הַבַּכּוּרוֹת וְהַדּוּד הָאֶחָד תְּאֵנִים רָעוֹת מְאֹד אֲשֶׁר לֹא תֵאָכַלְנָה מֵרוֹעַ״ —
that are first ripe, and the other basket [dud] had very bad figs, so bad they could not be eaten” (Jeremiah 24:1–2).
תְּאֵנִים הַטּוֹבוֹת — אֵלּוּ צַדִּיקִים גְּמוּרִים. תְּאֵנִים הָרָעוֹת — אֵלּוּ רְשָׁעִים גְּמוּרִים. וְשֶׁמָּא תֹּאמַר אָבַד סִבְרָם וּבָטַל סִיכּוּיָם? תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר: ״הַדּוּדָאִים נָתְנוּ רֵיחַ״ — אֵלּוּ וָאֵלּוּ עֲתִידִין שֶׁיִּתְּנוּ רֵיחַ.
Good figs, these are the full-fledged righteous people; bad figs, these are the full-fledged wicked people. And lest you say that the hope of the wicked is lost and their prospect is void, the verse states, interpreting the word duda’im homiletically: “The baskets [duda’im] yield a fragrance” (Song of Songs 7:14), meaning that both of them, the righteous and the wicked, will eventually yield a fragrance.
דָּרֵשׁ רָבָא, מַאי דִּכְתִיב: ״הַדּוּדָאִים נָתְנוּ רֵיחַ״ — אֵלּוּ בַּחוּרֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁלֹּא טָעֲמוּ טַעַם חֵטְא.
Rava interpreted the verse cited above homiletically as follows: What is the meaning of that which is written: “The mandrakes [duda’im] yield a fragrance, and at our doors are all manner of choice fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for you, O my beloved” (Song of Songs 7:14)? “The mandrakes [duda’im] yield a fragrance,” these are the young men of Israel who have never tasted the taste of sin.
״וְעַל פְּתָחֵינוּ כׇּל מְגָדִים״ — אֵלּוּ בְּנוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁמַּגִּידוֹת פִּתְחֵיהֶן לְבַעֲלֵיהֶן. לָשׁוֹן אַחֵר: שֶׁאוֹגְדוֹת פִּתְחֵיהֶן לְבַעֲלֵיהֶן.
“And at our doors [petaḥeinu] are all manner of choice fruits [megadim],” these are the daughters of Israel who inform [maggidot] their husbands about their passageway [pit’ḥeihen], i.e., they tell them when they are menstruating. Another version of this interpretation is: They bind [ogedot] their passageway and save it for their husbands, and do not have relations with others.
״חֲדָשִׁים גַּם יְשָׁנִים דּוֹדִי צָפַנְתִּי לָךְ״ — אָמְרָה כְּנֶסֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל לִפְנֵי הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא: רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, הַרְבֵּה גְּזֵירוֹת גָּזַרְתִּי עַל עַצְמִי יוֹתֵר מִמַּה שֶּׁגָּזַרְתָּ עָלַי, וְקִיַּימְתִּים.
“New and old, which I have laid up for you, O my beloved,” the Congregation of Israel said before the Holy One, Blessed be He, and continued: Master of the Universe, I have decreed many decrees upon myself through the enactments and ordinances of the Sages, more than what You decreed upon me in the Torah, and I have fulfilled them. These are the new laws which were added to the old ones stated in the Torah.
אֲמַר לֵיהּ רַב חִסְדָּא לְהָהוּא מִדְּרַבָּנַן דַּהֲוָה קָא מְסַדַּר אַגָּדָתָא קַמֵּיהּ: מִי שְׁמִיעַ לָךְ ״חֲדָשִׁים גַּם יְשָׁנִים״ מַהוּ? אֲמַר לֵיהּ: אֵלּוּ מִצְוֹת קַלּוֹת וְאֵלּוּ מִצְוֹת חֲמוּרוֹת.
It was related that Rav Ḥisda said to one of the Sages who would arrange the traditions of the aggada before him: Did you hear what the meaning of: New and old is? He said to him: These, the new, are the more lenient mitzvot, and these, the old, are the more stringent mitzvot.
