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Gleanings from the Talmud
By James Robertson and Published in Good Words 1875


THE present paper makes no pretensions beyond its title; but as the subject is not very familiar to the general reader, it may be well to make a rapid survey of the field to be gleaned from, and to indicate the principle that guides the selection.

The Talmud has little claim to be considered a book beyond the mere fact of its consisting of so many volumes, for it is the product of many minds and the growth of ! centuries. The scribes who succeeded Ezra and Nehemiah in that misty period within which lies the boundary line between Old Testament Scripture and tradition, rallying round the Mosaic law, as the only means of preserving the people from heathen contamination, on the one hand, and internal corruption, on the other, made every effort to bring its precepts to bear upon all the relations, civil and sacred, in which the colonists were placed. They made a "fence to the law," as their own phrase has it; that is, they endeavoured, by minor and detailed prescriptions, to secure the great precepts of the law from infringement, and to apply them to all the details of daily life. The hedge of prickly pear, seen everywhere in the East, is a fair illustration of what that "fence round the law" became. The few well-meant regulations of the scribes, like the blades of the cactus first set in the soft sand, and liable to be displaced by a passing footstep, became the starting-point for new developments, and bristled over all their borders with a formidable array of prescriptions, till the whole was grotesque in the extreme, and the hedge actually choked the law which it was to have preserved.

We cannot trace here the expansion of this work of the scribes and their successors, as, believing in the all-sufficiency of the law, they sought in its compass authority for every new "fence" and ground for every existing usage, and invented for this purpose methods of connection — they cannot be called methods of interpretation — between the written law and their own ordinances. Two institutions, with which the reader is familiar, were the channels through which it operated. These were the School and the Sanhedrim. Connected with the synagogues there were common schools for primary education, and local courts for the judgment of cases that might arise: the rabbins of distinction had also their higher schools, and the highest court in the land was the great Sanhedrim at Jerusalem. It was before this court that Christ was arraigned, and Peter and John were tried; and it must have been in a school in the Temple that the child Jesus was found, and in another such that Saul of Tarsus studied under Gamaliel. The schools were the arena in which the learned men and their pupils sharpened their wits in discussion; and it will be readily understood how, while the Sanhedrim was occupied with actual cases brought before it, the schools would be employed in the solving of possible and imaginary cases—with casuistry, in fact. We have already in the pages of the New Testament indications of a reverence for the letter of the law to the neglect of its spirit in these casuistical discussions; and this tendency, increasing to a prodigious extent, and combined with a reverence for great names, kept alive the tradition of the decisions of the courts and the opinions of the doctors, which in time was invested with divine authority, as an unwritten law delivered to Moses on Sinai, as an explanation of the written, and handed down in unbroken succession from age to age.

In the troubles that came upon the Jewish people the Sanhedrim suffered much, and was deprived of the power of enforcing its sentences; but the activity of the schools continued, notwithstanding persecution; and when finally the synagogue took the place of the Temple, the college remained as the representative of the Sanhedrim, and study, taking the place of judgment, ran riot in its handling of the law. The schools of Babylon, swelled by refugees from Palestine, kept pace with, and even outstripped, those of the Holy Land for a time; but when the stricter edicts against the study of the law were relaxed, the College of Tiberias again took the lead, and then for the first time, towards the close of the second century a.d., under the presidency of Rabbi Judah the Holy, the oral tradition was collected into an authoritative form. It was called Mithna, or "teaching," from the formula by which the decisions of the doctors of the period were conveyed, but came to be known as Mishna, or "repetition," from the idea that it is but the expansion or iteration of the written law. It consists of six treatises, in which are given, under separate heads, the decisions of the doctors to the minutest details on all the subjects of civil, criminal, and ceremonial law that had occupied their attention; recording also, as a guarantee of the thorough preservation of the tradition, the rejected decisions or opinions of the minority.

