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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Nedarim

Folio 50a

Lifting up the mat [upon which he was sitting], he exclaimed to the messengers, 'See what I have here,1  but I do not wish to benefit from this world.'2

The daughter of Kalba Shebu'a3  betrothed herself to R. Akiba.4  When her father heard thereof, he vowed that she was not to benefit from aught of his property. Then she went and married him in winter.5  They slept on straw, and he had to pick out the straw from his hair. 'If Only I could afford it,' said he to her, 'I would present you with a golden Jerusalem.'6  [Later] Elijah came to them in the guise of a mortal,7  and cried out at the door. 'Give the some straw, for my wife is in confinement and I have nothing for her to lie on.' 'See!' R. Akiba observed to his wife, 'there is a man who lacks even straw.' [Subsequently] she counselled him, 'Go, and become a scholar.' So he left her, and spent twelve years [studying] under R. Eliezer and R. Joshua. At the end of this period, he was returning home, when from the back of the house he heard a wicked man jeering at his wife, 'Your father did well to you. Firstly, because he is your inferior; and secondly, he has abandoned you to living widowhood all these years.' She replied, 'Yet were he to hear my desires, he would be absent another twelve years. Seeing that she has thus given me permission,' he said, 'I will go back.' So he went back, and was absent for another twelve years, [at the end of which] he returned with twenty-four thousand disciples.8  Everyone flocked to welcome him, including her [his wife] too. But that wicked man said to her, 'And whither art thou going?'9  'A righteous man knoweth the life of his beast,'10  she retorted. So she went to see him, but the disciples wished to repulse her. 'Make way for her,' he told them, 'for my [learning] and yours are hers.' When Kalba Shebu'a heard thereof, he came [before R. Akiba] and asked for the remission of his vow and he annulled it for him.

From six incidents did R. Akiba become rich: [i] From Kalba Shebu'a.11  [ii] From a ship's ram. For every ship is provided with the figurehead of an animal. Once this [a wooden ram] was forgotten on the sea shore, and R. Akiba found it.12  [iii] From a hollowed out trunk.13  For he once gave four it to sailors, and told them to bring him something [that he needed]. But they found only a hollow log on the sea shore, which they brought to him, saying, 'Sit on this and wait'.14  It was found to be full of denarii. For it once happened that a ship sunk and all the treasures thereof were placed in that log, and it was found at that time. [iv] From the serokita.15  [v] From a matron.16  [vi]

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. My a miracle, upon which he had relied, the place was filled with gold.
  2. This story shows that R. Judah, i.e., R. Judah b. Ila'i, was extremely poor. In general the scholars of that generation lived in great poverty, as a result of the Hadrianic persecutions. V. A. Buchler, The Jewish Community of Sepphoris, pp. 67 seq.
  3. V. Git. 56a.
  4. Then a poor shepherd.
  5. An interval generally elapsed between betrothal (kiddushin) and marriage (nesu'in).
  6. A golden ornament with Jerusalem engraved thereon. V. 'Ed. II. 7.
  7. Cf. Sanh. 109a, 113b; v. Tosaf. Hul. 6a. s.v. [H].
  8. Cur. edd.: 'pairs of disciples'. But 'pairs' is absent in the version of Ket. 62b, and should be deleted here.
  9. Taunting her that she was too humble to be observed by so great a scholar.
  10. Prov. XII, 10.
  11. Who shared his wealth with him.
  12. It contained money.
  13. [H] < [H], a stem, trunk: Rashi translates: a ship's coffer, from [H] to hide, and [H], treasure.
  14. [Lit., 'make this a tarrying place' (Goldschmidt); or 'Let our master make this (a tarrying place)', Rashi.]
  15. 'Aruch translates: Ishmaelite traders. The phrase is missing in 'En Jacob and unnoticed by the commentaries, and is obviously a corrupt dittography of [H] (Jast.)
  16. A large sum of money was once needed for the school house. R. Akiba borrowed it from a matron, and at her request gave the Almighty and the sea as sureties for its punctual repayment. But when the money fell due, R. Akiba was unwell. Thereupon the matron stood at the edge of the sea did exclaimed, 'Sovereign of the Universe! Thou knowest that to Thee and to the sea have I entrusted my money'. In reply, He inspired the Emperor's daughter with a mad fit, in the course of which she threw a chest full of treasures into the sea, which was washed up at the matron's feet. On his recovery, he brought her the money, with apologies for the delay: but she told him what had happened, and sent him away with many gifts.
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Nedarim 50b

The wife of Turnusrufus.1  [vi] From Keti'a b. Shalom.2

R. Gamada gave four zuz to sailors to bring him something. But as they could not obtain it, they brought him a monkey for it. The monkey escaped, and made his way into a hole. In searching for it, they found it lying on precious stones, and brought them all to him.

