Traditional Jewish Talmud - cover

The Babylonian Talmud


Volumes 1-10


Book 1 (Vols. I and II) 1903

Tract Sabbath

Volume I

Title Page Explanatory Remarks Dedication


Preface to the Second Edition Editor’s Preface

Brief General Introduction to the Babylonian Talmud

Introduction to Tract Sabbath

Synopsis of Subjects

Chapter I: Regulations Regarding Transfer on Sabbath

Chapter II: Regulations Concerning The Sabbath And ‘Hanukah Light Chapter III: Regulations Concerning Stoves, Hearths, and Ovens

Chapter IV: Regulations Concerning Victuals, Where They May or May Not Be Deposited to Retain Their Heat for the Sabbath

Chapter V: Regulations Concerning What May and May Not Be Worn by Animals on the Sabbath

Chapter VI: Regulations Concerning What Garments Women May Go Out With On the Sabbath Chapter VII: The General Rule Concerning the Principal Acts of Labor on Sabbath

Chapter VIII: Regulations Concerning the Prescribed Quantities of Victuals and Beverages Which Must Not Be Carried About on the Sabbath

Chapter IX: Rabbi Aqiba’s Regulations On Different Subjects

Chapter X: Further Regulations Concerning The Prescribed Quantity of Things To Be Stored

Volume II

Title Page Explanatory Remarks Contents

Synopsis of Subjects of Volume II.–Tract Sabbath

Chapter XI. Regulations Concerning Throwing From One Ground Into Another.

Chapter XII: Regulations Concerning Building, Ploughing, etc., On the Sabbath Chapter

XIII: Regulations Concerning Weaving, Tearing, Hunting, etc., on the Sabbath Chapter

XIV: Regulations Concerning the Catching of Reptiles, Animals and Birds Chapter

XV: Regulations Concerning the Tying and Untying of Knots on the Sabbath

Chapter XVI: Regulations Concerning Articles Which May be Saved From a Conflagration on Sabbath

Chapter XVII: Regulations Concerning Handling of Utensils and Furniture on the Sabbath Chapter XVIII: Regulations Regarding the Clearing Off of Required Space, the Assistance To Be Given Cattle When Giving Birth To Their Young and To Women About To Be Confined Chapter XIX: Regulations Ordained by R. Eliezer Concerning Circumcision on the Sabbath Chapter XX: Regulations Concerning Certain Acts of Labor Which Must be Performed Differently on a Sabbath and on a Festival

Chapter XXI: Regulations Concerning the Pouring Out of Wine From Vessels Covered With a Stone (Which Must Not Be Lifted), and the Clearing Off of Crumbs, etc., From the Table Chapter XXII: Regulations Concerning Preparation of Food and Beverages

Chapter XXIII: Borrowing, Casting Lots, Waiting for the Close of the Sabbath, and Attending to a Corpse

Chapter XXVI: Regulations Concerning a Man Who is Overtaken by Dusk on the Eve of Sabbath While Travelling, and Concerning Feeding of Cattle.

The Prayer at the Conclusion of a Tract Appendix

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In our translation we adopted these principles:

Tenan of the original–We have learned in a Mishna; Tania–We have learned in a Boraitha;

Itemar–It was taught.

Questions are indicated by the interrogation point, and are immediately followed by the answers, without being so marked.

When in the original there occur two statements separated by the phrase, Lisna achrena or

Waïbayith Aema or Ikha d’amri (literally, “otherwise interpreted”), we translate only the second.

As the pages of the original are indicated in our new Hebrew edition, it is not deemed necessary to mark them in the English edition, this being only a translation from the latter.

Words or passages enclosed in round parentheses ( ) denote the explanation rendered by Rashi to the foregoing sentence or word. Square parentheses [ ] contain commentaries by authorities of the last period of construction of the Gemara.





















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[To the first edition.]

