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The Talmud: Selections, by H. Polano, [1876], at

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WOE to the children banished from their father's table.

A handful of food will not satisfy the lion, neither can a pit be filled again with its own dust.

Pray to God for mercy until the last shovelful of earth is cast upon thy grave.

Cease not to pray even when the knife is laid upon thy neck.

Open not thy mouth to speak evil.

To be patient is sometimes better than to have much wealth.

The horse fed too liberally with oats becomes unruly.

Happy the pupil whose teacher approves his words.

When the cucumbers are young we may tell whether they will become good for food.

Do not to others what you would not have others do to you.

The ass complains of the cold even in July (Tamuz). First learn and then teach.

Few are they who see their own faults.

A single light answers as well for a hundred men as for one.

Victuals prepared by many cooks will be neither hot nor cold.

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The world is a wedding.

Youth is a wreath of roses.

A myrtle even in the desert remains a myrtle.

Teach thy tongue to say, "I do not know."

The house which opens not to the poor will open to the physician.

The birds of the air despise a miser.

Hospitality is an expression of Divine worship.

Thy friend has a friend, and thy friend's friend has s friend; be discreet.

Do not place a blemish on thine own flesh.

Attend no auctions if thou hast no money.

Rather skin a carcass for pay, in the public streets, than lie idly dependent on charity.

Deal with those who are fortunate.

What is intended for thy neighbour will never be thine.

The weakness of thy walls invites the burglar.

The place honours not the man, ‘tis the man who gives honour to the place.

The humblest man is ruler in his own house.

If the fox is king bow before him.

If a word spoken in its time is worth one piece of money, silence in its time is worth two.

Tobias committed the sins and his neighbour received the punishment.

Poverty sits as gracefully upon some people as a red saddle upon a white horse.

Drain not the waters of thy well while other people may desire them.

The doctor who prescribes gratuitously gives a worthless prescription.

The rose grows among thorns.

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The wine belongs to the master, but the waiter receives the thanks.

He who mixes with unclean things becomes unclean himself; he whose associations are pure becomes more holy with each day.

No man is impatient with his creditors.

Make but one sale, and thou art called a merchant.

Mention not a blemish which is thy own, in detraction of thy neighbour.

If certain goods sell not in one city, try another place.

He who reads the letter should execute the message.

A vessel used for holy purposes should not be put to uses less sacred.

Ornament thyself first, then magnify others.

Two pieces of coin in one bag make more noise than a hundred.

Man sees the mote in his neighbour's eye, but knows not of the beam in his own.

The rivalry of scholars advances science.

If thou tellest thy secret to three persons, ten know of it.

When love is intense both find room enough upon one board of the bench; afterwards they may find themselves cramped in a space of sixty cubits.

When wine enters the head the secret flies out.

When a liar speaks the truth he finds his punishment in the general disbelief.

The camel desired horns, and his ears were taken from him.

Sorrow for those who disappear never to be found.

The officer of the king is also a recipient of honours.

He who studies cannot follow a commercial life; neither can the merchant devote his time to study.

There is no occasion to light thy lamp at noontide,

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Let the fruit pray for the welfare of the leaf.

Meat without salt is fit only for the dogs.

Trust not thyself until the day of thy death.

Woe to the country which hath lost its leader; woe to the ship when its captain is no more.

He who increaseth his flesh but multiplieth food for the worms.

The day is short, the labour great, and the workman slothful.

Be yielding to thy superior; be affable towards the young; be friendly with all mankind.

Silence is the fence round wisdom.

Without law, civilisation perishes.

Every man will surely have his hour.

Rather be the tail among lions than the head among foxes.

Into the well which supplies thee with water cast no stones.

Many a colt's skin is fashioned to the saddle which its mother bears.

Truth is heavy, therefore few care to carry it.

Say little and do much.

He who multiplieth words will likely come to sin.

Sacrifice thy will for others, that they may be disposed to sacrifice their wills for thee.

Study to-day, delay not.

Look not upon thy prayers as on a task; let thy supplications be sincere.

He who is loved by man is loved by God.

Honour the sons of the poor; they give to science its splendour.

Do not live near a pious fool.

