Taanit 21a:8-10תענית כ״א א:ח׳-י׳
The William Davidson Talmudתלמוד מהדורת ויליאם דוידסון
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21aכ״א א

משום דנפישי בני חילא דמחוזא

due to the fact that there are many soldiers in the city of Meḥoza, and if I let them all eat, they will take all the food I own.

אילפא ור' יוחנן הוו גרסי באורייתא דחיקא להו מילתא טובא אמרי ניקום וניזיל וניעבד עיסקא ונקיים בנפשין (דברים טו, ד) אפס כי לא יהיה בך אביון אזלו אותבי תותי גודא רעיעא הוו קא כרכי ריפתא אתו תרי מלאכי השרת

§ The Gemara relates another story that involves an unstable wall. Ilfa and Rabbi Yoḥanan studied Torah together, and as a result they became very hard-pressed for money. They said: Let us get up and go and engage in commerce, and we will fulfill, with regard to ourselves, the verse: “Although there should be no needy among you” (Deuteronomy 15:4), as we will no longer be complete paupers. They went and sat under a dilapidated wall and were eating bread, when two ministering angels arrived.

שמעיה רבי יוחנן דאמר חד לחבריה נישדי עלייהו האי גודא ונקטלינהו שמניחין חיי עולם הבא ועוסקין בחיי שעה אמר ליה אידך שבקינהו דאיכא בהו חד דקיימא ליה שעתא רבי יוחנן שמע אילפא לא שמע אמר ליה ר' יוחנן לאילפא שמע מר מידי אמר ליה לא אמר מדשמעי אנא ואילפא לא שמע ש"מ לדידי קיימא לי שעתא

Rabbi Yoḥanan heard that one angel said to the other: Let us knock this wall down upon them and kill them, as they abandon eternal life of Torah study and engage in temporal life for their own sustenance. The other angel said to him: Leave them, as there is one of them whose time of achievement stands before him, i.e., his time has yet to come. Rabbi Yoḥanan heard all this, but Ilfa did not hear the angels’ conversation. Rabbi Yoḥanan said to Ilfa: Did the Master hear anything? Ilfa said to him: No. Rabbi Yoḥanan said to himself: Since I heard the angels and Ilfa did not hear, I can learn from this that it is I whose time of achievement stands before me.

אמר ליה רבי יוחנן איהדר ואוקי בנפשאי (דברים טו, יא) כי לא יחדל אביון מקרב הארץ ר' יוחנן הדר אילפא לא הדר עד דאתא אילפא מליך רבי יוחנן

Rabbi Yoḥanan said to Ilfa: I will return home and fulfill with regard to myself the contrary verse: “For the poor shall never cease out of the land” (Deuteronomy 15:11). Rabbi Yoḥanan returned to the study hall, and Ilfa did not return, but went to engage in business instead. By the time that Ilfa came back from his business travels, Rabbi Yoḥanan had been appointed head of the academy, and his financial situation had improved.

אמרו לו אי אתיב מר וגריס לא הוה מליך מר אזל תלא נפשיה באסקריא דספינתא אמר אי איכא דשאיל לי במתניתא דר' חייא ורבי אושעיא ולא פשטינא ליה ממתני' נפילנא מאסקריא דספינתא וטבענא

His colleagues said to Ilfa: If the Master had sat and studied, instead of going off to his business ventures, wouldn’t the Master have been appointed head of the academy? Ilfa went and suspended himself from the mast [askariya] of a ship, saying: If there is anyone who can ask me a question concerning a baraita of Rabbi Ḥiyya and Rabbi Oshaya, and I do not resolve his problem from a mishna, I will fall from the mast of this ship and be drowned. Ilfa sought to demonstrate that despite the time he had spent in business, he still retained his extensive Torah knowledge.

אתא ההוא סבא תנא ליה האומר תנו שקל לבניי בשבת והן ראויין לתת להם סלע נותנין להם סלע ואם אמר אל תתנו להם אלא שקל אין נותנין להם אלא שקל

A certain old man came and taught a baraita before him: If there is a man who, upon his deathbed, says in his will: Give a shekel to my sons every week, but this is a situation where, based on their needs, they are fit for the court to give them a sela, i.e., double the amount, they give them a sela. When the dying man mentioned a shekel, he presumably meant that they should be given a sum in accordance with their actual requirements, not that specific amount. But if he said: Give them only a shekel, the court gives them only a shekel and no more.