THE Hebrew edition of Rosh Hashana contains an elaborate introduction in three chapters, the translation of which does not appear as yet. Its contents include many important rules which we have followed in the entire work, but we do not feel called upon at this time to engross the time of the English reader by reciting them. We, however, deem it a duty to say a few words, so that the reader may understand our position and the reason why we have undertaken a work which will probably be productive of much adverse criticism in certain quarters.

The fate of the Talmud has been the fate of the Jews. As soon as the Hebrew was born 1 he was surrounded by enemies. His whole history has been one of struggle against persecution and attack. Defamation and deformation have been his lot. So too, has it been with the Talmud. At the beginning of its formative period, viz., the development of the Mishna, it was beset by such enemies as the Sadducees, the Boëthusians, and other sects, not to mention the Roman Government. 2 When its canon was fixed, the Karaites tried to destroy or belittle its influence, and since that time it has been subjected to an experience of unvarying difficulty. Yet, with remarkable truth, the words of Isaiah [xliii. 2] may be applied to both: “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” There is, however, one point concerning which this simile is not true. The Jew has advanced; the Talmud has remained stationary.

Since the time of Moses Mendelssohn the Jew has made vast strides forward. There is to-day no branch of human activity in

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which his influence is not felt. Interesting himself in the affairs of the world, he has been enabled to bring a degree of intelligence and industry to bear upon modern life that has challenged the admiration of the world. But with the Talmud it is not so. That vast encyclopædia of Jewish lore remains as it was. No improvement has been possible; no progress has been made with it. Issue after issue has appeared, but it has always been called the Talmud Babli, as chaotic as it was when its canon was originally appointed. 1 Commentary upon commentary has appeared; every issue of the Talmud contains new glosses from prominent scholars, proposing textual changes, yet the text of the Talmud has not received that heroic treatment that will alone enable us to say that the Talmud has been improved. Few books have ever received more attention than this vast storehouse of Jewish knowledge. Friends and enemies it has had. Attack after attack has been made upon it, and defence after defence made for it; yet whether its enemies or its defenders have done it more harm it would be hard to tell. Not, forsooth, that we do not willingly recognize that there have been many learned and earnest spirits who have

labored faithfully in its behalf; but for the most part, if the Talmud could speak, it would say, “God save me from my friends!” For the friends have, generally, defended without due knowledge of that stupendous monument of rabbinical lore; and the enemies have usually attacked it by using single phrases or epigrams disconnected from their context, by which method anything could be proven. In both cases ignorance has been fatal. For, how many have read the whole Talmud through and are thus competent to judge of its merits? Is it right to attack or defend without sufficient information? Is it not a proof of ignorance and unfairness to find fault with that of which we are not able to give proper testimony?

Let us take the case of those persons in particular who attacked the Talmud and made it the object of their venomous vituperation. Is it possible that they could have believed it a work capable of teaching the monstrous doctrines so frequently attributed to it, when that work says, among other things, “When one asks for food, no questions shall be asked as to who he is, but he must immediately be given either food or money”? Could a work be accused of frivolity and pettiness that defines wickedness to be

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[paragraph continues] “the action of a rich man who, hearing that a poor man is about to buy a piece of property, secretly overbids him”? (Qiddushin, 59a.) Could there be a higher sense of true charity than that conveyed by the following incident? Mar Uqba used to support a poor man by sending him on the eve of each Day of Atonement four hundred zuz. When the rabbi’s son took the money on one occasion he heard the poor man’s wife say, “Which wine shall I put on the table? Which perfume shall I sprinkle around the room?” The son, on hearing these remarks, returned with the money to his father and told him of what he had heard. Said Mar Uqba: “Was that poor man raised so daintily that he requires such luxuries? Go back to him and give him double the sum?” (Ketuboth, 7a.) This is not recorded by the Talmud as an exception; but it is the Talmudical estimate of charity. The Talmud is free from the narrowness and bigotry with which it is usually charged, and if phrases used out of their context, and in a sense the very reverse from that which their author intended, are quoted against it, we may be sure that those phrases never existed in the original Talmud, but are the later additions of its enemies and such as never studied it. When it is remembered that before the canon of the Talmud was finished, in the sixth century, 1 it had been growing for more than six hundred years, and that afterward it existed in fragmentary manuscripts for eight centuries until the first printed edition appeared; that during the whole of that time it was beset by ignorant, unrelenting, and bitter foes; that marginal notes were easily added and in after years easily embodied in the text by unintelligent copyists and printers, such a theory as here advanced seems not at all improbable.

