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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Bathra

Folio 21a

the concluding words refer to school children, from the time of the regulation of Joshua b. Gamala,1  of whom Rab Judah has told us in the name of Rab: Verily the name of that man is to be blessed, to wit Joshua ben Gamala, for but for him the Torah would have been forgotten from Israel. For at first if a child had a father, his father taught him, and if he had no father he did not learn at all. By what [verse of the Scripture] did they guide themselves? — By the verse, And ye shall teach them to your children.2  laying the emphasis on the word 'ye'.3  They then made an ordinance that teachers of children should be appointed in Jerusalem. By what verse did they guide themselves? — By the verse, For from Zion shall the Torah go forth.4  Even so, however, if a child had a father, the father would take him up to Jerusalem and have him taught there, and if not, he would not go up to learn there. They therefore ordained that teachers should be appointed In each prefecture,5  and that boys should enter school at the age of sixteen or seventeen. [They did so] and if the teacher punished them they used to rebel and leave the school. At length Joshua b. Gamala came and ordained that teachers of young children should be appointed in each district and each town. and that children should enter school at the age of six or seven.

Rab said to R. Samuel b. Shilath:6  Before the age of six do not accept pupils; from that age you can accept them. and stuff them with Torah like an ox. Rab also said to R. Samuel b. Shilath: When you punish a pupil, only hit him with a shoe latchet.7  The attentive one will read [of himself]. and if one is inattentive. put him next to a diligent one.8

An objection was raised [from the following against the answer of Raba]: 'If a resident in a courtyard desires to become a Mohel. a blood-letter, a tanner, or a teacher of children, the other residents can prevent him?'9  — The reference here is to a teacher of nonjewish children.10

Come and hear: If two persons live in a courtyard and one of them desires to become a Mohel, a blood-letter, a tanner, or a teacher of children, the other can prevent him! — Here too the reference is to a teacher of non-Jewish children.

Come and hear: If a man has a room in a courtyard which he shares with another, he must not let it either to a Mohel, or bloodletter, or a tanner, or a Jewish teacher11  or a non-Jewish teacher! — The reference here is to the head teacher of the town [who superintends the others].12

Raba said: Under the ordinance of Joshua ben Gamala. children are not to be sent [every day to school] from one town to another,13  but they can be compelled to go from one synagogue to another [in the same town]. If, however, there is a river in between, we cannot compel them. But if, again. there is a bridge, we can compel them — not, however, if it is merely a plank.

Raba further said: The number of pupils to be assigned to each teacher is twenty-five. If there are fifty, we appoint two teachers. If there are forty, we appoint an assistant, at the expense of the town.

Raba also said: If we have a teacher who gets on14  with the children and there is another who can get on better, we do not replace the first by the second, for fear that the second when appointed will become indolent.15  R. Dimi from Nehardea, however, held that he would exert himself still more if appointed: 'the jealousy of scribes increaseth wisdom.'16

Raba further said: If there are two teachers of whom one gets on fast but with mistakes and the other slowly but without mistakes, we appoint the one who gets on fast and makes mistakes, since the mistakes correct themselves in time. R. Dimi from Nehardea on the other hand said that we appoint the one who goes slowly but makes no mistakes, for once a mistake is implanted it cannot be eradicated. This can be shown from the Scripture. It is written, For Joab and all Israel remained there until he had cut off every male in Edom.17  When Joab came before David, the latter said to him:

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. A High Priest in the decade before the destruction of the Temple.
  2. Deut. XI, 19.
  3. V. Tosaf.
  4. Isa. II, 3.
  5. The district under an 'Eparchas', which might be either a town or a province.
  6. V. supra p. 38.
  7. I.e., do not hurt him too much.
  8. So that he will listen and gradually become studious.
  9. Because all these have a great many visitors who cause a good deal of noise.
  10. Instruction by whom does not come within the enactment of Joshua b. Gamala.
  11. Heb. sofer [H] generally meaning 'scribe', is here taken to denote 'teacher' (Rashi). Tosaf., however, translates 'townscribe', to whom people come to have their documents written. R. Gershom renders 'hair-dresser', as though the original were [H]
  12. And who therefore has an exceptionally large number of visitors.
  13. For fear they may come to harm on the way, but any parent can compel the community of his town to appoint a teacher.
  14. Lit., 'reads', viz., the prayers or the Scripture.
  15. Having no competitor to fear.
  16. I.e., the jealousy of the one who has been replaced will be a stimulus to the other not to disgrace himself.
  17. 1 Kings XI, 16.
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Baba Bathra 21b

