Sanhedrin 59b

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Sanhedrin 59b

But circumcision, which was given to the Sons of Noah, for it is written, Thou shalt keep my covenant,[1] and repeated at Sinai, And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised,[2] yet was meant for Israel, and not for the Noachides? — That repetition was inserted to permit circumcision on the Sabbath, by interpreting, on the day [whichever it is], and even on the Sabbath.[3]
דף נט, ב גמרא והרי מילה שנאמרה לבני נח דכתיב (בראשית יז) ואתה את בריתי תשמור ונשנית בסיני (ויקרא יב) וביום השמיני ימול לישראל נאמרה ולא לבני נח ההוא למישרי שבת הוא דאתא ביום ואפילו בשבת
But procreation, which was enjoined upon the Noachides, for it is written, And you be ye fruitful and multiply.[4] and repeated at Sinai, as it is written, Go say to them, get you in to your tents again,[5] was nevertheless commanded to Israel but not to the heathens? — That repetition was to teach that whatever has been constitutionally forbidden by a majority vote requires another majority vote to abrogate it.[6] If so, may we not say of each [of the Noachian laws] that it was repeated for a definite purpose?[7] — He means this: why should the prohibition be repeated?[8]
והרי פריה ורביה שנאמרה לבני נח דכתיב (בראשית ט) ואתם פרו ורבו ונשנית בסיני (דברים ה) לך אמור להם שובו לכם לאהליכם לישראל נאמרה ולא לבני נח ההוא לכל דבר שבמנין צריך מנין אחר להתירו הוא דאתא אי הכי כל חדא וחדא נמי נימא משום מילתא איתני הכי קאמר אזהרה מיהדר ומיתנא בה למה לי
'Now the only law [thus commanded to the children of Israel and not repeated at Sinai] was the prohibition of the sinew that shrank [nervus ischiadicus], and in accordance with R. Judah's view.' But these[9] too were not repeated.[10] — These two were repeated, though for a purpose, but this was not repeated at all.
ואין לנו אלא גיד הנשה בלבד ואליבא דר' יהודה הני נמי לא איתני הני איתני לשום מילתא בעלמא הא לא איתני כלל אי בעית אימא
An alternative answer is this:[11] Circumcision was from the very first commanded to Abraham only [and not to the Noachides in general]: Thou shalt keep my covenant, therefore, thou and thy seed after thee in their generations,[12] meaning, thou and thy seed are to keep it, but no others. If so, should it not be incumbent upon the children of Ishmael [Abraham's son]? — For in Isaac shall thy seed be called.[13] Then should not the children of Esau be bound to practise it? — In Isaac,[14] but not all Isaac. R. Oshaia objected: If so, the children of Keturah should have been exempt![15] — Did not R. Jose b. Abin, or as others say, R. Jose b. Hanina, state: [And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people;] he hath broken my covenant[16] — this extends the precept [of circumcision] to the children of Keturah?[17]
אימא מילה מעיקר' לאברהם הוא דקא מזהר ליה רחמנא ואתה את בריתי תשמור אתה וזרעך אחריך לדורותם אתה וזרעך אין איניש אחרינא לא אלא מעתה בני ישמעאל לחייבו (בראשית כא) כי ביצחק יקרא לך זרע בני עשו לחייבו ביצחק ולא כל יצחק מתקיף לה רב אושעיא אלא מעתה בני קטורה לא לחייבו האמר ר' יוסי בר אבין ואיתימא ר' יוסי בר חנינא (בראשית יז) את בריתי הפר לרבות בני קטורה
Rab Judah said in Rab's name: Adam was not permitted to eat flesh, for it is written, [Behold I have given you all the herbs, etc.] to you it shall be for food, and to all the beasts of the earth,[18] implying, but the beasts of the earth shall not be for you.[19] But with the advent of the sons of Noah, it was permitted, for it is said, [Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you;] even as the green herb have I given you all things.[20] Now one might think that the prohibition of flesh cut from the living animal does not apply to them [sc. the Noachides]: therefore the Writ teacheth, But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.[21] One might think that this prohibition applies even to reptiles; therefore it is stated — but.[22] How is this implied? — R. Huna said [But flesh with the life thereof, which is] the blood thereof: this shews that the prohibition applies only to those creatures whose flesh is distinct from their blood [in its prohibition]; excluding reptiles, whose flesh is not distinct from their blood.23