The attacks on the Talmud have not been made by the enemies of the Jews alone. Large numbers of Jews themselves repudiate it, denying that they are Talmud Jews, or that they have any sympathy with it. Yet there are only the few Karaites in Russia and Austria, and the still fewer Samaritans in Palestine, who are really not Talmud Jews. Radical and Reform, Conservative and Orthodox, not only find their exact counterparts in the Talmud, but also follow in many important particulars the practices instituted through the Talmud, e.g., New Year’s Day, Pentecost (so far as its date and significance are concerned), the QADDISH, etc. The modern Jew is the product of the Talmud,

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which we shall find is a work of the greatest sympathies, the most liberal impulses, and the widest humanitarianism. Even the Jewish defenders have played into the enemy’s hands by their weak defences, of which such expressions as “Remember the age in which it was written,” or “Christians are not meant by ‘gentiles,’ but only the Romans, or the people of Asia Minor,” etc., may be taken as a type.

Amid its bitter enemies and weak friends the Talmud has suffered a martyrdom. Its eventful history is too well known to require detailing here. We feel that every attack on it is an attack upon the Jew. We feel that defence by the mere citation of phrases is useless and at the best weak. To answer the attacks made upon it through ludicrous and garbled quotations were idle. There is only one defence that can be made in behalf of the Talmud. Let it plead its own cause in a modern language!

What is this Talmud of which we have said so much? What is that work on which so many essays and sketches, articles and books, have been written? The best reply will be an answer in negative form. The Talmud is not a commentary on the Bible; nor should the vein of satire or humor that runs through it be taken for sober earnestness. 1 Nor is the Talmud a legal code, for it clearly states that one must not derive a law for practical application from any halakhic statement, nor even from a precedent, unless in either case it be expressly said that the law or statement is intended as a practical rule [Baba Bathra, 130b]. Further: R. Issi asked of R. Jo’hanan: “What shall we do if you pronounce a law to be a Halakha?” to which R. Jo’hanan replied: “Do not act in accordance with it until you have heard from me, ‘Go and practice.'” Neither is the Talmud a compilation of fixed regulations, although the Shul’han Arukh would make it appear so. Yet, even when the Shul’han Arukh will be forgotten, the Talmud will receive the respect and honor of all who love liberty, both mental and religious. It lives and will live, because of its adaptability to the necessities of every age, and if any proof were needed to show that it is not dead, the attacks that are with remarkable frequency made on it in Germany might be given as the strongest evidence. In its day the Talmud received, not the decisions, but the debates of the leaders of the people. It was an independent critic, as it were, adapting itself to the spirit of the times; adding where necessary to the teachings of former

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days, and abrogating also what had become valueless in its day. In other words, the Talmud was the embodiment of the spirit of the people, recording its words and thoughts, its hopes and aims, and its opinions on every branch of thought and action. Religion and Ethics, Education, Law, History, Geography, Medicine, Mathematics, etc., were all discussed. It dealt with living issues in the liveliest manner, and, therefore, it is living, and in reading it we live over again the lives of its characters.

Nothing could be more unfair, nothing more unfortunate than to adopt the prevailing false notions about this ancient encyclopædia. Do not imagine it is the bigoted, immoral, narrow work that its enemies have portrayed it to be. On the very contrary; in its statements it is as free as the wind. It permits no shackles, no fetters to be placed upon it. It knows no authority but conscience and reason. It is the bitterest enemy of all superstition and all fanaticism.

