Taanit 21bתענית כ״א ב
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21bכ״א ב

ביום אחד או בארבעה ימים אין זה דבר

If all three died on one day or over four days, this is not a plague of pestilence.

דרוקרת עיר המוציאה חמש מאות רגלי הוה ויצאו ממנה שלשה מתים ביום אחד גזר רב נחמן בר רב חסדא תעניתא אמר רב נחמן בר יצחק כמאן כר"מ

In explanation of the counterintuitive ruling that many deaths in one day is not indicative of a plague, the Gemara relates: Drokart was a city that sent out five hundred infantrymen, and three dead were removed from it on one day. Rav Naḥman bar Rav Ḥisda decreed a fast on account of the plague. Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak said: In accordance with whose opinion did you declare this fast? It must be in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Meir.

דאמר ריחק נגיחותיו חייב קירב נגיחותיו לא כ"ש

This is related to the definition of a forewarned ox, an animal that has gored enough times to be considered a dangerous beast that requires careful supervision, as Rabbi Meir said: The owner of an ox is liable to pay full damages if its acts of goring were separated, i.e., if it gored three times on three consecutive days, as claimed by the Rabbis. If its acts of goring were near each other, performed on a single day, is it not all the more so that this animal should be classified as a forewarned ox? However, Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak continued, this represents a minority opinion. Just as Rabbi Meir’s reasoning is rejected for halakha in the case of an ox, so too it is rejected with regard to a plague.

א"ל רב נחמן בר רב חסדא לרב נחמן בר יצחק ליקום מר ליתי לגבן א"ל תנינא רבי יוסי אומר לא מקומו של אדם מכבדו אלא אדם מכבד את מקומו שכן מצינו בהר סיני שכל זמן שהשכינה שרויה עליו אמרה תורה (שמות לד, ג) גם הצאן והבקר אל ירעו אל מול ההר ההוא נסתלקה שכינה ממנו אמרה תורה (שמות יט, יג) במשוך היובל המה יעלו בהר

Upon hearing this impressive argument, Rav Naḥman bar Rav Ḥisda said to Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak: Let the Master arise and come to live with us as our community leader. Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak said to him: We already learned in a baraita that Rabbi Yosei says: It is not the place of a person that honors him; rather, the person honors his place, as we found with regard to Mount Sinai, that as long as the Divine Presence rested upon it, the Torah said: “Neither let the flocks nor the herds feed before that mount” (Exodus 34:3). Once the Divine Presence departed from the mountain, the Torah said: “When the shofar sounds long they shall come up to the mount” (Exodus 19:13). This indicates that the sanctity was not inherent to the place but was due to the Divine Presence resting there.

וכן מצינו באהל מועד שבמדבר שכל זמן שהוא נטוי אמרה תורה (במדבר ה, ב) וישלחו מן המחנה כל צרוע הוגללו הפרוכת הותרו זבין והמצורעים ליכנס שם

And we likewise found with regard to the Tent of Meeting that was in the wilderness, that whenever it was erected, the Torah said: “That they put out of the camp every leper” (Numbers 5:2). Once the curtain was rolled up and the Tent of Meeting was prepared for travel, zavim and lepers were permitted to enter the place where it had stood. The place itself had no intrinsic sanctity; rather, it was sacred only because the Divine Presence was there. Accordingly, Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak maintained that there is no reason for him to move places to receive honor.

אמר ליה אי הכי ניקום אנא לגבי מר אמר ליה מוטב יבא מנה בן פרס אצל מנה בן מנה ואל יבא מנה בן מנה אצל מנה בן פרס

Rav Naḥman bar Rav Ḥisda said to Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak: If so, let me arise and come to the Master, to learn Torah from you. Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak said to him: It is better that one hundred dinars that is the son of a peras, fifty dinars, should come to one hundred dinars that is the son of one hundred dinars; but one hundred dinars that is the son of one hundred dinars, should not come to one hundred dinars that is the son of a peras. In other words, although Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak was a learned scholar, comparable to one hundred dinars, it was nevertheless more appropriate for him to come to Rav Naḥman bar Rav Ḥisda. Whereas Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak was the son of a peras, an ordinary man, Rav Naḥman bar Rav Ḥisda was the son of a scholar.

בסורא הוות דברתא בשיבבותיה דרב לא הוות דברתא סברו מיניה משום זכותיה דרב דנפיש איתחזי להו בחילמא רב דנפישא זכותיה טובא הא מילתא זוטרא ליה לרב אלא משום ההוא גברא דשייל מרא וזבילא לקבורה

The Gemara relates another story involving a plague: Once there was a plague of pestilence in Sura, but in the neighborhood of Rav there was no pestilence. The people therefore thought that this was due to Rav’s great merit. However, it was revealed to them in a dream that Rav’s merit was too great and this matter too small for the merit of Rav to be involved. Rather, his neighborhood was spared due to the acts of kindness of a certain man, who would lend his hoe [mara] and shovel [zevila] to prepare sites for burial.

בדרוקרת הוות דליקתא ובשיבבותיה דרב הונא לא הוות דליקתא סבור מינה בזכותא דרב הונא דנפיש איתחזי להו בחילמא האי זוטרא ליה לרב הונא אלא משום ההיא איתתא דמחממת תנורא ומשיילי לשיבבותיה

The Gemara relates a similar incident. In Drokart there was a fire, but in the neighborhood of Rav Huna there was no fire. The people therefore thought that this was due to Rav Huna’s great merit. It was revealed to them in a dream that this matter was too small for the merit of Rav Huna to have played a role. Rather, it was due to a certain woman who heats her oven and lends it, i.e., the use of her oven, to her neighbors.

