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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Berakoth
[I infer from our Mishnah] that this is the rule for a dead relative but not for one whom he is merely watching.9 But it has been taught: One who watches a dead [body] even if it is not his dead [relative], is exempt from reciting the Shema' and saying the tefillah and putting on tefillin and all the precepts laid down in the Torah? — [We interpret therefore]: He who watches the dead, even if it is not his dead [relative], [is exempt], and [likewise in the case of] his dead relative, even if he is not watching it, he is [exempt], but if he is walking in the cemetery, he is not. But it has been taught: A man should not walk in a cemetery with tefillin on his head or a scroll of the Law in his arm, and recite the Shema',10 and if he does so, he comes under the heading of 'He that mocketh the poor11 blasphemeth his Maker'?12 — In that case the act is forbidden within four cubits of the dead, but beyond four cubits the obligation [to say Shema' etc.] devolves. For a Master has said: A dead body affects four cubits in respect of the recital of the Shema'. But in this case he is exempt even beyond four cubits.
[To turn to] the above text: One who watches a dead [body], even though it is not his own dead [relative], is exempt from the recital of the Shema' and from saying the tefillah and from putting on tefillin and from all the precepts laid down in the Torah. If there were two [watching], one goes on watching while the other recites, and then the other watches while this one recites. Ben 'Azzai says: If they were bringing it in a ship, they put it in a corner and both say their prayers in another corner. Why this difference? — Rabina said: They differ on the question whether there is any fear of mice13 [on board ship]. One held that there is a fear of mice and the other held that there is no fear of mice.
Our Rabbis taught: A man who is carrying bones from place to place should not put them in a saddle-bag and place them on his ass and sit on them, because this is a disrespectful way of treating them. But if he was afraid of heathens and robbers, it is permitted. And the rule which they laid down for bones applies also to a scroll of the Law. To what does this last statement refer? Shall I say to the first clause?14 This is self-evident: Is a scroll of the Law inferior to bones? — Rather; it refers to the second clause.15
Rehaba said in the name of Rab Judah: Whoever sees a corpse [on the way to burial] and does not accompany it16 comes under the head of 'He that mocketh the poor blasphemeth his Maker'. And if he accompanies it, what is his reward? R. Assi says: To him apply the texts: He that is gracious unto the poor lendeth unto the Lord,17 and he that is gracious unto the needy honoureth Him.18
R. Hiyya and R. Jonathan were once walking about in a cemetery, and the blue fringe of R. Jonathan was trailing on the ground. Said R. Hiyya to him: Lift it up, so that they [the dead] should not say: Tomorrow they are coming to join us and now they are insulting us! He said to him: Do they know so much? Is it not written, But the dead know not anything?19 He replied to him: If you have read once, you have not repeated; if you have repeated, you have not gone over a third time; if you have gone over a third time, you have not had it explained to you. For the living know that they shall die:20 these are the righteous who in their death are called living as it says. And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a living21 man from Kabzeel, who had done mighty deeds, he smote the two altar-hearths of Moab; he went down and also slew a lion in the midst of a pit in the time of snow.22
'The son of a living man': are all other people then the sons of dead men? Rather 'the son of a living man' means that even in his death he was called living. 'From Kabzeel, who had done mighty deeds': this indicates that he gathered [kibbez] numerous workers for the Torah. 'He smote two altar-hearths of Moab'; this indicates that he did not leave his like either in the first Temple or in the second Temple.1 'He went down and also slew a lion in the midst of a pit in the time of snow': some say that this indicates that he broke blocks of ice and went down and bathed;2 others say that he went through the Sifra of the School of Rab3 on a winter's day. 'But the dead know nothing': These are the wicked who in their lifetime are called dead, as it says. And thou, O wicked one, that art slain, the prince of Israel.4 Or if you prefer. I can derive it from here: At the mouth of two witnesses shall the dead be put to death.5 He is still alive! What it means is, he is already counted as dead.