A small coin in a large jar makes a great noise.

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Use thy noble vase to-day; to-morrow it may break.

The cat and the rat make peace over a carcass.

He who walks each day over his estate finds a coin daily.

The dog follows thee for the crumbs in thy pocket.

The soldiers fight, and the kings are heroes.

When the ox is down many are the butchers.

Descend a step in choosing thy wife; ascend a step in choosing thy friend.

Beat the gods and their priests will tremble.

The sun will set without thy assistance.

Hold no man responsible for his utterances in times of grief.

One man eats, another says grace.

He who curbs his wrath merits forgiveness for his sins.

Commit a sin twice and it will not seem to thee a crime.

While our love was strong we lay on the edge of a sword, now a couch sixty yards wide is too narrow for us.

Study is more meritorious than sacrifice.

Jerusalem was destroyed because the instruction of the young was neglected.

The world is saved by the breath of school children.

Even to rebuild the Temple, the schools must not be closed.

Blessed is the son who has studied with his father, and blessed the father who has instructed his son.

Avoid wrath and thou wilt avoid sin; avoid intemperance and thou wilt not provoke Providence.

When others gather, do thou disperse; when others disperse, gather.

When thou art the only purchaser, then buy; when other buyers are present, be thou nobody.

The foolish man knows not an insult, neither does a dead man feel the cutting of a knife.

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The cock and the owl both await daylight. "The light," says the cock," brings me delight; but what in the world art thou waiting for?"

The thief who finds no opportunity to steal, considers himself an honest man.

A Galilean said, "When the shepherd is angry with his flock, he appoints for its leader a blind bellwether."

Though it is not incumbent upon thee to complete the work, thou must not therefore cease from pursuing it. If the work is great, great will be thy reward, and thy Master is faithful in His payments.

There are three crowns: of the law, the priesthood, and the kingship; but the crown of a good name is greater than them all.

Who gains wisdom? He who is willing to receive instruction from all sources. Who is the mighty man? He who subdueth his temper. Who is rich? He who is content with his lot. Who is deserving of honour? He who honoureth mankind.

Despise no man and deem nothing impossible; every man hath his hour and every thing its place.

Iron breaks stone; fire melts iron; water extinguishes fire; the clouds consume water; the storm dispels clouds; an withstands the storm; fear conquers man; wine banishes fear; sleep overcomes wine, and death is the master of sleep; but "charity," says Solomon, "saves even from death."

How canst thou escape sin? Think of three things: whence thou comest, whither thou goest, and before whom thou must appear. The scoffer, the liar, the hypocrite, and the slanderer can have no share in the future world of bliss. To slander is to commit murder.

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Repent the day before thy death. 1

Ten measures of wisdom came into the world; the law of Israel received nine measures, and the balance of the world one. Ten measures of beauty came into the world; Jerusalem received nine measures, and the rest of the world one.

Rabbi Simon said:

"The world stands on three pillars: law, worship, and charity."

Rabbi Ada said:

"When he who attends the synagogue regularly is prevented from being present, God asks for him."

Rabbi Simon, the son of Joshua, said:

"His enemies will humble themselves before the one who builds a place of worship."

Rabbi Lakish said:

"He who is able to attend synagogue, and "neglects to do so, is a bad neighbour."

Rabbi José said:

"One need not stand upon a high place to pray, for it is written, 'Out of the depths have I called unto Thee, oh Lord'" (Ps. 30: 1). The same Rabbi prohibits moving about or talking during the progress of prayers, enlarging on Solomon's advice, "Keep thy foot when thou goest into the house of the Lord, and be more ready to hear than to offer the sacrifice of fools" (Feel. 5: 1).

Rabbi Chia, the son of Abba, said:

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"To pray loudly is not a necessity of devotion; when we pray we must direct our hearts towards heaven."

When our ancestors in the wilderness were saved from death by gazing upon the brazen serpent, it was not the serpent which killed or preserved. It was the trustful appeal to the Father in heaven.

Say the Rabbis, "Praise the Lord for the evil as for the good;" and David is given as an example when he said, "I had met with distress and sorrow, I then called on the name of the Lord" (Ps. 116).

