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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Nedarim

Folio 37a

He [the Tanna] informs us this: that even where a fee is taken, it may be accepted only for Scripture, but not for Midrash. Now, why does Midrash differ, that remuneration is forbidden: because it is written, And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you;1  and it is also written, Behold I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me2  just as I [taught you] gratuitously, so you must teach gratuitously? Then should not Scripture too be unremunerated? — Rab said: The fee is for guarding [the children]. R. Johanan maintained: The fee is for the teaching of accentuation.3


We learnt: HE MAY NOT TEACH HIM SCRIPTURE. Now that is well on the view that remuneration is for the teaching of accentuation. But on the view that payment is for acting as guardian — does an adult need one?4  — It refers to a child. If so, consider the last clause: BUT HE MAY TEACH SCRIPTURE TO HIS SONS: can a child have children? — It is defective, and teaches thus: HE MAY NOT TEACH HIM SCRIPTURE in the case of a minor: but if he is an adult, HE MAY TEACH SCRIPTURE BOTH TO him and HIS SONS.

An objection is raised: Children are not to study a new portion of Bible on the Sabbath; but they may make a first revision on the Sabbath.5  This is well on the view that remuneration is for the teaching of accentuation: hence a passage may not be read for the first time on the Sabbath;6  but on the view that payment is for acting as guardian, why is it forbidden to teach a passage for the first time on the Sabbath, yet permitted to give a first revision on the Sabbath; surely there is pay for guardianship oil the Sabbath?7  — Now, even according to your reasoning: is remuneration for teaching the accentuation on the Sabbath forbidden? Is it not included [in the weekly or monthly fee], which is permitted? For it was taught: If one engages a [day] labourer to look after a child,8  or the heifer,9  or to watch over the crops,10  he may not pay him for the Sabbath:11  therefore

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Deut. IV, 14.
  2. Ibid. 5.
  3. The whole system of punctuation and accentuation being post-Biblical, Moses' prohibition does not apply to it. The meaning of the phrase pisuk te' ammim is not altogether clear. Jastrow translates: 'the division of words into clauses in accordance with the sense, punctuation'. Be that as it may, it must at least refer to a particular manner of dividing the Biblical text with or without signs, over and above that which would naturally suggest itself by the subject matter. This conclusion must be drawn from the fact that it is regarded by Rab as non-Sinaitic: yet the clearly natural division, corresponding to peshat, could not have been thought of as introduced after Moses; what sense then did it make otherwise? There is mention of chanting in Meg. 32a, but there the reference is to the Mishnah as well as the Bible, the former being studied in a sort of chant, and the phrase pisuk te'ammim is not used there. [Berliner, A., however, in Bertr. z. hebr. Gram. p. 29, n. 1, quotes Rashi on Gen. Rab. XXXVI, (according to a Munchen MS.) as explaining pisuk te'ammim as Tropen, cantillation.]
  4. Hence, Bible teaching to an adult should be unremunerated, in which case it should be permitted in the Mishnah.
  5. I.e., having studied it before, they may revise it even for the first time on the Sabbath.
  6. Because remuneration is made chiefly for teaching a passage for the first time, as that is the most difficult part of instruction. Hence, if a new passage is thus taught on the Sabbath, the teacher is paid chiefly for Sabbath labour, which is forbidden.
  7. What does it matter whether the passage is a new' one or not? The guardianship is the same in both cases, and remuneration for such work on the Sabbath is forbidden.
  8. That he should not ritually defile himself. It was customary for a child to draw the water from a well to mix with the ashes of the red heifer; this child had to be ritually clean.
  9. This refers to the red heifer. The guardian was to take care that 'no yoke came upon it' (Num. XIX, 2).
  10. This refers to the barley specially sown seventy days before Passover (Men. 85a) for the ceremony of 'sheaf waving' (v. Lev. XXIII. 11) and to the wheat of which were made the 'two wave-loaves' on Pentecost (ibid. 17). These crops were specially guarded.
  11. Since each day is separately paid for, and payment for the Sabbath per se is forbidden.
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Nedarim 37b

if they are lost [or harmed] [on the Sabbath], he is not responsible. But if he was engaged by the week, month, year or septennate, he is paid for the Sabbath; consequently, if they are lost, he is responsible.1  But in the matter of the Sabbath a new passage may not be studied for the first time for this reason: that the parents of the children may be free for the observance of the Sabbath. An alternative answer is this: because on the Sabbath they eat and drink [more than on weekdays] and feel sluggish;2  as Samuel said: The change in one's regular diet is the beginning of digestive trouble.3

