HOME CHAT NAB PRAYERS FORUMS COMMUNITY RCIA MAGAZINE CATECHISM LINKS CONTACT
 CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC SAINTS INDEX  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC DICTIONARY  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Home
 
Bible
 
Catechism
 
Chat
 
Catholic Encyclopedia
 
Church Fathers
 
Classics Library
 
Church Documents
 
Discussion
 
Mysticism
 
Prayer
 
Prayer Requests
 
RCIA
 
Vocations
 
Ray of Hope
 
Saints
 
Social Doctrine
 
Links
 
Contact
 







A Day In The Temple by Rev. A.J. Maas S.J.

Samuel’s attention is absorbed by a man of very noble aspect, clear, healthful complexion; bright, black eyes; beard long and flowing, and rich with ointments; apparel well fitting, costly and suitable for the season. He slowly walks across the Priests’ Court, his face turned to the ground, in company of three persons, one at each side, the third behind him. Every one in the court pays the greatest reverence to the party of four, and Samuel’s face clearly shows signs of a suppressed curiosity.

“The anointed of the Lord, my son,” says Zachary, “and the rightful successor of Aaron.”

Samuel’s look becomes more eager and interested than before. Much has he heard of the high priest in power; but he has never seen the representative of Jehovah upon earth.

“Is this Matthiah the son of Theophilus, the high priest?” he inquires in a low whisper.

“Thou sayest it, my son,” replies Zachary; “thou seest before thee the successor of Simeon the son of Boëthus the Alexandrian. The latter was deposed last year from his high priestly dignity, after holding it for about twenty years. Though the change was made by the arbitrary power of Herod, no single priest objected to it; all hated the intruder and the foreigner, raised to the exalted dignity through the lowest motives of passion and court intrigue.”

“Must we not reverence him that sitteth in the chair of Aaron,” rejoins Samuel, “though he be not entirely worthy of his place?”

“Truly,” says Zachary, as if speaking to himself, “the simple believe every report and thus inherit folly. Hear, my son, the story of Simeon’s elevation and fall, that thou mayest not judge thy elders rashly.”

Lowering his tone so as to be heard by Samuel alone, Zachary rehearses the scandal which a little more than twenty years ago had filled Jerusalem and, indeed, the whole Jewish nation with anger and despair.

“Though Simeon himself was a citizen of Jerusalem, his father Boëthus was a citizen of Alexandria, and a priest of great note there. Simeon’s daughter was esteemed the most beautiful woman of her time, and when the people of Jerusalem began to speak much in her praise, Herod was affected with what was said of her. And when he saw the damsel, he was smitten with her beauty. Believing that by abusing her, he should be stigmatized for violence and tyranny, he thought it best to take her to wife. And since Simeon’s dignity was too inferior to be allied to Herod, but still too considerable to be despised, the king governed his inclinations after the most crooked manner. In order to raise the standing of Simeon’s family and make it more honorable, he immediately deprived Jesus the son of Phabes of the high priesthood, and conferred that dignity on Simeon, and then joined in affinity with him by marrying his daughter.”

“How is the gold become dim!” exclaims Samuel; “how is the most pure gold changed! The stones of the sanctuary are poured out at the top of every street. The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter! But how did it come to pass that Herod respected not the creature of his own hand?”

“The high priest’s daughter, the second Mariamne, was accused last year of having been conscious of Antipater’s conspiracy against his father. Herod, therefore, divorced her and blotted the name of her son Herod Philip out of his testament, wherein he had been appointed as Herod’s successor. And he took the high priesthood away from his father-in-law, Simeon the son of Boëthus, and made Matthiah the son of Theophilus, who is born in Jerusalem, high priest in his place.”

“Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us!” sighs Samuel; “behold and see our reproach. Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses unto aliens. We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows”—“But what manner of man is Matthiah?” continues Samuel after a momentary silence; “he does not even wear the phylacteries, and his fringes are hardly noticeable.”