אמר רב יהודה אמר רב אדם הראשון לא הותר לו בשר לאכילה דכתיב (בראשית א) לכם יהיה לאכלה ולכל חית הארץ ולא חית הארץ לכם וכשבאו בני נח התיר להם שנאמר (בראשית ט) כירק עשב נתתי לכם את כל יכול לא יהא אבר מן החי נוהג בו ת"ל (בראשית ט) אך בשר בנפשו דמו לא תאכלו יכול אף לשרצים ת"ל (בראשית ט) אך ומאי תלמודא א"ר הונא דמו מי שדמו חלוק מבשרו יצאו שרצים שאין דמם חלוק מבשרם
An objection is raised: And rule over the fish of the sea;[23] surely that means that they should serve as food?[24] — No. It refers to toil.[25] But can fish be made to work? — Yes, even as Rahabah propounded: What if one drove [a waggon] with a goat and a shibbuta?[26] Come and hear: and over the foul of the heaven.[27] Surely this is in respect of food? — No. It refers to toil. But can fowl be made to work? — Yes, even as Rabbah, son of R. Huna propounded: According to the ruling of R. Jose b. R. Judah, what if one threshed [corn] with geese or cocks?[28]
מיתיבי (בראשית א) ורדו בדגת הים מאי לאו לאכילה לא למלאכה ודגים בני מלאכה נינהו אין כדרחבה דבעי רחבה הנהיג בעיזא ושיבוטא מאית"ש (בראשית א) ובעוף השמים מאי לאו לאכילה לא למלאכה ועופות בני מלאכה נינהו אין כדבעי רבה בר רב הונא דש באווזין ותרנגולין לר' יוסי ברבי יהודה מאי
Come and hear: And over every living creature that moveth upon the earth![29] — That refers to the serpent. For it has been taught: — R. Simeon b. Manassia said: Woe for the loss of a great servant. For had not the serpent been cursed, every Israelite would have had two valuable serpents, sending one to the north and one to the south to bring him costly gems, precious stones and pearls.[30] Moreover, one would have fastened a thong under its tail, with which it would bring forth earth for his garden and waste land.[31]
תא שמע (בראשית א) ובכל חיה הרומשת על הארץ ההוא לאתויי נחש הוא דאתא דתניא ר"ש בן מנסיא אומר חבל על שמש גדול שאבד מן העולם שאלמלא <לא> נתקלל נחש כל אחד ואחד מישראל היו מזדמנין לו שני נחשים טובים אחד משגרו לצפון ואחד משגרו לדרום להביא לו סנדלבונים טובים ואבנים טובות ומרגליות ולא עוד אלא שמפשילין רצועה תחת זנבו ומוציא בה עפר לגנתו ולחורבתו
A [further] objection is raised: R. Judah b. Tema said: Adam reclined in the Garden of Eden, whilst the ministering angels roasted flesh and strained wine for him. Thereupon the serpent looked in, saw his glory, and became envious of him?[32] — The reference there is to flesh that descended from heaven. But does flesh descend from heaven? — Yes; as in the story of R. Simeon b. Halafta, who was walking on the road, when lions met him and roared at him. Thereupon he quoted: The young lions roar after their prey;[33] and two lumps of flesh descended [from heaven]. They ate one and left the other. This he brought to the schoolhouse and propounded: Is this clean [fit for food] or not? — They [sc. the scholars] answered: Nothing unclean descends from heaven. R. Zera asked R. Abbahu: What if something in the shape of an ass were to descend? — He replied: Thou howling yorod:[34] did they not answer him that no unclean thing descends from heaven?[35]
מיתיבי היה ר' יהודה בן תימא אומר אדם הראשון מיסב בגן עדן היה והיו מלאכי השרת צולין לו בשר ומסננין לו יין הציץ בו נחש וראה בכבודו ונתקנא בו התם בבשר היורד מן השמים מי איכא בשר היורד מן השמים אין כי הא דר"ש בן חלפתא הוה קאזיל באורחא פגעו בו הנך אריותא דהוו קא נהמי לאפיה אמר (תהילים קד) הכפירים שואגים לטרף נחיתו ליה תרתי אטמתא חדא אכלוה וחדא שבקוה אייתיה ואתא לבי מדרשא בעי עלה דבר טמא הוא זה או דבר טהור א"ל אין דבר טמא יורד מן השמים בעי מיניה ר' זירא מר' אבהו ירדה לו דמות חמור מהו א"ל יארוד נאלא הא אמרי ליה אין דבר טמא יורד מן השמים:
'R. Simeon said, They were also forbidden to practice sorcery.' What is R. Simeon's reason? — Because it is written,
ר"ש אומר אף על הכישוף: מ"ט דר"ש דכתיב

See Also