Now, he who maintains that remuneration is for the teaching of accentuation, — why does he reject the view that it is for acting as guardian? — He reasons: Do daughters then need guarding?4  And he who maintains that the fee is for guardianship, — why does he reject the view that it is for teaching accents? — He holds that accents are also Biblical;5  for R. Ika b. Abin said in the name of R. Hananel in Rab's name: What is the meaning of, And they read in the book, in the law of God, distinctly, and they gave the sense, so that they understood the reading?6  'They read in the book, it, the law of God,' refers to Scripture; 'distinctly,' to Targum;7  'and they gave the sense', to the division of sentences; 'so that they understood the reading,' to the accentuation; others say, to the masoroth.8

R. Isaac said: The textual reading,9  as transmitted by the Soferim, their stylistic embellishments, [words] read [in the text] but not written, and words written but omitted in the reading, are all halachah from Moses at Sinai.10  By textual reading is meant words as erez, shamayim, mizraim.11  Stylistic embellishments: e.g., [and comfort ye your hearts;] after that ye shall pass on.12  [Let the damsel abide with its a few days, at least ten:] after that she shall go. [Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites;] afterwards, shalt thou be gathered unto thy people.13  [The singers went before,] the players on instruments followed after.14  Thy righteousness is like the great mountains.15

[Words] read [in the text] but not written: [the word] 'Euphrates' in [the verse] as he went to recover his border at the river [Euphrates];16  [the word] 'man' in [the verse] And the counsel of Ahitophel … was as if a [man] had enquired of the oracle of God;17  [the word] 'come' in [the verse] Behold, the days [come], saith the Lord, the city shall be built etc.;18  'for it' in [the verse] let there be no escape [for it]:19  'unto me' in [the verse] All that thou sayest [unto me] I will do; 'to me' [in the verse] And she went down unto the floor;20  'to me' in [the verse] And she said, These six measures of barley gave he unto me; for he said [to me],21  All these [words] are read but not written.22  The following are written but not read: [the word] 'pray' in forgive;23

