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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Berakoth

Folio 50a

Read: he may also say 'Bless'; but all the same to say 'Let us bless' is preferable. For R. Adda b. Ahabah said: The school of Rab say: We have learnt that [a company consisting of from] six to ten may divide.1  Now if you say that 'Let us bless' is preferable, we can see a reason why they should divide. But if you say that 'Bless' is preferable, why should they divide?2  You must therefore conclude that 'Let us bless' is preferable; and so we do conclude.

It has been taught to the same effect: Whether he says 'Bless' or 'Let us bless', no fault is to be found with him for this. But those who are punctilious do find fault with him for this.3  And from the way a man says the benedictions it may be recognized whether he is a scholar or not. For example, Rabbi says: If he says 'and by his goodness', he is a scholar; if he says 'and from his goodness', he shows himself an ignoramus.4  Said Abaye to R. Dimi: But it is written, And from thy blessing let the house of thy servant be blessed for ever.?5  — In a petition it is different.6  But of a petition also it is written, Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it?7  — That was written with reference to words of Torah. It has been taught: Rabbi says: If one says, 'And by his goodness we live', he shows himself a scholar; if he says 'they live', he shows himself an ignoramus.8  The scholars of Neharbel9  state the opposite,10  but the law is not as stated by the scholars of Neharbel. R. Johanan says: If one says 'let us bless Him of whose bounty we have partaken' he shows himself a scholar; if he says 'Let us bless the one of whose bounty we have partaken', he shows himself an ignoramus.11  Said R. Aha the son of Raba to R. Ashi: But do we not say 'We will bless the one who wrought for our ancestors and for us all these miracles'?12  — He replied: There the meaning is obvious, for who performs miracles? The Holy One, blessed be He. R. Johanan said: If one says 'Blessed is He of whose bounty we have eaten', he shows himself a scholar. If he says, 'For the food which we have eaten',13  he shows himself an ignoramus. R. Huna the son of R. Joshua said: This is the case only where there are three, since the name of heaven is not mentioned [in the zimmun],14  but if there are ten, since the name of heaven is mentioned, it is clear what is meant, as we have learnt: CORRESPONDING TO HIS INVOCATION THE OTHERS RESPOND,'BLESSED BE THE LORD OUR GOD, THE GOD OF ISRAEL, THE GOD OF HOSTS, WHO DWELLS AMONG THE CHERUBIM, FOR THE FOOD WHICH WE HAVE EATEN.'

IT IS THE SAME WHETHER THERE ARE TEN OR TEN MYRIADS. There seems here to be a contradiction. You say, IT IS THE SAME WHETHER THERE ARE TEN OR TEN MYRIADS, which would show that they are all alike. Then it states: IF THERE ARE A HUNDRED HE SAYS so and so, IF THERE ARE A THOUSAND HE SAYS, IF THERE ARE TEN THOUSAND HE SAYS? — R. Joseph said: There is no contradiction; the one statement expresses the view of R. Akiba, the other of R. Jose the Galilean, since we have learnt: R. JOSE THE GALILEAN SAYS: THE FORMULA OF INVOCATION CORRESPONDS TO THE NUMBER ASSEMBLED, AS IT SAYS: BLESS YE GOD IN ALL ASSEMBLIES, EVEN THE LORD, YE THAT ARE FROM THE FOUNTAIN OF ISRAEL.

SAID R. AKIBA: WHAT DO WE FIND IN THE SYNAGOGUE etc. And what does R. Akiba make of the verse cited by R. Jose the Galilean? — He wants it for the following lesson, as it has been taught: R. Meir used to say: Whence do we learn that even children [yet unborn] in their mothers' womb chanted a song by the Red Sea? — Because it says, Bless ye the Lord in full assemblies, even the Lord, ye that are from the fountain of Israel.15  What says the other [R. Jose] to this? — He derives the lesson from the word 'fountain'.

Raba said: The halachah is as laid down by R. Akiba. Rabina and R. Hama b. Buzi once dined at the house of the Exilarch, and R. Hama got up and commenced to look about for a hundred. Said Rabina to him: There is no need for this. For thus said Raba: The halachah is as stated by R. Akiba.

Raba said: When we take a meal at the house of the Exilarch, we say grace in groups of three.16  Why not in groups of ten?17  — Because the Exilarch might hear them and be angry.18  But could not the grace of the Exilarch suffice for them? — Since everybody would respond loudly, they would not hear the one who says grace.

Raba Tosfa'ah said: If three persons had a meal together and one said grace for himself before the others, his zimmun is effective for them but theirs is not effective for him,19  since zimmun cannot be said out of its place.20

R. ISHMAEL SAYS. Rafram b. Papa once attended the synagogue of Abi Gobar.21  He was called up to read in the Scroll and he said, 'Bless ye the Lord' and stopped, without adding 'who is to be blessed'. The whole congregation cried out, 'Bless ye the Lord who is to be blessed'. Raba said to him: You black pot!22  Why do you want to enter into controversy?23  And besides, the general custom is to use the formula of R. Ishmael.


