Chapter Eleven

How the Jews observe the true Sabbath, and bring it to a close.

In the morning, they get up later than on other days. They sleep until it is broad daylight, with great desire to honor the holy sabbath. The happier they are, the more devoutly they are observing the Sabbath. Their rabbis explain that this usage is ordained by law, in the fourth book of Moses 28.4. It is done on account of the daily offerings, and is thus written: Baboker, early in the morning. But for the offering of the seventh day, namely the Sabbath, it is written Bejom hasschabbas, on the day of the Sabbath. This means that daily offerings are usually made in the morning before daybreak (therefore they are now accustomed to meet in synagogue early in the morning, that they might say their morning prayers there, doing this because of what is stated above.) [Prayer was considered to be a substitute for the suspended sacrifices, cf. Hosea 14.2, understood to mean: We shall offer the fruit of our lips in place of bulls.] On Sabbath, it was customary to delay longer, and to make the sacrifice in broad daylight. Ergo, [therefore] the Jews should sleep until it is day, and say their morning prayers later than on other days, on account of Oneg schabbas, the pleasure of the Sabbath, so they lie longer in bed.

When they come into shul, they pray, as on other days but they are accustomed to carry on their prayers and chantings longer in honor of the Sabbath. They do not put on their Tephillin, the prayer straps, (about which mention was made above, in the fourth chapter) because the Sabbath itself is a sign of the Jewish faith, which was only given and commanded to the Jews, as they believe. So the other signs, such as circumcision and the Tephillin, whereby Jews may be recognized, are not required.

They take out the Book of the Law from the Ark, with the ceremony described in chapter nine, and they read seven Pàrschios, or lectiones, [readings] from the Thorah for which seven individual men are called. The one being called goes through the entrance which is closest to him, and leaves by another, because it is written that the people of Israel did it thus, when they entered the holy Temple on the Sabbath. They went in at one gate, and out at the other. Ezek. 46:1,2 They read also some Haphtaros, or lectiones, [readings] from the Prophets, which are done in the same manner as those from the books of Moses. This custom came about because at one time readings from Moses was forbidden in their shuls. Then in place of Mosaic readings, they read a similar selection from the prophets (which they call Haphtarah), which was read as if it were from whatever part of the Law of Moses was appointed to be read on that day. This custom is referred to in the New Testament Acts 13.27: Because the residents of Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize him, or understand the words of the prophets that are read every sabbath … And also Acts 15.21: For in every city, for generations past, Moses has had those who proclaim him, for he has been read aloud every sabbath in the synagogues. Although nowadays it is not forbidden for them to read Moses in their synagogues, even now they retain the custom, and read the prophets, for it is impossible to do good things to excess.

They pray also for the souls of the dead, which they really are not supposed to do on the sabbath. But the Cháchamim believe that the souls in hell come out on the sabbath, and return after it, so they pray for them on the sabbath. Prayer in the synagogue should not be prolonged longer than the sixth hour of the day [i.e. twelve noon.] For it is forbidden to pray or fast longer [because it was customary to eat only after prayers.] Is. 58.13 You shall call the sabbath Oneg. They say that the expression Oneg, deliciae [pleasure] is written without the letter Vau which makes the number six. By this the prophet wishes to indicate subtly that it is not proper to fast beyond the sixth hour, that is, past noon: because otherwise it might be said that the sabbath is not a pleasure, but an unpleasantness.

Therefore, after morning prayers are completed, they eat the second sabbath meal, and are joyful in honor of the sabbath. If anyone has dreamed something bad, for example, the Sépher thórah, the book of the law, being burned up, or the beams of his house falling down, or his teeth falling out – which dreams do not bode well – he may properly fast till nightfall. If a man dreams that his jaw falls down, that is good, because it means that his enemies, who plotted against him, are dead. If a man's digestion is upset, and for him it is a pleasure to fast, then it is held to be proper and healthy to do so. If anyone is so sad that he cannot stop crying, it is permitted to him to cry; such weeping may be a pleasure for him, and a source of recovery. But then he must fast on the following day, as a punishment for not scrupling to detract proper enjoyment from the sabbath.

