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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Bathra

Folio 74a

They slept on their backs; and the knee of one of them was raised, and the Arab merchant passed under the knee, riding on a camel with spear erect, and did not touch it. I cut off one corner of the purple-blue shawl1  of one of them; and we could not move away. He said unto me: '[If] you have, peradventure, taken something from them, return it; for we have a tradition that he who takes anything from them cannot move away.' I went and returned it; and then we were able to move away. When I came before the Rabbis they said unto me: Every Abba2  is an ass and every Bar Bar Hana is a fool. For what purpose did you do that?3  Was it in order to ascertain whether [the Law] is in accordance with the [decision of] Beth Shammai or Beth Hillel?4  You should have counted the threads and counted the joints.5

He6  said unto me: 'Come and I will show you Mount Sinai.' [When] I arrived I saw that scorpions7  surrounded it and they stood like white asses. I heard a Bath Kol8  saying: 'Woe is me that I have made an oath9  and now that I have made the oath, who will release me?'10  When I came before the Rabbis, they said unto me: 'Every Abba11  is an ass and every Bar Bar Hana is a fool. You should have said, Mufar lak.'12  He,13  however, thought that perhaps it was the oath in connection with the Flood.14  And the Rabbis?15 — If so;16  why, 'woe is me'?

He said unto me: 'Come, I will show you the men of Korah that were swallowed up.17  I saw two cracks that emitted smoke. I took a piece of clipped wool, dipped it in water, attached it to the point of a spear and let it in there. And when I took it out it was singed. [Thereupon] he said unto me: 'Listen attentively [to] what you [are about to] hear.' And I heard them say: 'Moses and his Torah are truth and we18  are liars.' He said unto me: 'Every thirty days Gehenna19  causes them to turn back here as [one turns] flesh in a pot,20  and they say thus: "Moses and his law are truth and we18  are liars".'

He said unto me: 'Come, I will show you where heaven and earth touch one another.'21  I took up my [bread] basket and placed it in a window of heaven. When I concluded my prayers I looked for it but did not find it. I said unto him: 'Are there thieves here?' He replied to me: 'It is the heavenly wheel revolving. Wait here until tomorrow and you will find it.'

R. Johanan related: Once we were travelling on board a ship and we saw a fish that raised its head out of the sea. Its eyes were like two moons, and water streamed from its two nostrils as [from] the two rivers of Sura.22

R. Safra related: Once we travelled on board a ship and we saw a fish that raised its head out of the sea. It had horns on which was engraven: 'I am a minor creature of the sea, I am three hundred parasangs [in length] and I am [now] going into the mouth of Leviathan.'23  R. Ashi said: It was a sea-goat which searches [for its food] and [for that purpose] has horns.

R. Johanan related: Once we were travelling on board a ship and we saw a chest in which were set precious stones and pearls and it was surrounded by a species of fish called Karisa.24  There went down

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. [H] (viz., the Tallith, [H]), which may signify any garment, cloak or covering, if the Tallith had four corners, a show fringe had to be made in every corner, each fringe containing a thread of purple-blue. Cf. Num. XV. 38; Deut. XXII, 12.
  2. Abba was the name of Rabbah b. Bar Hana; Rabbah equals Rab Abba.
  3. Cutting off the corner of the Tallith.
  4. For the dispute between the two schools on the question of the threads of the show fringes. v. Men. 41b.
  5. Each plaited fringe contains four joints or sections separated by double knots.
  6. I.e., the Arab merchant.
  7. The reading of the current editions, [H], a mixture of singular and plural, is obviously erroneous. Read with Bomberg ed. [H] etc.
  8. V. glos.
  9. To send Israel into exile.
  10. Lit., 'who will break [nullify] it for me'.
  11. V. supra n. 2.
  12. [H] thy oath, or vow, is void[H], a formula used by an authorised person for remitting vows and oaths.
  13. Rabbah b. Bar Hana.
  14. That oath was in favour of mankind. Cf. Isa. LIV, 9: For as I have sworn that the waters of Noah shall no more go over the earth etc. Cf. also Gen. IX, 11ff.
  15. Why did they deride Rabbah b. Bar Hana?
  16. If the reference were to the oath of the Flood.
  17. Cf. Num. XVI, 32ff.
  18. Lit., 'and they'.
  19. [H] place of punishment for the wicked after death. Originally the name of a glen near Jerusalem, [H] where children were burned in the worship of Moloch.
  20. They are stirred in Hell as meat is stirred round and round in a boiling pot.
  21. Lit., 'kiss'.
  22. So Rashb. [Another rendering: 'And water gushed forth from its nostrils at (a height) as (the length) of two Sura-canoes'. i.e., the ferry boats that sailed about in the canal of Sura, v. Obermeyer. op. cit. 292.]
  23. To supply his daily meal. Leviathan, cf. Ps. CIV, 26 and Job XL, 25. In the Talmud, a legendary monster fish reserved for the righteous in the world to come.
  24. Probably, shark.
Tractate List

