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Ancient Jewish Proverbs, by Abraham Cohen, , at sacred-texts.com
*322. He who eats the progamia eats also of the wedding-feast (j. Shebiith iv. 8; Jalkut to Prov. § 944; D. 205).
The progamia are the festivities prior to the celebration of the wedding. Cf. "He who prepares the progamia eats of the wedding-feast" (Lev. R. ch. xi. § 2).
*323. He who eats of the palm's heart will be beaten by the stick [of the withered palm] (Lev. R. ch. xv. § 8; ch. xvi. § 7; D. 204).
If you enjoy the sweets of office you must not shirk its obligations. Cf. "Here is the palm's heart and here the stick; you have eaten the heart, therefore be smitten with the stick" (Jalkut to Esther § 1056). On the heart of the palm-tree see no. 112 above.
324. The native on the ground and the stranger in the highest heavens! (Erub. 9a; Jom. 47a; B. K. 42a; D. 153).
More deference is usually paid to a stranger than to a fellow-townsman, Of, "A prophet
is never honoured in his own country" (Matt. xiii. 57). A similar thought is contained in: "Woe! Woe! The sojourner drives out the master of the house" (Lam. R. Proem. 22).
325. How little does he whom the Lord aideth need to grieve or worry! (Jom. 22b; D. 400.)
Similar to the English proverb, "The grace of God is gear enough."
326. All that God does is done for the best (Ber. 60b; D. 452).
This saying is illustrated by the following incident. R. Akiba was once on a journey, and met with a series of what appeared to be misfortunes. His request for a night's lodging was refused by the inhabitants of the town, and he was compelled to sleep in the fields. He had with him a cock, an ass, and a lamp. A gust of wind came and extinguished the light; a wolf devoured the cock; and a lion carried off his ass. The next morning he discovered that the town had been plundered by robbers and all the inhabitants killed. He then perceived that there was a good purpose in all his misfortunes; for the light of the lamp, the crowing of the cock, or the braying of the ass might have revealed his presence to the brigands. The Talmud also relates that there lived once a man named Nahum, "the man of Gamzu," whose favourite motto was
"Also this [Gam zu] for good" (Sanh. 108a; D. 197). Some think that his name is to be attributed to his motto; but others are of the opinion that he belonged to a town called Gimzo, S.E. of Lydda (2 Chron. xxviii. 18).
*327. The thief on the point of breaking into[a house] calls on God [for help] (Ber. 63a; D. 191).
(This proverb is not to be found in the editions. The ‘En Ja‘akob and MSS. have it; cf. Rabbinowitz, Dikduke Sophrim, ad loc. ).
328. Grind with the teeth and thou wilt feel it in thy heels (Shab. 152a; D. 212).
Good nourishment strengthens the body.
329. The steps of the ass [depend upon] barley (Shab. 51b; D. 523).
Good nourishment is necessary for good labour.
330. Loosen thy sack and put in bread (Shab. 152a; D. 645).
Open thy mouth and eat well, for nourishment is essential to the well-being of the body.
331. A fence is fenced in, and a breach is broken (j. Peah. i. 1 end; j. Kid. i. 9; j. Shebu. i. 6; D. 539).
The good are helped by God to remain good, and the bad are allowed to continue in their evil ways. The same idea is taught elsewhere in the Talmud: "The man who
comes to defile himself has opportunities given him, and the man who comes to purify himself is helped [to gain that end]" (Shab. 104a, and often; D. 139), "In the way in which one wishes to go, he is led" (Mac. 10b; D. 142)
332. It is good for the year that Tebeth should be a widow (Taan. 6b; D. 489).
This saying is dependent for its explanation upon another: "Rain is the consort of the earth" (ibid.). A rainless Tebeth (January) points to a good harvest. It is also stated that "A rainfall after the expiration of the month of Nisan (April, i.e. the time when the corn begins to ripen) and during the feast of Tabernacles (October, the feast of ingathering) is a curse" (Taan. 2b).
333. The physician who accepts no fee is worth no fee (B. K. 85a; D. 110).
Cf. "What costs nothing is worth nothing."
*334. If you have not seen the lion you have seen his lair (Targum Sheni to Esth. i. 2; ed. Munk p. 10; Ds. 13)
From the magnificence of his lair you can form an idea of what the occupant is like.