At the table their wise men regard it as appropriate to study and learn something, and read sacred books. This is because at one time the sabbath complained to God: Everything in creation has an appropriate mate and companion, but the sabbath has no such companion. So God said: Henceforth the people of Israel will be your companion, because they will learn the Thorah on the sabbath, and they will be at leisure, and find rest at this time.

At the time of Minha, or in the evening, they go back into the shul,and perform their evening devotions, and immediately they have the third meal, and as long as the day lasts, and until the sabbath has run its course, they eat. At this meal they do not eat heavily, because soon they must bless the sabbath as it goes out. Often they are not hungry, because at noon they have helped themselves liberally, and this is customarily kept up until evening.

They think these three meals to be a singularly excellent good deed, about which they write in the Talmud, that anyone who is diligent in this will not go to hell, and will be defended against the formidable war of Gog and Magog; and against the anxiety and anguish which will come with the coming of the Messiah, called the Chebhle hammaschíach [the pangs of the Messianic age.]

Between evening and night, it is forbidden always to draw fresh water, or to drink from a stream on account of the souls of the godless dead, who are finally cooling themselves off and washing themselves, since they soon have to go back to hell.

Now when the end of the sabbath comes, and after the third meal has been eaten, some have the custom to remove the table cloth quickly and adroitly. They believe that doing so means that debts owed to them will be paid off quickly. When night has fallen, they gather, and pray until late at night. They sing beautiful sabbath songs; and they sing the prayer Vehu rachum, with a sweet and delightful Nigun, a lovely melody (much like the cats in March); they do this to send off the holy sabbath. They carry these songs far into the night out of pity for the poor souls of the reschaim, the godless Jews, so that such souls will return to hell later, so long as they prolong their singing. For just as on Friday night there is an uproar as the godless souls leave hell in order to rest, just as Israel rests, so there is an uproar on the night after sabbath, as they are ordered back to hell, as soon as the people of Israel have completed the night prayer.

In these night songs, they often call upon the prophet Elijah. It has been promised to them that Elijah will come to them only during the night after the sabbath or some other holy day. Therefore when the sabbath has passed, and he has not yet come, they ask that he may come on another festival day, to announce the coming of the Messiah. (Perhaps he does not hear well, that he has not come for such a length of time.) The Chachámim and wise rabbis teach that Elijah the Prophet sits under the Tree of Life in paradise, and writes down the merits of the Jews, the good deeds by which they have diligently observed the sabbath. Finally, when they sing a certain song which begins Barechu, [Bless!] the women quickly go to the wells to draw water from them. They write that the well of Miriam, from which they drank in the desert, flows into the sea of Tiberias, and at the end of the sabbath, mingles with all other wells. At this time the water drawn has therefore curative properties. For if anyone drinks from such a well, he is cured, even if he is a true Frenchman. Once a woman left after the prayer called Barechu, to draw water, which came to her from that well of Miriam. Since she stayed out a rather long time, her husband became angry with her. When she observed this, she dropped the jug with the water in front of him, and accidentally some of the drops of water splashed onto his body. Where the water reached him, he became well. So as a result of his anger he was only half cured. If he had drunk the water, he would have been completely healed. Therefore the Rabbis say that the anger of an irascible man brings him nothing good.

Lastly they make Habhdalah, that is a division between the sabbath and the new week, thanking God, that he graciously allowed them to celebrate the sabbath well.