The Mishna, compiled at Tiberias while the college there had an acknowledged supremacy, was accepted by the schools of Babylon and Palestine as their handbook of the oral law, and its decisions, stated with all the terseness of legal sentences, were canvassed in all their bearings, in order to show the process by which they had been reached, their agreement with other apparently conflicting decisions, and the illustration they derived from other quarters. The interlocutor and appended note of a Scotch judge are but a faint comparison of the result, for the free method of discussion in the schools admitted of an endless variety of illustration; so that, when the whole came to be written down, it had something of the character of a reporter's notes of the sittings of the doctors and their pupils. The teachers of this period are called Sayers, from the formula used in recording their opinions, and the collection of their sayings is called Gemara, or "completion." The combination of Mishna and Gemara forms the Talmud; and as the schools of Babylon and Palestine were now distinct, the one Mishna had its Gemara in each field, so that we have what are known as the Jerusalem Talmud, collected about the. end of the fourth century a.d., and the Babylonian Talmud, which belongs to the fifth century, the latter being the more voluminous. On first approaching the study of the Talmud, the reader finds himself in a strange world. A hard, condensed ordinance of the Mishna is stated, referring to some precept of the written law, though the reference may not be very clear. Then comes the Gemara, commencing with some of those prescriptions collected after the redaction of the Mishna, and then the doctors by name, and quoting the names of their masters, step forward and proceed to the elucidation of the point in hand. By question and answer, objection and solution, opposition and reconciliation, the discussion goes on. The reader is bandied from one authority to another, transported from one age to another, carried rapidly through dry discussions on legal niceties and quaint applications of Scripture texts, lifted to heaven, and permitted, from "behind the curtain," to hear what goes on there, swept away to the abodes of the dead, and informed what is done there, astonished by miracles, amused by stories, tickled by proverbs, and thus borne along by a weird fascination, till suddenly pulled up by the appearance of the next portion of the Mishna, or as frequently made to pause and draw breath before facing it. With a little patience, however, he discerns an order of its kind in this apparent confusion. Certain catch-words denote certain transitions, which have laws of their own; items of biography, picked up here and there, give touches to the dim pictures of departed doctors; the daily life, domestic, social, and scholastic, of the period, begins to emerge from the obscurity, and he finds himself in a world of living men. The thing that was of primary consequence to the men of the Talmud—the referring of everything to some point in the written law—may fall into secondary consideration; the artificial bond of traditionalism may be dissolved, but what remains throws great light on the history of the time, and is, if properly weighed, a deeply interesting chapter in the history of human thought. Rabbinic authorities distinguish between two main currents of thought running through the Talmud. Whatever pertains to the establishing of a legal enactment or the solution of a legal question, is Halacha, and the rest, in its endless variety, is Haggada. The former exhibits the rabbis primarily in their professional character; and, as the law is the backbone of the Talmud, the Halacha is endued with pre-eminent authority and value, although, to an outside reader, the Haggada, admitting of the free play of more mental faculties, has an interest equal, if not superior, to the merely professional activity of the rabbis. It is not always easy to disentangle Halacha from the mass of Haggada in which it is embedded. It is said that two Edinburgh lawyers cannot meet on the street without drawing up a minute; so it is scarcely possible for two rabbis to exchange words without a reference to a text of Scripture, and as the law was in their regard the basis of all Scripture, they were continually on the watch for anything that might bear on a legal question, as the following little incident will show:—

"Rabban Gamaliel had a Canaanite slave called Tabi, whom he treated with great indulgence. Coming home with some friends on the feast of Succoth (Tabernacles) Gamaliel found the slave sleeping under his own bed, and said to his friends in jest, 'You see Tabi, my slave, knows that he is not obliged to observe the feast of Succoth.' Whereupon R. Simeon said, ' From Gamaliel's jest we learn two principles—(1) that a slave is not bound to observe Succoth, and (2) that one who is bound would not be observing it by sleeping under a bed.' And so R. Ache says, in name of Rabh, 'Even the commonplace words of the wise men should be regarded.' "

