Bekhorot 8bבכורות ח׳ ב
The William Davidson Talmudתלמוד מהדורת ויליאם דוידסון
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8bח׳ ב

מי כתיב מכל החיה ומכל הבהמה מכל הבהמה ומכל החיה כתיב ארור הוא מבהמה שנתקללה מחיה

The Gemara responds: Is it written: Cursed are you from among all beasts, and from among all animals? No, it is written: “From among all animals, and from among all beasts,” meaning that it is cursed from among the domesticated animals, which were cursed from among the undomesticated animals.

ואימא כשם שנתקללה בהמה מחיה אחד לשלש ומאי ניהו עז מחתול כך נתקלל הוא מבהמה אחד לשלש דהוה ליה חמיסר ירחי

The Gemara challenges: Why must it mean that the snake was cursed more than the donkey in the same proportion that the donkey was cursed more than the cat? But say instead that just as the domesticated animals were cursed more than the undomesticated animals by a measure of one to three; the Gemara interjects: And in what case is that? It is in the case of a goat, whose gestation period is five months, compared to a cat, whose gestation period is fifty-two days. The Gemara continues its challenge: So too, the snake was cursed more than the domesticated animals, i.e., the goat, by a proportion of one to three, which is fifteen months.

איבעית אימא מכל הבהמה כתיב אי בעית אימא קללה הוא קללה שדי עילויה

The Gemara answers: If you wish, say that it is written: “Cursed are you from among all animals,” including the most accursed of them, i.e., the donkey. If you wish, say instead that since it is a curse that the snake received here, the verse imposes upon it the most extreme curse that can be derived from the text.

א"ל קיסר לרבי יהושע בן חנניה נחש לכמה מיעבר ומוליד א"ל לשב שני והא סבי דבי אתונא ארבעינהו ואוליד לתלת הנהו מיעברי הוו מעיקרא ד' [שנין] והא קמשמשי שמושי אינהו נמי משמשי כאדם

§ With regard to the gestation time of a snake, the Gemara relates that the Roman emperor said to Rabbi Yehoshua ben Ḥananya: In the case of a snake, after how long a period of gestation does it give birth? Rabbi Yehoshua ben Ḥananya said to him: After seven years. The emperor said to him: But the elders, i.e., the sages, of the school of Athens bred snakes and they gave birth after three years. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Ḥananya responded: Those snakes were already pregnant from beforehand for four years. The emperor asked: But they engaged in intercourse, and animals do so only in order to give birth, not when they are already pregnant. Rabbi Yehoshua responded: Snakes also engage in intercourse like people, i.e., they do not do so solely for reproduction.

והא חכימי אינהו אנן חכימינן מינייהו אי חכימת זיל זכינהו ואיתינהו לי אמר ליה כמה הוו שיתין גברי

The emperor said to him: But how can you disagree with the sages of Athens? Aren’t they wise? Rabbi Yehoshua ben Ḥananya responded: We are wiser than they. The emperor said: If you are wiser than they, then go defeat them in debate and bring them to me. Rabbi Yehoshua said to him: How many are there? The emperor answered: Sixty men.

אמר ליה עביד לי ספינתא דאית בה שיתין בתי וכל ביתא אית בה שיתין ביסתרקי עבד ליה כי מטא להתם [על] לבי טבחא אשכחיה לההוא גברא דקא פשיט חיותא א"ל רישך לזבוני א"ל אין א"ל בכמה א"ל בפלגא דזוזא יהב ליה

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Ḥananya said to him: Construct a ship that has sixty rooms for me, and each room should have sixty mattresses [bistarkei] in it. The emperor constructed it for him. Rabbi Yehoshua then set out on the ship for Athens. When he arrived there, he entered a butcher shop and found a certain man, the butcher, flaying an animal. Rabbi Yehoshua said to him: Is your head for sale? The butcher said to him: Yes it is. Rabbi Yehoshua said to him: For how much is it being sold? The butcher said to him: For half a dinar. Rabbi Yehoshua gave him the money.