GEMARA. What does this tell us? We have already learnt it once: Three persons who have eaten together must say zimmun?28  — This teaches us the same thing as was stated by R. Abba in the name of Samuel: If three persons have sat down to eat, even though they have not yet commenced, they are not at liberty to separate. Another version: R. Abba said in the name of Samuel: What is meant is this: if three persons sit down to eat together, even though each eats of his own loaf, they are not at liberty to separate. Or [it may teach us] the same as R. Huna; for R. Huna said: If three persons from these groups come together,29  they are not at liberty to separate.30  R. Hisda said: This is only if they come from three groups of three men each.31  Raba said:

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. I.e., form groups of three or four. But ten may not divide, since they will not then be able to say 'Our God'.
  2. Rashi reads: 'Why should six divide?' If they form two groups of three, neither can say 'bless'.
  3. For excluding himself from the group.
  4. Because he belittles the goodness of the Almighty.
  5. 11 Sam. VII, 29.
  6. The Petitioner likes to be modest in his request.
  7. Ps. LXXXI, 11.
  8. Because he excludes himself from their company.
  9. Neharbel, east of Bagdad.
  10. Taking 'they live' to refer to the whole of mankind.
  11. Because this form may be taken to refer to the host.
  12. In the Haggadah on Passover eve.
  13. Without assigning its ownership to God.
  14. In the responses 'Let us bless our God'.
  15. The lesson being derived from the word 'assemblies'.
  16. Before the Exilarch finishes and says grace.
  17. So as to add the word 'Our God'.
  18. At their not waiting for him.
  19. I.e., he does not perform the mizwah of zimmun.
  20. V. supra. p. 278. n. 6.
  21. Be Gobar, in the vicinity of Mahuzah.
  22. Probably he was of swarthy complexion.
  23. I.e., follow a minority view.
  24. But must say zimmun together.
  25. One or two may not say grace for themselves.
  26. Into two groups of three.
  27. To dilute it, otherwise it is too strong to be drunk.
  28. V. supra 45b.
  29. Each having left his group for one reason or another.
  30. But they must say grace together even though they have not eaten together.
  31. So that each of them was under the obligation of zimmun.
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Berakoth 50b

This applies only if the groups had not already counted them for zimmun; but if they had reckoned upon them where they were,1  the obligation of zimmun has departed from them. Said Raba: Whence do I derive this rule? Because we have learnt: If the half of a bed has been stolen or lost, or if a bed has been divided by brothers or partners, it cannot receive uncleanness. If it is restored [to its original state] it can receive uncleanness thenceforward. Thenceforward it can, but not retrospectively.2  This shows that from the time it was divided, uncleanness no longer attached to it.3  So here, once they had used them for zimmun, the obligation of zimmun no longer attached to them.4

TWO GROUPS etc. A Tanna taught: If there is an attendant waiting on both, the attendant combines them.5

A BLESSING IS NOT SAID OVER WINE. Our Rabbis taught: If wine has not yet been mixed with water, we do not say over it the blessing 'Who createst the fruit of the vine',6  but 'Who createst the fruit of the tree', and it can be used for washing the hands.7  Once water has been mixed with it, we say over it the blessing 'Who createst the fruit of the vine', and it may not be used for washing the hands. So R. Eliezer. The Sages, however, say: In either case we say over it the blessing 'Who createst the fruit of the vine', and we do not use it for washing the hands. Whose view is followed in this statement of Samuel: A man may use bread for any purpose he likes?8  — Whose view? That of R. Eliezer. R. Jose son of R. Hanina said: The Sages agree with R. Eliezer in the matter of the cup of wine used for grace, that a blessing should not be said over it until water has been added. What is the reason? — R. Oshaiah said: For a religious ceremony we require the best. And according to the Rabbis — for what kind of drink is undiluted wine suitable? — It is suitable for [mixing with] karyotis.9

Our Rabbis taught: Four things have been said with reference to bread. Raw meat should not be placed on bread; a full cup should not be passed along over bread;10  bread should not be thrown; and a dish should not be propped up on bread. Amemar and Mar Zutra and R. Ashi were once taking a meal together. Dates and pomegranates were served to them, and Mar Zutra took some and threw them in front of R. Ashi as his portion. He said to him: Does not your honour agree with what has been taught, that eatables should not be thrown? — [He replied]: That was laid down with reference to bread. But it has been taught that just as bread is not to be thrown, so eatables should not be thrown? But, he replied. it has also been taught that although bread is not to be thrown, eatables may be thrown? But in fact there is no contradiction; one statement refers to things which are spoilt by throwing,11  the other to things which are not spoilt.

Our Rabbis taught: Wine can be run through pipes12  before the bridegroom and the bride, and roasted ears of corn and nuts may be thrown in front of them in the summer season but not in the rainy season;13  while cakes may not be thrown in front of them either in the summer or the rainy season.14

Rab Judah said: If one forgot and put food into his mouth without saying a blessing, he shifts it to the side of his mouth and says the blessing. One [Baraitha] taught that he swallows it, and another taught that he spits it out, and yet another taught that he shifts it to one side. There is no contradiction. Where it says that he swallows it, the reference is to liquids; where it says that he spits it out, the reference is to something which is not spoilt thereby; and when it says that he shifts it, the reference is to something which would be spoilt [by being spat out].

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. I.e., if the party to which they belonged consisted of four persons each and they had left only after their respective parties has said the zimmun formula introducing the grace.
  2. Kelim XVIII, 9.
  3. An incomplete article does not contract defilement.
  4. Lit., 'flew away from them'.
  5. Even though they do not see one another.
  6. Because as yet it shows no improvement over its original condition. This, of course, refers to the very strong wine of the ancients.
  7. Like fruit juice.
  8. I.e., wiping his hands after a meal, in spite of the general rule that food must not be wasted.
  9. A kind of date with the shape of a nut, used for medicinal purpose.
  10. For fear some should spill on the bread.
  11. I.e., ripe, juicy figs.
  12. This was done either as a symbol of prosperity, or for the purpose of diffusing a pleasant odour; it could be caught up in cups and so not wasted.
  13. Because they may be spoilt by the muddy roads.
  14. Because in either case they may be spoilt.
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