Another extract may give some idea of the distinction between Halacha and Haggada, by showing how both may take their rise from one and the same text:—

"R. Ame and R. Ase were both before R. Isaac Nafche. One said, 'Let my lord tell us Halacha,' and the other said, 'Let my lord tell us Haggada,' and when he tried to please the one, the other was dissatisfied. He said, ' I will tell you what the thing is like. A man had two wives, one young, the other old. The young one picked out all his grey hairs, and the other pulled out all the black, so that between the two he was left bald. What shall I do ? I will tell you something to please both. It is written (Exod. xxii. 6), "If fire break out and catch thorns, so that the corn should be consumed, he that kindleth the fire shall surely make restitution." The Holy One, blessed be He, says, It is mine to make good the loss of the fire which I kindled. I kindled a fire in Zion, as it is said, He hath kindled a fire in Zion, and I shall again build it with fire, as it is written, / will be to her a wall of fire round about.' So much for Haggada, and now Halacha. The text begins with damages of property and ends with damages of the person, to show you that fire is in the same category as an arrow" [i.e. fire kindled at a distance is like an arrow shot at a distance].

It is not easy to glean from the legal part of the Talmud. When once the tendency of the rabbinic mind in this direction is fairly seen, the ordinary reader is little interested in following it in all its aberrations. It would be a marvel if the oral law did not exhibit something of the spirit of the Mosaic Code on which it is based; and, guided partly by that spirit and partly by their own good sense, the rabbis have left us a system of prescriptions which will contrast favourably with anything of its kind; but it is worth observing that much which seems at first sight an excessive scrupulousness for fairness and mercy, may, after all, be but a punctilious indecision which conjured up innumerable possibilities, and could not make up its mind in the face of them.

In general it may be said that nothing is easier than to quote the Talmud in support of almost anything, and either to turn it into ridicule or to give an extravagant idea of its contents. Great names might be cited in favour of contradictory positions of the Halacha—it could not well be otherwise— and on other matters there is still greater freedom of opinion." [A Jewish rabbi (Soloweyczyk) is at present publishing (under difficulties) a Hebrew Commentary on the New Testament, with the view of showing the agreement of the Talmud with the Gospel. The French translation (La Bible, le Talmud, et l'Evangile) is to be had at Paris, Rue de Berlin II, and an English Translation at London, 109, Gravel Lane, Houndsditch.] A saying of its own runs, "Turn it over, turn it over, for everything is in it:" but let not that be taken to imply that the Talmud is a storehouse of substantial truth unknown to the present age. On some scientific subjects the rabbins may have been in advance of their own time; but isolated passages, which at first sight look like anticipations of modern discoveries, may probably be nothing more than the crude guesses of intellects that had accustomed themselves to look for all possible statements of a case, and all imaginable solutions of a difficulty. [M. Deutsch finds the "gradual development of the Cosmos fully recognised by the Talmud." But we might trace even Darwinism to a rabbinic source, for Aben Ezra, in his Commentary on Gen. iii. 21, "The Lord God made coats of skin," mentions the opinion of some that there was an animal in the similitude of man, whose skin furnished clothing for Adam and Eve.] The Talmud, as a whole, cannot fairly be taken to prove anything beyond its own unique character.

Besides the complicated details of legal ordinance, and the great mass of general information on manners and customs of the time, which the Talmud contains, there is, in biographical and general incidents, wayside hints and touches of nature, a rolling stream of life flowing through its pages, proving that the rabbis were men as well as doctors, or, we might say, men in spite of their being doctors, and men, too, of great practical sagacity, of warm living hearts, of real humour, and, in many cases, of deep religious feeling. And it is from this point of view that we would offer a few gleanings, with no intention of showing either the best or the worst of the Talmud, but in order, if possible within the narrow limits of a paper like this, to bring the reader a little closer to men and times so little generally understood.

