M. He expounded for them this verse: “And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had burned incense to it; it was called Nehushtan” (II Kings 18:4). [Rabbi explained:] Is it possible that Asa came [and ruled] and did not remove it, that Jehoshaphat came and did not remove it? Did not Asa and Jehoshaphat remove every form of idolatry in the world? [7a] But it must be that they left some room for him [Hezekiah] to distinguish himself. In my case also, they left me some room to distinguish myself [with this ruling].
N. Based on this [they taught] that a disciple of the sages that says some [new] matter of law, they do not try to sway him [from his opinion]. And some say, they do not reject him. And some say, they do not consider him haughty [on account of it].
O. The one who holds the view [that the reading is], “They do not try to sway,” bases his view on the verse, “That the breastpiece shall not come loose [i.e., the same root as the word in our text] from the ephod” (Ex. 28:28). And the one who holds the view [that the reading is], “They do not reject,” bases his view on the verse, “For the Lord will not cast off [i.e., the same root as our text] forever” (Lam. 3:31). And the one who holds the view [that the reading is], “They do not consider him haughty,” [bases his view on the following]: As it was taught on Tannaite authority, When the haughty of heart proliferated, disputes proliferated in Israel [cf. b. Sot. 47b].
P. R. Judah the son of R. Simeon b. Pazzi raised this objection: And is there one who holds the view that the Bet Shean region is not part of the Land of Israel? But lo it is written, “Menasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Bet Shean and its villages, or the inhabitants of Taanach and its villages” (Judges 1:27). He [Judah] must have overlooked the teaching of that which R. Simeon b. Eliakim said in the name of R. Eleazar b. Pedat, who said in the name of R. Eleazar b. Shammua, “Many of the towns that were conquered by those who came up [to Israel] from Egypt were not conquered by those who came up from [the exile in] Babylonia.”
Q. And he is of the opinion that the first sanctity [the land received through the original conquest] was a sanctity that lasted for its time only and not for eternity. They left them out [of the later border of the Land] so that the poor might be able to rely on the region [for food] during the Seventh Year [when the Land of Israel must lie fallow].
R. Said R. Jeremiah to R. Zira, “But lo, R. Meir ate just a leaf. [This is a snack and not subject to tithes even in the Land of Israel proper.]” He said to him “He ate from a bunch [which is subject to tithes].” And it was taught in the Mishnah on Tannaite authority: Green vegetables that are [normally] tied in bunches [are subject to tithes] after he ties them in a bunch [M. Ma`as. 1:5 F]. But perhaps he ate thoughtlessly. [This cannot be because we have a rule that] the Holy One, blessed be He, does not cause the beasts of the righteous to stumble [into a situation that is sinful]. How much more [is it logical to assume that God protects from sin] the righteous themselves.
S. But perhaps he separated tithes from them from [produce that was in] another location. [This cannot be because we have a principle that] fellows are not suspected of tithing produce that is not nearby [b. Erub. 30b]. But perhaps he looked at one side [of the leaf and had intention to give that for tithes] and ate from the other side [of the leaf]. He said to him, “Look at how great a man testified concerning this matter. [It is not possible that he erred. Meir ate without tithing.]”
A. What is [the circumstance of the statement of the rule that the Holy One, blessed be He, does not cause] the beasts of the righteous [to stumble into a situation that is sinful]?
B. R. Phineas b. Yair was going to redeem some captives from prison. He came to the river Ginnai. He said to it, “O Ginnai, split your waters for me and I will pass through you.” It said to him, “You are going to do the will of your creator and I am going to do the will of my creator. You may or may not perform your task. I certainly will perform my task.” He said to him, “If you do not split for me, I will issue a decree that no waters ever flow through you.” It split for him.
C. There was a certain man who was carrying wheat for Passover. He [Phineas] said to it, “Split for him as well. For he is engaged in fulfilling a commandment.” It split for him. There was a certain Arab who was accompanying them. He [Phineas] said to it, “Split for him as well so that they should not say, `Look at how they treat a fellow traveller.'” It split for him as well.
D. Said R. Joseph, “How much greater is this man than Moses and sixty myriads [of Israelites who crossed through the sea on dry land]. For them [the sea split] one time. For him [the river split] three times.” But perhaps here too the sea split only once [allowing time for all to pass]. So [say he is as great] as Moses and sixty myriads.
E. He [Phineas] came to a certain inn. They brought out barley for his donkey. It would not eat it. [7b] They sifted it. It would not eat it. They picked through it [to remove any coarse materials]. It would not eat it. He [Phineas] said to him, “Perhaps it was not tithed.” He tithed it and it ate. He said, “This poor [creature] is trying to fulfill the wish of its creator and you are feeding it untithed produce!”