אֲמַר לֵיהּ: וְכִי תּוֹרָה פְּעָמִים פְּעָמִים נִיתְּנָה? אֶלָּא — הַלָּלוּ מִדִּבְרֵי תוֹרָה, וְהַלָּלוּ מִדִּבְרֵי סוֹפְרִים.
Rav Ḥisda said to him: This cannot be so, for was the Torah given on two separate occasions, i.e., were the more lenient and more stringent mitzvot given separately? Rather, these, the old, are mitzvot from the Torah, and these, the new, are from the Sages.
דָּרֵשׁ רָבָא, מַאי דִּכְתִיב: ״וְיוֹתֵר מֵהֵמָּה בְּנִי הִזָּהֵר עֲשׂוֹת סְפָרִים הַרְבֵּה וְגוֹ׳״ — בְּנִי, הִזָּהֵר בְּדִבְרֵי סוֹפְרִים יוֹתֵר מִדִּבְרֵי תוֹרָה. שֶׁדִּבְרֵי תוֹרָה יֵשׁ בָּהֶן עֲשֵׂה וְלֹא תַעֲשֶׂה. וְדִבְרֵי סוֹפְרִים — כׇּל הָעוֹבֵר עַל דִּבְרֵי סוֹפְרִים חַיָּיב מִיתָה.
Rava expounded another verse in similar fashion: What is the meaning of that which is written: “And more than these, my son, be careful: of making many books [sefarim] there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Ecclesiastes 12:12)? My son, be careful to fulfill the words of the Sages [soferim] even more than the words of the Torah. For the words of the Torah include positive and negative commandments, and even with regard to the negative commandments, the violation of many of them is punishable only by lashes. Whereas with respect to the words of the Sages, anyone who transgresses the words of the Sages is liable to receive the death penalty, as it is stated: “And whoever breaches through a hedge, a snake shall bite him” (Ecclesiastes 10:8), taking hedges to refer metaphorically to decrees.
שֶׁמָּא תֹּאמַר: אִם יֵשׁ בָּהֶן מַמָּשׁ, מִפְּנֵי מָה לֹא נִכְתְּבוּ?! אָמַר קְרָא: ״עֲשׂוֹת סְפָרִים הַרְבֵּה אֵין קֵץ״.
Lest you say: If the words of the Sages are of substance and have such great importance, why were they not written in the Torah, therefore, the verse states: “Of making many books there is no end,” meaning that it is impossible to fully commit the Oral Torah to writing, as it is boundless.
״וְלַהַג הַרְבֵּה יְגִיעַת בָּשָׂר״ — אָמַר רַב פָּפָּא בְּרֵיהּ דְּרַב אַחָא בַּר אַדָּא מִשְּׁמֵיהּ דְּרַב אַחָא בַּר עוּלָּא: מְלַמֵּד שֶׁכׇּל הַמַּלְעִיג עַל דִּבְרֵי חֲכָמִים, נִידּוֹן בְּצוֹאָה רוֹתַחַת.
What is the meaning of the words: “And much study [lahag] is a weariness of the flesh”? Rav Pappa, son of Rav Aḥa bar Adda, said in the name of Rav Aḥa bar Ulla: This teaches that whoever mocks [malig] the words of the Sages will be sentenced to boiling excrement, which results from the weariness of the flesh of man.
מַתְקֵיף לַהּ רָבָא: מִי כְּתִיב לַעַג? ״לַהַג״ כְּתִיב! אֶלָּא: כׇּל הַהוֹגֶה בָּהֶן טוֹעֵם טַעַם בָּשָׂר.
Rava strongly objects to this explanation: Is it written: Mock [la’ag]? “Lahag” is the word that is written. Rather, the verse must be understood in the opposite manner: Whoever meditates [hogeh] upon them, the words of the Sages, experiences enjoyment as if it had the taste of meat.
תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן: מַעֲשֶׂה בְּרַבִּי עֲקִיבָא שֶׁהָיָה חָבוּשׁ בְּבֵית הָאֲסוּרִין, וְהָיָה רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ הַגַּרְסִי מְשָׁרְתוֹ. בְּכׇל יוֹם וָיוֹם הָיוּ מַכְנִיסִין לוֹ מַיִם בְּמִדָּה. יוֹם אֶחָד מְצָאוֹ שׁוֹמֵר בֵּית הָאֲסוּרִין, אָמַר לוֹ: הַיּוֹם מֵימֶךָ מְרוּבִּין, שֶׁמָּא לַחְתּוֹר בֵּית הָאֲסוּרִין אַתָּה צָרִיךְ? שָׁפַךְ חֶצְיָין וְנָתַן לוֹ חֶצְיָין.
Concerning the significance of observing the words of the Sages, the Gemara relates: The Sages taught in a baraita: It once happened that Rabbi Akiva was incarcerated in a prison, and Rabbi Yehoshua HaGarsi would come to the prison to attend to his needs. Every day his disciples would bring him water in a measured quantity. One day the prison guard met Rabbi Yehoshua HaGarsi and said to him: The amount of your water today is more than usual; perhaps you need it in order to soften the walls and thus undermine the prison. He then poured out half the water, and gave him the other half to take in to Rabbi Akiva.
כְּשֶׁבָּא אֵצֶל רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא, אָמַר לוֹ: יְהוֹשֻׁעַ, אֵין אַתָּה יוֹדֵעַ שֶׁזָּקֵן אֲנִי וְחַיַּי תְּלוּיִין בְּחַיֶּיךָ?
When Rabbi Yehoshua came to Rabbi Akiva, and the latter saw the small amount of water he had brought, he said to him: Yehoshua, do you not know that I am old, and my life depends on your life? No one else brings me water, so if you bring me less than I need, my life is endangered.
סָח לוֹ כׇּל אוֹתוֹ הַמְאוֹרָע. אָמַר לוֹ: תֵּן לִי מַיִם שֶׁאֶטּוֹל יָדַי, אָמַר לוֹ: לִשְׁתּוֹת אֵין מַגִּיעִין, לִיטּוֹל יָדֶיךָ מַגִּיעִין?! אָמַר לוֹ: מָה אֶעֱשֶׂה שֶׁחַיָּיבִים עֲלֵיהֶן מִיתָה? מוּטָב אָמוּת מִיתַת עַצְמִי, וְלֹא אֶעֱבוֹר עַל דַּעַת חֲבֵירַי!
After Rabbi Yehoshua related to him the entire incident, Rabbi Akiva said to him: Give me water so that I may wash my hands. Rabbi Yehoshua said to him: The water that I brought will not suffice for drinking; how will it suffice for washing your hands? He said to him: What can I do; for transgressing the words of the Sages and eating without first washing hands one is liable to receive the death penalty. And if so, it is better that I should die my own death by thirst, rather than transgress the opinion of my colleagues who enacted that one must wash hands before eating.
אָמְרוּ: לֹא טָעַם כְּלוּם עַד שֶׁהֵבִיא לוֹ מַיִם וְנָטַל יָדָיו, כְּשֶׁשָּׁמְעוּ חֲכָמִים בַּדָּבָר, אָמְרוּ: מָה בְּזִקְנוּתוֹ כָּךְ, בְּיַלְדוּתוֹ עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה. וּמָה בְּבֵית הָאֲסוּרִין כָּךְ, שֶׁלֹּא בְּבֵית הָאֲסוּרִין עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה.
They said that he would not taste anything until Rabbi Yehoshua brought him water and he washed his hands. When the Sages heard about this, they said: If in his old age and weakened state he is still so meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, how much more so must he have been in his youth. And if in prison he is so scrupulous in his behavior, how much more so must he have been when not in prison.
אָמַר רַב יְהוּדָה אָמַר שְׁמוּאֵל: בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁתִּיקֵּן שְׁלֹמֹה עֵירוּבִין וּנְטִילַת יָדַיִם, יָצְתָה בַּת קוֹל וְאָמְרָה: ״בְּנִי אִם חָכַם לִבֶּךָ יִשְׂמַח לִבִּי גַּם אָנִי״. וְאוֹמֵר: ״חֲכַם בְּנִי וְשַׂמַּח לִבִּי וְאָשִׁיבָה חֹרְפִי דָבָר״.