“My son,” replies Zachary, “we are living under the rule of a half-pagan Idumean; it is only his despotic iron hand that prevents an uprising of the fermenting masses. Phylacteries and fringes might exasperate the tyrant, especially since six thousand of the men noted for a display of these signs refused to swear fidelity to Cæsar and Herod. Their fine was, indeed, paid by the wife of Pheroras, Herod’s brother, but a number of them were put to death not more than two years ago. Matthiah observes all the laws of purification scrupulously so far as they do not attract attention, and bring him into the immediate suspicion of Herod. Even on the last Day of Atonement he showed this faithfulness to an admirable degree. During the night, Matthiah seemed in a dream to have conversation with his wife. Though most anxious to officiate on that great occasion, because he had never before done so, and his future chance is very uncertain, he nevertheless refrained from the sacerdotal service on that day, and allowed Joseph the son of Ellemus his kinsman to minister in his place.”

“Would that faithfulness to the law were the girdle of our reins,” rejoined Samuel; “but whither is the high priest going? Is there any special gate in the western wall of the court?”

“During the day,” said Zachary, “Matthiah resides in his rooms near the Wood-Gate in the southwestern corner of the court. At night he stays in his residence on the southern side of Mount Zion.”

Meanwhile Samuel and Zachary have left the Hall of Polished Stones, and passing across the eastern part of the Court of Priests, they proceed towards the Nicanor Gate. To Samuel’s surprise, the priests who have taken part in the offering of the morning sacrifice and its preparation, are busy slaughtering a bullock in precisely the same manner in which they killed the lamb. Besides, there are several of lambs evidently waiting for their turn, and other priests are bringing a cage of pigeons, all to be sacrificed on the altar of burnt-offering.

At the gate itself stands Jochanan the son of Pinchas, surrounded by an eager but devout number of men. Near him stands a huge basket full of seals or counterfoils. A closer examination shows that the seals or checks, as we would call them, are of four kinds, corresponding to the four kinds of meat-offering required by the different sacrifices. Every one receives that counterfoil which answers the sum of money he pays to Jochanan. So soon as the desired check is obtained, the purchaser hands it to Achiah the overseer of the drink-offering. The latter official redeems it by giving in return the due amount of drink-offering. Sacrificial turtle-doves and pigeons are procured in a similar manner from Petachiah the overseer of the birds. The process is, however, not so complicated. Those who wish to offer such sacrifices drop the money requisite into one of the ordinary money-boxes in the treasury, whereupon Petachiah purchases the requisite sacrifices so soon as possible.

“Is it not written,” remarks Samuel, “the one lamb shalt thou offer in the morning and the other lamb shalt thou offer at even? Why then are the priests still offering those numerous sacrifices which we see before us?

“Besides the eleven public sacrifices prescribed by the law, my son, there are a number of private offerings either legally prescribed or left to the good will and generosity of the faithful. Some of these are burnt-offerings, others again sin and trespass-offerings, others meat-offerings, others again peace-offerings. Even the Gentiles are permitted to offer victims as holocausts, and to bring the accompanying meat and drink-offering, while the sacrifices that are obligatory, such as sin and trespass-offerings, and those succeeding issues and childbirth, cannot be offered by Gentiles.”

“Do we sacrifice the abomination of the nations to the Lord our God?” inquired Samuel. “May we not say with Moses: Lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?”

“Another passage of the law, my son, speaks even more explicitly than that to which thou referrest. ‘Neither from the hand of a foreigner,’ the law says, ‘shall you offer the bread of your God of any of these; because the corruption is in them, there is a blemish in them; they shall not be accepted for you.’ Still our Doctors have seen in this very text a reason for accepting the offerings of the Gentiles. The words ‘any of these,’ refer according to them to blemished animals; and since God has forbidden, they say, to accept blemished victims from the hand of foreigners, he grants the permission to accept from them animals that are fit to be offered on the altar.”

“Is not this one of the lax interpretations put upon the law in the school of Hillel?” asked Samuel.

