Sacred Texts  Judaism  Index  Previous  Next 

Tractate Berakoth, by , by A. Lukyn Williams, [1921], at

The Shma‘, etc., in cases of Sexual Uncleanness.

4. He who is ceremonially unclean 2 repeats the Shma‘ in his heart only, and does not say a Benediction either before it or after it. But at a meal he says the Benediction after but not before. 3 R. Judah says: he says the Benediction before them and after them. 4

5. Should one have begun to stand in the Prayer and then remember that he is ceremonially unclean let him not make a pause, but say the

p. 24

M.short form. Should one have gone down to bathe, 1 if he can come out and cover himself and recite, before the sun actually rises, let him come out and cover himself and recite. But if not, let him cover himself with water and recite. But he must not cover himself with dirty water, nor with water used for steeping flax, 2 until he has poured water into them. And how far should he move from them, and from excrement? Four cubits.

6. A man with a running issue, and a woman, at certain times, require the bath. But R. Judah exempts them. (Summary only.)

T. II. 12. One ceremonially unclean and ill, who has poured over himself nine qabs 3 of water, lo, he recites (the Shma‘). But he does not set others free from their obligation 4 until he enters into a bath 5 containing forty seahs 6. R. Judah says: He must enter into a bath containing forty seahs in any case. 7 They that have an issue, whether male or female, and women in their separation, and they who are recovering from childbirth, are permitted to read (aloud) in the Law, and to learn in Mishna, and in Midrash, and in Halakoth and

p. 25


Haggadoth, but they who are ceremonially unclean are forbidden all. R. Jose says: Such a man learns in the Halakoth to which he is accustomed, so long as he does not lay the mishna in order before others. 1

13. One ceremonially unclean who has no water to bathe himself, lo, he recites the Shim', but not loud enough for himself to hear it, and he does not say the Benedictions either before or after it. Such is the opinion of R. Meir. 2 But the Majority say: he recites the Shma‘ and that aloud for himself to hear it, he says the Benedictions before and after it. R. Meir said: Once we were sitting in front of R. Aqiba and were reciting the Shma‘, but not aloud for us to hear it, because of a quaestor who was standing at the door. They said to him: A time of danger is no proof. 3

14. Lo, if a man is standing in the open country naked, or doing his work naked—lo, he must cover himself with straw or stubble or anything else, and so recite [the Shma‘], in accordance with the saying, It is not praiseworthy for a man to be standing naked; for when the Holy One, blessed be He, created man He did not create him naked. For it is said: "When I made the cloud his garment and thick darkness his swaddling-band." 4 "When I made the cloud his garment"—this means the sac; "and thick darkness his swaddling-band—this means the placenta. Lo, a man who has an apron of cloth or of leather girded on his loins, lo, he recites [the Shma‘]. But in either case the man does not say the Prayer until he covers his heart.

p. 26


15. A man may not put his head within [the part of his dress that is over] his bosom, and so recite the Shma‘. 1 But if his under-garment is girt closely underneath it is allowable. Two men who sleep under one rug are not permitted to recite the Shma‘ [thus]. But one covers himself with his covering and so recites, and the other covers himself with his covering and so recites. If they are his son or his daughter while they are still young it is allowable.

16. Si puer possit comedere quantitatem olivae, 2 recedunt ab ejus stercore et urina quatuor cubitos; non est recedendum nisi ab excrementis hominis, et canum, quando in illis ponunt pelles. 3 Scaphium excrementi, et matulam urinae, si fuerit secum in domo, se removet quatuor cubitos, et legit. Si fuerit ante lectum, injicit quantulumcunque aquarum, et legit; si minus, non legit. R. Zakkai dicit, Si in illud injiciat quartarium 4 aquae, legit; si minus, non legit. Rabban Simeon ben Gamaliel dicit, Si fuerit ante lectum, non legit, si post lectum, legit. R. Simeon ben Eleazar dicit, Vel si domus pateat decem cubitos, et scaphium excrementi in illa sit, non legit, nisi prius operiat, et sub lecto deponat.

17. A man may not enter into filthy alleys, and recite the Shma‘. And not only so but even if he enter while he is reciting, lo, he leaves off until he goes out of the legal limits 5 of all that place, and then recites.

18. A man may not stand and pray when he

p. 27


feels he ought to relieve nature.' For it is said: Prepare to meet 1 thy God, O Israel2

19. Non mingit in loco ubi oravit, nisi quatuor cubitos recesserit. Qui minxit non in illo loco orat, nisi quatuor cubitos recesserit. Si urina siccetur aut absorbeatur, licet.

