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Avodah Zarah, Daf Yod Zayin, Part 5
Reading for Thursday, October 12

Avodah Zarah 17-5



The story of the arrest of these two rabbis continues.


אתיוהו לרבי אלעזר בן פרטא. אמרו מ”ט תנית ומ”ט גנבת? אמר להו אי סייפא לא ספרא ואי ספרא לא סייפא ומדהא ליתא הא נמי ליתא

ומ”ט קרו לך רבי

רבן של תרסיים אני


When they brought up R. Elazar b. Perata [for his trial] they asked him, “Why have you been studying [the Torah] and why have you been stealing?”

He answered, “If one is a scribe, one is not a robber, if a robber, one cannot be a scribe, and as I am not the one I am neither the other.”

“Why then are you titled Master”?  

“I am a Master of Weavers.”


Elazar is accused of being a robber and of being a rabbi. He points out that this is a contradiction in terms. One cannot be both. But they insist—you are called “Master.” He explains that he is not a “rabbi”—a teacher of Torah. He is only a master of weavers. As we shall see, he is not telling the truth. Again we see a rabbi try to “trick” his way out of martyrdom.


אייתו ליה תרי קיבורי. אמרו ליה הי דשתיא והי דערבא? איתרחיש ליה ניסא אתיא זיבוריתא אותיבא על דשתיא ואתאי זיבורא ויתיב על דערבא. אמר להו האי דשתיא והאי דערבא.


Then they brought him two coils [of spun wool] and asked, “Which is for the warp and which for the woof?” A miracle occurred and a female-bee came and sat on the warp and a male-bee came and sat on the woof. He said to them, “This is of the warp and that of the woof.”


Miraculously, R. Elazar, who is not really a weaver, is taught by some bees how to identify which is the warp and which is the woof. The warp is the passive part that sits on the loom, as a female is receptive of the male in the sexual act. I suppose one can tell male and female wasps apart?


א”ל ומ”ט לא אתית לבי אבידן? אמר להו זקן הייתי ומתיירא אני שמא תרמסוני ברגליכם

[אמרו] ועד האידנא כמה סבי איתרמוס? אתרחיש ניסא ההוא יומא אירמס חד סבא.


Then they asked him, “Why did you not go to the House of Aveidan?”  

He replied, ‘I am old and I am afraid you will trample me under your feet.”

“And how many old people have been trampled till now?”

A miracle happened–on that very day an old man was trampled.  


The House of Aveidan seems to be some place of religious disputation, more reflective of Babylonian than Palestinian reality. The authorities ask R. Elazar why he did not go there. As we have seen elsewhere, the rabbi makes an excuse and again a miracle occurs to bolster his excuse.


ומ”ט קא שבקת עבדך לחירות? אמר להו לא היו דברים מעולם

קם חד [מינייהו] לאסהודי ביה. אתא אליהו אידמי ליה כחד מחשובי דמלכותא. א”ל מדאתרחיש ליה ניסא בכולהו בהא נמי אתרחיש ליה ניסא וההוא גברא בישותיה הוא דקא אחוי ולא אשגח ביה

קם למימר להו. הוה כתיבא איגרתא דהוה כתיב מחשיבי דמלכות לשדורי לבי קיסר ושדרוה על ידיה דההוא גברא

אתא אליהו פתקיה ארבע מאה פרסי אזל ולא אתא


 “And why did you let your slave go free?”  He replied, “No such thing ever happened.”

One of them rose to testify against him. Elijah came, appearing as one of the dignitaries of Rome. He said to that man, “Since a miracle was worked for him in all the other matters, a miracle will also happen in this one, and you will only come out looking bad.” He, however, disregarded him. He stood up to tell them [that R. Elazar had freed his slave]. There was a written communication from important members of the government that had to be sent to the Emperor and they sent it by that man. [On the road] Elijah came and hurled him a distance of four hundred parasangs. So that he went and did not return.


According to this story, the authorities forbade slave owners from freeing their slaves. Perhaps they feared that this would lead to a revolt. R. Elazar, evidently did free his slave, but now denies it. Elijah appears to warn the man who wants to testify against R. Elazar that this will be to no avail. The man ignores Elijah, but again, a miracle occurs and R. Elazar is saved.