“Where Hillel is named, my son, there should be reverence upon the lips of the speaker. Besides, this explanation of the law is not new; Alexander the Great thus sacrificed in the Temple; Ptolemy III. offered sacrifices in the same manner; Antiochus VII., though at open feud with our nation and in the very act of besieging our Holy City, on the Feast of Tabernacles sent sacrifices to the Temple with the view of disposing Jehovah in his favor. When Marcus Agrippa visited our city, about ten years ago, he presented a hecatomb to be offered to the Lord, and the very offerings which are now immolated, are sacrifices for Augustus. For he has ordained that in all time coming two lambs and a bullock must be offered every day at his expense in behalf of Caesar and the Roman people.”

“Are then all the offerings which are now about to be presented to the Lord, gifts of the heathen and the Gentiles?” inquired Samuel.

“How canst thou ask such a question, seeing those women at the Gate of Nicanor, putting into the hand of the officiating priest the offerings for their purification and mingling their prayers and thanksgivings with the sacrificial service? now they are sprinkled with the sacrificial blood, and declared to be cleansed. The young mothers who linger at the uppermost step even after their purification is complete, wait to redeem their firstborn at the hand of the priest with five shekels of silver, and to have the two corresponding benedictions read over them, one for the happy event which has enriched the family with a firstborn, the other for the law of redemption.”

For Samuel and Zachary this ceremony had not yet all the pious associations it has for us in these latter days. St. Luke’s story of Mary’s purification is yet to be accomplished: “And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were fulfilled, they brought him up to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord, and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Now, another sight absorbs Samuel’s attention. Often has he heard and read of the ceremonial for the cleansing of a leper, but now, for the first time, he sees the rite put in practice. Two priests enter by the Gate of Nicanor, the one carrying a vessel filled with sacrificial blood, the other holding part of the blood in the hollow of his hand. They come from the Chamber of Lepers in the Women’s Court, where the healed leper has slain his trespass-offering, after laying his hands upon it. The blood has been caught up by the two priests as it welled forth from the victim’s deadly wound. The priest who carries the vessel goes up to the altar, and pours the blood at its side. The second priest stands in the great court near the Gate of Nicanor, and awaits the arrival of the healed person who is bathing in the Lepers’ Chamber. He now ascends the fifteen steps, and stands in the Gate, being not yet allowed to proceed any further. Bending his body, he thrusts his head into the great court, and the priest puts of the blood on the tip of his ear. Then the leper stretches his hand into the court, whereupon the priest anoints his thumb with the blood. In the third place, he thrusts his foot into the court, and the priest anoints the great toe with the sacrificial blood. After this, the priest takes the sacrificial log of oil and pours some of it into the hand of his colleague; then dipping his fingers into the oil, he sprinkles it seven times toward the Holy of Holies, dipping each time he sprinkles. Now he approaches the healed leper and on the spot where he has put the blood, he puts the oil, as it is written: “Upon the blood of the trespass offering.” The remnant of the oil in the priest’s hand, is poured upon the head of the leper for an atonement, and as soon as he pours it, the leper is atoned for.

“Do not lepers often lose their fingers and toes during the course of their infirmity?” inquires Samuel. “And if they do, how can they be cleansed?”

“In that case,” answers Zachary, “the leper cannot ever be cleansed according to the view of Rabbi Jehudah. But Rabbi Eliezer is of opinion that the spots where the fingers and toes have been, must be anointed. Rabbi Simeon says: If the oil and blood be applied on the corresponding left side of the leper’s body, it sufficeth. But all this will be fully explained in the Beth-ha-Midrash by Judas and Matthiah. They will also teach thee the ceremonial to be observed in offering the leper’s sin and burnt-offering and the whole ritual accompanying the first stage of his cleansing.”

Without delaying at the Gate of Nicanor, Zachary and Samuel join Matthiah who is about to go to the Beth-ha-Midrash where Judas is already surrounded by his numerous pupils. Passing across the Court of Women, they go through the Beautiful Gate, and then direct their steps to the Royal Porch. On the way, they speak about the multitude of sacrifices that are daily offered after the morning oblation has been brought. The time between the morning and evening service sometimes hardly suffices to perform the necessary work. Meanwhile, they approach the crowd of men and youths assembled in the Royal Porch to hear the wisdom of Judas and Matthiah.

“How do the masters teach?” Maimonides asks in one of his numerous treaties.