F. And is [an animal] obligated [to eat tithed produce]? Was it not taught in the Mishnah on Tannaite authority: He who purchases (1) [grain from an am ha'ares] for seed or for cattle [fodder], or for (2) flour for [tanning] hides, or (3) oil for a lamp, or (4) oil to rub on utensils, he is free from the obligation [to tithe it on account of the doubt associated with] demai [M. Demai 1:3 A-B].
G. With regard to that teaching it was stated, said R. Yohanan, “They taught this rule only [in an instance] where he bought it to begin with for an animal. But if he bought it to begin with for a person [to eat] and then he decided to give it to an animal, he must separate tithes for it.”
H. And lo it was taught on Tannaite authority: One who bought produce to eat in the marketplace and he decided to feed it to an animal, lo he may not put this before his animal or the animal of his fellow unless he separates tithes from it.
I. When Rabbi heard [that Phineas arrived] he went out to greet him. He said to him, “Do you wish to dine with me?” He said to him, “Yes.” Rabbi's face lit up. He said to him, “Do you think that [I am so independent that] I have sworn off deriving benefit from any Israelite? The people of Israel are holy. [I refuse invitations because] one may wish [to accommodate me] but does not have [the wherewithal]. Another may have the means but does not wish [to accommodate me].” And it is written, “Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; do not desire his delicacies; for he is like one who is inwardly reckoning. `Eat and Drink!' he says to you; but his heart is not with you” (Prov. 23:6-7).
J. “But you wish [to invite me] and you have [the means]. Now I am preoccupied because I am engaged in a religious duty. When I return I will come to dine with you.”
K. When he arrived he happened to come up through a gate near which were standing some white mules. He said, “[This is a sign that] the angel of death is in this one's house [i.e., the owner]. Should I dine there?” Rabbi heard this and came out to greet him. He said to him, “I am selling [the mules].” He said to him, “You shall not put a stumbling block before the blind” (Lev. 19:14). [He said,] “I shall give up my ownership of them.” [He replied], “You will cause danger [to others who may claim them].”[He said], “I will impair them.” [He replied], “You are enjoined from causing pain to living creatures.” “I will kill them.” “You are enjoined from destroying [Deut. 20:19: `You shall not destroy'].”
L. He [Rabbi] was exhorting him persistently [with objections] until a mountain arose between them. Rabbi cried and said, “If such [is the power of the righteous] during their lifetime, after their death how much more [powerful must they be].” For said R. Hama bar Haninah, “Great are the righteous after their death, even more than in their lifetime. As it is written, `And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Elisha; and as soon as the man touched to bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood on his feet' (II Kings 13:21).”
M. R. Pappa said to Abayye, “And perhaps it was just to fulfill the blessing of Elijah. As it is written, `I pray you, let me inherit a double share of your spirit' (II Kings 2:9).” He said to him, “If so what of that taught on Tannaite authority, `He stood up upon his feet, but he did not go to his home'?” In what way then was [Elijah's blessing] fulfilled? In accord with what was said by R. Yohanan, “He healed Naaman's leprosy. For a leper is equated with a dead person [so it is like he brought him back to life]. As it says, `Let her not be as one dead' (Num. 12:12).”
N. Said R. Joshua b. Levi, “Why were they [mules] called yemim? Because fear of them ['mh] is cast upon all creatures.” For said R. Hanina, “In all my days no one who consulted me concerning an injury to him caused by a white mule has lived.” But lo, we can see that some people do recover from it. Say then, “[No one who consulted me concerning an injury to him caused by a white mule] has healed.” But lo, we can see that some people do heal. We say this refers to [a mule] whose legs are white [which is especially ferocious].
O. [Another teaching of R. Hanina:] “There is no other besides him (Deut. 4:35).” Said R. Hanina, “Not even sorcerers [can contend with God].” A certain woman tried to take dust from beneath the feet of R. Hanina [to cast a spell over him to kill him (Rashi).] He said to her, “Take it, for it will not help you at all because, `There is no other besides him' is written.”
P. But lo said R. Yohanan, “Why are they called sorcerers? Because they can counteract the decree of the heavenly assembly. [This involves a play on the word for sorcerers.]” But R. Hanina was an exception. Because he had such great merit [he could resist the harm of the spell].
Q. And said R. Hanina, “A person does not even scratch his finger down on Earth unless it was decreed up in heaven. As it says, `The steps of a man are from the Lord' (Ps. 37:23); `How then can man understand his way?' (Prov. 20:24).”
R. Said R. Eleazar, “The blood of a scratch appeases like the blood of a whole-burnt-offering.” Said Raba, “[Blood from] the thumb of the right hand, the second time it is scratched [atones] if he is going to perform a religious obligation [when he injures it].”
S. They said concerning R. Phineas b. Yair, “In all his life he never broke bread that was not his own and from the time he reached maturity he never again took advantage of his father's dinner table.”