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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Yebamoth

Folio 16a

as to the sons of the rivals1  I may testify to you'.2

Come and hear: In the days of R. Dosa b. Harkinas the rival of a daughter was permitted to marry the brothers.3  From this it may be inferred that [Beth Shammai] acted [in accordance with their own rulings].4  This proves the point.

[To turn to] the main text. In the days of R. Dosa b. Harkinas, the rival of a daughter was permitted to marry the brothers. This ruling was very disturbing to the Sages, because he5  was a great scholar6  and his eyes were dim so that he was unable to come to the house of study.7  When a discussion took place as to who should go and communicate with him, R. Joshua said to them, 'I will go'. 'And who after him?' — 'R. Eleazar b. Azariah.' 'And who after him?' — 'R. Akiba'. They went and stood at the entrance of his house. His maid entered and told him, 'Master, the Sages of Israel are come to you'. 'Let them enter', he said to her; and they entered. Taking hold of R. Joshua he made him sit upon a golden couch. The latter said to him, 'Master, will you ask your other disciple to sit down'? 'Who is he?' [the Master] enquired. — 'R. Eleazar b. Azariah'. 'Has our friend Azariah a son?' [the Master] exclaimed, and applied to him this Scriptural text, I have been young and now I am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread;8  and so took hold of him also and made him sit upon a golden couch. 'Master', said he,9  'will you ask your next disciple also to sit down'? 'And who is he?' [the Master] asked. — 'Akiba the son of Joseph'. 'You are,' [the Master] exclaimed, 'Akiba son of Joseph whose name is known from one end of the world to the other! Sit down, my son, sit down. May men like you multiply in Israel'. Thereupon they began to address to him all sorts of questions on legal practice10  until they reached that of the daughter's rival. 'What is the halachah', they asked him, 'in the case of a daughter's rival?' 'This,' he answered them, 'is a question in dispute between Beth Shammai and Beth Hillel.' 'In accordance with whose ruling is the halachah?' — 'The halachah,' he replied, is in accordance with the ruling of Beth Hillel'. 'But, indeed,' they said to him, 'it was stated in your name that the halachah is in accordance with the ruling of Beth Shammai!' He said to them: 'Did you hear, "Dosa"11 or "the son of Harkinas?"'12  — 'By the life of our Master.' they replied. 'We heard no son's name mentioned.'13  'I have,' he said to them, 'a younger brother who is a dare-devil14  and his name is Jonathan and he is one of the disciples of Shammai.15  Take care that he does not overwhelm you on questions of established practice, because he has three hundred answers to prove that the daughter's rival is permitted. But I call heaven and earth to witness that upon this mortar16  sat the prophet Haggai17  and delivered the following three rulings: That a daughter's rival is forbidden, that in the lands of Ammon and Moab the tithe of the poor is to be given in the Seventh Year,18  and that proselytes may be accepted from the Cordyenians and the Tarmodites.'19

A Tanna taught: When they came20  they entered through one door; when they went out they issued through three different doors.21  He came upon R. Akiba, submitted his objections to him and silenced him.22  'Are you', he called out, 'Akiba whose name rings from one end of the world to the other? You are blessed indeed to have won fame while you have not yet attained the rank of oxherds.' 'Not even,' replied R. Akiba, 'that of shepherds.'

'In the lands of Ammon and Moab the tithe of the poor is given in the Seventh Year,' because a Master said: Those who came up from Egypt23  had conquered many cities which those who came up from Babylon24  did not conquer, and the first sanctification23  was intended for that time only but not for the future.25  Hence they were allowed [cultivation]26  in order that the poor27  might find their support there in the Seventh Year.28

'And that proselytes may be accepted from the Cordyenians and the Tarmodites'. But [the law, surely,] is not so! For Rami b. Ezekiel learnt: No proselyte may be accepted from the Cordyenians. — R. Ashi replied: The statement was Kartuenians,29  as people, in fact, speak of 'disqualified Kartuenians'.