“The Doctor sits at the head, and the disciples around him in a crown, that all may see the Doctor and hear his words. Nor is the Doctor seated on a seat, and the disciples on the ground, but all are on seats, or all on the floor.”

Though a passage in the Talmud has it that “from the days of Moses to Rabban Gamaliel they stood up to learn the Law; but when Rabban Gamaliel died, sickness came into the world, and they sat down to learn the Law,” it is not easy to reconcile this sentence with other authorities on the same subject. “To sit at the feet of a teacher,” was a proverbial expression among Zachary’s contemporaries, as when Mary is said to have sat at the feet of Jesus, and St. Paul is placed at the feet of Gamaliel.

It is also a received maxim among the Jews, “place thyself in the dust at the feet of the wise.” Philo has it that the children of the Essenes sat at the feet of the masters who interpreted the Law and explained its figurative sense. Even St. Ambrose, in his commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, maintains that “it is the tradition of the synagogue that they sit while they dispute, the elders in dignity on high chairs, those beneath them on low seats, and the last of all on mats upon the pavement.”

The assembly in the Royal Porch surely surpasses in the venerable aspect of its members and their Rabbinic learning any other gathering on the face of the earth. Many of the men are advanced in years; immense beards cover their faces; their prominent noses are strikingly offset by their large black eyes, deeply shaded by bold brows; their demeanor is grave and dignified, even patriarchal.

Though Judas is seated in the place of the teacher, all present evidently pay the greatest reverence to a figure now shrunken and stooped almost to ghastliness. The folds of the white robe dropping from his shoulders indicate nothing but an angular skeleton. His head forms a splendid dome, the base of which is fringed by a few hairs, whiter than fine-drawn silver. His bald skull shines in the light with brilliancy; his temples are hollow, his eyes wan and dim, his nose pinched, his lower face muffled in a beard flowing and venerable like Aaron’s. His hands are concealed in sleeves of striped silk and clasped upon his knees.

This is Hillel, the leader of the school opposed to that of Shammai. Forty years he has studied the Law, forty years he has taught the Law, and nearly forty years has he been the head of the college of scribes. Born of an exiled family in Babylon, which, despite its poverty, can trace its pedigree back to King David, he came with his brother Shebna to Jerusalem, in order to satisfy his thirst for knowledge in the capital of Jewish culture. He worked as a day-laborer, earning a tropaikon a day. One half of this meager earning, equivalent to half a denarius, had to suffice for the maintenance of his family, the other half he paid to the superintendent of the Beth-ha-Midarsh, the institution over which Shemaya and Abtalion presided. One day, having found no work, the superintendent refused him admission. But favored by darkness, Hillel climbed up to the window that had been opened through the wall, where he could hear and see all. The cold and ceaseless December snow—it was in the month of Tebeth—soon overpowered him; when the auroral column had risen, Shemaya said to Abtalion: “Dear Brother Abtalion, the hall is at other times well lighted by day; but to-day it is so dark—it must be cloudy.” Looking up, they discovered a human form in the window, and ascending, they actually found Hillel buried in the snow. Though it was the Sabbath-day, he was extricated, bathed and rubbed with oil and brought near the fire-side, for it was remarked: “He is worthy that on his account we desecrate the Sabbath-day.”

The character of Hillel’s doctrine is perhaps best described by contrasting it with that of Shammai, his illustrious and bitter opponent. In matters of legal casuistry the latter was a probabiliorist, while Hillel would be called a probabilist in to-day’s terminology. Far reaching as this difference between the two great leaders may be, it does not touch Hillel’s fundamental principles. Shammai spent the whole week meditating how he should spend the coming Sabbath so as to faithfully observe all the details of the law. The ceremonial enactments seemed to him more important than the moral precepts. A foreigner once appeared before him with the words: “Make a proselyte of me, but teach me the entire Law while I stand upon one leg.” Shammai became angry and lifting the rod in his hand, he drove the intruder from his presence. The applicant addressed himself to Hillel with the same demand and the same condition. “Whatsoever you do not like yourself,” said Hillel, “that abstain from doing to your neighbor—this is the entire Law, and all the rest is comment. Go thou and learn this!” Hillel’s mind was, therefore, not merely more adapted to the practical necessities of life, but was also gifted with a power of analysis and an intellectual perspective that would have done credit to a pupil of Aristotle.