The biographical details scattered up and down the Talmud, in all shades of colouring, from broad farce to deepest pathos, present a variety of individual character in the rabbis in striking contrast with the uniformity of their scholastic processes. There is Hillel the great struggling upwards through poverty to the highest eminence, distinguished from his irascible colleague by a proverbial equability of temper. There is Rabbi Jochanan, son of Zaccai, who lived in the exciting times of the fall of Jerusalem, and whose pupils were so famous. There is the second Gamaliel, whose unfortunate temper led to repeated "scenes" in the school of Jabneh, and the long succeeding line of famous men, of whom we have portraits more or less distinct. The history of Rabbi Akiba, involving a romantic love story, may be given in some detail as a specimen.

In early life he was a shepherd in the service of the richest man in Jerusalem. His master's daughter fell in love with him, and they were betrothed (or married, according to one account) secretly, and on condition that he was to devote himself to the study of the law. The father, becoming aware of the engagement, vowed that his daughter should never inherit a penny of his property, and drove her from the house. For twelve years she suffered great hardships, being compelled to sell her long hair to buy bread, and never hearing, as it would appear, from her absent lover. At the end of that time Akiba, now a rabbi and master of twelve thousand pupils, returned, and contrived to get, unnoticed, within hearing of his bride. An old man was remonstrating with her to this effect: "You have remained in this unnatural widowhood for twelve years," when she interrupted him, "If he follows my inclination, he will remain as he is engaged for another twelve years." Akiba concluded that he had her consent to pursue his studies, and returned to the school. At the end of the second twelve years he returned—now called master by twenty-four thousand pupils —and his bride prepared to go out and meet him. Some of her female friends advised her at least to borrow a decent dress, in which to show herself to the great rabbi; but she said, "A merciful man regardeth the life of his beast," and went as she was. The pupils who attended Akiba would have thrust away the tattered creature who threw herself at his feet; but he rebuked them, saying, "Let her alone; all that I have and all that you have is due to her." Meanwhile the father's heart had begun to relent, and hearing of the arrival of a great doctor (for he knew not that it was his old servant), he propounded to him the difficulty of his rash vow. " Did you vow," said the rabbi, "that even if she married a learned man you would disinherit her?" "No," said the father. "Had the man known one section or one ordinance of the law, I would have given her to him." Then, of course, Akiba revealed himself, and there was a general rejoicing. The story has a curious pendant, to the effect that Akiba's own daughter had a similar romance with her husband, thus fulfilling a proverb of the Talmud, "As one sheep follows another, so a daughter goes in the steps of her mother." Akiba was a man of great composure of mind, and when any trouble befell him was wont to repeat the motto of his master, "All is for good." Once, in the course of a journey, he arrived towards night at a certain village, the inhabitants of which refused him lodging. He calmly said, "All is for good," and proceeded to make arrangements for spending the night in the open field. He had with him a donkey to ride on, a lamp to read by, and a cock to waken him in the morning. The wind blew out his lamp, a fox carried off the cock, and a lion made away with the donkey. "All is for good," said the imperturbable rabbi; and so he found in the morning, for a band of robbers had fallen upon the inhospitable village and carried off the inhabitants as slaves. His death was a very mournful one. He had joined the rising of Bar Cochba, and when that impostor was subdued, Akiba, as one of his foremost followers, was called to suffer the penalty of revolt. He preserved his tranquillity in prison, continuing to give advice and comfort to his pupils; and when brought out to suffer an excruciating death, proclaimed aloud his profession of the Hebrew faith—"Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One," his spirit departing with the utterance of the last word One.

