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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin

Folio 19a

and a positive command1  cannot abrogate a positive and a negative command. But in the case of a widow after erusin, why [is he not permitted to marry her]?2  The positive command3  should set aside the negative? — The first act of connubial intercourse was forbidden as a preventive measure against further acts.4  It has been taught likewise: [Where the widow is forbidden in marriage to the brother-in-law by a negative or positive command] and he has connubial relations at all with her, he acquires [her in marriage] but may not retain her for further cohabitation.5

IF A DEATH HAPPENS IN HIS FAMILY. Our Rabbis taught: Neither shall he go out of the Sanctuary:6  [this means,] he shall not go out with them, but he may go after them. How so? — When they [the other mourners] disappear, he may reveal himself [to the public]; and when they appear [in a street], he must be hidden [in another].7

AND HE MAY GO WITH THEM AS FAR AS THE ENTRANCE GATE OF THE CITY. [R. JUDAH SAID… BECAUSE IT IS WRITTEN …]. Surely R. Judah's argument is correct? — R. Meir will tell you: in that case,8  he must not [leave the Temple] even for his house!9  Hence this must be the meaning of, Neither shall he go out of the Sanctuary: He must not depart from [i.e., profane] his holy status, and in this case, since he has something to remind him [of his status]10  he will not come into contact [with the dead]. And R. Judah? — Owing to his bitter grief, he might be tempted to overlook that, and thus come into contact [therewith].

WHEN HE GOES TO CONSOLE OTHERS. Our Rabbis taught: When he passes along the row to comfort others, the Segan11  and the former High Priest12  stand on his right; whilst the Rosh-Beth-Ab,13  the mourners and all the people are on his left. And when he stands in the row to be comforted by others, the Segan is stationed on his right and the Rosh Beth Ab and all the public on his left. But the former High Priest is not present on this latter occasion. Why? — He [the High Priest] might feel depressed by the thought, 'He rejoices at my misfortune.'14

From this Baraitha. says R. Papa, we can infer three things: [i] that the Segan [here] and the Memunneh [in the Mishnah] are identical;15  [ii] that the mourners stand, while the people pass by; [iii] that the mourners are placed to the left of the comforters.

Our Rabbis taught: Formerly the mourners used to stand still while the people passed by. But there were two families in Jerusalem who contended with one another, each maintaining, 'We shall pass first'. So the Rabbis established the rule that the public should remain standing and the mourners pass by.

Rammi bar Abba said: R. Jose restored the earlier custom in Sepphoris,16  that the mourners should stand still and the public pass by. He also said: R. Jose enacted in the same town that a woman should not walk in the street followed by her child,17  owing to an incident that once happened.18  Further, Rammi B. Abba said: R. Jose also enacted in that town that women while in the closet should talk to one another for the sake of privacy. [from the intrusion of men].

R. Manashia b. 'Awath said: I inquired of R. Josiah the Great, in the grave-yard of Huzal,19  and he told me that a row [for condolence] must consist of not less than ten people, excluding the mourners, and that it was immaterial whether the mourners stood still and the public passed by, or the mourners passed by and the public remained standing.

WHEN HE IS COMFORTED BY OTHERS etc. The schoolmen asked: When he consoled others, what did he say to them? — Come and hear! 'And he said [to them], Be comforted'. On what occasion [did he actually say this]? Shall we say, when others comforted him? But how could he say, 'Be comforted'? He would suggest ill-omen to them! — it must therefore be taken that when he comforted others, he said: 'Be comforted'. Draw your own conclusion!

THE KING MAY NEITHER JUDGE etc. R. Joseph said: This refers only to the Kings of Israel, but the Kings of the House of David may judge and be judged, as it is written, O House of David, thus saith the Lord, execute justice in the morning;20  and if they may not be judged, how could they judge: is it not written, Hithkosheshu wakoshshu,21  which Resh Lakish interpreted. 'adorn yourself first and then adorn others'?22  But why this prohibition of the kings of Israel? Because of an incident which happened with a slave of King Jannai.23  who killed a man. Simeon b. Shetah24  said to the Sages: 'Set your eyes boldly upon him and let us judge him.' So they sent the King word, saying: 'Your slave has killed a man.' Thereupon he sent him to them [to be tried]. But they again sent him a message 'Thou too must come here, for the Torah says, If warning has been given to its owners,25  [teaching], that the owner of the ox must come and stand by his ox.'26  The king accordingly came and sat down. Then Simeon b. Shetah said: 'Stand on thy feet, King Jannai, and let the witnesses testify against thee; yet it is not before us that thou standest, but before Him who spoke and the world came into being, as it is written, Then both the men between whom the controversy is, shall stand etc.'27  'I shall not act in accordance with what thou sayest, but in accordance with what thy colleagues say,' he answered.