Near by Hillel sits his son Simeon, by a number of authors identified with the Simeon of whom St. Luke speaks: “And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Ghost was in him. And he had received an answer from the Holy Ghost that he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.”

There is also Hillel’s grandson Gamaliel: we can imagine him saying with all the youthful pride of a successful Pharisee, in the language of the Book of Wisdom: “I shall have estimation among the multitude and honor with the elders, though I be young. I shall be found of a quick conceit in judgment, and shall be admired in the sight of great men. When I hold my tongue, they shall bide my leisure; and when I speak, they shall give ear unto me.” It will be at his feet that Saul shall “make progress in the Jews’ religion above many of his contemporaries in his own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of his fathers.” The same Gamaliel will advise the Sanhedrin concerning the Apostles: “Refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to naught; but if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it, lest perhaps you be found to fight against God.”

But above all, there are Judas and Matthiah, the present leaders of the Beth-ha-Midrash. Samuel is presented to them as a new pupil, and Judas addresses him with the words of Jesus the son of Sirach: “The wise man will seek out the wisdom of all the ancients, and will be occupied in the prophets. He will keep the sayings of renowned men, and will enter withal into the subtilties of parables. He will search out the hidden meanings of proverbs, and will be conversant in the secrets of parables. He shall serve among great men, and appear before the governor. He shall pass into strange countries; for he shall try good and evil among men.”

“Surely, Brother,” here interrupts Matthiah, “thou art rather describing the fate of Samuel’s father Ananiah, than predicting the course of our pupil and son. Ananiah truly hath appeared before governors, and passed into strange countries, and tried good and evil, and served among great men, after Josiah was put to death by the intrigues of Herod, because he preferred the love of the law to the service of the Idumean.” And then addressing Samuel he added: “Even a fool, if he hold his peace, shall be counted wise; and if he close his lips, a man of understanding. Show us, my son, thy wisdom by the words of thy mouth.”

“It ill becometh the young to speak in the assembly of the elders,” replies Samuel. “All my wisdom is the wisdom of the foolish, which shows itself in many questions—Is it not written: Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of anything that is in the heaven above or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth? And still, I even now see a great golden eagle, fastened yonder over the principal entrance to Jehovah’s Temple.”

A sudden clap of thunder could have produced no more striking effect than is produced by Samuel’s words. All the youths who are noted for their zeal of the Law, closely gather around Judas the son of Saripheus, and Matthiah the son of Margalothus. The more elderly men and those more inclined to leniency, draw close to the tripod of Hillel and his sons.

Judas, transported by the zeal of God’s honor, begins to rouse the spirit of his audience as with so many darts of fire. “God’s anger,” he says, “is visibly shown by Herod’s loathsome infirmity and the affliction that is even now reigning in his family. The love of the Law is better than the pleasures of life. Death cannot be avoided by any one born of woman. Wherefore should the sons of Moses sit vainly in the dark through a dull and nameless age, and without lot in noble deeds? The strife must be dared, and Jehovah will give the desired issue. Great danger alloweth not of cowardice. What can show greater virtue and bring more undying glory than the love of the Law. But the love of the Law undoes what it done against the Law, pulls down what is put up against the Law, destroys what is made contrary to the Law. Let then every son of Abraham and every disciple of Moses bestir himself to do away with the Roman abomination.”

Hundreds of pupils who had hung upon the lips of Judas are about to break forth in youthful rashness to the Temple gate, each of them eager to be the first on the field of destruction. But the sound of the last words is still ringing in the Temple courts, when the voice of Hillel, feeble but high and piercing, arrests the excited multitude.

“The way of the fool is right in his own eyes,” he says, “but he that is wise hearkeneth to counsels. A fool immediately showeth his anger, but he that dissembleth injuries, is wise. Is not God about to take Herod out of this life? why endanger our lives and jeopardize the welfare of our nation for the sake of a dead dog? the fire of God’s judgment glows within the tyrant’s bowels, and the water of vengeance encompasses his feet and his belly round about. The air refuses service in his breathing and is rotten within his nostrils, and the earth supplies only corruption for the support of his members. A little patient endurance will bring about what a hasty recourse to force will prevent for ever.”