Others say: Rami b. Ezekiel learnt, 'No proselytes are to be accepted from the Kartuenians'. Are not Kartuenians the same as Cordyenians? — R. Ashi replied: No; Kartuenians are a class by themselves, and Cordyenians are a class by themselves, as people, in fact, speak of 'disqualified Kartuenians'.30

Both R. Johanan and Sabya maintain that no proselytes may be accepted from the Tarmodites. Did R. Johanan. however, say such a thing? Surely we learned: All blood stains [on women's garments] that come from Rekem31  are levitically clean,32  and R. Judah declares them unclean because [the people there] were proselytes though misguided;33  [those that come] from the heathens34  are levitically clean.35  And the difficult point was raised

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Whether they are tainted or not.
  2. V. supra 15b, which shews that they were not tainted, since they were permitted to occupy the highest office in the priesthood.
  3. Of the father of that daughter.
  4. Since the permission to marry was issued by a brother of R. Dosa (v. infra) who was a member of Beth Shammai.
  5. R. Dosa, who was thought to be the author of the ruling.
  6. And they did not venture to act against his decision without first consulting him.
  7. And was thus unaware that the general opinion at the College was against the ruling.
  8. Ps. XXXVII, 25.
  9. R. Joshua.
  10. Lit., 'surrounded him with halachoth'.
  11. I.e., that Dosa permitted the rival.
  12. Without the mention of the name of the son.
  13. Lit., 'not specifically', 'undefined'.
  14. [H], 'the first-born of Satan', first in obstinate dispute (Jast.); Satansjunge similar to Teufelskerl (Golds.); keen and obstinate (Rashi). Some suggest [H] 'keen — witted youth'. R. Dosa appears to have been playing upon the rhyme of ah katan, bekor satan, and Jonathan.
  15. And it must have been Jonathan who dared to issue a ruling in accordance with the views of his school against those of Beth Hillel.
  16. [H] or mortar-shaped seat.
  17. [That does not mean that he was a contemporary of Haggai the prophet, but that he had an incontrovertible tradition on the matter, Me'iri.]
  18. Of the septennial cycle. The countries of Ammon and Moab, though conquered by Moses and included in the boundary of the Land of Israel, were in the days of the Second Temple excluded. The laws of the Seventh or Sabbatical year, which apply to the Land of Israel, were consequently inapplicable to the lands of Ammon and Moab. Any Jews living in those countries, it was ordained by the Rabbis, were to be allowed to cultivate their fields in this year, but besides the 'first tithe' which is due in all other years, they were to give the tithe of the poor also.
  19. Despite the opinion of some Rabbis that they were to be regarded as bastards. Cordyene or Kardu was in Babylon; Tarmod or Tadmor, (Palmyra) lay in an oasis of the desert of Syria. [According to Obermeyer (p. 133) the question as to the legitimacy of the offering of the Kardu was on account of the possible intermarriage of the non-Jewish inhabitants with the Jewish converts, won over to Christianity by the Christian missions from Edessa in the first century.]
  20. To interview R. Dosa.
  21. Either in order not to attract Jonathan's attention, or, on the contrary, in the hope that one of them at least might meet him.
  22. Lit., 'and made him stand'.
  23. In the days of Joshua.
  24. In the days of Ezra.
  25. Hag. 3b.
  26. In the Sabbatical year.
  27. Of the Land of Israel where no cultivation was permitted and where consequently no poor-tithe was given in that year.
  28. By obtaining employment in the fields or by receiving the tithes and the other gifts of the poor.
  29. Mountaineers of Media. The [G] natives of Karta are mentioned by Polybius and Strabo.
  30. The Cordyenians, however, are not tainted.
  31. Place on the borders of Palestine. Perhaps Petra or the Biblical Sela in Edom, v. Git., Sonc. ed. p. 1, n. 2.
  32. Only the menstrual blood of the daughters of Israel is levitically unclean; and no pure Israelites lived at Rekem.
  33. Though they no longer observed the religious laws of Judaism they were once proselytes and as such their menstrual blood is levitically unclean as is the case with that of Israelites.
  34. I.e., from localities where no Israelites live.
  35. Nid. 56b, Bek. 38b.
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Yebamoth 16b

that having stated categorically,1  '[those that came] from the heathens' [he must also imply,] 'even those from Tarmod'!2  And R. Johanan replied: This proves that proselytes may be accepted from Tarmod.3  And if it be replied [that R. Johanan only said], 'This',4  but he himself does not hold this view,5  surely R. Johanan said, 'The halachah is in accordance with an anonymous Mishnah'!6  — It is a question in dispute between Amoraim as to what was actually the view of R. Johanan.

