Monty Python & Talmud on the Government
1 א

Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979) Scene 9: The commandos

FRANCIS: We're gettin' in through the underground heating system here, up through into the main audience chamber here, and Pilate's wife's bedroom is here. Having grabbed his wife, we inform Pilate that she is in our custody and forthwith issue our demands. Any questions?

COMMANDO XERXES: What exactly are the demands?

REG: We're giving Pilate two days to dismantle the entire apparatus of the Roman Imperialist State, and if he doesn't agree immediately, we execute her.

MATTHIAS: Cut her head off?

FRANCIS: Cut all her bits off. Send 'em back on the hour every hour. Show them we're not to be trifled with.

REG: And of course, we point out that they bear full responsibility when we chop her up, and that we shall not submit to blackmail!

COMMANDOS: No blackmail!

REG: They've bled us white, the bastards. They've taken everything we had, and not just from us, from our fathers, and from our fathers' fathers.

LORETTA: And from our fathers' fathers' fathers.

REG: Yeah.

LORETTA: And from our fathers' fathers' fathers' fathers.

REG: Yeah. All right, Stan. Don't labour the point. And what have they ever given us in return?!

XERXES: The aqueduct?

REG: What?

XERXES: The aqueduct.

REG: Oh. Yeah, yeah. They did give us that. Uh, that's true. Yeah.

COMMANDO #3: And the sanitation.

LORETTA: Oh, yeah, the sanitation, Reg. Remember what the city used to be like?

REG: Yeah. All right. I'll grant you the aqueduct and the sanitation are two things that the Romans have done.

MATTHIAS: And the roads.

REG: Well, yeah. Obviously the roads. I mean, the roads go without saying, don't they? But apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct, and the roads--

COMMANDO: Irrigation.

XERXES: Medicine.

COMMANDOS: Huh? Heh? Huh...

COMMANDO #2: Education.

COMMANDOS: Ohh...

REG: Yeah, yeah. All right. Fair enough.

COMMANDO #1: And the wine.

COMMANDOS: Oh, yes. Yeah...

FRANCIS: Yeah. Yeah, that's something we'd really miss, Reg, if the Romans left. Huh.

COMMANDO: Public baths.

LORETTA: And it's safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg.

FRANCIS: Yeah, they certainly know how to keep order. Let's face it. They're the only ones who could in a place like this.

COMMANDOS: Hehh, heh. Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh.

REG: All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

XERXES: Brought peace.

REG: Oh. Peace? Shut up!

2 ב

(י) שְׁמַעְיָה וְאַבְטַלְיוֹן קִבְּלוּ מֵהֶם. שְׁמַעְיָה אוֹמֵר, אֱהֹב אֶת הַמְּלָאכָה, וּשְׂנָא אֶת הָרַבָּנוּת, וְאַל תִּתְוַדַּע לָרָשׁוּת:

(10) Shemaiah and Abtalion received [the oral tradition] from them. Shemaiah used to say: love work, hate acting the superior, and do not attempt to draw near to the ruling authority.

3 ג

(ג) הֱווּ זְהִירִין בָּרָשׁוּת, שֶׁאֵין מְקָרְבִין לוֹ לָאָדָם אֶלָּא לְצֹרֶךְ עַצְמָן. נִרְאִין כְּאוֹהֲבִין בִּשְׁעַת הֲנָאָתָן, וְאֵין עוֹמְדִין לוֹ לָאָדָם בִּשְׁעַת דָּחְקוֹ:

(3) Be careful [in your dealings] with the ruling authorities for they do not befriend a person except for their own needs; they seem like friends when it is to their own interest, but they do not stand by a man in the hour of his distress.

