Previous Folio / Sanhedrin Directory / Tractate List

Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin

Folio 22a

And the writing of the letter was written in the Aramaic character and interpreted into the Aramaic [tongue].1  And again it is written, And they could not read the writing nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof.2  Further, it is written: And he shall write the copy [mishneh] of this law,3  — in writing which was destined to be changed.4  Why is it called Ashshurith? — Because it came with them from Assyria.5

It has been taught: Rabbi said: The Torah was originally given to Israel in this [Ashshurith] writing. When they sinned, it was changed into Ro'az.6  But when they repented,7  the [Assyrian characters] were re-introduced, as it is written: Turn ye to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope; even to-day do I declare that I will bring back the Mishneh unto thee.8  Why [then] was it named Ashshurith?9  — Because its script was upright [me'ushshar].

R. Simeon b. Eliezer said on the authority of R. Eliezer b. Parta, who spoke on the authority of R. Eleazar of Modin: This writing [of the law] was never changed, for it is written: The 'waws' [hooks] of the pillars.10  As the word 'pillars' had not changed, neither had the word 'wawim' [hooks].11  Again it is written, And unto the Jews, according to their writing and language;12  as their language had not changed, neither had their writing. Then how shall I interpret the words, and he shall write for himself Mishneh [a copy] of this law?13  — As indicating the need of two written Torahs; the one to go in and out with him; the other to be deposited by him in his treasure-house. The one that is to go in and out with him, he is to write in the form of an amulet and attach to his arm, as it is written, I have set God always before me.14  But how does the other [who maintains that the writing was changed]15  interpret, I have set [etc.]? — He employs it as R. Hanah b. Bizna, who said in the name of R. Simeon the Pious: He who prays should regard himself [i.e., behave] as if the Shechinah were before him, as it is written, I have set God always before me.16

But what can the phrase, they could not read the writing, mean [on the view of R. Simeon, who asserts that this writing was not changed]? — Rab said: The passage was written in Gematria:17  Y-T-T. Y-T-T. 'A-D-K. P-U-G-H-M-T.18  How did he interpret it to them? — As M-N-A. M-N-A. T-K-L. U-F-R-S-Y-N.19  — 'Mene', God has numbered thy kingdom and brought it to an end. 'Tekel', thou art weighed in the balances and art found wanting. 'Peres', thy kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.

Samuel said: [It was written thus:] M-M-T-U-S. N-N-K-F-Y. 'A-'A-L-R-N.20  R. Johanan said: [It was written:] A-N-M. A-N-M. L-K-T-N-Y-S-R-F-U;21  while R. Ashi says: It was written: N-M-A. N-M-A. K-T-L. F-U-R-S-Y-N.22


GEMARA. R. Jacob said in R. Johanan's name: Abishag was permitted to Solomon [in marriage]24  but not to Adonijah.25  She was permitted to Solomon, for he was a king, and a king may make use of the king's sceptre;26  but she was forbidden to Adonijah, for he was a commoner.

What are the facts regarding Abishag? — It is written: King David was old, stricken in years etc. His servants said unto him, Let there be sought etc. Further it is written, They sought for him a fair damsel etc.; and it is written, And the damsel [Abishag] was very fair, and she became a companion to the king and ministered unto him.27  She said to him, 'Let us marry,' but he [David] said: 'Thou art forbidden to me.'28  'When courage fails the thief, he becomes virtuous,'29  she gibed. Then he said to them [his servants], 'Call me Bath-Sheba'. And we read: And Bath-Sheba went to the king into the chamber.30  Rab Judah said in Rab's name: On that occasion Bath-Sheba dried herself thirteen times.31

R. Shaman b. Abba said: Come and see with what great reluctance is divorce granted; King David was permitted yihud [with Abishag], yet not divorce [of one of his wives].32

R. Eliezer33  said: For him who divorces the first wife, the very altar sheds tears, as it is written: And this further ye do, ye cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and with sighing, in so much that he regardeth not the offering any more, neither receiveth it with good will at your hand.34 Further it is written: Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously, though she is thy companion and the wife of thy covenant.35