The sons of R. Hiyya went out to cultivate their property,6 and they began to forget their learning.7 They tried very hard to recall it. Said one to the other: Does our father know of our trouble? How should he know, replied the other, seeing that it is written, His sons come to honour and he knoweth it not?8 Said the other to him: But does he not know? Is it not written: But his flesh grieveth for him, and his soul mourneth over him?9 And R. Isaac said [commenting on this]: The worm is as painful to the dead as a needle in the flesh of the living? [He replied]: It is explained that they know their own pain, they do not know the pain of others. Is that so? Has it not been taught: It is related that a certain pious man gave a denar to a poor man on the eve of New Year in a year of drought, and his wife scolded him, and he went and passed the night in the cemetery, and he heard two spirits conversing with one another. Said one to her companion: My dear, come and let us wander about the world and let us hear from behind the curtain10 what suffering is coming on the world.11 Said her companion to her: I am not able, because I am buried in a matting of reeds.12 But do you go, and whatever you hear tell me. So the other went and wandered about and returned. Said her companion to her: My dear, what have you heard from behind the curtain? She replied: I heard that whoever sows after the first rainfall13 will have his crop smitten by hail. So the man went and did not sow till after the second rainfall,14 with the result that everyone else's crop was smitten and his was not smitten.15 The next year he again went and passed the night in the cemetery, and heard the two spirits conversing with one another. Said one to her companion: Come and let us wander about the world and hear from behind the curtain what punishment is coming upon the world. Said the other to her: My dear, did I not tell you that I am not able because I am buried in a matting of reeds? But do you go, and whatever you hear, come and tell me. So the other one went and wandered about the world and returned. She said to her: My dear, what have you heard from behind the curtain? She replied: I heard that whoever sows after the later rain will have his crop smitten with blight. So the man went and sowed after the first rain with the result that everyone else's crop was blighted and his was not blighted.16 Said his wife to him: How is it that last year everyone else's crop was smitten and yours was not smitten, and this year everyone else's crop is blighted and yours is not blighted? So he related to her all his experiences. The story goes that shortly afterwards a quarrel broke out between the wife of that pious man and the mother of the child,17 and the former said to the latter, Come and I will show you your daughter buried in a matting of reeds. The next year the man again went and spent the night in the cemetery and heard those conversing together. One said: My dear, come and let us wander about the world and hear from behind the curtain what suffering is coming upon the world. Said the other: My dear, leave me alone; our conversation has already been heard among the living. This would prove that they know? — Perhaps some other man after his decease went and told them. Come and hear; for Ze'iri deposited some money with his landlady, and while he was away visiting Rab18 she died. So he went after her to the cemetery19 and said to her, Where is my money? She replied to him: Go and take it from under the ground, in the hole of the doorpost, in such and such a place, and tell my mother to send me my comb and my tube of eye-paint by the hand of So-and-so who is coming here tomorrow. Does not this20 show that they know? — Perhaps Dumah21 announces to them beforehand.22 Come and hear: The father of Samuel had some money belonging to orphans deposited with him. When he died, Samuel was not with him, and they called him, 'The son who consumes the money of orphans'. So he went after his father to the cemetery, and said to them [the dead]. I am looking for Abba.23 They said to him: There are many Abbas here. I want Abba b. Abba, he said. They replied: There are also several Abbas b. Abba here. He then said to them: I Want Abba b. Abba the father of Samuel; where is he? They replied: He has gone up to the Academy of the Sky.24 Meanwhile he saw Levi sitting outside.25 He said to him: Why are you sitting outside? Why have you not gone up [to heaven]? He replied: Because they said to me: For as many years as you did not go up to the academy of R. Efes and hurt his feelings,26 we will not let you go up to the Academy of the Sky. Meanwhile his father came. Samuel observed that he was both weeping and laughing. He said to him: Why are you weeping? He replied: Because you are coming here soon. And why are you laughing? Because you are highly esteemed in this world. He thereupon said to him: If I am esteemed, let them take up Levi; and they did take up Levi. He then said to him: Where is the money of the orphans? He replied: Go and you will find it in the case of the millstones. The money at the top and the bottom is mine, that in the middle is the orphans' He said to him: Why did you do like that? He replied: So that if thieves came, they should take mine, and if the earth destroyed any, it should destroy mine. Does not this27 show that they know? — Perhaps Samuel was exceptional: as he was esteemed, they proclaimed beforehand, Make way [for him]!
R. Jonathan also retracted his opinion. For R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Jonathan: Whence do we know that the dead converse with one another? Because it says: And the Lord said unto him: This is the land which I swore unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying.28 What is the meaning of 'saying'?29 The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses: Say to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: The oath which I swore to you I have already carried out for your descendants.
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