ומיגנזו כולי עלמא כי אתי א"ל ממאן נבעי
And everyone would hide. When the head tax collector would arrive, Rabbi Zeira’s father would say to him: From whom shall I request taxes? The city is scarcely populated, and only a small sum of taxes should be imposed on it.
כי ניחא נפשיה א"ל שקולו תליסר מעי דציירי לי בסדינאי והדרו ליה לפלניא דשקלתינהו מיניה ולא איצטריכו לי:
When he was dying, he said to those standing around his deathbed: Take thirteen ma’a that are tied up in my sheet and return them to so-and-so, as I took them from him but I did not need them to pay the tax. Evidently, some tax collectors are God-fearing, and should not be disqualified.
א"ר שמעון בתחילה היו קוראין אותן אוספי שביעית:
§ The mishna teaches that Rabbi Shimon said: Initially people would call them: Gatherers of the produce of the Sabbatical Year. Once the tax collectors grew abundant they would then call them: Merchants who trade in the produce of the Sabbatical Year.
מאי קאמר אמר רב יהודה ה"ק בתחילה היו אומרים אוספי שביעית כשרין סוחרין פסולין
The Gemara asks: What is he saying? What is Rabbi Shimon teaching in this statement? Rav Yehuda says this is what he is saying: Initially the Sages would say that gatherers of the produce of the Sabbatical Year, i.e., those who gather a large quantity of produce of the Sabbatical Year for themselves, are fit to bear witness, but merchants who trade in the produce of the Sabbatical Year are disqualified.
משרבו ממציאי מעות לעניים ואזלי עניים ואספי להו ומייתו חזרו לומר אחד זה ואחד זה פסולין
Once those who would offer money to the poor to gather produce for them grew abundant, and the poor would go and gather the produce for those who hired them and bring it to them, then gathering a large amount of produce of the Sabbatical Year was considered a business. The Sages then said that both this category, gatherers of the produce of the Sabbatical Year, and that category, merchants who trade in the produce of the Sabbatical Year, are disqualified.
קשו בה בני רחבה האי משרבו האנסים משרבו התגרין מיבעי ליה
The children of the Sage Raḥava had a difficulty with this explanation, as accordingly this phrase: Once the tax collectors grew abundant, is inaccurate; the mishna should have stated: Once the merchants grew abundant.
אלא בתחילה היו אומרים אחד זה ואחד זה פסולין משרבו האנסין ומאי נינהו ארנונא כדמכריז רבי ינאי פוקו וזרעו בשביעית משום ארנונא חזרו לומר אוספין כשרין סוחרין פסולין
Rather, Rabbi Shimon’s statement should be explained differently, as follows: Initially the Sages would say that both this category, gatherers of the produce of the Sabbatical Year, and that category, merchants who trade in the produce of the Sabbatical Year, are disqualified. Once the tax collectors grew abundant it was permitted to gather the produce of the Sabbatical Year. And what tax did they collect? Arnona, which was a heavy tax on property collected both during the Sabbatical Year and in other years, placing pressure on those observing the Sabbatical Year. As Rabbi Yannai proclaimed: Go out and sow the fields during the Sabbatical Year due to the arnona that you must pay. Once this happened, the Sages then said: Gatherers of the produce of the Sabbatical Year are fit to bear witness, as they were no longer viewed as transgressors, but merchants who trade in this produce are still disqualified.
ר' חייא בר זרנוקי ור"ש בן יהוצדק הוו קאזלי לעבר שנה בעסיא פגע בהו ריש לקיש איטפיל בהדייהו אמר איזיל איחזי היכי עבדי עובדא
§ The Gemara recounts an incident connected tangentially to the discussion concerning the Sabbatical Year: Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Zarnokei and Rabbi Shimon ben Yehotzadak were going to intercalate the year in Asya, as circumstances did not enable them to perform the intercalation of the year in Eretz Yisrael. Reish Lakish met them and joined with them. He said: I will go see how they do the deed, i.e., how the intercalation is performed practically.
חזייה לההוא גברא דקא כריב אמר להן כהן וחורש אמרו לו יכול לומר אגיסטון אני בתוכו
Reish Lakish saw a certain man plowing a field. He said to the other Sages: Look at this priest who is plowing during the Sabbatical Year. They said to him that he could say in his own defense: I am a hired worker [agiston] in the field, which belongs to a gentile. Therefore, it is permitted.
תו חזייה לההוא גברא דהוה כסח בכרמי אמר להן כהן וזמר א"ל יכול לומר לעקל בית הבד אני צריך אמר להם הלב יודע אם לעקל אם לעקלקלות
Reish Lakish further saw a certain man pruning vines in the vineyards. He said to the other Sages: Look at this priest who is pruning vines during the Sabbatical Year. They said to him that he could say: I need the branches to make a bale [ekel ] for my olive press, i.e., a basket to hold olives for pressing. Since he is not pruning the vines for agricultural purposes but to use the branches, it is permitted for him to do so in the Sabbatical Year. Reish Lakish said to them, in a play on words: The heart knows whether he is doing so for a bale [ekel ], or whether he is saying this as deceit [la’akalkalot].