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Sc. Her husband's brother shall go in into her and take her to him to wife. Deut. XXV, 5.
  2. Since he is interdicted only by a negative command, viz., a widow he shall not take, Lev. XXI, 14.
  3. Of yibbum. — This is a general rule, where two precepts come into opposition.
  4. Which would be a transgression, the precept having been fulfilled by the first.
  5. V. Yeb. 20b. This proves that a second act of connubial relationship is forbidden.
  6. Lev. XXI, 12.
  7. V. notes on Mishnah.
  8. If the verse is meant literally.
  9. Which is absurd. He must go home sometimes.
  10. Viz., the unusual procedure.
  11. V. p. 91, n. 11. [The Segan generally rendered 'deputy high priest' Schurer, II, 421, identifies him with the [G] mentioned in Josephus, the superintendent of the Temple service. V., however, Schwarz, A., in MGWJ., LXIV, 30ff.
  12. [H] lit., 'the anointed who has passed (from his office)'. Provisional High Priest — a Priest who is appointed to act as a substitute for the High Priest when temporarily disqualified by uncleanness. When the first returns to office, this one is known as the ex-anointed.
  13. [H]. Priests were divided into eight divisions, each called Mishmar; and each Mishmar was again divided into six subdivisions, called Beth-Ab, for the service of each week-day. The chief of these sub-divisions was called Rosh-beth-ab. Cf. Maim, Yad, Kele Hamikdash, IV, 3-11.
  14. Probably because the Mashuah she-'abar would be reluctant to hand over the office, and so bear ill-feelings against the rightful occupant.
  15. This is deduced from the fact that the High Priest here also is placed between the mourners and the public.
  16. [H] (lit. 'bird'). Important city in Galilee, at one time its capital. Frequently identified in the Talmud (Meg. 6a) with Kitron (Judges I, 30). R. Jose was born in Sepphoris and knew it well. [V. Klein, S. [H] rt. [H], 54ff.]
  17. But that she should follow the child.
  18. Rashi says: Once immoral men kidnapped a child which was following its mother, and she was searching for it, lured her into a house and there assaulted her.
  19. [A place between Nehardea and Sura. Obermeyer op. cit. p. 299].
  20. Jer. XXI, 12.
  21. Zeph. II, 1.
  22. V. p. 92. n. 6.
  23. Alexander Jannaeus (Jonathan) lived 103-76 B.C.E. third son of John Hyrcanus, King of Judea but not of the House of David.
  24. He was a brother of the queen (v. Ber. 48a), yet the relationship of the ruler with the Pharisees, of whom Simeon b. Shetah was the head, was one of bitter antagonism. History relates most cruel acts which Jannai committed against them (v. Graetz, Geschichte III, 146ff.) At times during his reign, the Sanhedrin consisted almost entirely of Sadducees, Simeon being the only Pharisee among them (v. Meg. Ta'anith 10). This fact might be traced also from this incident [V. Hyman, A., Toledoth, III, 124. A similar story is related by Josephus. (Ant. XIV, 9, 4) of Herod who, as 'servant' of Hyrcanus was charged with murder. The identification of the incident related here with that reported by Josephus, involving a confusion of names on the part of the Talmud, as suggested by Krauss, Sanhedrin-Makkot, 103, is quite unwarranted.]
  25. Ex. XXI, 29.
  26. So too in the case of a slave, who is regarded as one of the chattels of his master.
  27. Deut. XIX, 17.

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Sanhedrin 19b

[Simeon] then turned first to the right and then to the left, but they all, [for fear of the King], looked down at the ground.1  Then said Simeon b. Shetah unto them: 'Are ye wrapped in thoughts?2  Let the Master of thoughts [God] come and call you to account!' Instantly, Gabriel3  came and smote them to the ground, and they died. It was there and then enacted: A King [not of the House of David] may neither judge nor be judged; testify, nor be testified against.


But is this really so?4  Did not R. Ashi say, that even according to the view that if a Nasi foregoes his honour his renunciation is accepted, yet if a King foregoes his honour, it is not accepted; for it is written, Thou shalt not in any wise set him over thee5  intimating, that his authority6  should remain over you?7  — A precept is a different matter.