אם אמר מתו ירשו אחרים תחתיהם בין שאמר תנו בין שאמר אל תתנו אין נותנין להם אלא שקל א"ל הא מני ר"מ היא דאמר מצוה לקיים דברי המת

The baraita further states that if one said: If my sons die, others should inherit their portion in their stead, regardless of whether he said: Give them a shekel, or whether he said: Give them only a shekel, then the court gives his sons only a shekel per week, as their father clearly stated that he wishes to give his sons only a specific stipend and that he intends to leave the bulk of his property to others. Ilfa said to the old man: In accordance with whose opinion is this ruling? It is in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Meir, who said: It is a mitzva to fulfill the statement of the dead. This entire baraita can be explained based on a principle that appears in a mishna: In all cases, one should try to execute the wishes of the deceased.

אמרו עליו על נחום איש גם זו שהיה סומא משתי עיניו גידם משתי ידיו קיטע משתי רגליו וכל גופו מלא שחין והיה מוטל בבית רעוע ורגלי מטתו מונחין בספלין של מים כדי שלא יעלו עליו נמלים פעם אחת [היתה מטתו מונחת בבית רעוע] בקשו תלמידיו לפנות מטתו ואח"כ לפנות את הכלים אמר להם בניי פנו את הכלים ואח"כ פנו את מטתי שמובטח לכם כל זמן שאני בבית אין הבית נופל פינו את הכלים ואחר כך פינו את מטתו ונפל הבית

§ The Gemara relates another story about a rundown building. They said about Naḥum of Gam Zu that he was blind in both eyes, both his arms were amputated, both his legs were amputated, and his entire body was covered in boils. And he was lying in a dilapidated house, and legs of his bed were placed in buckets of water so that ants should not climb onto him, as he was unable to keep them off in any other manner. Once his students sought to remove his bed from the house and afterward remove his other vessels. He said to them: My sons, remove the vessels first, and afterward remove my bed, as I can guarantee you that as long as I am in the house, the house will not fall. Indeed they removed the vessels and afterward they removed his bed, and immediately the house collapsed.

אמרו לו תלמידיו רבי וכי מאחר שצדיק גמור אתה למה עלתה לך כך אמר להם בניי אני גרמתי לעצמי שפעם אחת הייתי מהלך בדרך לבית חמי והיה עמי משוי ג' חמורים אחד של מאכל ואחד של משתה ואחד של מיני מגדים בא עני אחד ועמד לי בדרך ואמר לי רבי פרנסני אמרתי לו המתן עד שאפרוק מן החמור לא הספקתי לפרוק מן החמור עד שיצתה נשמתו

His students said to him: Rabbi, since you are evidently a wholly righteous man, as we have just seen that as long as you were in your house it did not fall, why has this suffering befallen you? He said to them: My sons, I brought it upon myself. Naḥum of Gam Zu related to them the following: As once I was traveling along the road to my father-in-law’s house, and I had with me a load distributed among three donkeys, one of food, one of drink, and one of delicacies. A poor person came and stood before me in the road, saying: My rabbi, sustain me. I said to him: Wait until I unload the donkey, after which I will give you something to eat. However, I had not managed to unload the donkey before his soul left his body.

הלכתי ונפלתי על פניו ואמרתי עיני שלא חסו על עיניך יסומו ידיי שלא חסו על ידיך יתגדמו רגליי שלא חסו על רגליך יתקטעו ולא נתקררה דעתי עד שאמרתי כל גופי יהא מלא שחין אמרו לו אוי לנו שראינוך בכך אמר להם אוי לי אם לא ראיתוני בכך

I went and fell upon his face and said: May my eyes, which had no compassion on your eyes, be blinded; may my hands, which had no compassion on your hands, be amputated; may my legs, which had no compassion on your legs, be amputated. And my mind did not rest until I said: May my whole body be covered in boils. Naḥum of Gam Zu prayed that his suffering might atone for his failure. His students said to him: Even so, woe to us that we have seen you in this state. He said to them: Woe is me if you had not seen me in this state, as this suffering atones for me.