4 ד
דבר אחר מה דגים שבים כל הגדול מחבירו בולע את חבירו אף בני אדם אלמלא מוראה של מלכות כל הגדול מחבירו בולע את חבירו והיינו דתנן רבי חנינא סגן הכהנים אומר הוי מתפלל בשלומה של מלכות שאלמלא מוראה של מלכות איש את רעהו חיים בלעו
Alternatively, just as in the case of fish of the sea, any fish that is bigger than another swallows the other, so too in the case of people, were it not for the fear of the ruling government, anyone who is bigger than another would swallow the other. And this is as we learned in a mishna (Avot 3:2) that Rabbi Ḥanina, the deputy High Priest, says: One should pray for the continued welfare of the government, as were it not for the fear of the government, every man would swallow his neighbor alive.
5 ה
אמר להם הקב"ה במאי עסקתם אומרים לפניו רבש"ע הרבה שווקים תקנינו הרבה מרחצאות עשינו הרבה כסף וזהב הרבינו וכולם לא עשינו אלא בשביל ישראל כדי שיתעסקו בתורה אמר להם הקב"ה שוטים שבעולם כל מה שעשיתם לצורך עצמכם עשיתם תקנתם שווקים להושיב בהן זונות מרחצאות לעדן בהן עצמכם כסף וזהב שלי הוא שנאמר (חגי ב, ח) לי הכסף ולי הזהב נאם ה' צבאות כלום יש בכם מגיד זאת שנאמר מי בכם יגיד זאת ואין זאת אלא תורה שנאמר (דברים ד, מד) וזאת התורה אשר שם משה מיד יצאו בפחי נפש יצאת מלכות רומי ונכנסה מלכות פרס אחריה מ"ט דהא חשיבא בתרה ומנלן דכתיב (דניאל ז, ה) וארו חיוא אחרי תנינא דמיא לדוב ותני רב יוסף אלו פרסיים שאוכלין ושותין כדוב ומסורבלין [בשר] כדוב ומגדלין שער כדוב ואין להם מנוחה כדוב אמר להם הקב"ה במאי עסקתם אומרים לפניו רבש"ע הרבה גשרים גשרנו הרבה כרכים כבשנו הרבה מלחמות עשינו וכולם לא עשינו אלא בשביל ישראל כדי שיתעסקו בתורה אמר להם הקב"ה כל מה שעשיתם לצורך עצמכם עשיתם תקנתם גשרים ליטול מהם מכס כרכים לעשות בהם אנגריא מלחמות אני עשיתי שנאמר (שמות טו, ג) ה' איש מלחמה כלום יש בכם מגיד זאת שנאמר (ישעיהו מג, ט) מי בכם יגיד זאת ואין זאת אלא תורה שנאמר וזאת התורה אשר שם משה מיד יצאו מלפניו בפחי נפש וכי מאחר דחזית מלכות פרס למלכות רומי דלא מהניא ולא מידי מאי טעמא עיילא אמרי אינהו סתרי בית המקדש ואנן בנינן וכן לכל אומה ואומה
The Gemara returns to its narration of the future judgment. First, the members of the Roman Empire enter. The Holy One, Blessed be He, says to them: With what did you occupy yourselves? They say before Him in response: Master of the Universe, we have established many marketplaces, we have built many bathhouses, and we have increased much silver and gold. And we did all of this only for the sake of the Jewish people, so that they would be free to engage in Torah study. The Holy One, Blessed be He, says to them: Fools of the world! Are you attempting to deceive Me? Everything that you did, you did for your own needs. You established marketplaces to place prostitutes in them; you built bathhouses for your own enjoyment; and as for the silver and gold that you claim to have increased, it is Mine, as it is stated: “Mine is the silver, and Mine the gold, said the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:8). Is there no one among you who can declare that they have studied this Torah? This is the meaning of the continuation of the verse from Isaiah, as it is stated: “Who among them can declare this?” (Isaiah 43:9). And “this” is referring to nothing other than the Torah, as it is stated: “And this is the Torah that Moses set before the children of Israel” (Deuteronomy 4:44), and whoever did not engage in its study does not receive reward. Immediately, the members of the Roman Empire leave disappointed. The Roman Empire leaves, and the Persian Empire enters after it. What is the reason that the Persian Empire enters second? The reason is that after the Roman Empire it is the next most important. And from where do we derive this? As it is written in Daniel’s vision: “And behold another beast, a second, like a bear” (Daniel 7:5). And Rav Yosef teaches: These are the Persians, who are compared to a bear, as they eat and drink copious amounts as does a bear, and they are fleshy like a bear, and they grow their hair long as does a bear, and they never rest, like a bear, which is constantly on the move from one place to another. The Holy One, Blessed be He, says to them: With what did you occupy yourselves? They