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Ancient Jewish Proverbs, by Abraham Cohen, , at sacred-texts.com
284. Cut off his head and shall he not die? (Shab. 75a and often; D. 576).
Used of an act which is followed by unavoidable consequences. A man cannot protest that he did not intend such results as must inevitably follow from his acts. There is a Hebrew saying to the same effect: "Break the cask but preserve the wine!" (B. B. 16a).
285. How can a barren ass pay me back? (B. B. 91a; D. 339).
Used of a man from whom nothing can be expected.
286. They make an elephant pass through the eye of a needle (B. M. 38b; D. 509).
Applied to subtle dialecticians. The figure is also used in the New Testament: "It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye," etc. (Matt. xix. 24).
287. Man is never shown a golden date-palm
or an elephant passing through the eye of a needle (Ber. 55b).
Proverbial for things which are impossible.
288. When you will have eaten a Kor of salt with it (Shab. 4a; Erub. 36a and often; D. 442).
Parallel to the saying: "Putting a thing off to the Greek Kalends," which never occur. On Kor see no. 168.
289. As much as a fox carries off from a ploughed field (Nid. 65b; Jom. 43b; D. 334).
Spoken of a project which yielded very trifling results.
290. Thy guarantee needs a guarantee (Suc. 26a; Git. 28b; D. 566).
Applied to an unreliable authority. Maimonides quotes this saying as being "well known among the Arameans," for which there is a variant "Arabs" (Guide for the Perplexed, Part I. ch. lxxiv.).
291. A basket full of books (Meg. 28b; D. 582).
Said of a man possessed of much learning, but ill-arranged and devoid of method. There is a mediæval expression, "An ass carrying books" (Ds. 44), which is applied to an ignorant man who has a library.
292. This is an arrow in Satan's eye (Suc. 38a; Kid. 30a, 81a; D. 215).
Descriptive of a good act or an act which is a preventive against wrong-doing.
293. Smell at his flask (Shab. 108a; B. B. 22a; D. 653).
Others translate: "Strike on his flask," to hear how it rings. In either case the meaning is the same: Test his intelligence.
294. White pitchers full of ashes (Ber. 28a).
Applied in the first instance to bad pupils. But generally it refers to dignified posts unworthily filled.
295. White geese who strip men of their cloaks (Git. 73a).
Men in responsible positions—vested with the white mantles of honour—who abuse their office for their selfish ends.
*296. Like a Zuz above and like a Stater below (Suc. 22b; D. p. 15).
The origin of the proverb and its primary application are alike obscure. In its context it refers to the sun's rays penetrating through a hole as small as a Zuz and leaving on the background a circle of light as large as a Stater (see on no. 92). Perhaps the general meaning is: Small causes have large results (cf. no. 246).
297. Of what use is a torch at midday? (Ḥul. 60b; cf. Shab. 63a; D. 642).
Proverbial of something superfluous. Cf. Young's "Hold a farthing candle to the sun."
298. The sun sets of itself (Naz. 64b; Pes. 90b; D. 638).
Said of things which occur on their own account and need no human assistance.
299. The pitchers [go] to the stream; where [go] the potsherds? (Ber. 58a; D. 298).
Said of one who aims at something of which he can make no use. The proverb is well illustrated by the following: "A hen and a night-owl were once awaiting the dawn. Said the hen to the night-owl, "The light is for me; of what use is it to you?" (Sanh. 98b).
300. May thy strength be firm! (Ds. 20).
This expression is found very frequently in Hebrew and Aramaic. and is still used by Jews as the equivalent of "Thank you!"
301. Am I then fastened to you by a Kab of wax? (Sanh. 29a; Ds. 5).
An assertion of independence. On Kab see no. 21.
*302. He went to Cæsarea and he still had [some of] his victuals with him (Gen. R. ch. lxviii. § 8; D. 248).
Proverbial for a quickly accomplished task.
303. Like [a fish] from the sea into the frying-pan (Kid. 44a; D. 401).
Proverbial of extraordinary promptness in performing a matter.
*304. He was involved in a lawsuit, but he had not the standing of a foot (Jalkut to Gen. § 6).
Exactly like the English saying, "He hadn't a leg to stand on."
305. Go and teach it outside (Erub. 9a; Jom. 43b).
We cannot accept your version. Cf. the common saying, "Tell it to the marines."
*306. Carry vegetables to the town of vegetables! (Menaḥ. 85a; D. 447).
Used sarcastically. Similar to the English proverb, "Carry coals to Newcastle." It is also said, "Thou art carrying straw to Ephraïm" (ibid.), "They carry brine to Apamæa and fish to Acco" (Ex. R. ch. ix. § 6). This proverb is put into the mouth of Pharaoh's magicians when Moses threatened to work his wonders in Egypt, the land of wonders.
307. Thou hast added water, add flour also (Gen. R. ch. lxx. § 7; D. 29).
Used of a person who is constantly asking questions, but rarely ventures to add anything more substantial to the conversation or discussion.
308. He made him ride upon two horses (B. B. 152a; Keth. 55b; D. 121).
"He made assurance doubly sure."
309. A raven flew by! (Bets. 21a; Ḥul. 124b; Ds. 127).
A colloquialism used when asked a perplexing question which you wish to evade.
310. A raven that brings fire to its nest (Gen. R. ch. lxv. § 19; D. 554).
Based on the fable of the raven that brought fire to its nest to warm its young, but the fire burnt them all. The proverb is thus used of a man who injures others with the best of intentions.
311. A mouse lying on denars (Sanh. 29b; D. 556).
Descriptive of a miser. The "denar" (= denarius) is both a silver and a gold coin.
312. He threw a hatchet at it (R. H. 13a; D. 628).
He shattered his arguments.
313. You all expectorate with the same spittle (Shab. 99b; Nid. 42a; D. 342).
You have all obtained your opinions from the same source.
314. Like a log for an image (Keth. 86a; B. K. 98b; D. 348).
Proverbial for something that is exactly suitable for the purpose in view.
315. Like taking a hair out of milk (Ber. 8a; Moed K. 28a; D. 402).
Descriptive of something extremely easy to perform.
316. Like a blind man at a window (B. B. 12b; Nid. 20b; D. 403).
Used of a man who just hits on the right thing by chance.
317. Like warm water on a bald head (Keth. 39b).
Proverbial of something pleasant.
318. Dust into the mouth of Job! (B. B. 16a).
An exclamatory remark, meaning "Hold your tongue!"
319. I see here a Yod [enlarged into] a city (Kid. 16b).
The Yod is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet, and is thus used proverbially for something diminutive, as in the phrase "One jot or tittle" (Matt. v. 18). With the proverb may be compared "They make a mountain out of a molehill."
320. I kindled a fire before thee (Erach. 31b).
My claim is prior to thine, inasmuch as I have previously done something to establish it.
321. I ate vegetables before thou didst (Erach. 31b).
I am older than thou.
Next: Chapter X: Miscellaneous