R. Johanan or, as some say, R. Eleazar said: The death of a man's wife may only be ascribed to his failure to pay his debts,36  as it is said: If thou hast not wherewith to pay, why should he take away the bed from under thee?37  R. Johanan also said: He whose first wife has died, [is grieved as much] as if the destruction of the Temple had taken place in his days, as it is written: Son of man, behold I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke; yet thou shalt not make lamentation nor weep; neither shall thy tears run down.38  Again it is written, And I spoke unto the people in the morning, and at even my wife died. And further it is written, Behold I will profane my Sanctuary, the pride of your power, the desire of your eyes.39

R. Alexandri said: The world is darkened for him whose wife has died in his days [i.e., predeceased him], as it is written, The light shall be dark because of his tent40  and his lamp over him shall be put out.41  R. Jose b. Hanina said: His steps grow short,42  as it is said: The steps of his strength shall be straightened.43  R. Abbahu said: His wits collapse, as it is written, And his own counsel shall cast him down.44

Rabbah b. Bar Hannah said in R. Johanan's name: To effect a union between man and woman is as difficult as the dividing of the Red Sea,45  as it is written: God maketh the solitary dwell in houses; He bringeth out the prisoners unto prosperity.46  But is it really so? Did not Rab Judah say in Rab's name: Forty days before the embryo is formed, a heavenly voice goes forth and says: The daughter of so and so for so and so?47  — There is no difficulty: this applies to the first marriage; the earlier statement, to the second.

R. Samuel b. Nahman said: All things can be replaced, except the wife of one's youth, as it is written, And a wife of [one's] youth, can she be rejected?48

Rab Judah taught his son R. Isaac: Only with one's first wife does one find pleasure,49  as it is said: Let thy fountain be blessed and have joy of the wife of