NOR MAY ANYONE MARRY [HIS WIDOW. R. JUDAH SAID …] It has been taught: They [the Rabbis] said to R. Judah: He [David] married women of the house of the King who were permissible to him, namely, Merab and Michal.8

R. Jose was asked by his disciples: How could David marry two sisters while they were both living?9  He answered: He married Michal after the death of Merab. R. Joshua b. Korha said: His marriage to Merab was contracted in error,10  as it is said, Deliver me my wife Michal whom I betrothed unto me for a hundred foreskins of the Philistines.11  How does this prove it? — R. Papa answered: Because he said, My wife Michal but not 'my wife Merab'. Now, what was the error in his marriage [with Merab]? [It was this:] It is written, And it shall be that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches and will give him his daughter.12  Now he [David] went and slew him, whereupon Saul said to him: I owe thee a debt, and if one betroths a woman by a debt,13  she is not betrothed.14  Accordingly he gave her to Adriel, as it is written, But it came to pass at the time when Merab, Saul's daughter should have been given to David, that she was given to Adriel the Meholathite to wife.15  Then Saul said to David, 'If you still wish me to give you Michal to wife, go and bring me [another] hundred foreskins of the Philistines.' He went and brought them to him. Then he said: 'You have now two claims on me, [the repayment of] a loan16  and a perutah.17  Now, Saul held that when a loan and a perutah are offered [as kiddushin], he [the would-be husband] thinks mainly of the loan;18  but in David's view, when there is a loan and a perutah, the mind is set on the perutah.19  Or if you like, I will say, all agree that where a loan and a perutah [are offered], the mind is set on the perutah. Saul, however, thought that [the hundred foreskins] had no value, while David held that they had value at least as food for dogs and cats. How does R. Jose20  interpret the verse, Deliver me my wife Michal? — 21 He explains it by another view of his. For it has been taught: R. Jose used to interpret the following confused passage thus: It is written, But the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Ayah whom she bore unto Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth, and the five sons of Michal, the daughter of Saul, whom she bore to Adriel the son of Barzillai, the Meholathite etc.22  But was Michal really given to Adriel; was she not given to Palti the son of Layish, as it is written, Now Saul had given Michal, David's wife, to Palti the son of Layish? …23  But Scripture compares the marriage of Merab to Adriel to that of Michal to Palti, to teach that just as the marriage of Michal to Palti was unlawful.24  so was that of Merab to Adriel.25

Now as to R. Joshua b. Korha,26  surely it is written, And the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul whom she bore to Adriel. — R. Joshua [b. Korha] answers thee: Was it then Michal who bore them? Surely it was rather Merab who bore them! But Merab bore and Michal brought them up; therefore they were called by her name. This teaches thee that whoever brings up an orphan in his home, Scripture ascribes it to him as though he had begotten him.

(Mnemonic: Hanina — he called,' Johanan — and his wife,' Eleazar — and Redemption; and Samuel among his Disciples.)27

R. Hanina says this is derived from the following: And the women her neighbours, gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi.28  Was it then Naomi who bore him? Surely it was Ruth who bore him! But Ruth bore and Naomi brought him up; hence he was called after her [Naomi's] name.

R. Johanan says it is derived from the following: And his wife Ha-Jehudiah29  bore Yered the father of Gedor [and Heber the father of Soco, and Jekuthiel the father of Zanoah]30  and these are the sons of Bithia the daughter of Pharaoh, whom Mered took.31  Now, 'Mered' was Caleb; and why was he called Mered?32  — Because he opposed the counsel of the other spies.33  But was he [Moses]34  indeed born of Bithia and not rather of Jochebed? — But Jochebed bore and Bithia reared him;35  therefore he was called after her.

R. Eleazar says: It is inferred from the following: Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph, Selah.36  Did then Joseph beget them; surely it was rather Jacob? — But Jacob begot and Joseph sustained them; therefore they are called by his name.

R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in R. Jonathan's name: He who teaches the son of his neighbour the Torah, Scripture ascribes it to him as if he had begotten him, as it says, Now, these are the generations of Aaron and Moses;37  whilst further on it is written, These are the names of the sons of Aaron: thus teaching thee that Aaron begot and Moses taught them; hence they are called by his name.38

Therefore thus saith the Lord unto the house of Jacob, who redeemed Abraham.39  But where do we find that Jacob redeemed Abraham? — Rab Judah answered; It means that he redeemed him from the pains of rearing children;40  hence the passage, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale.41  He shall not now be ashamed — of his father, neither shall his face now become pale — because of his grandfather.

[The second husband of David's undivorced wife] is variously called Palti42  and Paltiel!43  — R. Johanan said: His name was really Palti, but why was he called Paltiel? Because God saved him from transgression.44  What did he do [to be delivered from sin]? He planted a sword between her [Michal] and himself, and said, Whoever [first] attempts this thing,45  shall be pierced with this sword. But is it not stated: And her husband [Palti] went with her?46  — This means that he was to her like a husband.47  But is it not written, He went weeping? — This was for losing the good deed [of self-restraint]. Hence [he followed her] to Bahurim, implying that they both had remained like unmarried youths48  and not tasted the pleasure of marital relations.