say before Him in response: Master of the Universe, we have built many bridges, we have conquered many cities, and we have fought many wars. And we did all of this only for the sake of the Jewish people, so that they would engage in Torah study. The Holy One, Blessed be He, says to them: Everything that you did, you did for your own needs. You established bridges to collect taxes from all who pass over them. You conquered cities to use their residents for forced labor [angareya]; and with regard to fighting the wars, I wage wars, and your success is from Me, as it is stated: “The Lord is a man of war” (Exodus 15:3). Is there no one among you who can declare that they have studied this Torah? As it is stated: “Who among them can declare this” (Isaiah 43:9), and “this” is referring to nothing other than the Torah, as it is stated: “And this is the Torah that Moses set” (Deuteronomy 4:44). Immediately, the members of the Persian Empire leave from before Him disappointed. The Gemara asks: But once the Persian Empire sees that everything said by the Roman Empire is completely ineffective, what is the reason that they come forward? The Gemara answers: They believe that their claims will be more effective, as they say: The Romans destroyed the Second Temple, and we had built it, as the Second Temple was constructed under the auspices and with the encouragement of Cyrus, the king of Persia. The Gemara adds: And likewise, a similar exchange occurred with each and every nation.
6 ו
ואמאי קרו ליה ראש המדברים בכל מקום דיתבי רבי יהודה ורבי יוסי ורבי שמעון ויתיב יהודה בן גרים גבייהו פתח רבי יהודה ואמר כמה נאים מעשיהן של אומה זו תקנו שווקים תקנו גשרים תקנו מרחצאות רבי יוסי שתק נענה רבי שמעון בן יוחאי ואמר כל מה שתקנו לא תקנו אלא לצורך עצמן תקנו שווקין להושיב בהן זונות מרחצאות לעדן בהן עצמן גשרים ליטול מהן מכס הלך יהודה בן גרים וסיפר דבריהם ונשמעו למלכות אמרו יהודה שעילה יתעלה יוסי ששתק יגלה לציפורי שמעון שגינה יהרג
In this baraita Rabbi Yehuda is described as head of the speakers in every place. The Gemara asks: And why did they call him head of the speakers in every place? The Gemara relates that this resulted due to an incident that took place when Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Yosei and Rabbi Shimon were sitting, and Yehuda, son of converts,sat beside them. Rabbi Yehuda opened and said: How pleasant are the actions of this nation, the Romans, as they established marketplaces, established bridges, and established bathhouses. Rabbi Yosei was silent. Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai responded and said: Everything that they established, they established only for their own purposes. They established marketplaces, to place prostitutes in them; bathhouses, to pamper themselves; and bridges, to collect taxes from all who pass over them. Yehuda, son of converts, went and related their statements to his household, and those statements continued to spread until they were heard by the monarchy. They ruled and said: Yehuda, who elevated the Roman regime, shall be elevated and appointed as head of the Sages, the head of the speakers in every place. Yosei, who remained silent, shall be exiled from his home in Judea as punishment, and sent to the city of Tzippori in the Galilee. And Shimon, who denounced the government, shall be killed.
7 ז
ואהבת את ה׳ אלקיך: תניא רבי אליעזר אומר אם נאמר בכל נפשך למה נאמר בכל מאדך ואם נאמר בכל מאדך למה נאמר בכל נפשך אלא אם יש לך אדם שגופו חביב עליו מממונו לכך נאמר בכל נפשך ואם יש לך אדם שממונו חביב עליו מגופו לכך נאמר בכל מאדך רבי עקיבא אומר בכל נפשך אפילו נוטל את נפשך תנו רבנן פעם אחת גזרה מלכות הרשעה שלא יעסקו ישראל בתורה בא פפוס בן יהודה ומצאו לרבי עקיבא שהיה מקהיל קהלות ברבים ועוסק בתורה אמר ליה עקיבא אי אתה מתירא מפני מלכות אמר לו אמשול לך משל למה הדבר דומה לשועל שהיה מהלך על גב הנהר וראה דגים שהיו מתקבצים ממקום למקום אמר להם מפני מה אתם בורחים אמרו לו מפני רשתות שמביאין עלינו בני אדם אמר להם רצונכם שתעלו ליבשה ונדור אני ואתם כשם שדרו אבותי עם אבותיכם אמרו לו אתה הוא שאומרים עליך פקח שבחיות לא פקח אתה אלא טפש אתה ומה במקום חיותנו אנו מתיראין במקום