Fix a time for study. Promise little and do much. Receive everyone with friendly countenance. Make a master to thyself. “I have never

found anything better for a man than silence.” Three things support the world. The disciples of Hillel; of R. Johanan b. Zakkai–what was said about them and what they used to say. The consolation of R. Johanan b. Zakkai by his disciples when his son died. Thy

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fellow’s honor must be as dear to thee as thine own. Do not allow thyself to be easily angered. The two proselytes that came before Hillel and Shammai. Repent one day before thy death, 50- 58


MISHNAS A TO M. In choosing the right path, see that it is one which is honorable to thyself and without offence to others. All who occupy them selves with communal affairs should do it in the name of Heaven. Do His will as if it were thy own, that He may do thy will as if it were His. Pass not judgment upon thy neighbor until thou hast put thyself in his place. The boor can never fear sin, and the ignorant can never be truly pious. The more feasting the more food for worms. What is the best thing to cultivate. Which is the evil way a man should shun. Warm thyself before the light of the wise. An envious eye, evil propensities, and misanthropy drive a man out of the world. The legend about Joseph the Just, R. Zadoq, R. Aqiba, R. Eliezer the Great, etc. How difficult it is for man to avoid the evil propensities. Love everyone except the infidels, the enticers, the misleaders, and the informers. Thy neighbor’s property must be as sacred as thine own, 58-65

MISHNA N. Set thyself to learn the Law. Johanan b. Zakkai and the daughter of Nakdimon b. Gurion. Let noble purpose underlie thy every action. The sages who were recounted of R. Jehudah the Prince. How they were named by Issi b. Jehudah, 65-70


MISHNAS A TO V. Consider three things, and you will not fall into transgression. Pray always for the welfare of the Government. Whoever takes the words of the Torah to his heart. Render unto God what belongs to Him, for thou and all thou hast are His. Whomsoever fear of sin precedes, his wisdom prevails. He whose works are in excess of his wisdom, his wisdom will endure. Be pliant with thy chief. Receive every man with cheerfulness. Mockery and frivolity are the forerunners of immorality. Everything is foreseen and free will is given. The world is judged by grace. All that we possess is merely a trust. Without knowledge of religion there can be no true culture, and without true culture there is no knowledge of religion. Qinim, canons, astronomy, and geometry are after-courses of wisdom, 70-81


MISHNAS A TO P. Who is a wise man? He who learns from everybody. Despise no man, and consider nothing as too far removed to come to pass. Be exceedingly lowly of spirit. Wear not the law of God as a crown to exalt thyself withal. Judge not alone, for none may judge alone save One. Whatsoever congregation is for the sake of Heaven will in the end succeed. Let the honor of thy disciple be as dear unto thee as the honor of thine associate.

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Be careful in thy study, for error in study counts for an intentional sin, 81-86

MISHNA Q. Neither the security of the wicked nor the afflictions of the righteous are within the grasp of our understanding. Be beforehand in saluting every man. Be the lion’s tail rather than the fox’s head. Do not seek to appease thy friend in the hour of his passion. Look not upon the pitcher, but upon what it contains. Envy, sensuality, and ambition destroy life. Accept not the assurance of thy passions, that the grave will be a place of refuge for thee. Without thy consent wert thou created, born into the world without thy choice. Thou art living without thine own volition, without thine approval thou wilt have to die. About the death of Eliezer the Great. Set something apart for charity, before you are compelled to do so by others. Lower thy seat two or three rows from the place you intend to occupy. There are three persons whose life is not worth living. The safeguard for honor is refraining from laughter. The safeguard for wisdom is silence. Whoever marries a woman not suitable to him transgresses five negative commandments. Do not be as the lintel, which no hand can reach, etc., 86-95

MISHNA Q. (continued). Those that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. The support of the wise, etc. Do not keep away from a precept which has no limit. Let the honor of thy disciple, etc. There is grain in Judea, straw in Galilee, and chaff on the other side of the Jordan. There is no love such as the love of the Torah. There is no wisdom such as the wisdom of manners.

Whoever maintains peace in his own household, etc. The words of the Torah are as difficult to acquire as silken garments and are lost as easily as, etc. All those things which are done in private shall be done as if they were done publicly. Do not isolate thyself from the community. The disciples are divided into three classes, etc. Whoever constitutes the Torah as the chief good, and considers worldly affairs as a secondary thing, etc. Conciliate not thy friend in the hour of his anger. The scholars are divided into four classes . One studies but does not teach others, etc. If one honor his friend for pecuniary considerations, he will in the end be dismissed in disgrace, etc. On account of the four different means of forgiveness, etc. Repentance must be to every one of them. However, one who has profaned the name of heaven has not the power to repent. Wherefore do scholars die before their time. Be careful in greeting thy neighbor He who neglects the words of the Law on account of his riches. There is a case where one transgresses ignorantly, etc. One who connects himself with transgressors, etc. The punishment of the liar is that even when he tells the truth he is not believed, 95-103


