Revere the memory of Chananiah ben Chiskiyah, for had it not been for him the Book of Ezekiel would have been suppressed, because of the contradictions it offers to the words of the law. By the help of three hundred bottles of oil, which were brought up into an upper chamber, he prolonged his lucubrations, till he succeeded in reconciling all the discrepancies.
Shabbath, fol. 13, col. 2.
It is related of Johanan, the son of Narbai, that he used to eat three hundred calves, and to drink three hundred bottles of wine, and to consume forty measures of young pigeons by way of dessert. (Rashi says this was because he had to train many priests in his house.)
P'sachim, fol. 57, col. 1.
The keys of the treasury of Korah were so many that it required three hundred white mules to carry them. These, with the locks, were said to be made of white leather.
Ibid., fol. 119, col. 1.
The Midrash repeats the same story, and adds, "His wealth was his ruin." "He is as rich as Korah" is now a Jewish proverb.
Rav Chiya, the son of Adda, was tutor to the children of Resh Lakish, and once absented himself from his duties for three days. On his return he was questioned as to the reason of his conduct, and he gave the following reply: "My father bequeathed to me a vine, trained on high trellis-work as a bower, from which I gathered the first day three hundred bunches, each of which yielded a gerav of wine (a gerav is a measure containing as much as 288 egg shells would contain). On the second day I again gathered three hundred bunches of smaller size, two only producing one gerav (one bunch yielding the quantity of wine 144 egg-shells would contain). The third day I also gathered three hundred bunches, but only three bunches to the gerav, and have yet left more than half of the grapes free for any one to gather them." Thereupon Resh Lakish observed to him, "If thou hadst not been so negligent (losing time in the instruction of my children), it would have yielded still more."
Kethuboth, fol. 111, col. 2.
There were three hundred species of male demons in Sichin, but what the female demon herself was like is known to no one.
Gittin, fol. 68, col. 1.
"Now, when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came each from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildah the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him" (Job ii. 11). What is meant when it is said, "They
had made an appointment together"? Rab. Yehudah says in the name of Rav, "This is to teach that they all came in by one gate." But there is a tradition that each lived three hundred miles away from the other. How then came they to know of Job's sad condition? Some say they had wreaths, others say trees (each representing an absent friend), and when any friend was in distress the one representing him straightway began to wither. Rava said, "Hence the proverb, 'Either a friend as the friends of Job, or death.'"
Bava Bathra, fol. 16, col. 2.
Rashi tenders this explanation, that Job and his friends had each wreaths with their names engraved on them, and if affliction befell any one his name upon the wreath would change color.
Rabbi Yochanan says that Rabbi Meir knew three hundred fables about foxes, but we have only three of them, viz, "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge" (Ezek. xviii. 2); "Just balances and just weights" (Lev. xix. 36); "The righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked cometh in his stead" (Prov. xi. 8).
Sanhedrin, fol. 38, col. 2, and fol. 39, col. 1.
Quite apropos to this we glean the following from Rashi:--A fox once induced a wolf to enter a Jewish dwelling to help the inmates to get ready the Sabbath meal. No sooner did he enter than the whole household set upon him, and so belabored him with cudgels that he was Obliged to flee for his life. For this trick the wolf was indignant at the fox, and sought to kill him, but he pacified him with the remark, "They would not have beaten thee if thy father had not on a former occasion belied confidence, and eaten up the choicest pieces that were set aside for the meal." "What!" rejoined the wolf, "the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and shall the children's teeth be set on edge?" "Well," interrupted the fox, "come with me now and I will show thee a place where thou mayest eat and be satisfied." He thereupon took him to a well, across the top of which rested a transverse axle with a rope coiled round it, to each extremity of which a bucket was attached. The fox, entering the bucket, which happened to be at the top, soon descended by his own weight to the bottom of the well, and thereby raised the other bucket to the top. On the wolf inquiring at the fox why he had gone down there, he replied, because he knew there was meat and cheese to eat and be satisfied, in proof of which he pointed to a cheese, which happened to be the reflection of the moon on the water. Upon which the wolf inquired, "And how am I to get down
beside you?" The fox replied, "By getting into the bucket at the top." He did as directed, and as he descended the bucket with the fox rose to the top. The wolf in this plight again appealed to the fox. "But how am I to get out?" The reply was, "The righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked cometh in his stead;" and is it not written, "Just balances just weights?"
When Rabbi Eliezer, on his deathbed, taught Rabbi Akiva three hundred particulars to be observed in regard to the white spot covered with hair which was the sign of leprosy, the former lifted up his arms and placed them on his chest and exclaimed, "Woe is me, because of these my two arms, these two scrolls of the law, that are about to depart from this world; for if all the seas were ink, and all the reeds were quills, and all the men were scribes, they could not record all I have learned and all I have taught, and how much I have heard at the lips of sages in the schools. And what is more, I also taught three hundred laws based on the text, 'A witch shall not live.'"
Avoth d'Rab. Nathan, chap. 25.
This truly Oriental exaggeration, which Rabbi Eliezer ben Azariah so complacently applies to himself, was spoken also of Rabbi Yochanan before him (Bereshith Rabba); an acrostic poem in the Morning Service for Pentecost adopts the same hyperbole almost word for word, and turns it to very pious account. It is interesting to note how contemporary sacred literature abounds in similar hyperbolic expressions. In John xxi 25 it is said, "There are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written." Cicero, too, speaks of a glory of such a weight that even heaven itself is scarcely able to contain it; and Livy, on one occasion, describes the power of Rome as with difficulty restrained within the limits of the world.
Here it may not be out of place if we introduce a few of the many passages in the Talmud that treat of enchantment and witchcraft, as well as magic, charms, and omens. The list of quotations might be extended to a hundred, but we must confine ourselves to a score or so.