מיתתנו על אחת כמה וכמה אף אנחנו עכשיו שאנו יושבים ועוסקים בתורה שכתוב בה כי הוא חייך וארך ימיך כך אם אנו הולכים ומבטלים ממנה על אחת כמה וכמה אמרו לא היו ימים מועטים עד שתפסוהו לרבי עקיבא וחבשוהו בבית האסורים ותפסו לפפוס בן יהודה וחבשוהו אצלו אמר לו פפוס מי הביאך לכאן אמר ליה אשריך רבי עקיבא שנתפסת על דברי תורה אוי לו לפפוס שנתפס על דברים בטלים בשעה שהוציאו את רבי עקיבא להריגה זמן קריאת שמע היה והיו סורקים את בשרו במסרקות של ברזל והיה מקבל עליו עול מלכות שמים אמרו לו תלמידיו רבינו עד כאן אמר להם כל ימי הייתי מצטער על פסוק זה בכל נפשך אפילו נוטל את נשמתך אמרתי מתי יבא לידי ואקיימנו ועכשיו שבא לידי לא אקיימנו היה מאריך באחד עד שיצתה נשמתו באחד יצתה בת קול ואמרה אשריך רבי עקיבא שיצאה נשמתך באחד
We learned in our mishna the explanation of the verse: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). This was elaborated upon when it was taught in a baraita: Rabbi Eliezer says: If it is stated: “With all your soul,” why does it state: “With all your might”? Conversely, if it stated: “With all your might,” why does it state: “With all your soul”? Rather, this means that if one’s body is dearer to him than his property, therefore it is stated: “With all your soul”; one must give his soul in sanctification of God. And if one’s money is dearer to him than his body, therefore it is stated: “With all your might”; with all your assets. Rabbi Akiva says: “With all your soul” means: Even if God takes your soul. The Gemara relates at length how Rabbi Akiva fulfilled these directives. The Sages taught: One time, after the bar Kokheva rebellion, the evil empire of Rome decreed that Israel may not engage in the study and practice of Torah. Pappos ben Yehuda came and found Rabbi Akiva, who was convening assemblies in public and engaging in Torah study. Pappos said to him: Akiva, are you not afraid of the empire? Rabbi Akiva answered him: I will relate a parable. To what can this be compared? It is like a fox walking along a riverbank when he sees fish gathering and fleeing from place to place.
The fox said to them: From what are you fleeing?
They said to him: We are fleeing from the nets that people cast upon us.
He said to them: Do you wish to come up onto dry land, and we will reside together just as my ancestors resided with your ancestors?
The fish said to him: You are the one of whom they say, he is the cleverest of animals? You are not clever; you are a fool. If we are afraid in the water, our natural habitat which gives us life, then in a habitat that causes our death, all the more so.
The moral is: So too, we Jews, now that we sit and engage in Torah study, about which it is written: “For that is your life, and the length of your days” (Deuteronomy 30:20), we fear the empire to this extent; if we proceed to sit idle from its study, as its abandonment is the habitat that causes our death, all the more so will we fear the empire.
The Sages said: Not a few days passed until they seized Rabbi Akiva and incarcerated him in prison, and seized Pappos ben Yehuda and incarcerated him alongside him. Rabbi Akiva said to him: Pappos, who brought you here? Pappos replied: Happy are you, Rabbi Akiva, for you were arrested on the charge of engaging in Torah study. Woe unto Pappos who was seized on the charge of engaging in idle matters. The Gemara relates: When they took Rabbi Akiva out to be executed, it was time for the recitation of Shema. And they were raking his flesh with iron combs, and he was reciting Shema, thereby accepting upon himself the yoke of Heaven. His students said to him: Our teacher, even now, as you suffer, you recite Shema? He said to them: All my days I have been troubled by the verse: With all your soul, meaning: Even if God takes your soul. I said to myself: When will the opportunity be afforded me to fulfill this verse? Now that it has been afforded me, shall I not fulfill it? He prolonged his uttering of the word: One, until his soul left his body as he uttered his final word: One. A voice descended from heaven and said: Happy are you, Rabbi Akiva, that your soul left your body as you uttered: One.
8 ח