ואמאי קרו ליה נחום איש גם זו דכל מילתא דהוה סלקא ליה אמר גם זו לטובה זימנא חדא בעו לשדורי ישראל דורון לבי קיסר אמרו מאן ייזיל ייזיל נחום איש גם זו דמלומד בניסין הוא שדרו בידיה מלא סיפטא דאבנים טובות ומרגליות אזל בת בההוא דירה בליליא קמו הנך דיוראי ושקלינהו לסיפטיה ומלונהו עפרא (למחר כי חזנהו אמר גם זו לטובה)

The Gemara inquires: And why did they call him Naḥum of Gam Zu? The reason is that with regard to any matter that occurred to him, he would say: This too is for the good [gam zu letova]. Once, the Jews wished to send a gift [doron] to the house of the emperor. They said: Who should go and present this gift? Let Naḥum of Gam Zu go, as he is accustomed to miracles. They sent with him a chest [sifta] full of jewels and pearls, and he went and spent the night in a certain inn. During the night, these residents of the inn arose and took all of the precious jewels and pearls from the chest, and filled it with earth. The next day, when he saw what had happened, Naḥum of Gam Zu said: This too is for the good.

כי מטא התם [שרינהו לסיפטא חזנהו דמלו עפרא] בעא מלכא למקטלינהו לכולהו אמר קא מחייכו בי יהודאי [אמר גם זו לטובה] אתא אליהו אדמי ליה כחד מינייהו א"ל דלמא הא עפרא מעפרא דאברהם אבוהון הוא דכי הוה שדי עפרא הוו סייפיה גילי הוו גירי דכתיב (ישעיהו מא, ב) יתן כעפר חרבו כקש נדף קשתו

When he arrived there, at the ruler’s palace, they opened the chest and saw that it was filled with earth. The king wished to put all the Jewish emissaries to death. He said: The Jews are mocking me. Naḥum of Gam Zu said: This too is for the good. Elijah the Prophet came and appeared before the ruler as one of his ministers. He said to the ruler: Perhaps this earth is from the earth of their father Abraham. As when he threw earth, it turned into swords, and when he threw stubble, it turned into arrows, as it is written in a prophecy that the Sages interpreted this verse as a reference to Abraham: “His sword makes them as the dust, his bow as the driven stubble” (Isaiah 41:2).

הויא חדא מדינתא דלא מצו למיכבשה בדקו מיניה וכבשוה עיילו לבי גנזיה ומלוהו לסיפטיה אבנים טובות ומרגליות ושדרוהו ביקרא רבה

There was one province that the Romans were unable to conquer. They took some of this earth, tested it by throwing it at their enemies, and conquered that province. When the ruler saw that this earth indeed had miraculous powers, his servants entered his treasury and filled Naḥum of Gam Zu’s chest with precious jewels and pearls and sent him off with great honor.

כי אתו ביתו בההוא דיורא אמרו ליה מאי אייתית בהדך דעבדי לך יקרא כולי האי אמר להו מאי דשקלי מהכא אמטי להתם סתרו לדירייהו ואמטינהו לבי מלכא אמרו ליה האי עפרא דאייתי הכא מדידן הוא בדקוה ולא אשכחוה וקטלינהו להנך דיוראי:

When Naḥum of Gam Zu came to spend the night at that same inn, the residents said to him: What did you bring with you to the emperor that he bestowed upon you such great honor? He said to them: That which I took from here, I brought there. When they heard this, the residents of the inn thought that the soil upon which their house stood had miraculous powers. They tore down their inn and brought the soil underneath to the king’s palace. They said to him: That earth that was brought here was from our property. The miracle had been performed only in the merit of Naḥum of Gam Zu. The emperor tested the inn’s soil in battle, and it was not found to have miraculous powers, and he had these residents of the inn put to death.

אי זו היא דבר עיר המוציאה חמש מאות רגלי כו': ת"ר עיר המוציאה חמש מאות ואלף רגלי כגון כפר עכו ויצאו הימנה תשעה מתים בשלשה ימים זה אחר זה הרי זה דבר

§ The mishna taught: What is considered a plague of pestilence? If it is a city that sends out five hundred infantrymen, and three dead are removed from it on three consecutive days, one dead per day, this is a plague of pestilence. The Sages taught: If a city that sends out fifteen hundred infantrymen, i.e., one that has a population of at least fifteen hundred men, e.g., the village of Akko, and nine dead are removed from it on three consecutive days, i.e., three dead per day, this is considered a plague of pestilence.

ביום אחד או בד' ימים אין זה דבר ועיר המוציאה חמש מאות רגלי כגון כפר עמיקו ויצאו ממנה שלשה מתים בג' ימים זה אחר זה הרי זה דבר

If all nine died on a single day, while none died on the other days, or if the nine died over a period of four days, this is not a plague of pestilence. And a city that sends out five hundred infantrymen, for example, the village of Amiko, and three dead are removed from it on three consecutive days, this is a plague of pestilence.