But why speak for it? Let it open its mouth and speak in its own defence! How can it be done? The Talmud must be translated into the modern tongues and urge its own plea. All that we have said for it would become apparent, if it were only read. Translation! that is the sole secret of

defence! In translating it, however, we find our path bristling with difficulties. To reproduce it as it is in the original is in our judgment an impossible task. Men like Pinner and Rawicz have tried to do so with single tracts, and have only succeeded in, at the best, giving translations to the world which are not only not correct but also not readable. If it were translated from the original text one would not see the forest through the trees. For, as we have said above, throughout the ages there have been added to the text marginal notes, explanatory words, and whole phrases and sentences inserted in malice or ignorance, by its enemies and its friends. 1 As it stands in the original it is, therefore, a tangled mass defying reproduction in a modern tongue. It has consequently occurred to us that, in order to enable the Talmud to open its mouth, the text must be carefully edited. A modern book, constructed on a supposed scientific plan, we cannot make of it, for that would not be the Talmud; but a readable, intelligible work, it can be made.

We have, therefore, carefully punctuated the Hebrew text with modern punctuation marks, and have reëdited it by omitting all such irrelevant matter as interrupted

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the clear and orderly arrangement of the various arguments. We have also omitted repetitions; for frequently the same thing is found repeated in many tracts; while in this translation each statement is to be found only once, and in the proper place for it. In this way there disappear those unnecessary debates within debates, which only serve to confuse and never to enlighten on the question debated. Thus consecutiveness has been gained, but never at the expense of the Talmud, for in no case have we omitted one single statement that was necessary or of any importance. In other words, we have merely removed from the text those accretions that were added from outside sources, which have proven so fruitful a source of misunderstanding and misrepresentation.

We continue our labors in the full and certain hope that “he who comes to purify receives divine help,” and that in our task of removing the additions made by the enemies of the Talmud we shall be purifying it from the most fruitful source of the attacks made on it, and thereunto we hope for the help of Heaven. As we have already said, we feel that this work will not be received everywhere with equal favor. We could not expect that it would. Jewish works of importance have most usually been given amid “lightning and thunder,” and this is not likely to prove an exception.

We are always ready to accept criticism, so long as it is objective, and we shall gladly avail ourselves of suggestions given to us, but we shall continue to disregard all personal criticism directed not against our work but against its author. This may serve as a reply to a so-called review that appeared in one of our Western weeklies.

At the same time we deem it our duty to render to Dr. Isaac H. Wise, the venerable President of the Hebrew Union College of Cincinnati, our heartfelt thanks for the several evenings spent in revising this volume, and for many courtesies extended to us in general.


CINCINNATI, May, 1896.



ix:1 Vide Genesis, xliii. 32.

ix:2 In our forthcoming “History of the Talmud” the reader will find all details of the persecution, until the present time, in twenty chapters.

x:1 Vide Brief Introduction.

xi:1 According to others, in the eighth century. See our “History of the Talmud.”

xii:1 See our article, “What is the Talmud?” in the prospectus.

xiii:1 In others of our works we have named some of these interpolators.


Next: Brief General Introduction to the Babylonian Talmud


p. xv




ON this, the appearance of our latest literary undertaking, we deem a few explanatory remarks necessary. The brief outline of the origin of the Talmud that follows may suggest the thought that we have departed from the usual manner of dealing with the questions here discussed, the more so since we have, for the sake of brevity, refrained from citing the authorities on which our statements are based. We wish, therefore, to declare here that we do not venture to make a single statement without the support of authorities well known in Hebrew literature. Our method is to select such views as seem to us the best authenticated in the historical progress of Judaism. As we have taken our choice from the numerous works on our subject, the student is entitled to adopt or to reject the views that we represent.

Most of the Mishnayoth date from a very early period, and originated with the students of the Jewish academies which existed since the days of Jehoshaphat, King of Judah [II Chron. xvii. 9].