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Ezra IV, 7.
  2. Dan. V, 8; i.e., none except Daniel could read it, which shows that the Assyrian characters were not popularised until the days of Ezra.
  3. Deut. XVII, 18.
  4. The root [H] of the word [H] means 'to repeat' and also 'to change', indicating that the writing was destined to be changed. V. also Zeb. 62b.
  5. [Assyria stands here for Babylon, cf. Jer. II, 18: Ezra VI, 22]
  6. [H], akin to [H] 'to break, or dash into pieces' (cf. Isa. XLII, 3), hence, 'broken', 'rugged' — the form of the Samaritan script. [The variant [H] receives support from the word deession given by Epiphanius in a passage reporting the tradition about the change of the script and which he translates insculptum, applicable to the ancient chiselled type, as distinguished from the flowing cursive of the Hebrew characters (Montgomery, The Samaritans, p. 281 ff.); v. Krauss, op. cit. III, 138 ff.]
  7. In the days of Ezra.
  8. Zech. IX, 12. Again, a play on 'shanah' 'to change', 'to restore', 'to double or bring back', the Mishneh, the earlier writing which was due to suffer change as above.
  9. Since on the view of Rabbi, they did not bring it from Assyria.
  10. Ex. XXVII, 10.
  11. Waw in Heb. means 'hook', and is also the sixth letter of the alphabet which resembles a hook, and according to the argument here, the very fact that the letter waw meant a hook in the days of Moses, shews that it must have borne that shape then as now, and is therefore unchanged.
  12. Esth. VIII, 9.
  13. Mishneh here =, 'a double.' V. n. 3.
  14. Ps. XVI, 8. V. supra p. 118, n. 12.
  15. By deduction from the word Mishneh, according to which the king had only one Sefer Torah, since there is now nothing to indicate two, and this was probably placed in his treasure house. V 'Anaf-Yosef' on En Jacob a.l.
  16. [The problem of the origin of the Hebrew Alphabet, as well as the question how and when the change of the script was effected, remains unsolved, despite the many attempts by distinguished scholars, mediaeval and modern. For the literature on the subject, v. Bergstrasser. G., Hebraische Grammatik, p. 29 ff., to which may be added Grunberg, S., Die ursprungliche Schrift des Pentateuchs (cf. Munk, M., Ezra Ha Sofer, p. 69 ff.); and Goldschimdt, V., Unser Alphabet, both of which are in support of the view of Rabbi.]
  17. Either (a) a cryptograph which gives, instead of the intended word, its numerical value, or (b) a cipher produced by the permutation of letters, as in this case (Levias, c., J. E., v. 589.) The etymology of Gematria is obscure. Generally derived from [G], 'notarius', v. loc. cit.
  18. [H]
  19. By interchanging the letters of the alphabet on the at bash [H] principle, the first with the last; the second with the one before the last etc. The Hebrew then reads: [H] Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.
  20. [The original words here were written vertically, not horizontally, thus:]
  21. [H], the left-right direction being used instead of the right-left. [These systems of permutation were not artificial creations, but were well known methods of writing in secret code. V. Gandz, S., Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, IV, 89.]
  22. [H] i.e., Daniel shifted the second letter of each word to the beginning.
  23. Deut. XVII, 15.
  24. Had he so wished.
  25. Solomon's elder brother who wished to secure Abishag for his wife, as an inheritance from his father, as a public confirmation of his claim to the throne, in accordance with the archaic law of succession, [cf. II Sam. XII, 8 and Herodotus III, 68].
  26. I.e., all that belonged to the King, including his harem.
  27. I Kings I, 1-5 ff.
  28. Since he had already the allotted number of eighteen wives.
  29. So taunting him with impotence.
  30. I Kings I, 15.
  31. I.e., they had intercourse.
  32. Which would have rendered Abishag permissible to him for marriage.
  33. [Ms.M.: R. Eleazar (b. Pedath), v. Git. 90b.]
  34. Mal. II, 13.
  35. Mal. II, 14.
  36. The principle of 'measure for measure' (cf. Sotah 8b) is taken to be applicable here; as the man has deprived another of his possession, he is punished by the loss of his dearest possession.
  37. Prov. XXII, 27.
  38. Ezek. XXIV, 16-18.
  39. Likening the death of one's wife, whom the Rabbis regarded as the principal factor in guarding the sanctity of the home, to the destruction of the Sanctuary.
  40. [H] (E.V. 'in his tent'), used metaphorically for wife. Hence, The light shall be dark because of the loss of his wife.' V. Deut. V, 30. M. K. 7b.
  41. Job XVIII, 6.
  42. His bodily strength diminishes.
  43. Ibid. 7.
  44. Ibid.
  45. For the passage of the Israelites.
  46. Ps. LXVIII, 7. This is derived from the juxtaposition of the two parts of the verse, thus comparing the difficulty of making the solitary unite and dwell in houses as man and wife to that of delivering the Israelites from Egypt, i.e., of bringing out the prisoners from bondage unto prosperity. Current texts continue: 'Read not [H] but [H] (as when He bringeth out). Again, read not [H] but [H] (with wailing and song).' I.e., just as the deliverance of Israel brought forth wailing from Egypt and rejoicing from the Israelites, so is it when there is no mutual satisfaction in married life (cf. Midrash Tanhuma 'Thisa 5). This passage is, however, missing in most editions and Ms.M; v. D.S. a.l.
  47. I.e., since marriage is predestined, what is the difficulty in mating man and woman?
  48. Isa. LIV, 6.
  49. Lit., 'quickening of spirit'.
Tractate List

Sanhedrin 22b

thy youth.1  'Of what kind of woman do you speak?' he asked him. — 'Of such as your mother', was the reply. But is this true? Had not Rab Judah taught his son R. Isaac, the verse: And I find more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets,2  and he [the son] asked him: 'What kind of woman?' He answered. 'Such as your mother'? — True, she was a quick-tempered woman but nevertheless easily appeased with a word.