By such details one is allowed to see the rabbis in their daily lives.—one going to the school carrying his chair on his shoulder, another sitting among his pupils with his little child on his knee, some plying a trade, others engaged in commerce; some in the deepest poverty, others rolling in wealth; all devoted to the law. And to have seen them thus, in their homes, in the school, in the market-place, in the world—to read their curious adventures, to listen to their rollicking humour, their painstaking discussions, their mournful aspirations, their fervid prayers —all this induces a sympathy so strong that it seems unkind, even in a meagre sketch like this, to thrust away their pictures without a word of notice.


OTHER characters appear in the pages of the Talmud, although the interest attaching to them can scarcely; be called historical. There is such a tendency to read all events in the light of the Jewish political and. religious life, that anachronisms and glaring, misstatements are everywhere found. History, in short, becomes legend, and such names as those of Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander of Macedon, and Titus, no less than the,; great names of the Jewish people themselves, are surrounded with a mass of legend," with a view of furnishing a foil to the wisdom of the doctors, or enhancing the glory of the law. With legend in itself we are at present little concerned, except so far as it shows the method in the madness of the wildest nights of the rabbis. Let one passage, relating to Alexander's journey into Egypt, suffice:—

He said (to the wise men of the south), "I wish to go to Africa." They replied, "You cannot go, because the dark mountains lie between." But he would not rest contented till they told him how he must proceed. They said, "Take Libyan asses that can walk in the dark, and lay down thick ropes as guiding-lines for the way back." He did so, and proceeded till he came to a place where there were none but women, and was going to make war upon them. The women said to him, "If you conquer us, people will say, 'You conquered but women;' and if we conquer you, they will say, 'That was a king that women killed.'" He asked them to bring him provisions, and they set before him bread of gold on tables of gold. Said he, "Are there people that eat bread of gold?" They rejoined, "Had you no bread at home that you came hither in search of it ? '' So when he went away from the place he wrote on the gate, "I, Alexander of Macedon, was a fool till I came to the land of Africa, and learned wisdom from women." As he journeyed he came to a little stream, and ate there. As he was washing some salt-fish in the stream a good flavour came to them (others explain life returned to them), and he said, "Now I understand that this stream comes from the garden of Eden;" and he followed it upwards till he reached the gate of the garden of Eden, at which he knocked, and called out, "Open the door for me." They answered, "This is the gate of God; the righteous enter here." But he said, "I am a king; I am esteemed; at least give me something." They gave him the skull of a man, which he weighed against all the silver and gold that he possessed, but it outweighed all. He asked the wise men the meaning of this, and they told him that this was the skull that had contained the eye of flesh and blood, which is never satisfied. "How shall it be satisfied?" he asked, and they replied, "Sprinkle a little earth on it, and it will be light enough."

Of special interest, from our present point of view, are the numerous incidents and anecdotes of ordinary life, in which the Talmud abounds. The following is told of Rabbi Eleazar, son of R. Simeon ben Jochai (the reputed author of the Zohar):—

R. Eleazar was coming home from Migdol Gedur, where he had been attending the lectures of his master. He was riding at leisure on his donkey, and his heart was lifted up within him because he had learned much that day. He overtook a person who was very ugly and mean-looking, and when this person saluted him with "Peace be with you, rabbi!" he did not return the salutation, but said, "Raca, what an ugly fellow! are all the people of your town as ugly?" The man replied, "I don't know, but go to the Workman that made me, and tell Him what an ugly vessel He made." Feeling himself rebuked, the rabbi dismounted, prostrated himself before the man, and begged forgiveness. But the man persisted, "I will not forgive you till you tell the Workman who made me what an ugly vessel He made." And thus they went on, the rabbi entreating and the man refusing, till they reached the town where R. Eleazar lived. The people thronged the sides of the road, calling "Peace be with you, rabbi, rabbi! master, master!" The ugly man asked them whom they were saluting thus, and they replied, "The person that is walking behind you." "If this," said he, "be a rabbi, may there be few such in Israel;" and on being questioned he related all that had occurred. "Nevertheless," said they, "forgive him, for he is a man of great learning;" and for their sakes he forgave him, on condition that he would not accustom himself to such airs. Whereupon R. Eleazar in his sermon, said, "A man should always be pliable as the green reed, and not stiff as a cedar; because of its humility the reed has the honour to be made into pens for the writing of the law and Tephillin and Mezuzoth."