Rav Yehuda said that Shmuel said: At the time that King Solomon instituted the ordinances of eiruv of courtyards and of washing hands to purify them from their impurity, which are added safeguards to the words of the Torah, a Divine Voice emerged and said in his praise: “My son, if your heart is wise, My heart will be glad, even Mine” (Proverbs 23:15). And it states with regard to him: “My son, be wise and make My heart glad, that I may respond to he who taunts Me” (Proverbs 27:11).
דָּרֵשׁ רָבָא: מַאי דִּכְתִיב ״לְכָה דוֹדִי נֵצֵא הַשָּׂדֶה נָלִינָה בַּכְּפָרִים נַשְׁכִּימָה לַכְּרָמִים נִרְאֶה אִם פָּרְחָה הַגֶּפֶן פִּתַּח הַסְּמָדַר הֵנֵצוּ הָרִמּוֹנִים שָׁם אֶתֵּן אֶת דּוֹדַי לָךְ״.
The Gemara cites additional teachings that Rava interpreted homiletically: What is the meaning of that which is written: “Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages. Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine has flowered, if the grape blossoms have opened, if the pomegranates are in flower; there will I give you my loves” (Song of Songs 7:12–13)?
״לְכָה דוֹדִי נֵצֵא הַשָּׂדֶה״ — אָמְרָה כְּנֶסֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל לִפְנֵי הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא: רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, אַל תְּדִינֵנִי כְּיוֹשְׁבֵי כְרַכִּים שֶׁיֵּשׁ בָּהֶן גָּזֵל וַעֲרָיוֹת וּשְׁבוּעַת שָׁוְא וּשְׁבוּעַת שֶׁקֶר, ״נֵצֵא הַשָּׂדֶה״ — בֹּא וְאַרְאֲךָ תַּלְמִידֵי חֲכָמִים, שֶׁעוֹסְקִין בַּתּוֹרָה מִתּוֹךְ הַדְּחָק.
With regard to the words: “Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field,” the Congregation of Israel said before the Holy One, Blessed be He: Master of the Universe, do not judge me like those who reside in large cities where there is robbery and licentiousness, and vain oaths and false oaths, but rather: “Let us go forth into the field,” come and I will show You Torah scholars who work the land but nonetheless engage in Torah study, in poverty and in distress.
״נָלִינָה בַּכְּפָרִים״ — אַל תִּקְרֵי בַּכְּפָרִים אֶלָּא בַּכּוֹפְרִים: בֹּא וְאַרְאֲךָ אוֹתָם שֶׁהִשְׁפַּעְתָּ לָהֶן טוֹבָה וְהֵן כָּפְרוּ בְּךָ.
With regard to the words, “Let us lodge in the villages,” do not read the phrase as: In the villages [bakefarim], but rather as: By the deniers [bakoferim], meaning, come and I will show You the nations of the world, whom You showered with good, but yet they have denied You.
״נַשְׁכִּימָה לַכְּרָמִים״ — אֵלּוּ בָּתֵּי כְנֵסִיּוֹת וּבָתֵּי מִדְרָשׁוֹת. ״נִרְאֶה אִם פָּרְחָה הַגֶּפֶן״ — אֵלּוּ בַּעֲלֵי מִקְרָא. ״פִּתַּח הַסְּמָדַר״ — אֵלּוּ בַּעֲלֵי מִשְׁנָה. ״הֵנֵצוּ הָרִמּוֹנִים״ — אֵלּוּ בַּעֲלֵי גְמָרָא. ״שָׁם אֶתֵּן אֶת דּוֹדַי לָךְ״ — אַרְאֲךָ כְּבוֹדִי וְגוֹדְלִי שֶׁבַח בָּנַי וּבְנוֹתַי.