R. Samuel b. Unya said in the name of Rab: A woman [before marriage] is a shapeless lump,3  and concludes a covenant only with him who transforms her [into] a [useful] vessel, as it is written: For thy maker is thy husband; the Lord of Hosts is his name.4

A Tanna taught: The death of a man is felt by none but his wife; and that of a woman, but her husband. Regarding the former, it is said: And Elimelech, Naomi's5  husband, died.6  And regarding the latter it is written: And as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died unto me.7

NOR MAY ONE SEE HIM etc. Our Rabbis taught: The king has his hair trimmed every day; the High Priest, every eve of the Sabbath, and a common Priest, once in thirty days.

'The king has his hair trimmed every day.' as it is written, Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty.8  'The High Priest, every eve of the Sabbath.' R. Samuel b. Nahman said in R. Johanan's name: This is because of the [weekly] renewal of the priestly watches.9

'The common Priest, once in thirty days,' because it is written: Neither shall they shave their heads nor suffer their locks [pera'] to grow: they shall only poll their heads.10  Identity of law is deduced from [the use of] pera' here and in the section on the Nazirite; here it is written, They shall not let their locks [pera'] grow; while there it is stated, He shall let the locks [pera'] of the hair of his head grow long;11  Just as there, [a] thirty days' [growth is meant], so here too.12  And we also learnt:13  The period for unspecified neziruth14  is thirty days. Whence do we deduce this in the other passage? — R. Mathna said: Scripture states, He shall be [yihyeh] holy;15  the gematria16  of yihyeh being thirty.17

R. Papa said to Abaye: But perhaps [it means] that they shall not [let their hair] grow so long — [i.e. for a full month]?18  — He answered: Were it written, 'They shall not let [their hair] grow to become 'pera''; it would have meant what you suggest. But since the text reads, And their locks [pera'] they shall not let grow, it implies that they may let it become 'pera'' but thereafter must not let it grow longer. If so [that the prohibition is based on that verse], it should [hold good] even nowadays, [when there is no Temple]! — This [restriction] is analogous to [that of] wine: just as wine was forbidden [them] only when they entered [the Temple],19  but permitted at any other time, so is the growing of hair forbidden only when there is entry [into the Temple] and permitted at all other times. But is wine permitted them when there is no entering into the Temple? Has it not been taught: Rabbi said: In my opinion, Priests should by right be at all times forbidden to drink wine,20  but what can I do, seeing that 'their calamity [the destruction of the Temple] has been to their advantage in the matter?21  Whereon Abaye said: In agreement with whom do priests drink wine nowadays? In agreement with Rabbi. It may therefore be inferred that the Rabbis forbid it!22  — In that case, the reason is this: the Temple might speedily be rebuilt and when a priest suitable for its service is required, he might not be found. Then here too [i.e., regarding the restriction of hair-growth] may not the same thing happen? — In the latter case, it is possible to trim the hair and [immediately] enter. But there too [sc. wine drinking], one can slumber a while [i.e., sleep it off] and then enter? For R. Aha said: A mil's walk or a little sleep counteracts [the effects of] wine. But surely it was stated of this: R. Nahman said in R. Abbahu's name: This applies only to one who has drunk not more than a rebi'ith;23  but if he has drunk more, the walk will only cause more fatigue, and the sleep more drunkenness!

R. Ashi said: Since those drunk with wine defile the service [if they officiate], the Rabbis enacted that precautionary measure;24  but seeing that those with long hair do not defile the service, they made no decree against them.