הי אמר להו ברישא אילימא הא קמייתא אמר להו ברישא הא נמי לימרו אגיסטון אני בתוכו אלא הא אמר ליה ברישא והדר אמר להו הך
The Gemara asks: Which did he say to them first? Which incident occurred first? If we say that first he said to them that first exclamation, that a priest was plowing the field, let them say to him in this latter incident too, in which someone was pruning vines, that he could claim in his defense: I am a hired worker in the field. This would have been a better justification than claiming he needed the branches. Rather, apparently first he said to them this exclamation, that a priest was pruning vines, and only then he said to them that a priest was plowing the field.
מאי שנא כהן משום דחשידי אשביעית
The Gemara asks: What is different about a priest? Why did Reish Lakish assume the man was a priest? The Gemara answers: It is because priests are suspected of desecrating the Sabbatical Year.
(דתנן) סאה תרומה שנפלה למאה סאין של שביעית תעלה פחות מיכן ירקבו
As we learned in a baraita: A se’a of teruma, the portion of the produce designated for the priest, that fell into a hundred se’a of Sabbatical Year produce and was indistinguishable, is nullified, i.e., it no longer has the status of teruma, and can be eaten until the time that Sabbatical Year produce must be removed from one’s possession. If it fell into a lesser quantity of Sabbatical Year produce, the entire mixture must be left to rot, as it is prohibited for non-priests to partake of teruma.
והוינן בה אמאי ירקבו ימכרנו לכהן בדמי תרומה חוץ מדמי אותה סאה
And we discussed it: Why must the produce rot? Let its owner sell it to a priest in accordance with its value as teruma, which is less expensive than regular produce because it can be eaten only by priests, and except for the value of that se’a of teruma that fell in, which the owner is required to give to a priest for free. The priest may then partake of the produce, treating the entire mixture as though it has the sanctity of teruma, and both the priest and the owner will benefit.
ואמר רב חייא משמיה דעולא זאת אומרת נחשדו כהנים אשביעית
And Rav Ḥiyya said in the name of Ulla: That is to say, i.e., one can infer from the fact that one is not permitted to sell the mixture to a priest, that priests are suspected of desecrating the Sabbatical Year by partaking of its produce after the time it must be removed from one’s possession. They did so because they considered it theirs, the same as teruma, as both mitzvot pertain to the produce of Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, produce of the Sabbatical Year should not be given or sold to priests. Similarly, Reish Lakish assumed that those who desecrated the Sabbatical Year were priests.
אמרו טרודא הוא דין כי מטו להתם סליקו לאיגרא שלפוה לדרגא מתותיה
After Reish Lakish continually bothered them with his comments, Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Zarnokei and Rabbi Shimon ben Yehotzadak said: This one is a nuisance. In order to rid themselves of him, when they reached the location where they intended to intercalate the year, they went up to the roof and took the ladder out from under them so that he would stay below and would not be able to join them.
אתא לקמיה דרבי יוחנן א"ל בני אדם החשודין על השביעית כשרין לעבר שנה
Sometime later, Reish Lakish came before Rabbi Yoḥanan. Reish Lakish said to him: Are people who are suspected of desecrating the Sabbatical Year fit to intercalate the year? He believed that the two Sages who were sent to intercalate the year treated the sanctity of the Sabbatical Year with disrespect.
הדר אמר לא קשיא לי מידי דהוה אשלשה רועי בקר ורבנן אחושבנייהו סמוך
Reish Lakish then said in response to his own question: This is not difficult for me; just as the Sages once intercalated the year in accordance with the assessment of three cattle herders (see 18b), which was permitted, as the Sages depended not on the assessment of the cattle herders but on their own calculation, perhaps here too the Sages depended on their own calculations and not on the decision of Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Zarnokei and Rabbi Shimon ben Yehotzadak.
והדר אמר לא דמי התם הדור אימנו רבנן ועברוה לההוא שתא הכא קשר רשעים הוא וקשר רשעים אינו מן המנין אמר רבי יוחנן דא עקא
Reish Lakish changed his mind and then said: It is not similar. There, in the case of the cattle herders, afterward the Sages were counted, i.e., they made a decision, and intercalated that year themselves. Here, by contrast, it is a conspiracy of wicked people, as the Sages who intercalated the year are disqualified from doing so; and a conspiracy of wicked people is not counted. Rabbi Yoḥanan said: This problem you raise is troublesome.
