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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Shabbath

Folio 23a

With regard to a lantern which was burning the whole day [of the Sabbath],1  at the conclusion of the Sabbath it is extinguished and then [re-]lit.2  Now, it is well if you say that the kindling constitutes the precept: then it is correct. But if you say that the placing constitutes the precept, is this [merely] extinguished and [re-]lit: surely it should [have stated], It must be extinguished, lifted up, replaced and then relit? Moreover, since we pronounce a benediction, 'Who sanctified us by His commandments and commanded us to kindle the lamp of Hanukkah,' it proves that the kindling constitutes the precept. This proves it.

And now that we say that the kindling constitutes the precept, if a deaf-mute, idiot, or minor3  lights it, he does nothing. But a woman may certainly light [it], for R. Joshua b. Levi said: The [precept of the] Hanukkah lamp is obligatory upon women, for they too were concerned in that miracle.4

R. Shesheth said: The [precept of the] Hanukkah lamp is incumbent upon a guest.5  R. Zera said: Originally, when I was at the academy, I shared the cost6  with mine host;7  but after I took a wife I said, Now I certainly do not need it, because they kindle [the lamp] on my behalf at my home.8

R. Joshua b. Levi said: All oils are fit for the Hanukkah lamp, but olive oil is of the best. Abaye observed: At first the Master [Rabbah] used to seek poppy-seed oil, saying, The light of this is more lasting;9  but when he heard this [dictum] of R. Joshua b. Levi, he was particular for olive oil, saying, This yields a clearer light.

R. Joshua b. Levi also said: All oils are fit10  for ink, and olive oil is of the best. The scholars propounded: for kneading or for smoking?11  — Come and hear: For R. Samuel b. Zutra recited: All oils are fit for ink, and olive oil is of the best, both for kneading and for smoking. R. Samuel b. Zutra recited it thus: All soots are fit for ink: and olive oil is the best. R. Huna said: All gums are good for ink, but balsam gum is the best of all.

R. Hiyya b. Ashi said: He who lights the Hanukkah lamp must pronounce a blessing; while R. Jeremiah said He who sees the Hanukkah lamp must pronounce a blessing. Rab Judah said: On the first day, he who sees must pronounce two, and he who lights must pronounce three blessings;12  thereafter, he who lights pronounces two, and he who sees pronounces one. What is omitted?13  — The 'season' is omitted.14  Yet let the 'miracle' be omitted?15  The miracle holds good for every day.16

What benediction is uttered?17 — This: Who sanctified us by His commandments and commanded us to kindle the light of Hanukkah.18  And where did He command us?19 — R. Awia said: [It follows] from, thou shalt not turn aside [from the sentence Which they shall shew thee].20  R. Nehemiah quoted: Ask thy father, and he will shew thee; Thine elders, and they will tell thee.21

R. Amram objected: Dem'ai22  can be employed for an 'erub22  and for a joint ownership;23  a benediction is pronounced over it, and grace in common is recited after it,24  and it25  may be separated by a naked person, and at twilight.26  But if you say that every Rabbinical [precept] requires a benediction, here, when one stands naked, how can he pronounce a benediction: lo! we require, therefore shall thy camp be holy [that he see no unclean thing in thee],27  which is absent? — Said Abaye, A certain Rabbinical law28  requires a benediction, whereas a doubtful Rabbinical law does not.29  But what of the second day of Festivals, which is a Rabbinical [institution] based on doubt,30  and yet it requires a benediction?31 — There it [was instituted] in order that it should not be treated slightingly.32  Raba said: The majority of the 'amme ha-arez tithe33  [their produce].34

R. Huna said: If a courtyard has two doors, it requires two [Hanukkah] lamps. Said Raba, That was said only [if they are situated] at two [different] sides; but [if] on the same side, it is unnecessary. What is the reason?35  Shall we say, because of suspicion?36  Whose suspicion? Shall we say, that of strangers:37  then let it be necessary even on the same side?38  Whilst if the suspicion of townspeople, then even [if] on two different sides it is still unnecessary?39  — After all, it is on account of the suspicion of the townspeople, yet perchance they may pass one [door] and not the other, and say, 'just as it [the lamp] has not been lit at this door, so has it not been lit at the other.'