Why are no [proselytes to be accepted] from Tarmod? — R. Johanan and Sabya give different reasons. One says, 'On account of the slaves of Solomon,'7  and the other says, 'On account of the daughters of Jerusalem.'8

According to him who Says. 'On account of the slaves of Solomon,' the reason is quite intelligible, because he may hold the opinion that the child of a heathen or a slave who had intercourse with a daughter in Israel is a bastard. According to him, however, who said, 'On account of the daughters of Jerusalem', what is the reason? — R. Joseph and the Rabbis dispute the point, and both of them in the name of Rabbah b. Bar Hana. One maintains that [the number was] twelve thousand [foot]men and six thousand archers, and the other maintains that there were twelve thousand men and, of these, six hundred archers. At the time when the heathens entered the Temple, everyone made for the gold and the silver, but they made for the daughters of Jerusalem; as it is said in the Scriptures. They have ravished the women in Zion, the maidens in the cities of Judah.9

R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Jonathan: The following verse was uttered by the Genius of the Universe:10  I have been young and now I am old11  For who else could have said it! If the Holy One, blessed be He, be suggested, is there any old age in his case? Then David must have said it? But was he so old? Consequently it must be concluded that the Genius of the Universe had said it.

R. Samuel b. Nahmani further said in the name of R. Jonathan: What is [the meaning of] the Scriptural text,12  The adversary hath spread out his hand upon all her treasures?13  — This [refers to] Ammon and Moab. At the time when the heathens entered the Temple all made for gold and silver, but they turned to the Scroll of the Law, saying, 'That in which it is written, An Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord,14  shall be burned with fire.'

The Lord hath commanded concerning Jacob that they that are round about him should be his adversaries.15  Rab said: As, for instance, Humania towards Pum Nahara.16

Rab Judah said in the name of R. Assi: If at the present time a heathen betroths [a daughter in Israel], note must be taken of such betrothal since it may be that he is of the ten tribes.17  But, surely, anything separated [from a heterogeneous group] is re garded as having been separated from the majority!18  — [R. Assi's statement refers] to places where they have settled;19  for R. Abba b. Kahana said: And he put them in Halah and in Habor, on the river of Gozan, and the cities of the Medes;20  Halah is Halwan,21  and Habor

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Lit., 'he decides and teaches'.
  2. But can that be so in view of the doubtful character of the admixture of Jewish stock of its inhabitants?
  3. Nid. 56b. I.e., they are not regarded as an admixture of Jewish stock and tainted from birth and disqualified. How then could it be said supra that R. Johanan maintains that proselytes may not be accepted from the Tarmodites?
  4. 'This proves etc.' supra.
  5. I.e., he disagrees with the Mishnah.
  6. Which, as has been shewn, implies that proselytes may be accepted from Tarmod.
  7. Who married Jewish women.
  8. This is explained immediately.
  9. Lam. V, 11.
  10. Or 'Prince of the world'; identified by some writers with Metatron 'whose name is similar to that of his master'; v. Sanh., Sonc. ed. p. 245, nn. 11 and 12 and cf. op. cit. p. 246, n. 6. V. also 'A.Z., Sonc. ed. p. 10, n. 6.
  11. Ps. XXXVII, 25, referred to by R. Dosa supra 16a.
  12. Lit., 'what of that which was written?'
  13. Lam. I, 10.
  14. Deut. XXIII, 4.
  15. Lam. I, 17.
  16. Both were localities in Babylon. The former, inhabited by Greeks, was a constant source of annoyance to the latter the inhabitants of which were poor Israelites. Humania was below the city of Ctesifon and near it was Pum Nahara.
  17. Whom Shalmaneser had carried away into captivity (II Kings XVIII, 11) where they intermarried with the heathens. Children born from such marriages are bastards, and R. Assi holds that a bastard's betrothal is valid.
  18. I.e., if it is not known to which group or class a person or object that comes from a mixed multitude belongs, it is always assumed that the unit came from the majority. Now, since the ten tribes represent only a minority of the heathens, it should be assumed that the betrothal was not made by one of the ten tribes but by a heathen.
  19. And formed a majority of the inhabitants (Tosaf. s.v. [H] a.l.). Rashi: A group which is in a settled condition, (kabu'a, v. Keth. 15a and Glos.), though it is a minority, is deemed to represent a half of the whole multitude.
  20. II Kings XVIII, 11.
  21. So Kid. 72b. Cur. edd., [H]. Halwan is a locality in Assyria. V. Kid., Sonc. ed. p. 367, n. 4.
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