  1. Gen. XVII, 9. Abraham and his descendants until Sinai are also accounted sons of Noah.
  2. Lev. XII, 3.
  3. Hence, being repeated for a purpose, the above principle does not apply to it.
  4. Gen. IX, 7.
  5. Deut. V, 27. This is interpreted as a command to resume their marital obligations, which were suspended for three days before the Revelation, v. Ex. XIX, 15.
  6. Although the prohibition in Ex. XIX, 15 was explicitly limited to three days, yet after that it did not cease automatically, but was formally abrogated. This proves that any prohibition constitutionally imposed, as by a majority of the Sanhedrin, even for a limited period, must be constitutionally repealed thereafter. Hence the repetition being necessary, it is not subject to the general principle. — So Rashi. Tosaf however, (here and in Bezah 5a) maintains that a temporary prohibition automatically ceases at the end of its period. Accordingly, Ex. XIX, 15 is to be translated: Be ready against the third day (for God's Revelation); approach not your wives (for an unspecified period). Tosaf. therefore substitutes this explanation: A prohibitory measure, constitutionally passed, does not automatically cease when its reason no longer exists. Thus in this case the prohibition was obviously on account of the approaching Revelation, yet after the Revelation, when there was no longer any reason for its continuance, it had to be formally revoked.
  7. E.g., idolatry, to shew which acts of devotion are forbidden; incest, to teach its punishment.
  8. I.e., if some additional detail had to be taught, that alone could have been stated without repeating the basic law. Such repetition must have been to enlarge its scope, as embracing both Israelites and heathens.
  9. I.e., circumcision and procreation.
  10. For, as explained above, their repetition being for a definite purpose, is not a repetition at all.
  11. This is in answer to the first difficulty of circumcision having been given to the Noachides and repeated at Sinai.
  12. Gen. XVII, 9.
  13. Ibid. XXI, 12.
  14. Heb. [H] the [H] (in) being taken as partitive preposition.
  15. Keturah was Abraham's wife after Sarah's death, by whom he had six sons. Gen. XXV, 1f. According to the verse For in Isaac etc. these should not have been included in the precept.
  16. Gen. XVII, 14.
  17. This is the reply. The verse teaches the inclusion of the immediate sons of Keturah, but not of their descendants.
  18. Gen. I, 29f.
  19. I.e., the herbs, etc. have been given to you and to the beasts of the earth, but the beasts of the earth have not been given to you for food.
  20. Ibid. IX, 3.
  21. Ibid. 4.
  22. Heb. [H]. It is a principle of Talmudic hermeneutics that the particles akh (but) and rak (save) always indicate a limitation or exclusion. Here akh is interpreted as teaching the exclusion of reptiles from the law under discussion.
  23. Ibid. I, 28.
  24. This was said to Adam.
  25. Adam was given dominion over the lower creatures, to make them work for him.
  26. Name of a fish, conjectured by Jastrow to be the mullet (Cephalus, v. Payne Smith, Thesaurus Syriacus 4029). The problem raised is whether this would involve the transgression of the prohibition, Thou shalt not plow an ox and ass together, Deut. XXII, 10.
  27. Continuing the verse.
  28. V. B.M. 91b. The problems raised in connection with the prohibition, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn. Deut. XXV, 4 shows that birds may be utilized for service.
  29. The Heb. [H] translated 'living creature', denotes literally a wild animal, which cannot be put to service, but can only be caught and eaten.
  30. Heb. [H] from [G] (Levy) or [G] (Krauss).
  31. Thus the Serpent was intended to be put to service before it was cursed.
  32. This proves that flesh was permitted to Adam.
  33. Ps. CIV, 21.
  34. Yarod is a bird of solitary habits, or a jackal (Rashi). The meaning is: what a foolish question to ask!
  35. Hence thy supposition is an impossible one; and if it did happen, it would be fit for food.