“And that which they need, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for the burnt-offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the word of the priests who are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail” (Ezra 6:9)? Doesn’t Cyrus’ contribution to the Temple demonstrate his fear of Heaven? Rabbi Yitzḥak said to Rav Kahana: My teacher, a refutation can be brought from your own burden, from the text you yourself cited, as the next verse continues: “That they may sacrifice offerings of sweet savor to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and of his sons” (Ezra 6:10). This shows that Cyrus did this solely for his own benefit, so that the Jews would sacrifice offerings and pray for him and his sons.
The Gemara asks: And one who acts in this manner, is he not acting in exemplary fashion? Isn’t it taught in a baraita: If one gives charity, saying: I give this sela for charity in order that my children may live, or: I give it in order that through it I may merit life in the World-to-Come, he is still considered a full-fledged righteous person? If so, what was wrong with the king bringing offerings so that the Jews would pray for his life and the life of his children?
The Gemara answers: This is not difficult. Here, in the case of one who makes his charity conditional yet is considered to be righteous, it is referring to a Jew. This is because even if his condition is not fulfilled, he will not complain to God. However, there, where Cyrus was not given credit for his good deed because it was conditional, it is referring to gentiles. A gentile may come to regret his actions and complain to God if his condition is not fulfilled.
And if you wish, say: From where do we derive that Cyrus became corrupt? As it is written with regard to the building of the Temple that he issued the following command: “Let the house be built…with three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber, and let the expense be paid out of the king’s house” (Ezra 6:4). Why did he do it in this manner and command that the Temple be built with a row of timber? He thought: If the Jews rebel against me, I will burn their Temple with fire, and it will be more flammable because of the wood.
The Gemara raises a question: Is that to say that Solomon did not do this very same thing when he built the first Temple? Isn’t it written: “And he built the inner court, three rows of hewn stone and a row of cedar beams” (I Kings 6:36)? The Gemara answers: Solomon placed the wood above the stone foundation, so that even if the Temple were burned, the stone foundation would remain, whereas Cyrus placed it below, so that if he were to set fire to the Temple, the whole structure would collapse. Also, Solomon sunk the wood into the building in order to make it less flammable, whereas Cyrus did not sink it into the building. Furthermore, Solomon plastered the wood over with plaster to prevent it from catching fire, whereas Cyrus did not plaster the wood over with plaster.
Rav Yosef said, and some say that it was Rabbi Yitzḥak who said: From where do we derive that Cyrus became corrupt? From here, as it is written: “And the king said to me, the consort [shegal] also sitting by him: For how long shall your journey be? And when will you return? So it pleased the king to send me, and I set him a time” (Nehemiah 2:6). What is the meaning of the word shegal in the verse? Rabba bar Lima said in the name of Rav: It means a she-dog that sat next to him, which he used for sexual relations.
The Gemara raises a difficulty: However, if that is so, there is a contradiction from that which is written about Belshazzar: “But you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you, and your lords, your consorts [shegal] and your concubines, have drunk wine in them” (Daniel 5:23). If shegal means a she-dog, does a she-dog drink wine? The Gemara explains: This is not difficult, as perhaps they trained it to drink wine.
The Gemara raises another difficulty: However, if that is so, there is a contradiction from that which is written: “Kings’ daughters are among your favorites; upon your right hand stands a consort [shegal] in gold of Ophir” (Psalms 45:10). Now, if shegal is a she-dog, what is the prophet heralding for the Jewish people? The Gemara explains: This is what the prophet is saying: In reward for the Torah being as precious to the Jews as a she-dog is to gentiles, you merited the gold of Ophir.
And if you wish, say: Actually, the word shegal in all these other contexts means consort, but Rabba bar Lima had a tradition that in connection with Cyrus the word shegal means she-dog. And why was it called a consort [shegal]? It is because the dog was as precious to him as a consort; or else, because he set the dog next to him in place of a consort.
And if you wish, say: From where do we derive that Cyrus became corrupt? It is from here, as it is stated: “Up to a hundred talents of silver, and up to a hundred measures of wheat, and up to a hundred bat of wine, and up to a hundred bat of oil, and salt without prescribed limit” (Ezra 7:22). Initially he gave without setting a limit, but now he introduced a limit.
This is rejected: But perhaps initially he did not know what limit to set, as he was not familiar with the daily needs of the Temple, and afterward, when the matter became clarified, he set an appropriate limit. Rather, it is clear as we initially answered that the evidence that Cyrus became corrupt is based on his relationship with his consort rather than on his donations to the Temple.
§ The mishna teaches: And the first of Nisan is also the New Year for the order of the Festivals. The Gemara asks: Is the New Year for the Festivals really on the first of Nisan? Isn’t it on the fifteenth of Nisan, the first day of the festival of Passover? Rav Ḥisda said: What the mishna means is that the Festival that occurs in the month of Nisan is the New Year for Festivals.
The Gemara comments: This ruling makes a practical difference to one who makes a vow, in order to determine when he is liable for violating the prohibition: You shall not delay. And the mishna was taught in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Shimon, as it is taught in a baraita: Whether one makes a vow to bring an offering to the Temple, or consecrates an item to the Temple, or makes a valuation, promising to pay the value of a particular person to the Temple treasury, once three Festivals have passed from that day and he has not yet fulfilled his promise, he transgresses the prohibition: You shall not delay, as stated in the verse: “When you shall vow a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay paying it” (Deuteronomy 23:22).
Rabbi Shimon says: One transgresses the prohibition against delaying not when any three Festivals have passed, but when three Festivals have passed in their proper order, i.e., Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot, with Passover first. And, so too, Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai would say: The Festivals that must pass before a person is liable for violating the prohibition against delaying are sometimes three, sometimes four, and sometimes five. How so? If one made his vow before Passover they are three, as he may delay bringing his offering until the festival of Sukkot; if he made his vow before Shavuot they are five, as the counting of three Festivals begins only from the next Passover; and if he made his vow before the festival of Sukkot, they are four.
The Sages taught in a baraita: With regard to those who are liable for vows of monetary payment, or for vows of valuations, or for dedications, or for consecrations, sin-offerings, guilt-offerings, burnt-offerings, peace-offerings, vows of charity, tithes, firstborn offerings, animal tithes, or the Paschal offering,