לסוף א"ל אנא רישא דחיותא אמרי לך אמר ליה אי בעית דאישבקך סגי אחוי לי פיתחא דבי אתונא א"ל מסתפינא דכל דמחוי קטלי ליה א"ל דרי כריכא דקניא וכי מטית להתם זקפה כמאן דקא מתפח

After Rabbi Yehoshua paid the butcher, he said to him: Did I say to you that I wanted the head of the animal? I was referring to your head, and you must now keep your word and give me your head. Rabbi Yehoshua said to him: If you wish for me to let you be, go and show me the entrance to the school of the sages of Athens. The butcher said to him: I am afraid, as they kill anyone who shows its location to another. Rabbi Yehoshua said to him: Carry a bundle of reeds, and when you arrive there, stand it up like one who is resting, to mark the location. The butcher did this, and Rabbi Yehoshua successfully found the entrance.

אזל אשכח דרבנאי מגואי ודרבנאי מבראי דאי חזו כרעא דעיילא קטלי להו לבראי ודנפקא קטלי להו לגואי

Rabbi Yehoshua found guards stationed on the inside and guards stationed on the outside to ensure that no one could enter or exit. They also spread sand on the ground in the entranceway so that they could detect if anyone entered or left. If they saw footsteps that were entering they would kill the outer guards for allowing people to enter, and if they saw footsteps that were exiting they would kill the inner guards for allowing people to leave.

אפכה לסנדליה קטלי להו לגואי אפכה לסנדליה קטלי להו לכולהו

Rabbi Yehoshua reversed his sandal so it was facing away from the entrance, walked on the sand, and snuck away, thereby creating the appearance of someone who had left the building. When the authorities saw the footsteps, they killed the inner guards. Rabbi Yehoshua then returned, reversed his sandal, and made footsteps in the sand indicating that someone had entered the building. They then killed all the guards, including the outer ones, and Rabbi Yehoshua succeeded in entering the building.

[אזל] אשכח ינוקי מלעיל סבי מלתחת אמר אי יהיבנא שלמא להני קטלי לי הני סברי אנן עדיפינן דאנן קשינן טפי ואינהו דרדקי

Rabbi Yehoshua found the younger sages sitting in the upper, more prominent section, and the elder ones in the lower section. He said to himself: I must first greet the younger sages, as they are sitting in the upper section, prior to the elder sages; but if I greet these younger sages first, those elder sages will kill me, as they maintain: We are better, because we are older and they are children.

אמר שלמא לכו אמרו ליה מאי עבידתיך אמר להו (אנא) חכימא דיהודאי אנא בעינא למיגמר חכמתא מינייכו אי הכי ניבעי לך אמר להו לחיי אי זכיתו [לי] כל דבעיתו עבידו בי ואי זכינא בכו איכלו גבאי בספינתא

Rabbi Yehoshua said: Greetings to you, but did not directly address either group. They said to him: What are you doing here? Rabbi Yehoshua said to them: I am a Sage of the Jews, and I desire to learn wisdom from you. They said to him: If so, we will ask you questions and see if you are worthy of this privilege. Rabbi Yehoshua said to them: Very well. If you win, you may do to me anything you wish, and if I defeat you, then eat with me on my ship.

א"ל ההוא גברא דאזיל ובעי אתתא ולא יהבו ליה מאי חזי ליה דאזיל היכא דמדלו מיניה שקל סיכתא דצה לתתאי לא עאל לעילאי עאל אמר האי נמי מיתרמי בת מזליה

The sages of Athens said to him: In the case of a certain man who goes and asks to marry a woman and her family does not give her to him, why would he see fit to go to a family that is greater than the first? Rabbi Yehoshua took a peg and stuck it into the lower part of the wall, but it did not go in. He then stuck it into the upper portion of the wall where there was a hole, and it went in. He said to them: In this case too, where he goes to a more distinguished family than the first, perhaps he will find the girl destined for him.

גברא דאוזיף וטריף מאי חזא דהדר אוזיף אמר להו גברא אזל לאגמא קטל קמא טונא ולא מצי ביה קטיל ומנח עילויה עד דאיתרמי איניש מדלי ליה

The sages of Athens asked him another question: In the case of a man who lends money to an individual and the borrower does not repay the loan, and the lender repossesses the borrower’s property as payment instead, why would he see fit to lend to others again? Rabbi Yehoshua said to them: This is what people do: If a man goes to the pond, initially cuts a bundle of reeds, but finds that he cannot lift it, he does not stop cutting wood. Instead, he cuts more wood and places it upon the first, until a person happens to pass by and helps him raise it upon his shoulders, so that he can carry it home. So too, a person continues to lend based on the assumption that he will eventually find an appropriate borrower.

