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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Nedarim

Folio 40a

R. Helbo is sick. But none visited him. He rebuked them [sc. the scholars], saying, 'Did it not once happen that one of R. Akiba's disciples fell sick, and the Sages did not visit him? So R. Akiba himself entered [his house] to visit him, and because they swept and sprinkled the ground before him,1  he recovered. 'My master,' said he, 'you have revived me!' [Straightway] R. Akiba went forth and lectured: He who does not visit the sick is like a shedder of blood.

When R. Dimi came,2  he said: He who visits the sick causes him to live, whilst he who does not causes him to die. How does he cause [this]? Shall we say that he who visits the sick prays3  that he may live, whilst he who does not prays that he should die, — 'that he should die!' can you really think so? But [say thus:] He who does not visit the sick prays neither that he may live nor die.4

Whenever Raba fell sick, on the first day he would ask that his sickness should not be made known to any one lest his fortune be impaired.5  But after that, he said to them [his servants], 'Go, proclaim my illness in the market place, so that whoever is my enemy may rejoice, and it is written, Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth … Lest the Lord see it, and it displeases him, and he turn away his wrath from him.6  whilst he who loves me will pray for me.

Rab said: He who visits the sick will be delivered from the punishments of Gehenna, for it is written, Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in the day of evil.7  'The poor' [dal] means none but the sick, as it is written, He will cut me off from pining sickness [mi-dalah];8  or from this verse: Why art thou so poorly [dal], thou son of the King?9  Whilst 'evil' refers to Gehenna, for it is written, The Lord hath made all things for himself' Yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.10  Now, if one does visit, what is his reward? [You ask,] 'what is his reward?' Even as hath been said; 'he will be delivered from the punishment of Gehenna!' — But what is his reward in this world? — The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive, and he shall be blessed upon the earth; and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies.11  'The Lord will preserve him'. — from the Evil Urge, 'and keep him alive' — [saving him] from sufferings; 'and he shall be blessed upon the' earth,' — that all will take pride in him;12  'and the wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies', — that he may procure friends like Naaman's, who healed his leprosy; and not chance upon friends like Rehoboam's, who divided his kingdom.

It was taught: R. Simeon b. Eleazar said: If the young tell you to build, and the old to destroy, hearken to the elders, but hearken not to the young, for the building of youth is destruction, whilst the destruction of the old is building. And a sign for the matter is Rehoboam the son of Solomon.13

R. Shisha son of R. Idi said: One should not visit the sick during the first three or the last three hours [of the day], lest he thereby omit to pray14  for him. During the first three hours of the day his [the invalid's] illness is alleviated; in the last three hours his sickness is most virulent.15

Rabin said in Rab's name: Whence do we know that the Almighty sustains the sick? From the verse, The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing.16  Rabin also said in Rab's name: Whence do we know that the Divine Presence rests above an invalid's bed? From the verse, The Lord doth set himself upon the bed of languishing.17  It was taught likewise: He who visits the sick must not sit upon the bed, or on a stool or a chair, but must [reverently] robe himself and sit upon the ground, because the Divine Presence rests above an invalid's bed, as it is written, The Lord doth set himself upon the bed of languishing.

Rabin also said in Rab's name: [The swelling of] the Euphrates testifies abundantly to rain in the West.18  Now, he disagrees with Samuel, who said: A river increases [in volume] from its bed.19  Now, Samuel is self-contradictory. For Samuel said: Running water does not purify,

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Asheri: R. Akiba, finding the chamber neglected, gave the necessary orders.
  2. From Palestine.
  3. Lit., 'begs mercy for him'.
  4. Through the lack of his prayers, which might have been accepted, he is said to cause his death.
  5. If his illness became known, people might talk about it and thus affect his fate (Rashi).
  6. Prov. XXIV, 17f.
  7. Ps. XLI, 2.
  8. Isa. XXXVIII, 12.
  9. II Sam. XIII, 4.
  10. Prov. XVI, 4.
  11. Ps. XLI, 3.
  12. Lit., 'all will be honoured in him' — he will be a source of pride to all.
  13. His elder councillors advised him to submit to the malcontents, thus apparently weakening his authority; whilst his young friends advised him to strengthen his rule by rejecting their demands. As a result of listening to the young men his kingdom was split. Kings XII.
  14. Lit., 'dismiss' his mind from mercies.
  15. Consequently, a visitor in the first three hours may think him on the road to recovery, and consider prayer unnecessary; in the last three hours, on the other hand, he may feel that prayer is hopeless.
  16. Ps. XLI, 4.
  17. This is another rendering of the same verse. Rashi suggests another interpretation; for yisa'denu, meaning 'he will strengthen him', read yesharenu, 'he will abide with him'.
  18. Palestine. When it rains in Palestine, which is higher than Babylon, the water flows down and causes the swelling of the Euphrates. This is another way of saying that the rise of a river is due to the rains. The practical bearing of this on ritual law is discussed below.
  19. Lit., 'From its rock': though it appears to swell through the rains, actually more water gushes upwards from the river bed than is added by the rain,
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Nedarim 40b

except the Euphrates in Tishri.1  Samuel's father made mikwaoth for his daughters in Nisan2  and had mats set for them in the days of Tishri.3

R. Ammi said in Rab's name: What is meant by the verse, Therefore, thou son of man, prepare thee stuff for removing?4  This is a lamp, plate and

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Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Tishri is the seventh month of the Jewish year, generally coinciding with September-October. If a mikweh (ritual bath) is made of collected rain water, it is efficacious only if its water is still, not running or flowing. On the other hand, a well or spring with its water gushing forth from its source is efficacious even when it flows onward. Now, during the whole year, the river may contain more rain water or melted snow than its own natural waters; consequently, it is all considered as rain water, which does not cleanse when in a running state. But in Tishri the rains have ceased, nor is there any melted snow in the river. Then it is like a well or spring, and even though running its water is efficacious for ritual cleansing. Now, according to this, the river's rise is caused mainly by rain. This conflicts with the view that at all times the water from its source is more.
  2. Nisan, the first Jewish month, corresponding to March-April. As the river is then swollen by rain, he did not permit them to take their ritual bath in the running river, but made special enclosed baths for them.
  3. In Tishri they performed their ablutions in the river. Now the bed of the river is miry, and should the feet sink into it, the water cannot reach them and the immersion is invalid; he therefore placed mats in the river bed for them to stand on. Ran gives another explanation: He hung up mats on the shore to serve as a screen, For modesty. [Obermeyer op. cit. p. 418: he set up for them tents made of reeds]. On both explanations this story is mentioned here in support of Samuel's second dictum.
  4. Ezek. XII, 3.
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