Ta'anit (tractate) - Other Talmudic Literature

Other Talmudic Literature

The Tosefta to this treatise contains much that elucidates and supplements the Mishnah. Especially noteworthy are the account of the origin of the priestly classes (iv. 2), the changes which affected them after the return from the Captivity, and how they were again subdivided (ii. 1).

The two Gemaras contain, in addition to the explanations of individual mishnayot, a wealth of haggadic sayings, as well as many narratives and legends. The following sayings from the Babylonian Gemara may be cited here: "Why is learning compared to a fire? Because, as many chips burn better together than singly, so learning is promoted when it is pursued by many scholars studying in company." "A sage who holds himself aloof from other scholars deteriorates learning." "R. Hanina said he had learned much from his teachers, but more from his colleagues, and most of all from his pupils." "Learning is like water; for as water can not remain in a high place, so learning can not be the possession of a proud and haughty man" (7a). "If a pupil finds study difficult, it is only because he has not systematically arranged the material to be learned" (8a). "If when Israel is visited with affliction a man severs fellowship with his brethren, the two angels who accompany each one come to him, lay their hands upon his head, and say: 'This man would not suffer with his people; therefore he shall not behold them when they are comforted and see days of happiness'" (11a). Among the narratives particular attention should be given to the story of Nicodemus b. Gorion (19b-20a) and to the legend of Onias ha-Me'aggel, who slept for seventy years (23a).

Noteworthy in Talmud Yerushalmi (the Palestinian Gemara, Talmud of the Land of Israel) is the account of the three scrolls of the Law which were in the Temple in Jerusalem and which differed from one another in various passages. Where two of these scrolls agreed as regards a reading, it was accepted as the correct text (iv. 68a).

This Gemara contains also a remarkable saying of R. Abbahu, which is evidently directed against Christianity: "If a man say, 'I am God,' he lieth; and if he say, 'I am the son of man,' he will have to repent; and if he say, 'I shall go up to heaven,' he will not do it, nor achieve what he promises" (ii. 65b). It likewise relates how Bar Kokhba killed Eleazar of Modi'im, whom a Samaritan had falsely accused of treason.

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    Converse with a mind that is grandly simple, and literature looks like word-catching. The simplest utterances are worthiest to be written, yet are they so cheap, and so things of course, that, in the infinite riches of the soul, it is like gathering a few pebbles off the ground, or bottling a little air in a phial, when the whole earth and the whole atmosphere are ours.
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