“Let us get up early to the vineyards,” these are the synagogues and houses of study. “Let us see if the vine has flowered,” these are the masters of Bible, who are proficient in the first stage of Torah study. “If the grape blossoms have opened,” these are the masters of Mishna. “If the pomegranates are in flower,” these are the masters of Gemara. “There will I give you my loves,” means I will show You my glory and my greatness, the praise of my sons and daughters, how they adhere to sanctity.
אָמַר רַב הַמְנוּנָא, מַאי דִּכְתִיב: ״וַיְדַבֵּר שְׁלֹשֶׁת אֲלָפִים מָשָׁל וַיְהִי שִׁירוֹ חֲמִשָּׁה וָאָלֶף״ — מְלַמֵּד שֶׁאָמַר שְׁלֹמֹה עַל כׇּל דָּבָר וְדָבָר שֶׁל תּוֹרָה שְׁלֹשֶׁת אֲלָפִים מָשָׁל, עַל כׇּל דָּבָר וְדָבָר שֶׁל סוֹפְרִים חֲמִשָּׁה וְאֶלֶף טְעָמִים.
The Gemara expounds further concerning King Solomon. Rav Hamnuna said: What is the meaning of that which is written: “And he spoke three thousand proverbs, and his poems were a thousand and five” (i Kings 5:12)? This teaches that Solomon pronounced three thousand proverbs for each and every word of the Torah, and one thousand and five reasons for each and every word of the Scribes.
דָּרֵשׁ רָבָא, מַאי דִּכְתִיב: ״וְיוֹתֵר שֶׁהָיָה קֹהֶלֶת חָכָם עוֹד לִימַּד דַּעַת אֶת הָעָם [וְ]אִיזֵּן וְחִקֵּר תִּיקֵּן מְשָׁלִים הַרְבֵּה״. ״לִימַּד דַּעַת אֶת הָעָם״ — דְּאַגְמְרַיהּ בְּסִימָנֵי טְעָמִים, וְאַסְבְּרַהּ בְּמַאי דְּדָמֵי לַיהּ.
Rava also taught: What is the meaning of that which is written: “And besides being wise, Koheleth also taught the people knowledge; and he weighed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs” (Ecclesiastes 12:9). Rava interpreted homiletically: He taught the people knowledge, meaning he taught it with the accentuation marks in the Torah, and he explained each matter by means of something similar to it.
״[וְ]אִיזֵּן וְחִקֵּר תִּיקֵּן מְשָׁלִים הַרְבֵּה״ — אָמַר עוּלָּא אָמַר רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר: בַּתְּחִילָּה הָיְתָה תּוֹרָה דּוֹמָה לִכְפִיפָה שֶׁאֵין לָהּ אׇזְנַיִם, עַד שֶׁבָּא שְׁלֹמֹה וְעָשָׂה לָהּ אׇזְנַיִם.
With regard to: “And he weighed [izzen], and sought out, and set in order many proverbs,” Ulla said that Rabbi Eliezer said: At first the Torah was like a basket without handles [oznayim], until Solomon came and made handles for it. By means of his explanations and proverbs he enabled each person to understand and take hold of the Torah, fulfill its mitzvot, and distance himself from transgressions.
״קְווּצּוֹתָיו תַּלְתַּלִּים״, אָמַר רַב חִסְדָּא אָמַר מָר עוּקְבָא: מְלַמֵּד שֶׁיֵּשׁ לִדְרוֹשׁ עַל כׇּל קוֹץ וָקוֹץ תִּילֵּי תִּילִּים שֶׁל הֲלָכוֹת.
With regard to the verse, “His head is as the most fine gold, his locks [kevutzotav] are wavy [taltalim], and black as a raven” (Song of Songs 5:11), Rav Ḥisda said that Mar Ukva said: This teaches that it is possible to expound from each and every stroke [kotz] of the letters in the Torah mounds upon mounds [tilei tilim] of laws.
״שְׁחוֹרוֹת כָּעוֹרֵב״: בְּמִי אַתָּה מוֹצְאָן — בְּמִי
Black [sheḥorot] as a raven [orev] means: In whom do you find the words of Torah? In him