The cantor does this openly after the evening prayers in the synagogue. He does it for the poor Jews, who because of their poverty cannot fulfil it at home. Otherwise each Báal bájis, master of the house, does it in this way in his own home. A large candle is lit, which is called Ner habhdalah, the separation light. They take also a little box, usually made of silver, and filled with the best perfumes. The master of the house takes a cup of wine in his right hand. In those regions where beer is drunk, they take beer, if they cannot afford wine. He sings in a loud voice, Is. 12.2: Behold, God is my strength, I am sure and have no fear: because my strength and my well-being is my God, the Lord. You will draw water in joy from the wells of salvation. Ps. 3.9 Deliverance belongs to the Lord, may your blessing be on your people, Selah. Ps. 46.8 The Lord of Hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge, Selah. Ps. 116.13 I will take the cup of salvation and I will call upon the name of the Lord. Est. 8.16 The Jews had light, gladness, joy and honor. Now he makes the blessing over over the cup of wine, and pouring a few drops from it onto the earth, he says, Blessed be you, O Lord our God, king of the world, who creates the fruit of the vine. After this is done, and the cup is taken in his left hand, he takes the box full of spices in his right hand and says: Blessed be you, Lord God, who creates manifold spices. He smells the spices, and gives the box to the household to smell. Then he takes the cup again in his right hand, and going to the large candle, he inspect very thoroughly the nails of his left hand, in such a way that the fingers are bent inward towards the hand, and cast a shadow on the hand, then again he stretches them out, and inspects them so that he can determine that the nails are whiter than the fingers, and says: Blessed be you, O Lord our God, who created a bright light. Then he takes the glass again in his left hand, inspects the nails in the left hand, and says: Blessed be you, O Lord our God, king of the world, who has made a distinction between holy and profane, between light and darkness, between Israel and the other peoples, between the seventh day and the six other days appointed for labor. Blessed are you, Lord, who distinguishes the sacred from the profane. (While he is reciting this prayer, he pours a little wine from the glass upon the ground.) He drinks a little, and gives some to the others to drink. At this point the sabbath is ended, and the week has begun.

Among the night prayers, there is one which begins Vajehi noam. [read: Vijehi] In it there is no letter Zajin. Zajin, however, signifies weapons. The one who recites this prayer attentively is protected during the night from any weapons. Similarly,they are safe from the devil, if they recite attentively the Krías Schmáh, the prayer Schmá Isráel, Hear, O Israel, etc. This verse begins with the letter Schin and ends with the letter Dales which makes the word Sched, devil.

They prove the distinction between the sabbath and the rest of the week with the sentence Lev. 10.10: That you may put a distinction between unholy and holy. And, Gen. 1.4 God separated the light from the darkness.

They spread some of the blessed habhdalah wine upon the eyes. Some wash the whole face with it. It is good for the sight, and cures runny eyes. Some put it on the vein where the pulse is, because it prolongs life. Some sprinkle it around the beds, and the cribs of their children, because it makes safe against incantations. They regard this wine as they regard the wine with which they bring in the sabbath.

They smell the spices so that they should not become weak when one of their souls leaves the body, because they have an additional soul on the Sabbath, compared with the other days. Antonius Margarita writes in his book [Der gantze Jüdische Glaube] about Jewish beliefs: In their Talmud the Jews write that every man has three souls. They derive this from the prophet Isaiah 42.5: For thus says the Lord God, who creates the Heavens, and spreads them, and who makes the earth and all that springs from it; and who gives the soul (or breath) to his people on the earth, and his spirit to those who are thereon. From this text they derive two souls [soul and spirit] in a person, and when you add the natural soul of a person, this makes three. Moreover, they write that the two extra souls leave the sleeping man. One of them rises to God, and there sees the future; the other goes down into the earthly kingdom, and here sees only iniquity, sin, stupidity, and vanity; the animal soul which is initially received by a man remains in his heart, and sees everything that the two other souls, which have left, hear, see and do. All dreams follow from this, and for this reason should not always be despised. They say, however, that on the sabbath day a man possesses another soul, which broadens his heart, so that he may be able more honorably to keep the sabbath and be more devout, which he could not do if he did not have it. When the sabbath is ended, then also the soul again leaves the man, and so he is weakened, against which weakness aromatic and fragrant substances are efficaciously used. So says Margarita. What he wrote I am unable to find in the Jewish books. The only thing I have read in the Talmud Betsa 16a about the additional soul on the sabbath is as follows. Rabbi Jose, in the name of Rabbi Simeon, son of Jochai, says: All the precepts which God has commanded to the people of Israel he gave them publicly, except for the sabbath which he gave them privately, as it is written Exod. 32.17: It [the sabbath] is a sign between me and them to withhold, that is, it is suppressed and hidden from the other nations; the Children of Israel alone know it. (Observe that in the Hebrew text the word Leolam according to the usual human understanding is in German "In ewigkeit" [for ever], but according to the Jewish reading and turning around means "withholding," "hiding.") The wise men here in the Gemara ask a question and say: Since the gentiles (that is, Christians and others) do not know that we have the sabbath, why should they be punished in the end for not holding to it? The answer is: They know quite well that we have the sabbath, and it is not withheld from them, so they can be punished for not observing it. But they do not know the reward of keeping the sabbath, because it is withheld from them. Were they to observe the sabbath properly, they would know about the reward, but this is impossible for them, because they do not have the additional soul which is given to a person on the sabbath more than on other days. Through this his heart is enlarged, so that he rests properly on the sabbath with joy, and eats and drinks well, and removes all sorrow and distress from his heart. About this Rabbi Simeon, son of Lakis, said Talmud, Taanit, 27b: God has given man an additional soul on the eve of Sabbath, and takes it back from him when the sabbath goes out, as it is written Exod. 31.17: Schabath vayinnaphesch [sic; the last vowel is a in the Massoretic text] that is, when he completed his rest, he is "unsouled," [Ger: entseelet] that is, the additional soul leaves him. So far the Talmud. Note the fine Jewish explanation and turning around of holy Scripture. The aforementioned word Vayinaphesch [sic] must mean in the good rabbinic and talmudic way that he is "unsouled" or deprived of his soul. In the natural manner of speaking this is totally contrary to the meaning which is he is refreshed, made lively, reinvigorated, propriissimè Respirare [properly, to breath]. In the natural manner of human speech, it is impossible to say or understand that God has lost his soul. In this blindness and ignorance the Jews set their high cleverness. Rabbi Abraham also discusses this additional soul on the sabbath in his Medrasch or explanation of the five books of Moses called Zeror hammor, Fasciculus myrrhæ [the Bundle of Myrrh – medieval Hebrew books often have fanciful names]. Others outdo this, and say that people smell the spices because on the sabbath hellfire does not stink. As soon as the sabbath goes out, and the gates of Hell open, and the Reschaim and lost souls must go back, it begins to stink, and these spices are effective against this stink, as it is written in their German Minhágim.

