(73) 73. The Rabbi: Let us rather assume two other possibilities. Either they employ secret methods of interpretation which we are unable to discern, and which were handed down to them, together with the method of the 'Thirteen Rules of Interpretation,' or they use Biblical verses as a kind of fulcrum of interpretation in a method called Asmakhtā, and make them a sort of hall mark of tradition. An instance is given in the following verse: 'And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat' (Genesis 2:16 sq.). It forms the basis of the 'seven Noahide laws' in the following manner: ['He] commanded' refers to jurisdiction. 'The Lord' refers to prohibition of blasphemy. 'God' refers to prohibition of idolatry. 'The man' refers to prohibition of murder. 'Saying' refers to prohibition of incest. 'Of every tree of the garden,' prohibition of rape. 'Thou mayest surely eat,' a prohibition of flesh from the living animal. There is a wide difference between these injunctions and the verse. The people, however, accepted these seven laws as tradition, connecting them with the verse as aid to memory. It is also possible that they applied both methods of interpreting verses, or others which are now lost to us. Considering the well-known wisdom, piety, zeal, and number of the Sages which excludes a common plan, it is our duty to follow them. If we feel any doubt, it is not due to their words, but to our own intelligence. This also applies to the Tōrāh and its contents. We must ascribe the defective understanding of it to ourselves. As to the Agādās, many serve as basis and introduction for explanations and inunctions. For instance: the saying, 'When the Lord descended to Egypt,' etc. is designed to confirm the belief that the delivery from Egypt was a deliberate act of God, and not an accident, nor achieved with the assistance of human plotting, spirits, stars, and angels, jinn, or any other fanciful creation of the mind. It was done by God's providence alone. Statements of this kind are introduced by the word kibejākhōl, which means: If this could be so and so, it would be so and so. Although this is not to be found in the Talmud, but only in a few other works, it is to be so understood wherever it is found. This is also the meaning of the words of Micaiah, when he said to Ahab: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne . . . host of heaven. And the Lord said, who shall persuade Ahab. . . . And there came forth a spirit,' etc. (I Kings 22:19 sqq.) As a matter of fact all that he intended conveying was: Behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets. Verses of this kind serve as a fulcrum and induction, rendering a subject eloquent, apposite, and showing that it is based on truth. To the same category belong tales of visions of spirits, a matter which is not strange in such pious men. Some of the visions they saw were the consequence of their lofty thoughts and pure minds, others were really apparent, as was the case with those seen by the prophets. Such is the nature of the Bāth Qōl, often heard during the time of the second Temple, and regarded as ranking next to prophecy and the Divine voice. Do not consider strange what R. Ishmael said: 'I heard a voice cooing like a dove, etc.' For the histories of Moses and Elijah prove that such a thing is possible, and when a true account is given, it must be accepted as such. In a similar sense we must take the words: 'Woe unto me that I have destroyed my house' (Genesis 6:6), which is of the same character as: 'And it repented the Lord, . . . and it grieved Him at His heart.' Other Rabbinic sayings are parables employed to express mysterious teachings which were not to be made public. For they are of no use to the masses, and were only handed over to a few select persons for research and investigation, if a proper person suitable--one in an age, or in several--could be found. Other sayings appear senseless on the face of them, but that they have their meaning, becomes apparent after but a little reflection. The following is an instance: Seven things were created prior to the world: Paradise, the Tōrāh, the just, Israel, the throne of glory, Jerusalem, and the Messiah, the son of David.' This is similar to the saying of some philosophers: 'The primary thought includes the final deed.' It was the object of divine wisdom in the creation of the world to create the Tōrāh, which was the essence of wisdom, and whose bearers are the just, among whom stands the throne of glory and the truly righteous, who are the most select, viz. Israel, and the proper place for them was Jerusalem, and only the best of men, viz. the Messiah, son of David, could be associated with them, and they all entered Paradise. Figuratively speaking, one must assume that they were created prior to the world. Seemingly against common sense is also the saying: Ten things were created in the twilight, viz. the opening of the earth, the opening of the spring, the mouth of the she ass, etc., as otherwise the Tōrāh were out of harmony with nature. Nature claims to pursue its regular course, whilst the Tōrāh claims to alter this regular course. The solution is that ordinary natural phenomena are altered within natural limits, since they had been primarily fixed by the divine will, and clearly laid down from the six days of creation. I will not deny, O King of the Khazars, that there are matters in the Talmud of which I am unable to give thee a satisfactory explanation, nor even bring them in connexion with the whole. These things stand in the Talmud through the conscientiousness of the disciples, who followed the principle that 'even the commonplace talk of the Sages requires study.' They took care to reproduce only that which they had heard from their teachers, striving at the same time to understand everything they had heard from their masters. In this they went so far as to render it in the same words, although they may not have grasped its meaning. In this case they said: 'Thus have we been taught and have heard.' Occasionally the teacher concealed from his pupils the reasons which prompted him to make certain statements. But the matter came down to us in this form, and we think little of it, because we do not know its purport. For the whole of this relates to topics which do not touch on lawful or unlawful matters. Let us not therefore trouble about it, and the book will lose nothing if we consider the points discussed here.