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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Gittin

Folio 68a

A silver cup has been stolen from us.1  In the course of their search for it they found the meat wrapped in his scarf, whereupon they said to the Exilarch, See, sir, that he does not want to eat, but only to vex us. He said, I did eat, but I found in it the taste of a boil. They said to him, No animal with a boil has been prepared for us to-day. He said to them, Examine the place [where my portion came from].2  since R. Hisda has said that a white spot on black skin or a black spot on white skin is a mark of disease.3  They examined and found that it was so. When he was about to depart they dug a pit and threw a mat over it, and said to him, Come, sir, and recline. R. Hisda snorted behind him.4  and he said to a boy. Tell me the last verse you have learnt.5  The boy said. Turn thee aside to thy right hand or to thy left.6  He said to his attendant, What can you see? He replied. A mat thrown across [the path]. He said, Turn aside from it. When he got out, R. Hisda said to him, How did you know, sir? He replied. For one thing because you, sir, snorted [behind me], and again from the verse which the boy quoted, and also because the servants are suspect of playing tricks.7

I gat me sharim and sharoth,8  and the delights of the sons of men, Shidah and shidoth.9  'Sharim and Sharoth', means diverse kinds of music; 'the delights of the sons of men' are ornamental pools and baths. 'Shidah and shidoth': Here [in Babylon] they translate as male and female demons. In the West [Palestine] they say [it means] carriages.

R. Johanan said: There were three hundred kinds of demons in Shihin, but what a shidah is I do not know.10

The Master said: Here they translate 'male and female demons'. For what did Solomon want them? — As indicated in the verse, And the house when it was in building was made of stone made ready at the quarry, [there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house while it was in building];11  He said to the Rabbis, How shall I manage [without iron tools]? — They replied, There is the shamir12  which Moses brought for the stones of the ephod. He asked them, Where is it to be found? — They replied, Bring a male and a female demon and tie them together; perhaps they know and will tell you. So he brought a male and a female demon and tied them together. They said to him, We do not know, but perhaps Ashmedai the prince of the demons knows. He said to them, Where is he? — They answered, He is in such-and-such a mountain. He has dug a pit there, which he fills with water and covers with a stone, which he then seals with his seal. Every day he goes up to heaven and studies in the Academy of the sky and then he comes down to earth and studies in the Academy of the earth, and then he goes and examines his seal and opens [the pit] and drinks and then closes it and seals it again and goes away. Solomon thereupon sent thither Benaiahu son of Jehoiada, giving him a chain on which was graven the [Divine] Name and a ring on which was graven the Name and fleeces of wool and bottles of wine. Benaiahu went and dug a pit lower down the hill and let the water flow into it13  and stopped [the hollow] With the fleeces of wool, and he then dug a pit higher up and poured the wine into it14  and then filled up the pits. He then went and sat on a tree. When Ashmedai came he examined the seal, then opened the pit and found it full of wine. He said, it is written, Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whosoever erreth thereby is not wise,15  and it is also written, Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the understanding.16  I will not drink it. Growing thirsty, however, he could not resist, and he drank till he became drunk, and fell asleep. Benaiahu then came down and threw the chain over him and fastened it. When he awoke he began to struggle, whereupon he [Benaiahu] said, The Name of thy Master is upon thee, the Name of thy Master is upon thee. As he was bringing him along, he came to a palm tree and rubbed against it and down it came. He came to a house and knocked it down. He came to the hut of a certain widow. She came out

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. A mere pretext in order to search him.
  2. I.e., the skin.
  3. Of the flesh.
  4. As a signal.
  5. For an omen; cf. supra 56a.
  6. II Sam. II, 21.
  7. Lit., 'of not being good'.
  8. E.V. 'men-singers and women-singers'.
  9. Eccl. II. 8.
  10. Al. 'the real mother of the demons I do not know'.
  11. I Kings VI, 7.
  12. A fabulous worm which could cut through the sharpest stone. [So Maimonides, Aboth, v. 6. and Rashi, Pes. 54a, though none of the old Talmudic sources states explicitly whether the Shamir was a living creature or a mineral. The Testament of Solomon, however, seems to regard it as a stone. V. Ginzberg Legends, V, p. 55, n. 105, and VI, p. 299, n. 82, also Aboth, (Sonc. ed.) p. 63, n. 6.]
  13. From Ashmedai's pit by means of a tunnel connecting the two.
  14. So that it should flow into Ashmedai's pit.
  15. Prov. XX, 1.
  16. Hos, IV, 11.
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Gittin 68b

and besought him, and he bent down so as not to touch it, thereby breaking a bone. He said, That bears out the verse, A soft tongue breaketh the bone1  He saw a blind man straying from his way and he put him on the right path. He saw a drunken man losing his way and he put him on his path. He saw a wedding procession making its way merrily and he wept. He heard a man say to a shoemaker, Make me a pair of shoes that will last seven years, and he laughed. He saw a diviner practising divinations and he laughed. When they reached Jerusalem he was not taken to see Solomon for three days. On the first day he asked, Why does the king not want to see me? They replied, Because he has overdrunk himself. So he took a brick and placed it on top of another. When they reported this to Solomon he said to them, What he meant to tell you was, Give him more to drink. On the next day he said to them, Why does the king not want to see me? They replied, Because he has over-eaten himself. He thereupon took one brick from off the other and placed it on the ground. When they reported this to Solomon, he said, He meant to tell you to keep food away from me. After three days he went in to see him. He took a reed and measured four cubits and threw it in front of him, saying, See now, when you die you will have no more than four cubits in this world. Now, however, you have subdued the whole world, yet you are not satisfied till you subdue me too. He replied: I want nothing of you. What I want is to build the Temple and I require the shamir. He said: It is not in my hands, it is in the hands of the Prince of the Sea who gives it only to the woodpecker,2  to whom he trusts it on oath. What does the bird do with it? — He takes it to a mountain where there is no cultivation and puts it on the edge of the rock which thereupon splits, and he then takes seeds from trees and brings them and throws them into the opening and things grow there. (This is what the Targum means by nagar tura).3  So they found out a woodpecker's nest with young in it, and covered it over with white glass. When the bird came it wanted to get in but could not, so it went and brought the shamir and placed it on the glass. Benaiahu thereupon gave a shout, and it dropped [the shamir] and he took it, and the bird went and committed suicide on account of its oath.