An objection is raised: The following [priests] are liable to death: those who let their hair grow and those who are drunk with wine.25  Now, as for those drunk with wine, it is correct, because it is written, Drink no wine nor strong drink, thou nor thy sons with thee, that ye die not.26  But whence do we know it of those with long hair? — Because the former is assimilated to the latter, for it is written, Neither shall they shave their heads nor suffer their locks to grow long, which is followed by, Neither shall they drink wine etc. Hence, just as drunkenness [during the service] is punishable by death, so is the growth of long hair. And it also follows, just as drunkenness defiles the Temple service, so does the growing of long hair!27  This is a difficulty.28

Rabina said to R. Ashi: Before Ezekiel came, and told us this [that those who let their hair grow and officiate thus are punishable by death], who stated it?29  — But according to your view,30  what of R. Hisda's statement, [viz.,] This law31  was not learnt from the teaching of Moses our teacher, until Ezekiel came and taught, No alien, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh shall enter into my Sanctuary to serve me.32  But before Ezekiel came, who stated it? Consequently, it must have been a tradition, and then Ezekiel came and found a support for it in Scripture [i.e., the Pentateuch]. Similarly, here too, [in the question of hair-growth] it was a traditional teaching, and Ezekiel merely upheld it in the passage quoted [further, the Halachah, as handed down, states only that they are liable to death, but not that they defile the Temple-service].33

What is the meaning of, They shall only poll their heads? — A Tanna taught: Hair cut in the Julian style.34  What was that? — Rab Judah said in Samuel's name: A unique manner of hairdressing. Yet what was it like? R. Ashi said: The ends of one row [of hair] lay alongside the roots of the next.

Rabbi was asked: In what fashion was the hair of the High Priest cut? — He answered: Go and observe the haircut of Ben Eleasa.35  It has been taught: Not for nothing did Ben Eleasa expend money so lavishly upon his hairdressing, but to display the High-Priestly fashion.

- To Next Folio -

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Prov. V, 18.
  2. Eccl. VII, 26.
  3. I.e., of undetermined character.
  4. Isa. LIV, 5. As God formed the character of Israel so does a husband that of the wife.
  5. Showing that the loss was chiefly hers.
  6. Ruth I, 3.
  7. Gen. XLVIII, 7.
  8. Isa. XXXIII, 17.
  9. In charge of the Temple Service.
  10. Ezek. XLIV, 20.
  11. Num. VI, 5.
  12. I.e., they were not to let their hair grow untrimmed for thirty days.
  13. In support of the statement cited. Cf. Nazir 5a.
  14. V. Glos.
  15. Ibid.
  16. V. supra p. 121, n. 4.
  17. The numerical value of [H] is 10 + 5 + 10 + 5 = 30.
  18. Thus Tosaf. s. v. [H]. The text has [H], according to which R. Papa asks: Perhaps it means that they should not let their hair grow long at all? Rashal, following the interpretation of Tosaf. deletes [H]. Epstein, B. (Torah Temimah on Num. VI, 5) makes the ingenious suggestion that the word [H] comprises the two words [H] (the full thirty days).
  19. Ezek. XLIV, 21: Neither shall any priest drink wine when they enter into the inner court.
  20. As a precautionary measure against drunkenness lest the Temple be suddenly rebuilt and the Priests called upon to enter upon its service, [cf. Yad Ramah].
  21. The fact that the Temple is destroyed makes their speedy re-instatement remote.
  22. Even in the post-Temple age. Should not pera' then also be forbidden, for no priest can know when he should be on duty and when not?
  23. A liquid measure, a quarter of a log (the contents of six eggs).
  24. That even at this day Priests may not drink lest the Temple be suddenly rebuilt and their services needed.
  25. Tosef. Ker. I.
  26. Lev. X, 9.
  27. Hence, on this premise, it should be forbidden even to-day?
  28. Cf. Ta'an. 17b and v. p. 128, n. 1.
  29. For, if there was no source, the offence could not be punishable thus.
  30. That a previous source was required.
  31. That an uncircumcised priest is incompetent to serve in the Temple.
  32. Ezek. XLIV, 9.
  33. S. Luria deletes the bracketed passage. [This is indeed the reply given in Ta'an 17b to the question which is here left unanswered supra 127, v. n. 5.]
  34. [The reference is not clear, v. Krauss, op. cit. I, 644]
  35. Rabbi's son-in-law.
Tractate List