The following, mutatis nominibus, might refer to the reformed law-courts of Turkey at the present day :—

Gamaliel II. and his sister Emma Salem had a lawsuit in regard to patrimony, the sister claiming an equal share with the brother. The case was tried in the civil {i.e. heathen) court, before a judge who was also a philosopher, and had the reputation of taking no bribe. Emma Salem went to the judge privately beforehand, and made him a present of a fine lamp. The case was called, the judge declared that the inheritance ought to be divided, but was prevailed upon to grant an adjournment on the promise of Gamaliel to bring legal evidence that the Mosaic law had not in this particular been set aside by the civil power. Meanwhile Gamaliel sent to the judge a donkey of a fine breed. When the case was again called, Emma Salem, relying on her strongest argument, addressed the judge, "My lord, let the light of thy decision shine forth as a lamp." The judge, however, declared that since the adjournment he had read further on in the civil code, and found that in the matter of inheritance, when there was a son, the daughter had no share. And so, when they left the court, Gamaliel said to his sister, "My donkey kicked over your lamp."

The following is given by the Talmud itself as a model of faithful love:—

A young woman, on going home, strayed from the path, and fell into a pit; and a young man, attracted by her cries for help, and making sure that she was a human being and not an evil spirit, promised to release her if she would marry him. She consented, and he contrived to rescue her from her perilous position. They then formally plighted their faith, and, no person being near, they took to witness their sincerity the pit from which she had been delivered and a rat that happened to cross the path, exchanged addresses, and parted. The young man soon forgot the adventure and married another; but the young woman remained faithful to her promise, and, though courted by many lovers, rejected all addresses. To all entreaties and remonstrances of her friends she turned a deaf ear, and at last, to save herself from importunity, she pretended to be mad, as indeed she well-nigh was from grief. In this miserable plight, with tattered clothes and dishevelled hair, no one would now look at her. Meanwhile her faithless lover was the father of two children, one of whom fell into a pit and was killed, and the other was devoured by rats. His wife said to him, "Surely some unnatural sin lies upon our house, that our children die so unnatural deaths;" and he was constrained to confess the whole story of the pit and the rat. The wife ordered him to divorce her, and seek out his lawful bride and marry her. When he found his betrothed, and declared to her friends his desire to marry her, they said to him, "It is in vain; we have talked to her of marriage till she is crazy." "Let me only see her," he said; and no sooner did he mention the pit and the rat than she returned to her reason and married him.

The following is a fair illustration of the Talmudic view of the Sabbath:—

There was a man named Joseph, "the honourer of the Sabbath," because he spared no expense in his preparation for the Sabbath meal. He had a rich neighbour, to whom it was revealed by astrology that his poor neighbour would become possessor of all his wealth. So he went and sold all his lands, and bought with the money a pearl of great value, which for greater safety he always carried in his hat. One day, as he was crossing a ferry, the wind blew off his hat, and a large fish swallowed it. Some time afterwards the fishermen, finding a fish of unusual size on the day before the Sabbath, and thinking of no more likely purchaser than Joseph, who always provided the best he could get for his Sabbath dinner, offered the fish to him for sale. He readily bought it, and on opening it found the pearl which represented all the miser's wealth. On the thing becoming known, an old man said to him, "He that lends to the Sabbath is repaid by the Sabbath."