And whence do you know40  that we pay regard to suspicions? Because it was taught, R. Simeon said: On account of four considerations the Torah ordered pe'ah41  to be left at the end of the field:42  [as a precaution] against the robbing of the poor, against wasting the time of the poor, against suspicion, and against [transgressing], thou shalt not finish off [the corners of thy field].43  [As a precaution] against the robbing of the poor: lest the owner see a free hour44  and say to his poor relations, 'This is pe'ah;'45

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Having been lit on the Sabbath eve as a Hanukkah lamp,
  2. As a Hanukkah lamp for the next day.
  3. These three are frequently grouped: their actions have no legal or religious validity.
  4. According to the Talmud Jewish virgins were subjected to the jus primae noctis before the Maccabean revolt (cf. I Macc. I, 26f, which may perhaps refer to this), and were rescued from it by the 'miracle', i.e., the successful Maccabean uprising.
  5. Not living in his own house but as a guest or boarder elsewhere.
  6. Lit., 'the coins'-the cost of the oil for the Hanukkah lamp.
  7. He did not kindle lights for himself but purchased a share in those lit by his host.
  8. He continued to study away from home after marriage.
  9. Rashi: this oil burned slower. Tosaf.'s reading seems to be: this gives a stronger light: on grounds of logic this would appear preferable.
  10. Ink was made of soot and oil or gum, and was a solid cake of pigment which had to be loosened before use. Cf. supra, Mishnah on 17b.
  11. Is it the best for kneading with soot or for creating the smoke which produces the soot?
  12. V. P.B. p. 274; the spectator omits the first, since he does not kindle the lights. Rashi and Asheri observe that only a spectator who has not yet kindled the lights himself, or who cannot do so, e.g., when he is in a boat, is required to pronounce these benedictions.
  13. After the first day.
  14. Ibid. the third blessing: '… and has enabled us to reach this season'. This is appropriate for the first evening only.
  15. I.e., the second benediction: '… Who wroughtest miracles …'
  16. The cruse miraculously burned all the eight days; v. supra 21b.
  17. Lit., 'he blesses'.
  18. Ibid. the first blessing. The literal translation is given here, the passage being in the third person.
  19. This precept is not Biblical, of course.
  20. Deut. XVII, 11.
  21. Ibid. XXXII, 7. Both verses teach that a Rabbinical observance has Biblical sanction, and thus roots subsequent tradition in the Bible itself. Cf. I. Abrahams, Permanent Values of the Talmud, pp. 79ff.
  22. V. Glos,
  23. I.e., to link up a number of side streets in respect of carrying on the Sabbath; v. p. 18, n. 7; it is the same with side streets.
  24. 'Grace in common' is recited when three persons or more dine together; it is then prefaced by one of them saying, 'My masters, let us recite grace;'this man acts as leader. When only two dine together, each recites grace by himself.
  25. The tithe of dem'ai.
  26. Friday evening. The tithe of certain tebel (v. Glos.) may not be separated on the Sabbath, nor at twilight, for it is doubtful whether this belongs to the previous or to the following day. But since dem'ai is only a doubtful tithe, it is permitted as a double doubt; cf. p. 64, n. 7.
  27. Deut. XXIII, 15.
  28. Lit., 'a certain (law) of their words'.
  29. The kindling of light is a definite and certain observance; the tithing of dem'ai, however, is done through doubt.
  30. Scripture ordained Festivals of one day only at the beginning and end (viz., Passover and Tabernacles, v. Lev. XXIII, 7f, 35f) or one day altogether (Pentecost and New Year; ibid. 21, 24). The exact days when these were to be observed depended upon New Moon of the month in which they fell (except Pentecost), which was originally determined by direct observation, not by calculation. By experience it was found that New Moon was always either twenty-nine or thirty days after the previous New Moon, and as soon as it was thus fixed by the Great Court in Jerusalem, envoys were dispatched to inform the communities in time for the Festival. But they could not reach the Jewish communities outside Palestine in time, and therefore they observed two days instead of one. Thus the original reason of the added second day at the beginning and the end was on account of doubt, though it was retained even when the New Moon came to be determined by calculation, which precluded doubt.
  31. Viz. 'sanctification of the Festival', which was done by means of a benediction.
  32. Unless the second day was formally sanctified people would not treat it as holy.
  33. Pl. of 'am ha-arez; v. p. 51, n. 1.
  34. So that dem'ai is less than an ordinary doubt, but merely a Rabbinical stringency; therefore a benediction is not required.
  35. That two lamps are required.
  36. Viz., if a person sees a door without a lamp he may suspect the owner of having neglected it altogether.
  37. Lit., the world'-i.e., a stranger passing through the town may be unaware that a lamp is burning at another door.
  38. For a stranger may think that the courtyard fronts two separate houses.
  39. They know that both belong to the same house.
  40. Lit., 'say'.
  41. V. Glos.
  42. Instead of enacting that a certain portion of the field be left for the poor, its situation to be at the owner's discretion.
  43. Lev. XIX, 9. 'Thou shalt not finish off' implies at the end of the field, where the harvesting is completed.
  44. When no poor are about in the field.
  45. But now the poor will know when the end of the field is likely to be reached.
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Shabbath 23b

and against wasting the time of the poor: that the poor should not have to sit and watch out, 'now the owner will leave pe'ah'; and against suspicion: that passers-by may not say, 'cursed be the man who has not left pe'ah in his field'; and against [transgressing] thou shalt not finish off: are not all these on account of, 'thou shalt not finish off'?1 — Said Raba, [It means, as a precaution] against cheats.2

R. Isaac b. Redifah said in R. Huna's name: A lamp with two spouts is credited to two people.3  Raba said: If one fills a dish with oil and surrounds it with wicks, and places a vessel over it,4  it is credited to many people; if he does not place a vessel over it, he turns it into a kind of fire,5  and is not credited even to one.