The rabbinical students of ancient times noted the essence of the academical teachings in brief form, and, as a rule, in the idiom in which it was spoken to them, so that they could afterward easily commit it to memory. They have sometimes, however, added comments and extensive explanations in the form of notes, so that the mass of their learning, embraced in course of time, according to some authorities, as many as six hundred divisions.

The source of the Mishnayoth was the customs and regulations

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practised by the authorities in their administration of religious and civil affairs: such as the Sabbath, Prayers, Cleanliness (considered actually Godliness), Permitted and Forbidden Foods, and controversies arising concerning Slavery. Indebtedness and corporal punishment are subjects of academical discussion, conducted with the aim of perfecting them into national statutes enforceable in all Jewish communities alike.

In course of time, however, when those Mishnayoth were noted down from earlier existing copies, many additions were made. Finally Rabbi Jehudah the Prince, generally called Rabbi, concluded to collect all the Mishnayoth in his college for proper arrangement. From these he selected six divisions, called according to the subject they deal with, viz.: Seeds, Feasts, Women, Damages, Sacrifices, and Purifications, and he proclaimed them holy for all Israel. Of the Mishnayoth so treated by Rabbi some were left entirely intact, and were reproduced in their

original form. To others he parenthetically added brief comments of his own, and there are still others that he changed in form completely, because already in his day old customs had changed and taken new forms.

Such of them as he desired to make final and indisputable national laws he incorporated into the Mishna without mentioning the names of their authors. Where, however, he could formulate no definite decision himself, or where they were well known to the public, he gave full information of their authors as well as the names of those opposed to their conclusions, without any decision on his part. In still others he mentioned no names, but contented himself with saying “A’herim,” i.e., “Anonymous teachers say,” not wishing to specify their authority for certain reasons.

Rabbi did not seek the compliance and agreement of all his contemporaries in his arrangement of the Mishna, and many differed from his conclusions and even arranged Mishnayoth in accordance with their own views. Being, however, a man of great prominence, influence, and wealth, Rabbi succeeded in quelling opposition and in making his conclusions as acceptable as the Mosaic law itself; and his great pupils, seeing that his intentions

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were only to prevent dissensions and his only aim the public weal, supported him nobly, until his teachings were accepted as the law of the nation.

Many Mishnayoth were rejected and destroyed by Rabbi, but, not being in possession of all those he wished to destroy, he went in search of them to colleges outside of his jurisdiction. There, however, he met with great opposition. Some of the Mishnayoth were hidden beyond his reach, others were secretly preserved and arranged within the very limits of his domain and promptly brought to light after his death. But Rabbi’s pupils did not dignify them with the name MISHNA, implying “next to Mosaic law,” 1 but called them TOSEPHTOTH, meaning “additions of a later period,” or merely additional, not principal, matter. Some of them were also named BORAITHOTH (outsiders), i.e., secondary, not academical matter. They spread, however, very rapidly after Rabbi’s death, and to such an extent as to threaten the Mishnayoth of Rabbi with entire extinction. Such would actually have been the result, had not the pupils of Rabbi organized again colleges whose aim was to perpetuate the Mishnayoth of Rabbi, which they also accomplished. Colleges of that character were those of Rabh and Samuel in Babylon and Rabbi Janai and Rabbi Jo’hanan in Palestine. These colleges made strenuous efforts to explain and harmonize the Mishnayoth of Rabbi with the teachings of the Boraithoth, generally regarded as those of Rabbi Hyya and Rabbi Oshia, who were greatly admired by the public. At times the Mishna of Rabbi was abbreviated and replenished with the text of the Boraitha, or explained with an opposing opinion, so as to harmonize it with the latter or suit the new conditions and consequent changes of the custom that originally caused the conclusion of the Mishna. Where, however, they found no other way to suit their purpose, they inserted a new Mishna of their own composition into the text of Rabbi. 2