335. Whatever song he may sing, it will not enter the ear of the dancer (Lam. R. Proem. 12; Ds. 60)
A reference to Prov. xxv. 20. It is useless
to try to impress anybody who is not in the mood to consider your words seriously.
336. A dog away from its accustomed place barks not for seven years (Erub. 61a; D. 395).
In strange surroundings one loses self-confidence.
*337. According to the camel is the load (Keth. 67a; Sot. 13b; D. 455).
The greater the man the greater his responsibility.
*338. If the lawsuit has been adjourned overnight, the case is at an end (Sanh. 95a; D. 176).
After the first heat of the quarrel has subsided, reconciliation is not so difficult.
339. In proportion to the ingenuity is the error (B. M. 96b; D. 457).
Cf. "The higher the mountain, the deeper the valley," and "The higher up, the greater fall."
*340. The Shittim wood has no other use than to be cut down (Ex. R. ch. vi. § 5; D. 505).
This (acacia) wood is excellent as timber, but the tree is not fruit-bearing. Everything has its use and should be utilised for that purpose.
*341. According to the garden is the gardener (Gen. R. ch. lxxx. § 1; D. 456).
"Cut the coat according to the cloth."
342. According to the ox is the slaughterer (Gen. R. ch. lxv. § 11; D. 459).
Same as preceding proverb.
*343. Hast shaven the gentile and he is pleased, set fire to his beard also, and thou wilt never be finished laughing at him (Sanh. 96a; D. 201).
He who submits to indignities will have to suffer worse insults in future.
*344. One says, "I will buy that poor man a garment," but does not buy it, or "I will buy him a mantle," but does not buy it (B. M. 78b).
Said of a man who promises much but does not keep his word. So also it is stated: "Better is it that thou shouldst not vow, than that thou shouldst vow and not pay" (Eccles. v. 5); "The righteous promise little and perform much, whereas the wicked promise much and do not perform even a little" (B. M. 87a); "Promise little and do much" (Aboth. i. 15).
345. Thy goodness is taken and thrown over the thorny hedge (Shab. 63b and often; D. 640).
Acts of kindness or good advice which come too late are valueless.
346. Fever is more severe in winter than in summer (Jom. 29a).
In Shab. 66b we are given a long and elaborate account of remedies for the cure of fever.
*347. As the day raises itself so the sick man raises himself (B. B. 16b; D. 39).
An invalid feels easier during the day than
during the night. The proverb is quoted in connection with the legend that the patriarch Abraham wore a precious stone suspended from his neck, and everybody suffering from an illness obtained relief by looking at it. When Abraham died, God placed this virtue in the course of the sun.
348. A dream which has not been interpreted is like a letter unread (Ber. 55b).
Other sayings on this subject are: "Dreams are a sixtieth part of prophecy" (ibid. 57b); "Three kinds of dreams are fulfilled: one experienced in the morning; one dreamt by a friend concerning him; and a dream interpreted in the midst of a dream" (ibid. 55b). There is a good deal in the Talmud about the omens which are to be drawn from dreams: e.g. "Whoever sees a serpent in a dream is assured of his sustenance; if bitten by it, it is doubled; if killed, it is lost" (ibid. 57a), "All sorts of liquids seen in a dream are a good omen, with the exception of wine" (ibid.). An attempt seems to have been made to break the people from their belief in dreams, as may be seen from such statements as: "A man should not despair of mercy, even when the master of dreams tells him that he will die on the morrow; for it is said (Eccles. v. 7), "In the multitude of dreams and vanities and many words
[fear not], but fear thou God!" (Ber. 10b), "Neither a good dream nor a bad dream is wholly fulfilled" (ibid. 55a), "The interpretation of the dream, not the dream itself, is fulfilled" (ibid. 55b), "Dreams cause neither prosperity nor ill-fortune" (Git. 52a).
*349. Sixty iron weapons they hung on the sting of the gnat (Ḥul. 58b; D. 647).
Insignificant objects can cause great harm.
*350. Every man carries his worth in his basket (j. Peah. i. 1, about the middle; D. 364).
Introduced with the words "Well do the millers say." Each man has his own way of displaying his merit.
HAZELL, WATSON AND VINEY, LD.,
LONDON AND AYLESBURY.