Tuesday, March 28, 2006

From cleaning the intestines to raising the dead

One of the fascinating things about learning the Talmud is to discover passages like the following. In just a few sentences, we move from the issue of cleaning out the intestines of the Pesach offering to discussing whether the righteoius will be able to raise and heal the dead. An amazing set of associations . . .

The washing of its entrails
." What is meant by washing the entrails? Said R. Huna: "The entrails are pricked with a knife and then washed," and R. Hyya bar Rabh says: "They are merely pressed with a knife, and in that manner the filth is removed."

R' Elazer said, "What is the reasoning behind Hyya bar Rabh's interpretation. For it is written [Isaiah v. 17]: "Then shall the sheep feed according to their wont, and the ruins of the fat ones shall sojourners eat."

Said Menasseh bar Jeremiah in the name of Rabh: The term "according to their wont" being expressed by (the Hebrew word) Kedabram, and "Debur" meaning "speaking," the expression Kedabram should be explained to mean, "as they were spoken of."

The word "sheep" refers to the Israelites, and thus the passage signifies: "Then shall the Israelites feed as they were spoken of."

What was spoken of concerning them? Said Abayi: "By the latter part of that verse and by the 'sojourners' are meant the righteous who at that time were strangers, but in the future they would be the inhabitants and feed on the ruins of the fat ones."

Said Rabha to him: This interpretation would be correct if there were not the word "and" between the two passages, but that word gives the latter passage a distinct significance; therefore, said he, the passage will have the meaning given it by R. Hananel in the name of Rabh, who said that in the future the righteous would have the power to arouse the dead; because in this passage quoted it is said: "Then shall the sheep feed according to their wont," and in another passage [Micah vii. 14]." Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old." By Bashan is meant Elisha, the man of Bashan, as it is written [I Chronicles v. 12]: "Yanai and Shaphat in Bashan," and [II Kings iii. ii]. "Elisha the son of Shaphat" (hence Elisha, being the son of Shaphat, was from Bashan).

By Gilead is meant Elijah, as it is written [I Kings xvii. 1]: "Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead" (and both of these prophets Elijah and Elisha roused the dead). Thus the original passage quoted [Isaiah v. 17] should be interpreted as follows: As in the days of old Elijah and Elisha aroused the dead, so will in the future other righteous men also have that power.

R. Samuel ben Na'hmeni in the name of R. Jonathan deduces the above conclusion from the passage [Zechariah viii. 4]: "Thus hath said the Lord of Hosts, Again shall there sit old men and women in the streets of Jerusalem, and every one with staff in hand because of their multitude of years"; and as it is written [II Kings iv. 29]: "Lay my staff upon the face of the lad," the inference that the righteous will have the power to arouse the dead is deduced from the analogy of the two passages, the latter of which deals with the arousing of the dead.

The Talmud text is from this online translation, though for my daily reading I use the wonderful and helpful translation from Artscroll -- The Schottenstein Edition Talmud Bavli.

No comments: