It is related by the Rabbis that Rabbon Yochanan ben Zacchai was once riding out of Jerusalem accompanied by his disciples, when he saw a young woman picking barley out of the dung on the road. On his asking her name, she told him that she was the daughter of Nikodemon ben Gorion. "What has become of thy father's riches?" said he, "and what has become of thy dowry?" "Dost thou not remember," said she, "that charity is the salt of riches?" (Her father had not been noted for this virtue.) "Dost thou not remember signing my marriage contract?"
said the woman. "Yes," said the Rabbi, "I well remember it. It stipulated for a million gold denarii from thy father, besides the allowance from thy husband," etc.
Kethuboth, fol. 66, col. 2.
Abba Benjamin says, 'If our eye were permitted to see the malignant sprites that beset its, we could not rest on account of them." Abaii has said, "They out-number us, they surround us as the earthed-up soil on our garden-beds." Rav Hunna says, "Every one has a thousand at his left side and ten thousand at his right" (Ps. xci. 7). Rava adds, "The crowding at the schools is caused by their pushing in; they cause the weariness which the Rabbis experience in their knees, and even tear their clothes by hustling against them. If one would discover traces of their presence, let him sift some ashes upon the floor at his bedside, and next morning he will see, as it were, the footmarks of fowls on the surface. But if one would see the demons themselves, he must bum to ashes the after-birth of a first-born black kitten, the offspring of a firstborn black cat, and then put a little of the ashes into his eyes, and he will not fail to see them," etc., etc.
Berachoth, fol. 6, col. 1.
In each camp there are suspended three hundred and sixty-five myriads of stars, etc.
Agrippa, being anxious to ascertain the number of the male population of Israel, instructed the priest to take accurate note of the Paschal lambs. On taking account of the kidneys, it was found that there were sixty myriad couples (which indicated) double the number of those that came up out of Egypt, not reckoning those that were ceremonially unclean and those that were out traveling. There was not a Paschal lamb in which less than ten had a share, so that the number represented over six hundred myriads of men.
P'sachim, fol. 64, col. 2.
"It is unlawful to enumerate Israel even with a view to a meritorious deed" (Yoma, fol. 22, col. 2). From Rashi's comment on the former text it seems that the priest merely held up the duplicate kidneys, upon which the king's agent regularly laid aside a pea or a pebble into a small heap, which were afterwards counted up. See also Josephus, Book VI. chap. ix. sec. 3.
It might not be amiss to remind the reader in passing that if one were to reckon one hundred per minute for ten hours a day, it would take no less than sixteen days six hours forty minutes to count a million; and that it would take twenty men, reckoning at the same rate, to sum up the total number stated in the text in one day, so as to ascertain that there were 1,200,000 sacrifices at the Passover under notice, representing no less than 12,000,000 celebrants.
At the time when Israel in their eagerness first said, "We will do," and then, "We will hear" (Exod. xxix. 7), there came sixty myriads of ministering angels to crown each Israelite with two crowns, one for "we will do" and one for "we will hear." But when after this Israel sinned, there came down a hundred and twenty myriads of destroying angels and took the crowns away from them, as it is said (Exod. xxxiii. 6), "And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by Mount Horeb." Resh Lakish says, "The Holy One--blessed be He!--will, in the future, return them to us; for it is said (Isa. xxxv. 10), 'The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads,' i. e., the joy they had in days of yore, upon their heads,"
Shabbath, fol. 88, col. 1.
Let no one venture out alone at night-time on Wednesdays and Saturdays, for Agrath, the daughter of Machloth, roams about accompanied by eighteen myriads of evil genii, each one of which has power to destroy.
P'sachim, fol. 112, col. 2.
It is related of Rabbi Elazar ben Charsom that his mother made him a shirt which cost two myriads of manahs, but his fellow-priests would not allow him to wear it, because he appeared in it as though he were naked.
Yoma, fol. 35, col. 2.
He who has not seen the double gallery of the Synagogue in Alexandria of Egypt, has not seen the glory of Israel. . . . There were seventy-one seats arranged in it according to the number of the seventy-one members of the greater Sanhedrin, each seat of no less value than twenty-one myriads of golden talents. A wooden pulpit was in the centre, upon which stood the reader holding a Sudarium (a kind of flag) in his hand, which he waved when
the vast congregation were required to say Amen at the end of any benediction, which, of course, it was impossible for all to hear in so stupendous a synagogue. The congregation did not sit promiscuously, but in guilds; goldsmiths apart, silversmiths apart, blacksmiths, coppersmiths, embroiderers, weavers, etc., all apart from each other. When a poor craftsman came in, he took his seat among the people of his guild, who maintained him till he found employment. Abaii says all this immense population was massacred by Alexander of Macedon. Why were they thus punished? Because they transgressed the Scripture, which says (Deut. xvii. 16), "We shall henceforth return no more that way."
Succah, fol. 51, col. 2.
The Rabbis teach that during a prosperous year in the land of Israel, a place sown with a measure of seed produces five myriad cors (a cor being equal to thirty measures).
Kethuboth, fol. 112, col. 1.
Rav Ulla was once asked, "To what extent is one bound to honor his father and mother?' To which be replied, "See what a Gentile of Askelon once did, Dammah ben Nethina by name. The sages one day required goods to the value of sixty myriads, for which they were ready to pay the price, but the key of the store-room happened to be under the pillow of his father, who was fast asleep, and Dammah would not disturb him." Rabbi Eliezer was once asked the same question, and he gave the same answer, adding an interesting fact to the illustration: "The sages were seeking after precious stones for the high priest's breastplate, to the value of some sixty or eighty myriads of golden denarii, but the key of the jewel-chest happened to be under the pillow of his father, who was asleep at the time, and he would not wake him. In the following year, however, the Holy One--blessed be He!--rewarded him with the birth of a red heifer among his herds, for which the sages readily paid him such a sum as compensated him fully for the loss he sustained in honoring his parent."
Kiddushin, fol. 31, col. 1.
"The Lord hath swallowed up all the habitations of Jacob" (Lam. ii. 2). Ravin came to Babylon and said in the
name of Rabbi Yochanan, "These are the sixty myriads of cities which King Yannai (Jannæus) possessed on the royal mount. The population of each equalled the number that went up out of Egypt, except that of three cities in which that number was doubled. And these three cities were Caphar Bish (literally, the village of evil), so called because there was no hospice for the reception of strangers therein; Caphar Shichlaiim (village of water-cresses), so called because it was chiefly on that herb that the people subsisted; Caphar Dichraya (the village of male children), so called, says Rabbi Yochanan, because its women first gave birth to boys, and afterward to girls, and then left off bearing." Ulla said, "I have seen that place, and am sure that it could not hold sixty myriads of sticks." A Sadducee upon this said to Rabbi Chanina, "Ye do not speak the truth." The response was, "It is written (Jer. iii. 19), 'The inheritance of a deer,' as the skin of a deer, unoccupied by the body of the animal, shrinks, so also the land of Israel, unoccupied by its rightful owners, became contracted."
Gittin, fol. 57, col. 1.
Rabbi Yoshua, the son of Korcha, relates: "An aged inhabitant of Jerusalem once told me that in this valley two hundred and eleven thousand myriads were massacred by Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, and in Jerusalem itself he slaughtered upon one stone ninety-four myriads, so that the blood flowed till it touched the blood of Zachariah, that it might be fulfilled which is said (Hos. ii. 4), 'And blood toucheth blood.' When he saw the blood of Zachariah, and noticed that it was boiling and agitated, he asked, 'What is this?' and he was told that it was the spilled blood of the sacrifices. Then he ordered blood from the sacrifices to be brought and compared it with the blood of the murdered prophet, when, finding the one unlike the other, he said, 'If ye tell me the truth, well and good; if not, I will comb your flesh with iron currycombs!' Upon this they confessed, 'He was a prophet, and because he rebuked us on matters of religion, we arose and killed him, and it is now some years since his blood has been in the restless condition in which thou seest it.' 'Well,' said he, 'I will pacify him.' He then brought the greater and lesser Sanhedrin
and slaughtered them, but the blood of the prophet did not rest. He next slaughtered young men and maidens, but the blood continued restless as before. He finally brought school-children and slaughtered them, but the blood being still unpacified, he exclaimed, 'Zachariah! Zachariah! I have for thy sake killed the best among them; will it please thee if I kill them all?' As he said this the blood of the prophet stood still and quiescent. He then reasoned within himself thus, 'If the blood of one individual has brought about so great a punishment, how much greater will my punishment be for the slaughter of so many!' In short, he repented, fled from his house, and became a Jewish proselyte.
Gittin, 57, col. 2.
The same story is repeated in Sanhedrin, fol. 96, col. 2, with some variations; notably this, among others, that it was because the prophet prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem that they put him to death.