Why have you acted thus [i.e. killed only the males]? He replied: Because it is written, Thou shalt blot out the males [zekar] of Amalek.1  Said David: But we read, the remembrance [zeker]2  of Amalek? He replied: I was taught to read zekar.3  He [Joab] then went to his teacher and asked: How didst thou teach me to read? He replied: Zeker. Thereupon he drew his sword and threatened to kill him. Why do you do this? asked the other. He replied: Because it is written, Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord negligently.4  He said to him: Be satisfied that I am cursed.5  To which Joab rejoined: [It also says]. Cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood.6  According to one report he killed him; according to another, he did not kill him.

Raba further said: A teacher of young children, a vine-dresser, a [ritual] slaughterer, a blood-letter, and a town scribe are all liable to be dismissed immediately7  [if inefficient]. The general principle is that anyone whose mistakes cannot be rectified8  is liable to be dismissed immediately [if he makes one].

R. Huna said: If a resident of an alley sets up a handmill and another resident of the alley wants to set up one next to him, the first has the right to stop him, because he can say to him, 'You are interfering with my livelihood.' May we say that this view is supported by the following: 'Fishing nets must be kept away from [the hiding-place of] a fish [which has been spotted by another fisherman] the full length of the fish's swim.' And how much is this? Rabbah son of R. Huna says: A parasang?' — Fishes are different, because they look about [for food].9

Said Rabina to Raba: May we say that R. Huna adopts the same principle10  as R. Judah? For we have learnt: R. Judah says that a shopkeeper should not give presents of parched corn and nuts to children, because he thus entices then, to come back to him. The Sages, however, allow this! — You may even say that he is in agreement with the Rabbis11  also. For the ground on which the Rabbis allowed the shopkeeper to do this was because he can say to his rival, Just as I make presents of nuts so you can make presents of almonds;12  but in this case they would agree that the first man can say to the other. 'You are interfering with my livelihood.'13

An objection was raised [against Rab Huna's ruling from the following:] 'A man may open a shop next to another man's shop or a bath next to another man's bath, and the latter cannot object. because he can say to him, I do what I like in my property and you do what you like in yours?' — On this point there is a difference of opinion among Tannaim, as appears from the following Baraitha: 'The residents of an alley can prevent one another from bringing in14  a tailor or a tanner or a teacher or any other craftsman,15  but one cannot prevent another16  [from setting up in opposition].' Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel, however, says that one may prevent another.17

R. Huna the son of R. Joshua said: It is quite clear to me that the resident of one town can prevent the resident of another town [from setting up in opposition in his town] not, however, if he pays taxes to that town — and that the resident of an alley cannot prevent another resident of the same alley [from setting up in opposition in his alley].18  R. Huna the son of R. Joshua then raised the question: Can the resident of one alley prevent the resident of another [from competing with him]?19  — This must stand over.

R. Joseph said: R. Huna agrees that a teacher cannot prevent [another teacher from setting up in the same alley], for the reason mentioned,

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Deut. XXV, 19.
  2. [H]
  3. [H]
  4. Jer. XLVIII. 20, The 'negligence' consisted in the fact that his teacher had allowed him when a boy to read zekar without correcting him (v. Tosaf.).
  5. Lit., 'Leave this man that he may abide in the curse.'
  6. Ibid.
  7. Lit., 'Are constantly under warning.'
  8. E.g., a slaughterer who made the animal trefa, or a bloodletter who caused the death of his patient, or a scribe who made a mistake in a scroll of the Law.
  9. Hence the fisherman who knows where the hole is places bait within the fish's swim, and if another does this he is poaching on the preserves of the first. But this cannot be said of one who sets up an opposition mill,
  10. Viz., that one man must not interfere with another's livelihood.
  11. I.e., the Sages just quoted.
  12. And therefore I am not interfering with your chances,
  13. And therefore must not set up next to me.
  14. I.e., from letting an apartment to.
  15. If there is already one in the court.
  16. Lit., 'his neighbour'.
  17. R. Huna is thus in agreement with R. Simeon b. Gamaliel.
  18. According to the view of the Rabbis just given.
  19. Would the Rabbis put him on the same footing as a resident of the same alley or not?
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