אמרו ליה לרב יהודה אתו קמצי גזר תעניתא אמרו ליה לא קא מפסדן אמר להו זוודא אייתו בהדייהו

They said to Rav Yehuda: Locusts have come to our region. Rav Yehuda decreed a fast. They said to him: They are not destroying anything, as they are eating only a little. He said to them: Have they brought provisions with them, that they have something else to eat? Even if they are not damaging your crops now, they will certainly eat them soon.

אמרו ליה לרב יהודה איכא מותנא בחזירי גזר תעניתא נימא קסבר רב יהודה מכה משולחת ממין אחד משולחת מכל המינין לא שאני חזירי דדמיין מעייהו לבני אינשי

On another occasion, they said to Rav Yehuda: There is pestilence among the pigs. Rav Yehuda decreed a fast. The Gemara asks: Let us say that Rav Yehuda maintains that a plague affecting one species will come to affect all species, and that is why he decreed a fast. The Gemara answers: No, in other cases there is no cause for concern. However, pigs are different, as their intestines are similar to those of humans. Consequently, their disease might spread to people.

אמרו ליה לשמואל איכא מותנא בי חוזאי גזר תעניתא א"ל והא מרחק אמר ליכא מעברא הכא דפסיק ליה

They said to Shmuel: There is pestilence in the region of Bei Ḥozai, which is quite a distance from Babylonia. Shmuel decreed a fast. They said to him: But it is far from here. He said: There is no crossing here that will stop the pestilence, and therefore there is cause for concern that it will reach us.

אמרו ליה לרב נחמן איכא מותנא בארעא דישראל גזר תעניתא אמר אם גבירה לוקה שפחה לא כל שכן

They said to Rav Naḥman: There is pestilence in Eretz Yisrael. Rav Naḥman decreed a fast in Babylonia, saying: If the lady of the house, i.e., Eretz Yisrael, is afflicted, is it not all the more so that the maidservant, Babylonia, will be afflicted?

טעמא דגבירה ושפחה הא שפחה ושפחה לא והא אמרו ליה לשמואל איכא מותנא בי חוזאי גזר תעניתא שאני התם כיון דאיכא שיירתא דלווי ואתיא בהדיה

The Gemara asks: The reason for this ruling is apparently only because Eretz Yisrael is a lady in comparison to the Diaspora, which is likened to a maidservant. It may be inferred from this that in a case involving a maidservant and a maidservant, i.e., two places in the Diaspora, there is no reason to fast. But in the previous story, when they said to Shmuel: There is pestilence in the region of Bei Ḥozai, he decreed a fast in Neharde’a, despite the fact that Neharde’a is not considered a lady with respect to Bei Ḥozai. The Gemara answers: It is different there. Since there are caravans that regularly travel from Bei Ḥozai to Neharde’a, the pestilence will join and accompany them in the caravans.

אבא אומנא הוה אתי ליה שלמא ממתיבתא דרקיעא כל יומא ולאביי כל מעלי יומא דשבתא לרבא כל מעלי יומא דכיפורי הוה קא חלשא דעתיה דאביי משום דאבא אומנא אמרו ליה לא מצית למיעבד כעובדיה

§ Apropos the above stories that deal with the merits of ordinary people, the Gemara relates: Abba the Bloodletter would receive greetings from the yeshiva on High every day, and Abaye would receive these greetings every Shabbat eve, and Rava would receive greetings only once a year on Yom Kippur eve. Abaye was distressed due to Abba the Bloodletter, as he did not understand why Abba received greater honor than he did. They said to him: You are unable to perform what he does, and therefore you do not merit the same honor.

ומאי הוו עובדיה דאבא אומנא דכי הוה עביד מילתא הוה מחית גברי לחוד ונשי לחוד ואית ליה לבושא דאית ביה קרנא דהוות בזיעא כי כוסילתא כי הוות אתיא ליה איתתא הוה מלביש לה כי היכי דלא ניסתכל בה ואית ליה דוכתא דצניעא דשדי ביה פשיטי דשקיל דאית ליה שדי ביה דלית ליה לא מיכסיף

The Gemara asks: And what were these righteous deeds of Abba the Bloodletter? The Gemara explains that when he would perform a matter of bloodletting, he would bring in men separately from women, for reasons of modesty. And he had a special garment that had a slit in the place of the incision [kusilta] where the bloodletting instrument was inserted. When a woman came to him, he would have her dress in that garment, so that he would not see her exposed. And furthermore, he had a hidden place where he worked, where customers would place the coins [peshitei] that he would take as his fee. In this manner, one who had money would throw it there, while one who did not have money was not embarrassed.

כי הוה אתרמי ליה צורבא מרבנן אגרא מיניה לא שקיל ובתר דקאי יהיב ליה פשיטי ואמר ליה זיל בריא נפשך יומא חד שדר אביי זוגא דרבנן למיבדקיה אותבינהו ואכלינהו ואשקינהו ומך להו ביסתרקי בליליא

When a Torah scholar came to him for bloodletting, he would take no pay from him, and after the scholar arose, Abba would give him money and say to him: Go and purchase food with this money to heal yourself, as it is important to eat healthy food after bloodletting. One day, Abaye sent a pair of Sages to investigate the extent of Abba the Bloodletter’s righteousness. Abba the Bloodletter sat them down, and gave them food to eat, and gave them something to drink. And at night he spread out mats [bistarkei] for them to sleep on.