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Thus we see that the Sabbath may be paid for providing it is included in the general weekly agreement. Hence, though the main work in teaching lies in the first reading, this should be permitted on the Sabbath, since the fee is included in the general arrangements.
  2. Hence are not fit to study a portion for the first time.
  3. Lit., 'disease of the bowels'. The Sabbath being a day of delight, the parents naturally wish to play and amuse themselves with their children thereon. But if the children study a new passage on that day, since this requires great concentration, the parents may be afraid of distracting their attention. It is interesting to observe from actual life what the Sabbath meant to the people. In spite of the innumerable restrictions pertaining to that day, and on account of which the Sabbath has been severely criticised as an intolerable burden, right from the New Testament times down to the present day, this simple statement, teaching no doctrine or view of the Sabbath, but recording a simple fact, vividly illustrates the utter shallowness of all that misinformed criticism. Cf. Schechter, Studies in Judaism ('The Law and Recent Criticism, pp. 296f). — 'On the one side, we hear the opinions of so many learned professors, proclaiming ex cathedra that the Law was a most terrible burden, and the life under it the most unbearable slavery … On the other side we have the testimony of a literature extending over about twenty-five centuries, and including all sorts and conditions of men, scholars, poets, mystics, lawyers … schoolmen, tradesmen, workmen, women, simpletons, who all … give unanimous evidence in favour of this Law, and of the bliss and happiness of living and dying under it, — and this, the testimony of people who were actually living under the Law, not merely theorising upon it'.
  4. Girls are generally at home and do not venture into the streets; hence require no guarding. Now the Mishnah states in general terms that he may not teach Scripture. Though this, as explained, refers to a minor, yet even so the law holds good both of boys and of girls, since no limitations are given. But if payment is for guardianship, he should be permitted to teach girls, who do not need it. — Another reading is: does an adult need guarding? According to this, the explanation that the Mishnah refers to a minor is rejected as being too farfetched.
  5. I.e., the system of accentuations goes back to Moses: consequently it was included in Moses' prohibition.
  6. Neh. VIII, 8.
  7. Targum, 'translation', generally refers to the Aramaic translation of the Bible. In Mishnaic phraseology it might refer to a translation from Hebrew or the Bible into any language, (v. J. Kid. 59a, where it denotes a Greek version of Aquila; Meg. II, 1; Shab. 115a), but the word Targum by itself was restricted to the Aramaic version of the Bible. This Aramaic translation was publically read in the synagogue, along with the original text, and rules for reading it were formulated (v. Meg. II, 1; Tosef. Meg. II, V). This practice was an ancient institution, dating back to the Second Temple, and according to Rab, going back to Ezra, v. J.E., XII, p. 57.
  8. Masoroth: Tosaf and Asheri refer this to the plene and defective readings, e.g., where the 'o' is represented by waw (plene) and where it is missing (defective); where the 'i' is shewn by yod, and where not. Ran simply states: the traditional readings. The term 'masorah' occurs in Ezek. XX, 37, and means 'fetter'. Thus the masorah is a fetter upon the text, i.e., it fixes its reading. In course of time it was connected with masar (to hand down), and thus came to mean traditional reading. The old Hebrew text was in all probability written without any breaks. it was the work of the Masorites to make the divisions into words, books, sections, paragraphs, etc., and fix the orthography and pronunciation. The traditionally fixed text, especially with a view to its orthography, was called masoreth; the division into sense-clauses, pisuk te'ammim; the traditional pronunciation, mikra. V. J.E. s.v. Masorah.
  9. V. preceding note.
  10. I.e., though these were established by the Soferim (v. Glos.) they are based on usage going back to Moses.
  11. In pause (viz., an ethnahta or sof pasuk) the tone-vowels are lengthened. Since there is nothing in the lettering to indicate this grammatical change, it was the work of the Soferim to teach it.
  12. Gen. XVIII, 5.
  13. Num. XXXI, 2.
  14. Ps. LXVIII, 26.
  15. Ps. XXXVI, 7. In all these examples 'after' is strictly speaking superfluous, for the verses would have made the same sense without it (presumably by the use of the copulative). In the last example, the comparative kaf (like) is also unnecessary, being omitted in the parallel stich: thy judgements are a great deep. But they are inserted in the text in order to give it a smoother flow. Ran: In all these cases, 'after' (Heb. ahar). and in the last example, 'like the mountains' (Heb. keharere) bear a disjunctive accent, so as to elucidate the meaning. E.g., the first example (disregarding the accents) might read, 'and comfort ye your hearts after ye shall have passed', and so the other examples. The last example, owing to the disjunctive of ke-harere, is according to Ran to be translated: Thy righteousness, O God, is as (manifest as) the mountains. These disjunctives are referred to as the embellishments of the Soferim. Goldschmidt, Nedarim a.l. (p. 442, n. 84) observes that a copulative word has been omitted in all these texts, as is shewn by the Samaritan text and some MSS.
  16. II Sam. VIII, 3.
  17. Ibid. XVI, 23.
  18. Jer. XXXI, 38.
  19. Jer. L. 29.
  20. Ruth III, 5.
  21. Ibid. 17.
  22. Wilna Gaon adds the following examples, given in some editions, and also in Soferim VI, 8: But (the children of) Benjamin would not hearken (Jud. XX, 13); Because (Heb. Ki 'al ken: ken is read but not written) the king's son is dead (II Sam. XVIII, 20); The seal of the Lord of (hosts) (II Kings XIX, 31); Adrammelech and Sharaezer (his sons) smote him (Ibid. 37).
  23. II Kings V, 18.
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