The parables and fables of the Talmud are a common vehicle of the moral and religious sentiment of the rabbis. The thought of the following parable is pretty well known, but we give it as it stands in the Talmud:—

Antoninus Pius said to Rabbi (i.e. Judah the Holy): "Both body and soul may evade the judgment of the world to come; the body may say, 'It was the soul that sinned, for from the time I parted from it I have lain still as a stone in the grave;' and the soul may say, 'It was the body that sinned, for since I left it I have flown about in the air like a bird.'  Rabbi said to him, " I will tell you what the thing is like. A human king had an orchard of fine fruit, in which he placed two watchmen, one lame and the other blind. The lame man said to the blind, 'I see fine fruit on the trees, let me mount on your shoulders that we may get it.' So the blind man carried the lame man on his back, and they ate all the fruit of the garden. After a time the king returned, and demanded the fruit of the garden. The blind man said, 'I have no eyes to see any fruit,' and the lame man said, 'I cannot move to take any fruit.' What did he do with them? He made the lame man ride on the shoulders of the blind, and punished them both as one. So the Holy One, blessed be He ! will bring the soul and make it enter the body, and judge the two together, as it is written, 'He will call to the heavens from above and to the earth, that He may judge his people'—'call to the heavens,' i.e. He will bring the souls, 'and to the earth,' i.e. He will raise the bodies."

Here are another two parables, which may remind the reader of some of those of the New Testament:—

Rabbi Jochanan said: "A king once invited his servants to a feast, but did not specify the hour. They that were wise prepared themselves, and sat in the king's gate, saying, 'In a king's house things are always ready, and we may be called at any moment.' They that were foolish went to their occupations, saying, 'A feast takes time in preparation, and we shall receive, notice.' On a sudden the servants were summoned, and the wise welcomed by the king; but the foolish were not fit to appear as his guests, and were made to stand and look on while the others feasted."

It is written, "The spirit shall return to God as He gave it:" if it was given pure, let it be returned pure. A king distributed dresses of state to his servants, the wise of whom folded up theirs and laid them away in chests; but the foolish: went to their work with their dresses on. After a time the king required the dresses, and the wise brought theirs clean as if from the fuller's, but the foolish presented theirs soiled and spotted. So he said, "Take the dresses of the wise into my storehouse, and let their owners go home in peace; but let. the dresses of the others be sent to the fuller, and. let the wearers be kept bound in prison."

But nowhere do the. wisdom and common-sense of the doctors appear more conspicuous than in the proverbs and common sayings which are ever recurring in the Talmud. The reader has already noticed how a, story is condensed into a proverb at the end. Very significant, also, is the manner in which some "saying of the people" is adduced as convincing proof, when the usual methods of interpretation fail to give scriptural authority for a point in hand; and, striking as the proverbs are in themselves, they generally gain in force when taken in connection with the context, e.g.:

Moses and Aaron were once walking, Nadab and Abihu behind them, and all Israel following. Nadab said to. Abihu, "When shall these two old men die, that we may be the leaders of the age?" The Holy One, blessed be He! said, "We shall see who will bury whom." And referring to this R. Pappa said, "This is what people say, Many an old camel carries a load of young camels' skins."

Again:—R. Huna had found some fine dates, and was carrying them in. his handkerchief when he met his son, and gave them to him. In a little the son's son. appeared, and Hum's son gave the dates to the child. Huna said, "My son, you have gladdened my heart, though you have set my teeth on edge." And this is what people say, A father loves his son, and the son loves his son.

Collections of Talmudic and Rabbinic proverbs have been published both by Jewish and Gentile authors, and the Talmud itself contains one whole treatise of moral sentences, often quoted from, and another on politeness, which contains some good maxims. All we can do here, as in the preceding sections, is to offer a mere handful, by way of illustrating some of the prominent aspects of rabbinic life and character. Of proverbs relating to home life, we have many such as these:—

Ten measures of talk came down to the world, nine were taken by women, and one by all the world beside. A woman, even when she is talking, goes on with her spinning. Women understand guests better than their husbands. Let the husband be as small as an ant, the wife sets her chair among the greatest ladies. The mark of a bad wife: she sets her husband's table in nice order, and sets her tongue a-going in nice style. A woman is always armed. If your sister's son is a policeman, don't show yourself too much in the street. A man's foes are the people of his house. When the barley-barrel is empty, it makes a loud sound in the house. Whatever a child says abroad, it must have heard at home. When a rabbi is going to betroth a wife, let him take a man of the world with him.