(ד) שָׁאַל פְּרוֹקְלוֹס בֶּן פִלוֹסְפוֹס אֶת רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל בְּעַכּוֹ, שֶׁהָיָה רוֹחֵץ בַּמֶּרְחָץ שֶׁל אַפְרוֹדִיטִי, אָמַר לוֹ, כָּתוּב בְּתוֹרַתְכֶם, וְלֹא יִדְבַּק בְּיָדְךָ מְאוּמָה מִן הַחֵרֶם. מִפְּנֵי מָה אַתָּה רוֹחֵץ בַּמֶּרְחָץ שֶׁל אַפְרוֹדִיטִי. אָמַר לוֹ, אֵין מְשִׁיבִין בַּמֶּרְחָץ. וּכְשֶׁיָּצָא אָמַר לוֹ, אֲנִי לֹא בָאתִי בִגְבוּלָהּ, הִיא בָאתָה בִגְבוּלִי, אֵין אוֹמְרִים, נַעֲשֶׂה מֶרְחָץ לְאַפְרוֹדִיטִי נוֹי, אֶלָּא אוֹמְרִים, נַעֲשֶׂה אַפְרוֹדִיטִי נוֹי לַמֶּרְחָץ. דָּבָר אַחֵר, אִם נוֹתְנִין לְךָ מָמוֹן הַרְבֵּה, אִי אַתָּה נִכְנָס לַעֲבוֹדָה זָרָה שֶׁלְּךָ עָרוֹם וּבַעַל קֶרִי וּמַשְׁתִּין בְּפָנֶיהָ, וְזוֹ עוֹמֶדֶת עַל פִּי הַבִּיב וְכָל הָעָם מַשְׁתִּינִין לְפָנֶיהָ. לֹא נֶאֱמַר אֶלָּא אֱלֹהֵיהֶם. אֶת שֶׁנּוֹהֵג בּוֹ מִשּׁוּם אֱלוֹקַּ, אָסוּר. וְאֶת שֶׁאֵינוֹ נוֹהֵג בּוֹ מִשּׁוּם אֱלוֹקַּ, מֻתָּר:

(4) Proclos, son of a plosphos, asked Rabban Gamaliel in Acco when the latter was bathing in the bathhouse of aphrodite. He said to him, “It is written in your torah, ‘let nothing that has been proscribed stick to your hand (Deuteronomy 13:18)’; why are you bathing in the bathhouse of Aphrodite?” He replied to him, “We do not answer [questions relating to torah] in a bathhouse.” When he came out, he said to him, “I did not come into her domain, she has come into mine. People do not say, ‘the bath was made as an adornment for Aphrodite’; rather they say, ‘Aphrodite was made as an adornment for the bath.’ Another reason is, even if you were given a large sum of money, you would not enter the presence of your idol while you were nude or had experienced seminal emission, nor would you urinate before it. But this [statue of Aphrodite] stands by a sewer and all people urinate before it. [In the torah] it is only stated, “their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:3) what is treated as a god is prohibited, what is not treated as a deity is permitted.