Benaiahu said to Ashmedai, Why when you saw that blind man going out of his way did you put him right? He replied: It has been proclaimed of him in heaven that he is a wholly righteous man, and that whoever does him a kindness will be worthy of the future world. And why when you saw the drunken man going out of his way did you put him right? He replied, They have proclaimed concerning him in heaven that he is wholly wicked, and I conferred a boon on him in order that he may consume [here] his share [in the future].4  Why when you saw the wedding procession did you weep? He said: The husband will die within thirty days, and she will have to wait for the brother-in-law who is still a child of thirteen years.5  Why, when you heard a man say to the shoemaker, Make me shoes to last seven years, did you laugh? He replied: That man has not seven days to live, and he wants shoes for seven years! Why when you saw that diviner divining did you laugh? He said: He was sitting on a royal treasure: he should have divined what was beneath him.

Solomon kept him with him until he had built the Temple. One day when he was alone with him, he said, it is written, He hath as it were to'afoth and re'em,6  and we explain that to'afoth means the ministering angels and re'em means the demons.7  What is your superiority over us?8  He said to him, Take the chain off me and give me your ring, and I will show you. So he took the chain off him and gave him the ring. He then swallowed him,9  and placing one wing on the earth and one on the sky he hurled him four hundred parasangs. In reference to that incident Solomon said, What profit is there to a man in all his labour wherein he laboureth under the sun.10

And this was my portion from all my labour.11  What is referred to by 'this'? — Rab and Samuel gave different answers, one saying that it meant his staff and the other that it meant his apron.12  He used to go round begging, saying wherever he went, I Koheleth was king over Israel in Jerusalem.13  When he came to the Sanhedrin, the Rabbis said: Let us see, a madman does not stick to one thing only.14  What is the meaning of this? They asked Benaiahu, Does the king send for you? He replied, No. They sent to the queens saying, Does the king visit you? They sent back word, Yes, he does. They then sent to them to say, Examine his leg.15  They sent back to say, He comes in stockings, and he visits them in the time of their separation and he also calls for Bathsheba his mother. They then sent for Solomon and gave him the chain and the ring on which the Name was engraved. When he went in, Ashmedai on catching sight of him flew away, but he remained in fear of him, therefore is it written, Behold it is the litter of Solomon, threescore mighty met, are about it of the mighty men of Israel. They all handle the sword and are expert in war, every man hath his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night.16

Rab and Samuel differed [about Solomon]. One said that Solomon was first a king and then a commoner,17  and the other that he was first a king and then a commoner and then a king again.

For blood rushing to the head the remedy is to take shurbina18  and willow and moist myrtle and olive leaves and poplar and rosemary and yabla19  and boil them all together. The sufferer should then place three hundred cups on one side of his head and three hundred on the other. Otherwise he should take white roses with all the leaves on one side and boil them and pour sixty cups over each side of his head. For migraine one should take a woodcock and cut its throat with a white zuz20  over the side of his head on which he has pain, taking care that the blood does not blind him, and he should hang the bird on his doorpost so that he should rub against it when he goes in and out.

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Prov. XXV, 15.
  2. Lit., 'Cock of the prairie'.
  3. Lit., 'One that saws the rock': the rendering in Targum Onkelos of the Hebrew [H] generally rendered by hoopoe; Lev. XI, 19.
  4. That there may remain no share for him to enjoy in the hereafter.
  5. Before he can give her halizah (v. Glos.) and enable her to marry again.
  6. Num. XXIV, 8. E.V., 'the strength of a wild ox'.
  7. So Targum Onkelos.
  8. That you should be a standard of comparison for Israel.
  9. Al. 'it' (the ring).
  10. Eccl. I, 3. [No satisfactory explanation has yet been given of the name of Ashmedai. Ginzberg (JE. II s.v. Asmodeus) gives it an Aramaic derivation. Kaminka JQR. (NS) XIII. p. 224 connects it with Smerdis, the magician, a hero in a Persian legend preserved by Herodotus, which has many points of similarity with the Ashmedai story.]
  11. Ibid. II, 10.
  12. Al. 'his platter', v. Sanh. (Sonc. ed.) p. 110 and notes.
  13. Ibid. I, 12.
  14. I.e., if Solomon were mad, he would show it by other things as well.
  15. Because a demon's legs are like those of a cock, v. Ber. 6a.
  16. Cant. III, 7, 8.
  17. That is to say, that though he was restored to his kingdom, he did not rule over the unseen world as formerly, v. Sanh. loc. cit.
  18. A kind of cedar.
  19. A certain herb, cynodon.
  20. I.e., a white silver coin.
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