There are not a few good maxims of commerce:—

When goods are cheap, gather and buy. While the sand is still on your feet, sell what you have bought. Put the money into your purse, and then deliver the goods. If you have goods to sell, take them to a market where they are plentiful. A small cucumber now is better than a large pumpkin afterwards. Better sell your daughter than borrow money at interest. If a man owes you money, take payment in bran. A man's money is his best broker. Whoever looks after his property, every day gains a shekel.

There are also proverbs relating to professions and places:—

A physician at a distance is blind of an eye. A physician for nothing is worth nothing. The most of muleteers are bad characters; the most of camel-drivers are inoffensive; the most of, sailors are superstitious; the best of butchers is a partner with Amalek; the best of physicians goes to Gehinnom. Don't stay in a town the head men of which are rabbis. The emulation of the scribes increases wisdom. A doctor may give himself a certificate in a place where he is not known. A wise man should have an eighth of an eighth of pride. Even a weaver is master of his own house. If a man of Narash kisses you, count your teeth; if a man of Nahar Pekuda accompanies you, be sure he has seen a good coat on your back; if a man of Pumpeditha follows you, change your inn.

We can give only a few of the many maxims embodying religious sentiments:—-

The Shechinah rests only when there is gladness. Evil thoughts are at first like gossamer threads, but at last like cart-ropes. The imagination of evil is worse than the evil itself. If a man repents, his sin becomes a good deed. One act of submission in the heart is better than a hundred stripes. May my portion be with the man that is unjustly suspected. A proud man cannot dwell in the same world with God. Bury me neither in white clothes nor in black. No man can affect the lot of another. Even the man in charge of a well is appointed by God. The greater a man, the greater his temptations. He was immersed in water, but held an unclean reptile in his hand. Over three men God weeps : over one who has the means to observe the law and does not; over one who observes it though he has not the means; and over a president who lords it over the community. The Sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, that is, humility is as good as all offerings. Before sleeping, forgive all who have offended you. The best of incense is silence.

A few of a miscellaneous character may also be given:—

Speak part of a man's praise to his face, and the whole behind his back. A myrtle, even if it grows among thorns, is a myrtle, and is called so. The camel went in search of horns, and had his ears cut off. The life of three men is no life; the compassionate, the passionate, and the fastidious. The duck walks with its head down, but its eyes look far ahead. When you go out to war, go out last that you may come home first. One green stick is burned with two dry ones. When the faults of the servant are increased,'the master punishes all with one rod. Hired witnesses are despised by those who hire them. It is not the mouse that steals, but the hole. An open window -invites the thief. Impudence is a kingdom without a crown. If a man says, "What shall I eat to my bread?" take his bread from him. Simeon ben Bo knew the names of all precious stones, but had not bread to eat. At the shop-door a man has brothers and friends when his money is spent he has neither brother nor friend. Any complaint but a bowel complaint; any trouble but a heart trouble; any ache but a headache; any evil but an evil wife. Work is good, for it honours the workman. Where there is no man, strive to be a man. A priceless pearl is depreciated by words spoken in its praise. When Rabh, the great teacher of Babylon, went day by day to the court where cases were heard by him, he used to say, "With my own consent I go out to be killed" (referring to the responsibility resting on him as a judge), "and neglect the concerns of my own house, and return empty. May it only be the will of Heaven that my coming back be no worse than my going out." And in the spirit of this prayer we conclude, with the hope that, this little excursion into a neglected field may not have been injurious to the memory of departed doctors nor unprofitable to the reader, and so bid both farewell.


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