(Gen. xxvii. 2), "The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau." The first-named "voice" alludes to the voice of lamentation caused by Hadrian, who had at Alexandria in Egypt massacred twice the number of Jews that had come forth under Moses. The "voice of Jacob" refers to a similar lamentation occasioned by Vespasian, who put to death in the city of Byther four hundred myriads, or, as some say, four thousand myriads, "The hands are the hands of Esau," that is, the empire which destroyed our house, burned our Temple, and banished us from our country. Or the "voice of Jacob" means that there is no effectual prayer that is not offered up by the progeny of Jacob; and "the hands are the hands of Esau," that there is no victorious battle which is not fought by the descendants of Esau.
Tamar and Zimri both committed fornication. The former (actuated by a good motive, see Gen. xxxviii. 26) became the ancestress of kings and prophets. The latter brought about the destruction of myriads in Israel. Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak says, "To do evil from a good motive is better than observing the law from a bad one (e. g., Tamar and Zimri, Lot and his daughters).
Nazir, fol. 23, col. 2.
The Rabbis have taught that the text, "And when it rested, he said, Return, O Lord, to the myriads and thousands of Israel" (Num. x. 36), intimates that the Shechinah does not rest upon less than two myriads and two thousands (two being the minimum plurality). Suppose one of the twenty-two thousand neglect the duty of procreation, is he not the cause of the Shechinah's departure from Israel?
Yevamoth, fol. 64, col. 1.
"And place over them to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, and rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens" (Exod. xviii. 21). The rulers of thousands were six hundred in number, the rulers of hundreds six thousand, of fifties twelve thousand, and rulers of tens six myriads. The total number of rulers in Israel, therefore, was seven myriad eight thousand six hundred.
Sanhedrin, fol. 18, col. 1.
Once upon a time the people of Egypt appeared before Alexander of Macedon to complain of Israel. "It is said (Exod. xii. 36), they argued, 'The Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them,' etc.;" and they prayed, 'Give us now back the gold and the silver that ye took from us." Givia ben Pesisa said to the wise men (of Israel), "Give me permission to plead against them before Alexander. If they overcome me, say, 'You have overcome a plebeian only,' but if I overcome them, say, 'The law of Moses our master has triumphed over you.'" They accordingly gave him leave, and be went and argued thus, "Whence do ye produce your proof?" "From the law," said they. Then said he, "I will bring no other evidence but from the law. It is said (Exod. xii. 40), 'The sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.' Pay us now the usufruct of the labor of the sixty myriads whom ye enslaved in Egypt for four hundred and thirty years." Alexander gave the Egyptians three days' grace to prepare a reply, but they never put in an appearance. In fact, they fled away and left both their fields and vineyards.
Ibid., fol. 91, col. x.
"And Jethro said, Blessed be the Lord, who hath delivered you" (Exod. xviii. 10). A tradition says, in the
name of Rabbi Papyes, "Shame upon Moses and upon the sixty myriads (of Israel), because they had not said, 'Blessed be the Lord,' till Jethro came and set the example."
Sanhedrin, fol. 94, col. 1.
"And let him dip his foot in oil" (Deut. xxxiii. 24), the Rabbis say, refers to the portion of Asher, which produces oil like a well. Once on a time, they relate, the Laodiceans sent an agent to Jerusalem with instructions to purchase a hundred myriads' worth of oil. He proceeded first to Tyre, and thence to Gush-halab, where he met with the oil merchant earthing up his olive trees, and asked him whether he could supply a hundred myriads' worth of oil. "Stop till I have finished my work," was the reply. The other, when he saw the business-like way in which he set to work, could not help incredulously exclaiming, "What! hast thou really a hundred myriads' worth of oil to sell? Surely the Jews have meant to make game of me." However he went to the house with the oil merchant, where a female slave brought hot water for him to wash his hands and feet, and a golden bowl of oil to dip them in afterward, thus fulfilling Deut. xxxiii. 24 to the very letter. After they had eaten together, the merchant measured out to him the hundred myriads' worth of oil, and then asked whether he would purchase more from him. "Yes," said the agent, "but I have no more money here with me." "Never mind," said the merchant; "buy it and I will go with thee to thy home for the money." Then he measured out eighteen myriads' worth more. It is said that he hired every horse, mule, camel, and ass he could find in all Israel to carry the oil, and that on nearing his city the people turned out to meet him and compliment him for the service he had done them. "Don't praise me," said the agent, "but this, my companion, to whom I owe eighteen myriads." This, says the narrator, illustrates what is said (Prov. xiii. 7), "There is that maketh himself (appear to be) rich, yet hath nothing; there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches."
Menachoth, fol. 85, col. 2.