Rabbi Ashi said:

"Charity is greater than all."

Rabbi Eliazar said:

"Who gives charity in secret is greater than Moses."

He finds authority for this saying in the words of Moses (Deut. 9: 19), "For I was afraid of the anger," and the words of Solomon (Prov. 21: 14), which he presents as an answer, "A gift given in secret pacifieth anger."

Rabbi Joshua said:

"A miser is as wicked as an idolater."

Rabbi Eliazar said:

"Charity is more than sacrifices."

Rabbi Jochanan said:

"He who gives (charity) becomes rich," or as it is written, "A beneficent soul will be abundantly gratified."

One day a philosopher inquired of Rabbi Akiba, "If your God loves the poor, why does He not support them?"

"God allows the poor to be with us ever," responded Akiba, "that the opportunities for doing good may never fail."

"But," returned the philosopher, "how do you know that this virtue of charity pleases God? If a master punishes his

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slaves by depriving them of food and clothing, does he feel pleased when others feed and clothe them?"

"But suppose, on the other hand," said the Rabbi, "that the children of a tender father, children whom he could no longer justly assist, had fallen into poverty, would he be displeased if kind souls pitied and aided them? We are not the slaves of a hard master. God calls us His children, and Himself we call our Father."

Rabbah said:

"When one stands at the judgment-seat of God these questions are asked:

"'Hast thou been honest in all thy dealings?'

"'Hast thou set aside a portion of thy time for the study of the law?'

"'Hast thou observed the first commandment?'

"'Hast thou, in trouble, still hoped and believed in God?'

"'Hast thou spoken wisely?'"


"All the blessings of a household come through the wife, therefore should her husband honour her."

Rab said:

"Men should be careful lest they cause women to weep, for God counts their tears.

"In cases of charity, where both men and women claim relief, the latter should be first assisted. If there should not be enough for both, the men should cheerfully relinquish their claims.

"A woman's death is felt by nobody as by her husband.

"Tears are shed on God's altar for the one who forsakes his first love.

"He who loves his wife as himself, and honours her more than himself, will train his children properly; he will

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meet, too, the fulfilment of the verse, 'And thou shalt know that there is peace in thy tent, and thou wilt look over thy habitation and shall miss nothing'" (Job 5: 24).

Rabbi Jose said:

"I never call my wife 'wife,' but 'home,' for she, indeed, makes my home.

"He who possesses a knowledge of God, and a knowledge of man, will not easily commit sin.

"The Bible was given us to establish peace.

"He who wrongs his fellow-man, even in so small a coin as a penny, is as wicked as if he should take life.

"He who raises his hand against his fellow in passion is a sinner.

"Be not the friend of one who wears the cloak of a saint to cover the deformities of a fool."

Rabbi Simon said:

"One who gives way to passion is as bad as an idolater.

"Hospitality is as great a virtue as studying the law."

"Never put thyself in the way of temptation," advised Rabbi Judah; "even David could not resist it."

Rabbi Tyra, on being asked by his pupils to tell them the secret which had gained him a happy, peaceful old age, replied, "I have never cherished anger with my family; I have never envied those greater than myself, and I have never rejoiced in the downfall of any one."

"Unhappy is he who mistakes the branch for the tree, the shadow for the substance.

"Thy yesterday is thy past; thy to-day thy future; thy to-morrow is a secret.

"The best preacher is the heart; the best teacher is time; the best book is the world; the best friend is God.

"Life is but a loan to man; death is the creditor who will one day claim it.

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"Understand a man by his own deeds and words. The impressions of others lead to false judgment."

Rabbi Jacob said:

"He through whose agency another has been falsely punished stands outside of heaven's gates."

Rabbi Isaac said:

"The sins of the bad-tempered are greater than his merits."

Rabbi Lakish said:

"The man who sins is foolish as well as wicked."

Rabbi Samuel said:

"The good actions which we perform in this world take form and meet us in the world to come.

"Better to bear a false accusation in silence, than by speaking to bring the guilty to public shame.

"He who can feel ashamed will not readily do wrong.

"There is a great difference between one who can feel ashamed before his own soul and one who is only ashamed before his fellow-man."