Baba Bathra 74b

a diver to bring [the chest], but [a fish] noticed [him] and was about to wrench his thigh. Thereupon he poured upon it a skin bottle of vinegar and it sank. A Bath Kol1  came forth, saying unto us: 'What have you to do with the chest of the wife2  of R. Hanina b. Dosa who is to store in it purple-blue3  for the righteous in the world to come.

Rab Judah, the Indian, related: Once we were travelling on board a ship when we saw a precious stone that was surrounded by a snake. A diver descended to bring it up. [Thereupon] the snake approached with the purpose of swallowing the ship, [when] a raven came and bit off its head and the waters were turned into blood. A second snake came, took [the head of the decapitated snake]4  and attached5  it [to the body], and it revived. Again [the snake] approached intent on swallowing the ship. Again a bird came and severed its head. [Thereupon the diver] seized the precious stone and threw it into the ship. We had with us salted birds. [As soon as] we put [the stone] upon them, they took it up and flew away with it.

Our Rabbis taught: It happened that R. Eliezer and R. Joshua were travelling on board a ship. R. Eliezer was sleeping and R. Joshua was awake. R. Joshua shuddered and R. Eliezer awoke. He said unto him: 'What is the matter, Joshua? What has caused you to tremble?' He said unto him: 'I have seen a great light in the sea.' He said unto him: 'You may have seen the eyes of Leviathan, for it is written: His eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.'6

R. Ashi said: R. Huna b. Nathan related to me [the following]: Once we were walking in the desert and we had with us a leg of meat.7  We cut it open and picked out [the forbidden fat8  and the nervus ischiadicus]9  and put it on the grass. While we were fetching wood, the leg regained its original form and we roasted it. When we returned after twelve calendar months10  we saw those coals still glowing. When I came before Ammemar, he said unto me: 'That grass was samtre.11  Those glowing coals were of broom.12

[It is written]: And God created the great sea-monsters.13  Here14  they explained: The sea-gazelles. R. Johanan said: This refers to Leviathan the slant serpent,15  and to Leviathan the tortuous serpent,16  for it is written: In that day the Lord with his sore [and great and strong] sword will punish [Leviathan the slant serpent, and Leviathan the tortuous serpent].17

(Mnemonic: All time Jordan.)18

Rab Judah said in the name of Rab: All that the Holy One, blessed be He, created in his world he created male and female. Likewise, Leviathan the slant serpent and Leviathan the tortuous serpent he created male and female; and had they mated with one another they would have destroyed the whole world.19  What [then] did the Holy One, blessed be He, do? He castrated the male and killed the female preserving it in salt for the righteous in the world to come; for it is written: And he will slay the dragon that is in the sea.20  And also Behemoth21  on a thousand hills were created male and female, and had they mated with one another they would have destroyed the whole world.19  What did the Holy One, blessed be He, do? He castrated the male and cooled22  the female and preserved it for the righteous for the world to come; for it is written: Lo now his strength is in his loins23  — this refers to the male; and his force is in the stays of his body,23  — this refers to the female. There also, [in the case of Leviathan], he should have castrated the male and cooled the female [why then did he kill the female]? — Fishes are dissolute.24  Why did he not reverse the process?25  — If you wish, say: [It is because a] female [fish] preserved in salt is tastier. If you prefer, say: Because it is written: There is Leviathan whom Thou hast formed to sport with,26  and with a female this is not proper.27  Then here also [in the case of Behemoth] he should have preserved the female in salt? — Salted fish is palatable, salted flesh is not.

Rab Judah in the name of Rab further said: At the time when the Holy One, blessed be He, desired to create the world, he said to the angel of the sea: 'Open thy mouth and swallow all the waters of the world.'28  He said unto him: 'Lord of the Universe, it is enough that I remain with my own'. Thereupon, He struck him with His foot and killed him; for it is written: He stirreth up the sea with his power and by his understanding he smiteth through Rahab.29  R. Isaac said: From this it may be inferred that the name of the angel of the sea was Rahab. And had not the waters covered him no creature could have stood his [foul] odour;30  for it is written: They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My Holy mountain etc. as the waters cover the sea.31  Do not read: They cover the sea, but [in the sense]: 'They cover the angel of the sea.'32