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The teachers mentioned in the Mishna of Rabbi or in the Boraithoth and Tosephta were called Tanaim (singular Tana) signifying Instructors, Professors. The teachings of the colleges, covering a period of some centuries, which also found adherents and became the traditional law,

were called GEMARA, signifying “conclusion.” The intention was to harmonize Mishna and Boraitha, and, in most cases, to arrive at a final decision as to the theory of the law (as Rabbi the proper interpretation or Jo’hanan prohibited compliance with the Halakha unless it is mandatory). These Gemara teachers were called AMORAIM (interpreters), i.e., they interpreted to the public the difficult passages in the Mishna. Being classified as interpreters only, they had no authority to deviate from the spirit of the Mishna unless supported by another Tana opposing the Mishna, in which case they could follow the opinion of the Tana with whom they agreed.

Rabhina and R. Ashi, who lived at the end of the fifth century (third century of Amoraim), began to arrange the Gemara, but without success, and commenced a second time to arrange it. Unfortunately they died before accomplishing their task, and the Gemara had to undergo the chances of transmission from hand to hand until the appearance upon the scene of Rabana Jose, president of the last Saburaic College in Pumbeditha, who foresaw that his college was destined to be the last, owing to the growing persecution of the Jews from the days of “Firuz.” He also feared that the Amoraic manuscripts would be lost in the coming dark days or materially altered, so be summoned all his contemporary associates and hastily closed up the Talmud, prohibiting any further additions. This enforced haste caused not only an improper arrangement and many numerous repetitions and additions, but also led to the “talmudizing” of articles directly traceable to bitter and relentless opponents of the Talmud. The time (Rabana Jose conducted his college only seventeen years) being too short for a proper and critical review of

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each and every subject, many theories were surreptitiously added by its enemies, with the purpose of making it detestable to its adherents. Of such character is the expression, “That of R. Ashi is a fabrication,” which is repeated numerous times throughout the Talmud and which could by no means have originated with the Amoraim, which as a rule were very guarded in their expressions and would never have dreamed of applying it or similar expressions to such Talmudical authorities as R. Ashi and Mar, his son, much less to the Patriarchs or the Prophets. This closing up of the Talmud did not, however, prevent the importation of foreign matter into it, and many such have crept in through the agency of the “Rabanan Saburai” and the Gaonim of every later generation.

The chief aim of the authors of the Gemara being to perpetuate the Mishna as the sole source of the Jewish religious and civil code after the Mosaic laws themselves, they not only directed all their energy to the discussion and perfecting of its deductions, but treated its very words and letters as inspired and as holy as the Bible itself, forming at times conclusions from a superfluous word or letter. Oftentimes, when they found the Mishna differing with an established custom in their days, they resorted to subtle inquiry and minute discussion, until they succeeded in establishing harmony between the differing points. All these efforts were directed to refute and disprove the assertions of the different sects who opposed the oral law and who were inclined to adhere to the written law solely. Therefore the Rabbis of the Gemara said “MINALAN?” (Wherefrom its source?) or “MINOH HANNE MILI?” (which means “Whence is all this deduced?”) in the treatment of a subject not plainly specified in the Bible; and also the exclamatory remark “PESHITA!” (It is self-evident!) as regards subjects plainly enumerated in the Scriptures which do not admit of any other interpretation. Of the same origin is the question “LEMAI HILKHETHA?” (For what purpose was this Halakha stated?) with reference to an obsolete custom. So much for the general history of the Talmud.



xvii:1 See Mielziner’s “Introduction to the Talmud,” page 6.

xvii:2 This was done by Rabh and R. Jo’hanan, the heads of the colleges in Babylon and Palestine; and in many passages of the Talmud the latter exclaims: “This p. xviii Mishna was taught in the time of Rabbi!” which means that Rabbi himself was not aware of it. See Weiss’ “Traditions of the Oral Law,” under the head “Mishna and Rabbi.”