A number of Judas’s followers prepare a dreadful attack on Hillel’s adherents, but this unnerves even Judas and Matthiah. Their hatred of Herod and his gentile practices is great, but their love and reverence for the Patriarch Rabbi of Jerusalem is greater. The infuriated mob is soon pacified by the joined efforts of Matthiah and Judas, while most of Hillel’s followers leave the Royal Porch for the Hall of Polished Stones where the Sanhedrin is about to hold its meeting.

The special disciples and followers of Hillel number eighty. Thirty of these are worthy to receive the Divine Spirit in the fulness of Moses; thirty are worthy to stop the sun like Joshua; twenty are middling. The greatest of all is Jonothan ben Uzziel, the least is Rabban Jochanan ben Zaccai. But even Jochanan has not forgotten a single text of the Scriptures, the Mishna, the Gemara, the Halachah, the Haggadah, nothing of tradition, of the comparisons, the illustrations and of whatever else belongs to Hillel’s teaching. If this is true of the least, what must we expect of the greatest? When Jonathan ben Uzziel studied the Law, every bird of heaven that happened to fly over the place where he sat, was burnt to ashes. Even the angels gathered about him to hear his explanations of the Law.

Well had it been for the presidents of the Beth-ha-Midrash, had Hillel lived long enough to prevent another disturbance, occasioned by the disciples of Judas and Matthiah not a year after the period of which we now speak. A false report of Herod’s death had been spread through the city and the Temple; so, in the middle of the day, the two Rabbis with their disciples pulled down the golden eagle and cut it into pieces with axes, while a great many people were in the Temple.

The king’s captain, supposing there was question of open rebellion, came into the court with a band of soldiers, and fell upon the insurgents unexpectedly. No fewer than forty of the young men who had the courage to stay behind when the rest ran away, together with the authors of this bold attempt, Judas and Matthiah who thought it an ignominious thing to retire under such circumstances, were taken prisoners and led to the king. Being questioned about the destruction of the eagle, they boldly confessed: “What was contrived, we contrived, and what hath been performed, we performed it. We will undergo death, and all sorts of punishments which thou canst inflict upon us, with pleasure, since we are conscious that we die for our love to religion.” Upon this, Herod deprived Matthiah the high priest of his office, since under his reign the disturbance had taken place, and the Rabbis Matthiah and Judas together with the forty youths he burnt alive.

So soon as Hillel’s party leaves the porch, Judas and Matthiah begin to reorganize their demoralized pupils, and the question of the day is begun. Matthiah cannot attend long; for being a member of the Sanhedrin, he must be present at the ensuing meeting which is of supreme importance on account of the matter under consideration. Judas and a number of his disciples first recite the thirty-nine kinds of labor forbidden on the Sabbath day. Then the twenty-first of these works that of “making a knot,” is discussed at full length. The preceding works have been considered on former occasions.

“Are there not many kinds of knots?” one of the more advanced disciples ventures to ask. “And are all knots without distinction forbidden on the Sabbath?”

“Thy question is too general,” replies Judas. “Tell us plainly concerning which knot thou doubtest as to the guilt on the Sabbath day.”

“Is guilt incurred by reason of a knot which can be untied with one hand?” the disciple continues.

“Guilt is not incurred by reason of a knot that can be untied with one hand,” replies Judas; “because what is valid for the untying is valid for the tying. One hand incurs no guilt in the untying. Hence such a knot does not render guilty in the tying.”

“Rabbi,” says another disciple, “canst thou tell us which knots render one certainly guilty on the Sabbath day?”

“The knot of camel-drivers and that of sailors,” answers Judas, “render one surely guilty on the Sabbath day; and as one is guilty by reason of tying, so also of untying them.”

“Is it true, Rabbi,” inquires a third one, “that a woman may on the Sabbath day tie up a slit in her shift?”

“A woman,” replies Judas, “may not only tie the slit in her shift, but also the strings of her cap, those of her girdle, and the straps of her shoes and sandals.”