Rab Judah further stated in the name of Rab: The Jordan issues from the cavern of Paneas.33  It has been taught likewise:34  The Jordan issues from the cavern of Paneas and passes through the Lake of Sibkay35  and the Lake of Tiberias36  and rolls down into the great sea from whence it rolls on until it rushes into the mouth of Leviathan; for it is said: He is confident because the Jordan rushes forth to his mouth.37  Raba b. 'Ulla objected: This [verse] is written of Behemoth on a thousand hills! — But, said R. Abba b. 'Ulla: When is Behemoth on a thousand hills confident? — When the Jordan rushes into the mouth of Leviathan.38

(Mnemonic: Seas, Gabriel, Hungry.)39

When R. Dimi came40  he stated in the name of R. Johanan: The verse, For he hath founded it upon the seas and established it upon the floods41  speaks of the seven seas and four rivers which surround the land of Israel. And these are the seven seas: The sea of Tiberias,42  the Sea of Sodom, the Sea of Helath,43  the Sea of Hiltha,44  the Sea of Sibkay,45  the Sea of Aspamia and the Great Sea. The following are the four rivers: The Jordan, the Jarmuk, the Keramyon and Pigah.46

When R. Dimi came, he said in the name of R. Jonathan: Gabriel is to arrange in the future

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. V. Glos.
  2. A saintly woman who, though very poor, refused to benefit in any way from her portion in the world to come. V. Ta'an. 24b.
  3. V. p. 292, n. 9.
  4. This interpretation is in accordance with the reading of the Munich MS which reads, [H].
  5. Lit., 'and hung'.
  6. Job XLI, 10.
  7. Lit., 'flank' or 'thigh of flesh'.
  8. Cf. Lev. III, 17. VII. 25.
  9. The sinew of the thigh-vein is forbidden food. Cf. Gen. XXXII, 33.
  10. Cf. p. 291, n. 2.
  11. [H] a herb with the power of uniting severed parts.
  12. [H] or [H] A kind of shrub, growing in deserts. A fire of broom coal is supposed to continue to burn within, while on the surface it is extinguished. Gen. R. XCVIII.
  13. Gen. I, 22.
  14. In Babylonia.
  15. The male Leviathan.
  16. The female.
  17. Isa. XXVII, 2.
  18. The mnemonic aids in the recollection of the three stories told by Rab Judah in the name of Rab. All refers to the first story, beginning 'All that the Holy One'. Time occurs in the second story, 'At the time when'. Jordan begins the third story.
  19. With the multitudes of their progeny.
  20. Ibid. The Talmudic interpretation of the verse is as follows: 'In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the slant serpent, in the world to come, as he punished Leviathan the tortuous serpent; for he slew the dragon that was in the sea, during the first six days of the creation'.
  21. [H] Cf. Ps. L, 10. In the Aggada. Behemoth signifies legendary animals, male and female, which, like Leviathan, are to provide part of the feast of the righteous in the world to come. Behemoth eat up daily the grass of a thousand hills.
  22. Others render 'sterilised'.
  23. Job XL, 16. The previous verse speaks of Behemoth.
  24. Cooling would not be effective in preventing their fertility.
  25. Kill the male and preserve the female alive.
  26. Ps. CIV. 26.
  27. Lit., 'way of the earth', Heb. Derek Eretz. [H] proper manners'.
  28. That the dry land may be seen.
  29. Job XXVI, 12.
  30. That of his dead body.
  31. Isa. XI, 9.
  32. I.e., Sea is to be understood as the angel of the sea.
  33. Paneas written [H] and [H] is the modern Banias, ancient Caesarea Philippi, in the north of Galilee.
  34. Bek. 55a.
  35. Sea of Samachonitis, North of Lake of Tiberias.
  36. Sea of Gennesareth.
  37. Job XL, 23.
  38. So long as Leviathan is alive, Behemoth also is safe.
  39. The mnemonic is an aid to the memorisation of the following three stories told by R. Dimi. Seas refers to the first story dealing with the seven seas. Gabriel is the subject of the second story. Hungry is a reference to the hungry Leviathan in the third story.
  40. From Palestine.
  41. Ps. XXIV. 2.
  42. V. p. 297, n. 14.
  43. Current editions read [H] Bomberg. [H], Munich, [H], [Probably the Elath Sea, the Gulf of Akaba. V. Press. J., MGWI., 1929. 53.]
  44. Hiltha, Current Editions, [H], Munich, [H]; [Ulatha mentioned in Josephus. Ant. XV, 10, 13. North of the Samachonitis Sea. V. Pressf., ibid. 52].
  45. V. p. 297, n. 13.
  46. Prob, tributaries of the Jordan. [On the identification of these two streams v. Press J.' ibid.].