20. He who enters into a bath—in a room where men are standing clothed, recitation and Prayer, and it is needless to say religious greeting, may take place there. He [also] puts on his Tephillin, and it is needless to say he does not take them off (if he has already put them on). If it is a room where men are standing, some naked and some clothed, religious greeting may take place there, but not recitation and Prayer. He does not take off his Tephillin and does not put them on to begin (his devotions). If it is a room where men are standing naked religious greeting may not take place there, and it is needless to say 3 that he does not put on his Tephillin.

21. Hillel the Elder 4 says: Show not thyself naked, show not thyself clothed; show not thyself standing, show not thyself sitting; show not thyself laughing, show not thyself weeping; for it is said: "A time to laugh and a time to weep; 

p. 28

T.a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing." 1


23:2 Lev. 1516.

23:3 not before. It was ordered only by the Rabbis, not by the Law.

23:4 them. Both the Shma‘ and the meal (vide supra, p. 19).

24:1 Lev. 1516.

24:2 water used for steeping flax. This would presumably be disagreeable in both smell and appearance. The growth of flax had of old, and probably will have in the immediate future, an important place in the commercial life of Palestine. One part of the preparation of the flax was for its stalks to be soaked in a water-hole large enough for them to decay, when the fibres would be more easily separated (Krauss, i. 139 sq.).

24:3 nine qabs. A qab is four logs, or a sixth part of a seah (Krauss, ii. 393 sqq.).

24:4 As their leader in prayer.

24:5 a bath. On the bath, cf. Krauss, i. 217-233.

24:6 forty seahs. A seah was over 213 pints. Observe that the regulation completely excludes a mere sprinkling.

24:7 in any case. For his own sake as well as for that of others.

25:1 before others. He may learn for himself, but may not set it in order before others, for the purpose of discussing it.

25:2 R. Meir. A mishna teacher of the third generation, e. 130-160 A.D. He was pupil first of R. Ishmael and then of R. Aqiba. His edition of the mishna depended on that of R. Aqiba and was the basis of our mishna by R. Judah.

25:3 The fact that R. Meir was in danger at the time is no proof that others who are not in personal danger may say the Shma‘ so low.

25:4 Job 389.

26:1 The object of the whole of this, as of the preceding, section is to forbid any unseemliness of act or thought while engaged in religious devotions.

26:2 quantitatem olivae. It therefore does not apply to a baby.

26:3 for tanning. See Krauss, ii. 261, 627.

26:4 quartarium. Either as regards the whole vessel, or perhaps of a log.

26:5 the legal limits. The word (reshuth) properly means the territory over which the individual, or, in this case, the town, has rights. But here the phrase seems to be used in the narrower sense of the town itself, exclusive of outlying lands belonging to it.

27:1 meet. The same Hebrew word as that translated "recite."

27:2 Amos 412. The recitation of the Shma‘ must always be seemly and decorous.

27:3 and it is needless to say. The Erfurt MS. reads "(not) recitation and Prayer, and he puts off his Tephillin, and it is needless to say that he does not put them on."

27:4 Hillel the Elder. The next Hillel was so very much junior (Patriarch 330-365 A.D.) that the epithet can hardly be given for the purpose of comparison with him. It is rather a title of honour, and of supremacy in learning and wisdom. In the Siphra (Kdoshim III. 7) on Lev. 1932 we find: "R. Jose the Galilean says, Elder (ZaKêN) means nought else than `He who has acquired wisdom' (Zeh shKaNah chokmah), for it is said 'The LORD acquired me (KNani) as the beginning of His way' (Prov. 822). He is, by the bye, never called "Rabbi Hillel," except, as it seems, in C of Aboth II. 5.

28:1 Eccles. 34, 5. Observe that the words quoted are not consecutive. The passage may mean that each duty has its fitting time, and it is ostentatious to allow ourselves to be caught by the time for reciting the Shma‘ when we are not duly prepared for it. So our Lord urges men not to pray standing at the corners of the streets (Matt. 65). Cf. the warning at the end of M. II. 8 (p. 21).

But Bacher (Ag. der Tanis. I. 8) explains the passage as only the development of another saying by Hillel (Aboth II. 5), "Separate not thyself from the community." Then it will mean, Do not be doing things at times when others are doing the opposite. But the former explanation seems to suit the context better.

Next: M. IV. 1; T. III. 1-3. The Three Times of Prayer