R. Johanan said: Joseph's strong [temptation]49  was but a petty trial to Boaz;50  and that of Boaz was small in comparison with that of Palti son of Layish. 'Joseph's strong temptation was but a petty trial to Boaz,' as it is written, And it came to pass at mid-night and the man was startled, 'wa — yillafeth'.51  What is the meaning of wa — yillafeth? — Rab said: His flesh became [as hard] as turnip heads.52

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Lit., 'they pressed their faces into the ground,' fearing to express an opinion.
  2. Lit., 'You are masters of (hesitating) thoughts.' I.e., 'Are you in doubt on the point as to whether the law applies to the king or not?' Said sarcastically, of course.
  3. [H] (lit., 'man of God'). Angel mentioned in Dan. VIII, 16 and IX, 21. Frequently cited in Talmud as God's messenger on various missions, particularly punishment.
  4. Referring to R. Judah's view.
  5. Deut. XVII, 15.
  6. Lit., 'his fear'.
  7. I.e., fear of him should always be before your eyes. This follows from the emphasis of 'set', expressed in the Heb. as usual, by the double form of the word. — The ceremony of Halizah is an undignified one.
  8. The daughters of Saul, but not his widows whom he was not permitted by law to marry.
  9. V. Lev. XVIII, 18, Thou shalt not take a woman to her sister.
  10. And so was invalid.
  11. II Sam. III, 14.
  12. I Sam. XVII, 25, referring to the slaying of Goliath.
  13. I.e., by remitting the amount to her or, if she is a minor, to her father.
  14. For in returning a money loan, unlike a trust, the debtor is not obliged to return the actual coin lent, but its equivalent. Hence the woman receives actually nothing at the time of betrothal, by which it should be effected. V. Kidd. 6b; 47a.
  15. I Sam, XVIII, 19.
  16. The promise to enrich him which stands as a loan.
  17. A small coin representing the estimated value of the hundred foreskins. A perutah is sufficient to serve as token of betrothal (kiddushin).
  18. And consequently, as stated above, she would not be betrothed.
  19. Hence the betrothal is valid.
  20. Who holds that before his marriage to Michal, David was legally married to Merab.
  21. Which seems to exclude Merab as his wife.
  22. II Sam, XXI, 8.
  23. I Sam. XXV, 44.
  24. And so invalid, as she was already betrothed to David.
  25. Hence R. Jose interprets the words, 'Michal my wife', not as excluding Merab as wife, but rather as showing that just as Michal was legally his wife, so was Merab. Hence the marriages of Michal and Merab to Palti b. Layish and Adriel respectively, were transgressions.
  26. Who holds that Merab's marriage to Adriel was not lawful.
  27. V. p. 21, n. 5.
  28. Ruth IV, 17.
  29. Bithia, the daughter of Pharaoh, who is referred to at the conclusion of the verse.
  30. All these names are designations of Moses (v. Meg. 13a).
  31. I Chron. IV, 18.
  32. [H] 'to disobey', 'oppose' or 'rebel'.
  33. Num. XIII, 30.
  34. V. n. 4.
  35. Ex. II, 10.
  36. Ps. LXXVII, 16.
  37. Num. III, 1.
  38. Under the earliest system of education, children were taught at home by their fathers, until Joshua b. Gamala reorganised the system by setting up schools in every town (B.B. 21a). Although that system was completely in vogue in the days of R. Samuel b. Nahmani, his dictum here might indicate that some virtue was still ascribed to private teaching by the parent or his proxy. It is doubtful whether it would simply refer to an ordinary elementary school teacher.
  39. Isa. XXIX, 22. The E.V. translates differently.
  40. Abraham, who was actually promised multiplication, should have borne the burden of rearing the children, but it fell upon Jacob.
  41. Ibid.
  42. I Sam. XXV, 44.
  43. II Sam. III, 15.
  44. The word is composed of [H] — 'to escape' and [H] — 'God'. Bible onomatology has a large number of compound names which express distinct ideas. Many are compound with the name of God (El) preceding it, as El-Nathan, or succeeding it, as Amiel, or as in the instance in question. The chief reason for the later addition of 'El' to 'Palti' is taken to express, as it were, the ineffably holy name to which he dedicated himself.
  45. I.e., forbidden indulgence.
  46. II Sam. III, 16.
  47. I.e., maintaining and loving her, but no more.
  48. [H] pl. of [H] a youth.
  49. V. Gen. XXXIX, 7-13.
  50. V. Ruth III, 8-15. I.e., the strong temptation to which Joseph was exposed, and which called forth his greatest powers of resistance, was but as a small thing, for which the mere exercise of a little self-restraint would suffice, in comparison to the temptation withstood by Boaz.
  51. [H] (E.V. 'and turned himself'), Ruth III, 8.
  52. [H] ([H] = head; [H] = turnip).

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