MISHNAS A TO G. By ten sayings the world was created. For what purpose is this stated? Whence is it deduced that a single person is equal to the whole creation? The Holy One, blessed be He, showed unto Adam all succeeding generations, together with their preachers, directors, leaders, prophets, heroes, criminals, and their pious. Nine hundred and seventy-four

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generations before the creation of the world, the Torah was already written, etc. He created in man all that he created in his world–how So? Ten generations were there from Adam to Noah. For what purpose was this stated? The Lord said: I will not equal the evil thoughts to the good

thoughts so long as their fate has not yet been sealed. Ten generations were there from Noah to Abraham. For what purpose was it necessary to state this? With ten temptations was Abraham our father tempted. They are as follows, etc. In contrast with these ten temptations the Lord performed ten miracles for his descendants in Egypt. When our fathers stood by the sea, etc. “Arise, and pass through it,” etc. With ten temptations did our ancestors tempt God in the wilderness. By means of ten trials the Holy One, blessed be He, tested our forefathers. This sin with which the Israelites were afflicted is enough for that time, etc. Ten names of praise are applied to the Holy One, blessed be He. Ten ignominious names are applied to the idols. There are two sons of the clear oil. This refers to Aaron and Messiah. In the Torah there is written eleven times the word “she” when it ought to be “he.” Ten times did the Shekhina descend upon the earth. Ten degrees the Shekhina removed itself from one place to another. A prophet is called by ten different names. There are ten names for the Holy Spirit. Ten are called “living.” Ten miracles were wrought for our fathers in Egypt, 103-115

MISHNAS H TO O. Ten miracles were performed for our forefathers in Jerusalem. Jerusalem never was defiled by leprosy. How Kimchith, the mother of R. Ishmael, saw her two sons as high-priests on the same day. The men of Sodom have no share in the world to come. About Kora’h and his company. “The Lord killeth, and maketh alive; he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up,” has reference to them. The generation of the desert. “Gather together unto me my pious servants, who make a covenant with me by sacrifice,” has reference to them. The ten tribes have no share in the world to come. R. Aqiba, however, said: “As the day is first dark and then lightens up, so also their darkness will be followed by light.” The following seven have no share in the world to come, etc. There are three kings and four commoners who have no share in the world to come. Absalom has no share in the world to come. Seven things mark the clod, and seven there are for the sage. There are seven creations of as many grades of importance. Man possesses six qualifications, three of which belong also to the beast, and three to the angels. The evil spirits possess six qualifications, three of which belong to man. There are seven sorts of hypocrites. That which is hidden is only so from human beings, but not from Heaven. There are seven things which, if used moderately, are wholesome to the body, and if in excess are the reverse. With seven things God created the world. Seven attributes are serving before the throne of Grace. There are seven dwelling-places. A wise man does not speak before those who surpass him in wisdom and years; and does not interrupt another in his speech; admits the truth, etc.

Seven kinds of punishments come on account of seven cardinal transgressions. About the execution of R. Simeon b. Gamaliel and R. Ishmael b. Elisha the high-priest. Captivity comes upon the world, etc. Five are not to be forgiven. Four kinds of views are held by men concerning property, 115-131.

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MISHNAS P TO GG. There are four kinds of dispositions among men. There are four kinds of pupils. There are four kinds of charity-givers. There are four kinds of visitors of the house of learning. There are four kinds of the disciples of the wise. Love inspired by ulterior motives, etc. Whatsoever gainsaying is for the sake of Heaven will have good results. Whosoever causes many to be righteous, sin prevails not over him. In whomsoever are the following three things, he is a disciple of Abraham, etc, Be courageous as the panther, light-winged as the eagle, swift as the deer, and strong as the lion, One five years old should study Scripture, etc. Turn it and turn it again, for everything can be found therein, 131-133


MISHNAS A TO R. Whosoever is busied in Torah for the love thereof merits many things. Every day a Heavenly voice goes forth from Mount Horeb and proclaims as follows, etc. He who learns from his companion one chapter, etc., is bound to do him honor. The path of Torah, etc. Seek not greatness for thyself, and desire not honor. Greater is Torah than the priesthood, and than the kingdom. There are four things which bear good fruit in this world. A meritorious act has both principal and benefit. One who causes many to be righteous, no sin prevails upon him. Regarding dreams, there are four sages, three scholars, three books of the prophets, and three books of the Hagiographa. Every assembly that is for the sake of performing a religious duty remains everlasting. Comeliness, strength, wealth, honor, wisdom, age, hoariness, and sons are becoming to the righteous, etc. If thou shouldst give me all the silver, gold, and goodly stones and pearls that are in the world, I would not dwell but in a place of Torah. Five possessions had the Holy One in this world. Whatsoever the Lord created in this world He created only for His glory. There are three crowns: the crown of Torah, priesthood, and kingdom. Three things were said of charitable men. There are three different kinds among scholars. There are three different kinds of sweat that are beneficial to the body. There are six kinds of tears. There are three advantages in an earthen vessel. There are three advantages in a glass vessel. The money that the Israelites carried away from Egypt returned to Egypt. If you do the least wrong to your companion, it shall be considered by you the greatest wrong, etc. The following articles were hidden, etc., 133-143

Next: Chapter I