אמרו ליה אימא לן מילי דבדיאי אמר להו הוה ההוא כודניתא דילידא והוה תלי ליה פיתקא וכתב ביה דמסיק בבי אבא מאה אלפא זוזי אמרו ליה וכודניתא מי ילדה אמר להו הי ניהו מילי דבדיאי

The sages of Athens said to him: Say to us a matter of nonsense. Rabbi Yehoshua said to them: There was a certain mule that gave birth, and a note was hanging on the newborn mule’s neck and on it was written that it is owed 100,000 dinars by its father’s household. They said to him: But can a mule give birth? Rabbi Yehoshua said to them: This is why it is a matter of nonsense, as it is impossible for a mule to give birth.

מילחא כי סריא במאי מלחי לה אמר להו בסילתא דכודניתא ומי איכא סילתא לכודנתא ומילחא מי סרי

The sages of Athens then asked another question: When salt is spoiling, with what does one salt it to preserve it? Rabbi Yehoshua said to them: With the placenta of a mule. They said to him: But is there a placenta of a mule? Rabbi Yehoshua said to them: And does salt spoil?

בני לן ביתא באוירא דעלמא אמר שם תלא בין רקיעא לארעא אמר להו אסיקו לי ליבני וטינא מציעתיה דעלמא היכא זקפה לאצבעתיה אמר להו הכא א"ל ומי יימר אייתו אשלי ומשחו

They said to him: Build us a house in the air of the world. Rabbi Yehoshua uttered a Name of God and hovered between the sky and the earth. He said to them: Bring up to me bricks and mortar and I will build you a house here. They asked him: Where is the center of the world? Rabbi Yehoshua raised his finger and said to them: Here. They said to him: And who says that you are correct? He said to them: Bring ropes and measure.

אית לן בירא בדברא עיילא למתא א"ל אפשילו לי חבלי מפארי ואעייליה אית לן ריחיא דתבירא חייטיה אמר כרוכו לי מיניה גרדי ואיחייטיה

They said to him: We have a pit in the field; bring it to the city. Rabbi Yehoshua said to them: Braid ropes made of bran for me and I will bring it to the city with them. They then said to him: We have a mill that broke; sew it back together. Rabbi Yehoshua said to them: Pull out threads from the mill for me and I will sew them together.

משרא דסכיני במאי קטלי בקרנא דחמרא ומי איכא קרנא לחמרא ומי איכא משרא דסכיני

They asked him another question: With what does one harvest a field of knives? Rabbi Yehoshua answered: With the horn of a donkey. They said to him: But is there such an item as a horn of a donkey? He said to them: But is there such a thing as a field of knives?

אייתו ליה תרי ביעי א"ל הי דזגתא אוכמתי והי דזגתא חיוורתי אייתי להו איהו תרי גביני אמר להו הי דעיזא אוכמתי והי דעיזא חיוורתי

They brought him two eggs and said to him: Which is the egg of a black hen and which is the egg of a white hen? Rabbi Yehoshua brought them two cheeses, and said to them: Which is the cheese from the black goat and which is from the white goat?

ורצוצא דמית מהיכא נפיק רוחיה מהיכא דעל נפק אחוי לן מנא דלא שוי חביליה אייתו (כל חד וחד) בודיא פשטוה לא הוה עייל בתרעא אמר להו אייתו מרי סיתרוה היינו מנא דלא שוו חביליה

They asked him: And in the case of a chick that dies inside the egg, from where does its spirit exit? Rabbi Yehoshua said to them: From where it enters, it departs. They said to him: Show us a utensil that is not worth the damage that it causes. Rabbi Yehoshua said to them: Each one of you bring a mat and spread it out. When they did so, each mat did not enter the gate due to its size. Rabbi Yehoshua said to them: Bring axes and break the gate so that you can bring it inside. This is a utensil that is not worth its damage.

איתינהו כל חד וחד כי חזי שיתין ביסתרקי אמר כולהו חבראי להכא אתו אמר ליה לספונא שרי ספינתך בהדי דקאתו שקל עפרא מעפרייהו

§ After Rabbi Yehoshua defeated the sages of Athens in debate, he brought them to his ship as they had agreed. He then brought each one to a different room. When each one saw the sixty mattresses in his room, he said to himself: All of my colleagues are coming here, and waited for them without attempting to leave. Rabbi Yehoshua said to the sailor: Release your ship, i.e., begin sailing. While they were coming to the emperor in Rome, he took out some dirt that he had taken from the dirt of Athens.