The Emperor's3  daughter said to R. Joshua b. Hananiah: 'Such comely wisdom in an ugly vessel!'4  He replied. 'Learn front thy father's palace. In what is the wine stored?' 'In earthern jars.' she answered. 'But all [common] people store [wine] in earthern vessels and thou too likewise! Thou shouldst keep it in jars of gold and silver!' So she went and had the wine replaced in vessels of gold and silver, and it turned sour. 'Thus,' said he to her, 'The Torah is likewise!' 'But are there not handsome people who are learned too?' 'Were they ugly they would be even more learned,' he retorted.

A certain woman of Nehardea came before Rab Judah5  for a lawsuit, and was declared guilty by the court. 'Would your teacher Samuel6  have judged thus?' she said. 'Do you know him then?' he asked. 'Yes, He is short and big-stomached, black and large teethed.' 'What, you have come to insult him! Let that woman be under the ban!' he exclaimed. She burst and died.

HE MAY ALSO EAT A WELL-BOILED EGG [BEZA TURMITA] — What is beza turmita? — Samuel said: The slave who can prepare one is worth a thousand denarii. For it must be placed a thousand times in hot water and a thousand times in cold, until small enough to be swallowed whole. If one is ulcerated, it attracts the matter to itself, and when it passes out the doctor knows what medicine is required and how to treat him. Samuel used to examine himself with Kulha,7  [which weakened him so] that his household tore their hair [in despair].

We have learnt elsewhere: If one is working among kelusfin, [Lesbian figs], he may not eat of benoth sheba';8  among benoth sheba', he may not eat of kelusfin. What are kelusfin? — A species of figs of which pap is made. A certain man once gave his slave to his friend to teach him a thousand different ways of making pap, but he taught him only eight hundred. So he summoned him to a lawsuit before Rabbi. Rabbi remarked, 'Our fathers said, "We have forgotten prosperity,"9 but we have never even seen it!'10

Rabbi made a wedding feast for his son Simeon, (and did not invite Bar Kappara).11  He wrote above the banqueting-hall,12  'Twenty-four thousand myriad denarii have been expended on these festivities 'Thereupon Bar Kappara said, 'If it is thus with those who transgress His will,13  how much more so with those who do His will!' When he [subsequently] invited him, he observed, 'If it is thus with those who do His will in this world, how much more so [will it be] in the world to come!'

On the day that Rabbi laughed, punishment would come upon the world.14  So he said to Bar Kappara [who was a humorist]. 'Do not make me laugh, and I will give you forty measures of wheat.' He replied. 'But let the Master see

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Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Tineius Rufus, a Roman governor of Judea. After her husband's death she became a convert and married R. Akiba, bringing him in much wealth. V.'A. Z. 20a.
  2. Keti'a b. Shalom was condemned to death by a Roman emperor — probably Hadrian — for giving counsel against the emperor and in favour of the Jews. He made R. Akiba his heir. — 'A.Z. (Sonc. ed.) 10b, pp. 53ff.
  3. [Hadrian: v. J.E. VII. 291.
  4. He was very ugly.
  5. [At Pumbeditha where he had his school.]
  6. R. Judah was for a short time a pupil of Samuel, after the death of Rab and R. Asst: v. Yeb. 18a.]
  7. A stalk of some plant, which acted in the same way as the beza turmita.
  8. A different species of figs. The reference is to Deut. XXIII, 25: When thou comest into thy neighbour's vineyard, then thou mayest eat grapes until thy fill at thin own pleasure. The Rabbis interpret this as referring to workers, who may eat any of the fruit — not particularly grapes — upon which they are engaged, but must confine themselves thereto.
  9. Cf. Lam. III, 17, implying that they had once known it.
  10. I.e., it is extraordinary that in these bad times he should know as many as he did.
  11. The bracketed phrase is transposed its our editions.
  12. Where the festivities took place.
  13. A reference to the wrong done in not inviting him.
  14. Rabbi suffered internal pains for thirteen years, during which there was never a drought. — B.M. 85a.
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