כי אתו לקמיה דרבי יוחנן אמרו ליה קרי לן רועי בקר ולא אמר ליה מר ולא מידי אמר להו ואי קרי לכו רועי צאן מאי אמינא ליה
When Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Zarnokei and Rabbi Shimon ben Yehotzadak subsequently came before Rabbi Yoḥanan, after hearing about his discussion with Reish Lakish, they said to him bitterly: Reish Lakish referred to us as cattle herders, and the Master said nothing to him in response? Rabbi Yoḥanan said to them dismissively: And even if he had referred to you as shepherds, who are disqualified from bearing witness in addition to being disqualified from serving as judges, what should I have said to him? He is correct.
מאי קשר רשעים שבנא הוה דריש בתליסר רבוותא חזקיה הוה דריש בחד סר רבוותא
§ The Gemara asks: What is the source of the halakha that a conspiracy of wicked people is not counted as part of a group? The Gemara answers: Shebna, a steward and a minister in King Hezekiah’s court, was a prominent and influential figure. He would teach Torah to an audience of 130,000 followers, whereas King Hezekiah would teach Torah to an audience of merely 110,000 followers.
כי אתא סנחריב וצר עלה דירושלים כתב שבנא פתקא שדא בגירא שבנא וסיעתו השלימו חזקיה וסיעתו לא השלימו שנאמר (תהלים יא, ב) כי הנה הרשעים ידרכון קשת כוננו חצם על יתר
When Sennacherib came and besieged Jerusalem, Shebna wrote a note and shot it over the wall with an arrow. It read: Shebna and his camp have appeased Sennacherib and are ready to surrender; Hezekiah and his camp have not appeased Sennacherib. As it is stated in allusion to this incident: “For behold, the wicked bend the bow, they have made ready their arrow upon the string” (Psalms 11:2).
הוה קא מסתפי חזקיה אמר דילמא חס ושלום נטיה דעתיה דקוב"ה בתר רובא כיון דרובא מימסרי אינהו נמי מימסרי בא נביא ואמר לו (ישעיהו ח, יב) לא תאמרון קשר לכל אשר יאמר העם הזה קשר כלומר קשר רשעים הוא וקשר רשעים אינו מן המנין
Hezekiah was afraid. He said: Perhaps, God forbid, the opinion of the Holy One, Blessed be He, will follow the majority; and since the majority have submitted to the Assyrians, even those who have not submitted will also be submitted into their hands. The prophet Isaiah then came and said to him: “Say not: A conspiracy, concerning all of which this people say: A conspiracy” (Isaiah 8:12). Meaning, it is a conspiracy of wicked people, and a conspiracy of wicked people is not counted. Therefore, although they are many, they are not considered the majority.
הלך לחצוב לו קבר בקברי בית דוד בא נביא ואמר לו (ישעיהו כב, טז) מה לך פה ומי לך פה כי חצבת לך פה קבר הנה ה' מטלטלך טלטלה גבר
Shebna went to carve out a grave for himself among the graves of the house of David, as he thought that the kingship would be given to him. The prophet Isaiah then came and said to him: “What have you here, and whom have you here, that you have carved out a grave for yourself here? You, who have carved yourself out a grave on high, and hollowed a habitation for yourself in the rock? Behold, the Lord will make you wander like the wandering of a man; and he will wind you round and round” (Isaiah 22:16–17).
אמר רב טלטולא דגברא קשי מדאיתתא
The Gemara mentions tangentially: Rav says that the wandering of a man is more difficult than that of a woman. He derives it from the expression “like the wandering of a man.”
(ישעיהו כב, יז) ועטך עטה אמר רבי יוסי ברבי חנינא מלמד שפרחה בו צרעת כתיב הכא ועטך עטה וכתיב התם (ויקרא יג, מה) ועל שפם יעטה
With regard to the phrase: “And he will wind you round and round,” Rabbi Yosei, son of Rabbi Ḥanina, says: This teaches that Shebna developed leprosy; it is written here: “And he will wind you round and round [ve’otkha ato],” and it is written there, in the Torah, with regard to a leper: “And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be torn, and the hair of his head shall go loose, and he shall cover his upper lip [ya’te]” (Leviticus 13:45). The Hebrew word for upper lip is from the same root as the verb in the verse cited from Isaiah.
(ישעיהו כב, יח) צנוף יצנפך צנפה כדור אל ארץ רחבת ידים וגו' תנא הוא ביקש קלון בית אדניו לפיכך נהפך כבודו לקלון כי הוה נפיק איהו אתא גבריאל אחדיה לדשא באפי משרייתיה
The Gemara continues to interpret the prophecy about Shebna: “He will violently roll and toss you like a ball into a large country; there you shall die, and there shall be the chariots of your glory, you shame of your lord’s house” (Isaiah 22:18). A baraita taught: He, Shebna, desired shame for his master’s house; therefore his glory turned to shame. This is what happened to him: When he was going out of the gate of Jerusalem to submit to the Assyrians, the angel Gabriel came and held the gate in front of his camp so they could not follow him. Consequently, he went out by himself.