“Suppose, Rabbi,” says another disciple, “the skins of oil and wine open on the Sabbath day; what is one permitted to do?”

“An important question that, an important question,” replies Judas. “We may tie on the Sabbath day the straps of wine and oil skins, as well as those of a pot with meat.”

“Is any one free who ties on the Sabbath day a knot of the girdle?” is the anxious question of another disciple.

“He who ties a knot of the girdle on the Sabbath day, is free,” replies Judas. “He who ties a pail over the well with the girdle on the Sabbath day, is free. He who ties a pail over the well with a rope on the Sabbath day, is guilty.”

In a similar manner, all the other prohibited works are gone through and commented upon. He who extinguishes a light, because he is afraid of heathen, robbers, or the evil spirit, or for the sake of one sick, that he may sleep, is free. But if he does it to save the oil, the wick or the lamp, he is guilty. He who carries so much food as is equal in weight to a dry fig, or so much wine as is enough to mix in a goblet, or milk enough for one swallow, honey enough to put upon a wound, oil enough to anoint a small member, water enough to moisten one eye-salve, paper enough to write a custom-house notice upon, parchment enough to write the shortest portion of the Tephillin, ink enough to write two letters, reed enough to make a pen of, garments that do not properly belong to clothing, such as a coat of mail, a helmet or a sword, is guilty in all these instances. The question whether a cripple may go out with his wooden leg on the Sabbath, cannot be clearly solved. Some Rabbis are of the one, others of the opposite opinion.

Without following the interesting discussion concerning the burden-bearing on a Sabbath day, in case a fire should break out, we must accompany Matthiah, Zachary and Samuel to the Hall of Polished Stones. To-day, the Sanhedrin will pronounce judgment on the legal pedigree of a number of priests’ sons, and on their fitness for the Temple service. Samuel expresses his surprise at the heated manner in which Hillel repressed the movement of the zealots. He infers that in his youthful days, Hillel must have been of an extremely passionate nature. Though Matthiah has, in the present case, been the apparent sufferer, he is fair enough to correct Samuel’s inference. He even relates an anecdote which shows Hillel’s character to be of quite the contrary nature.

A man in a public place at Jerusalem offered four hundred sus to him that should move Hillel to real anger. “I’ll take you up,” cried another. As it was Friday afternoon, Hillel was just engaged in washing and combing for the morrow. Without addressing him by his proper title, his tempter at the doorscreamed out, “Is Hillel here?”

Throwing his mantle about him, the latter hastened to the door and said: “My son, what can I do for you?”

“I have a question for you,” said the tempter.

“Let us hear it, my son,” replies Hillel.

“Why have the Babylonians such ugly, ball-shaped heads?” asks the former.

“An important question this, my son,” rejoins Hillel; “this comes from the lack of sensible midwives.”

The stranger turned his back, and left for an hour. Coming back, he cries out as before: “Is Hillel here, is Hillel here?”

Wrapped in his mantle, the latter appears again at the door with the good-natured words: “My son, what can I do for you?”

“Why,” asks the former, “have the Thermudians such small almond-shaped eyes?”

“An important question this, my son,” says Hillel. “Because they inhabit broad sandy steppes.”

The tempter renews his noise at the door after another hour, and Hillel comes a third time to the door, clad in his mantle.

“What is it, my son?” he asks with a smile.

“Why,” asks the fellow, “have the Africans such broad flat feet?”

“An important question this, my son,” replies Hillel; “it is because the Africans live in marshy countries.”

The stranger rejoins: “I have many more questions, but I fear to provoke you.”

Hillel drawing his mantle close about him, sits down by the tempter’s side, and asks him to continue his questions.

“So you are that Hillel whom people call the prince of Israel?”

“Yes, my son,” is the Rabbi’s modest reply.

“Well, if you are, I hope there are very few like you.”

“Why, my son,” asks Hillel.

“Because I have lost four hundred sus on your account.”

“Not so hasty, my son,” replies Hillel; “it is better that you lose four hundred and again four hundred sus, than that Hillel lose his patience.”








Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com