Raba said: It is obvious to me [that if one must choose between] the house light and the Hanukkah light,6  the former is preferable, on account [of the importance] of the peace of the home;7  [between] the house light and [wine for] the Sanctification of the Day,8  the house light is preferable, on account of the peace of the home. Raba propounded: What [if the choice lies between] the Hanukkah lamp and the Sanctification of the Day: is the latter more important, because it is permanent;9  or perhaps the Hanukkah lamp is preferable, on account of advertising the miracle? After propounding, he himself solved it: The Hanukkah lamp is preferable, on account of advertising the miracle.

R. Huna said: He who habitually practises [the lighting of] the lamp will possess scholarly sons; he who is observant of [the precept of] mezuzah10  will merit a beautiful dwelling; he who is observant of fringes11  will merit a beautiful garment; he who is observant of the Sanctification of the Day will be privileged to fill barrels of wine.12

R. Huna was accustomed frequently to pass the door of R. Abin the carpenter.13  Seeing that he habitually lit many lights, he remarked, Two great men will issue hence. R. Idi b. Abin and R. Hiyya b. Abin issued thence. R. Hisda was accustomed frequently to pass the house of R. Shizbi's father.14  Seeing that he habitually lit many lights, he remarked, A great man will issue hence. R. Shizbi issued thence.

R. Joseph's wife used to kindle [the Sabbath lights] late.15  [Thereupon] R. Joseph said to her, It was taught: He took not away the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night:16  this teaches that the pillar of cloud overlapped17  the pillar of fire, and the pillar of fire overlapped the pillar of cloud. Thereupon she thought of doing it very early. Said an old man to her: It was taught: Providing that one is not too early18  or too late.

Raba said: He who loves the Rabbis will have sons who are Rabbis; he who honours the Rabbis will have Rabbis for sons-in-law; he who stands in awe of the Rabbis will himself be a Rabbinical scholar. But if he is not fit for this, his words will be heeded like those of a Rabbinical scholar.19

NOR WITH OIL OF BURNING. What is OIL OF BURNING? Said Rabbah, Oil of terumah which was defiled; and why is it called OIL OF BURNING? Because it stands to be burnt. And why is this forbidden on the Sabbath? — Since it is one's duty to destroy it, we fear lest he tilt [the lamp].20  Abaye objected: if so, let it be permitted on Festivals.21  Why did we learn: One must not kindle [the lamp] on Festivals with oil of burning!-Festivals are forbidden on account of the Sabbath.22  R. Hisda said: We have no fear lest he tilt [it], but here the reference is to a Festival which falls on the eve of the Sabbath, and as for the prohibition, [the reason is] because sacred food23  must not be burnt on Festivals.24  But since the second clause25  states, One must not light on Festivals with oil of burning, it follows that the first clause does not refer to Festivals? — R. Hanina of Sura answered: This [the second clause] states, 'What is the reason': what is the reason that one must not light [the lamp] on Festivals with oil of burning? Because sacred food must not be burnt on Festivals.26

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. The other three are reasons why the Torah said this.
  2. Who may not leave anything and maintain that they left pe'ah in the middle of the field.
  3. Who each fulfils his obligations, i.e., where only one light is used; supra 21b.
  4. So that the whole looks like a lamp with many spouts.
  5. All the flames merge into one and create one great blaze; it does not look like a lamp at all then.
  6. He cannot afford both. Rashi observes that this refers to the Sabbath.
  7. V. infra 25b.
  8. The Sabbath and the Festivals were sanctified over wine.
  9. Coming every week; by comparison Hanukkah is temporary, coming but once a year.
  10. V. Glos.
  11. V.Num. XV, 38.
  12. I.e., he will be wealthy.
  13. Many of the Rabbis were workers or tradespeople, the office of the Rabbinate being unpaid in most cases.
  14. So translated by BaH.
  15. Just before nightfall.
  16. Ex. XIII, 22.
  17. Lit., 'completed'.
  18. As it is not evident that it is lit in honour of the Sabbath.
  19. This dictum was possibly a reproof of the hostility sometimes shown towards the Rabbis: cf. Sanh. 99b.
  20. To accelerate it.
  21. Since making a fire on Festivals is permitted.
  22. Lest it be thought that the latter too is permitted.
  23. Which includes terumah.
  24. Even when, being defiled, it is unfit for food.
  25. The Mishnah on 24b.
  26. [The words, 'one must not light on Festivals with oil of burning' in the second clause, is another way of stating the rule that holy food must not be burnt on Festivals].
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