Rabbi Akiba said:

"God's covenant with us included work; for the command, 'Six days shalt thou work and the seventh shalt thou rest,' made the 'rest' conditional upon the 'work.'"

Rabbi Simon said, on the same subject:

"God first told Adam to dress the Garden of Eden, and to keep it (Gen. 2: 15), and then permitted him to eat of the fruit of his labour."

Rabbi Tarphon said:

"God did not dwell in the midst of Israel till they had worked to deserve His presence, for he commanded, 'They shall make me a sanctuary, and then I will dwell in the midst of them.'"

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When Jerusalem was in the hands of the Romans, one of their philosophers asked of the Rabbis:

"If your God dislikes idolatry, why does He not destroy the idols and so put temptation out of the way?"

The wise men answered:

"Would you have the sun and the moon destroyed because of the foolish ones who worship them? To change the course of nature to punish sinners, would bring suffering to the innocent also."

In Ecclesiastes 9: 14, we find this verse:

"There was a little city and the men therein were few, and there came against it a great king, and built around it great works of siege; but there was found in it a poor wise man, and he delivered the city by his wisdom."

The sages interpret this verse most beautifully. The "little city" is man, and the "few men" are his different qualities. The "king" who besieged it is evil inclination, and the "great bulwarks" he built around it are "evil deeds." The "poor wise man" who saved the city is the "good actions" which the poorest may readily perform.

Rabbi Judah said:

"He who refuses to teach a precept to his pupil is guilty of theft, just as one who steals from the inheritance of his father; as it is written, 'The law which Moses commanded us is the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob.' (lieut.) But if he teaches him, what is his reward?"

Raba says, "He will obtain the blessing of Joseph."

Rabbi Eleazer said:

"That house where the law is not studied by night should be destroyed.

"The wealthy man who aids not the scholar desirous of studying God's law will not prosper,

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"He who changes his word, saying one thing and doing another, is even as he who serveth idols."

Rabbi Chamah, the son of Papa, said:

"He who eats or drinks and blesses not the Lord, is even as he who stealeth, for it is said, 'The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, and the earth hath He given to the children of men.'"

Rabbi Simon, the son of Lakish, said:

"They who perform one precept in this world will find it recorded for their benefit in the world to come; as it is written, 'Thy righteousness will go before thee, the glory of the Lord will gather thee in.' And the same will be the case, in contrast, with those who sin. For the Bible says, 'Which I commanded thee this day to do them,' to 'do them,' the precepts, to-day, though the reward is not promised to-day; but in the future, ordinances obeyed, will testify in thy favour, for 'thy righteousness will go before thee.'"

The Rabbis pronounced those the "friends of God," who being offended thought not of revenge; who practised good through love for God, and who were cheerful under suffering and difficulties. Of such Isaiah wrote, "They shall shine forth like the sun at noonday."

Love thy wife as thyself; honour her more than thyself. He who lives unmarried, lives without joy. If thy wife is small, bend down to her and whisper in her ear. He who sees his wife die, has, as it were, been present at the destruction of the sanctuary itself. The children of a man who marries for money will prove a curse to him.

He who has more learning than good deeds is like a tree with many branches but weak roots; the first great storm will throw it to the ground. He whose good works are

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greater than his knowledge is like a tree with fewer branches but with strong and spreading roots, a tree which all the winds of heaven cannot uproot.


Better is the curse of the righteous man than the blessing of the wicked. Better the curse of Achia, the Shelonite, than the blessing of Bil’am, the son of Beor. Thus did Achia curse the Israelites, "And the Lord will smite Israel as the reed is shaken in the water" (Kings 14: 15). The reed bends but it breaks not, for it groweth by the water, and its roots are strong. Thus did Bil’am bless Israel, "As cedar trees beside the waters." Cedars do not grow beside the waters; their roots are weak, and when strong winds blow they break in pieces.


292:1 The Rabbi who said, "Repent the day before thy death," was asked by his disciples how they could follow his advice, as man was unable to tell upon what day his death would occur. He answered, "Consider every day thy last; be ever ready with penitence and good deeds."

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