They look at the nails because of their great ability to grow; they cut them on Friday, but already they are growing back. [Thus they are a sign of fertility.] Others say it is on account of the clothes which God gave the first Adam in paradise. They were just the same color as the fingernails. Others say that it is on account of the remarkable distinction between nails and flesh, something which also comes from Adam. When Adam saw that it got dark, he cried out: Woe is me, that the world is becoming dark on account of my sins. God gave him the idea of striking two stones together, and fire sprung forth, and he kindled a light. When he saw that he was naked, and observed that the fingers are clothed with nails he praised God, as you can read in the book Colbo.

They spill a drop of the blessed Habdálah wine on the ground as a sign that house should always be overflowing with good things, and they write: If you don't spill wine in the house like water, then there is no Siman brachah, no sign of a good blessing. Some are of the opinion that it freshens up Korah and his company whom the earth swallowed up alive. They still live underground, and through this blessed wine their state is cooled and improved.

Previously the stink of hellfire was mentioned, and there is a story in the Talmud about this matter as follows. Impious Turnus Rophus once asked Rabbi Akibha why the sabbath was so much greater than the other days, that they give it so much honor. Rabbi Akibha said: Why should people honor you more than other people? He replied: Because my lord and king wills it so. Rabbi Akibha replied: That is what our God, the king of all kings, wills, that we give greater and higher honor to the sabbath than to other days. Impious Turnus said further: From where do you know, and who tells you that your sabbath, the seventh day, is the real sabbath? The Rabbi answered: You can know that from the River Sambation which flows briskly on the six days of the week, carrying big rocks with it, so that no one can navigate on it, but on the sabbath it is still and peaceful, because of the sabbath. I can also prove it to you from your father's grave. The whole week the steam and stink of hellfire issue from it, since he is being burned with fire the whole week, but on the sabbath, it does not stink, and he comes out of hell, and rests, and hellfire has no power over him. When Turnus saw that this was so, he said to the Rabbi: Perhaps his time in hell is ended. The Rabbi said: Go after sabbath, and you will see that it is steaming again. He went and found that it was so. Then he went and brought up his father from hell by witchcraft, and said to him: You never kept the sabbath when alive, and are keeping it now that you are dead? For how long have you been an observant Jew? The father answered: My son, The one who does not observe the sabbath with love while alive, must observe it forcibly, and against his will, when he is dead. The son said: What kind of treatment do you get during the week on workdays? The father answered: They burn us with fire; but on the sabbath eve, namely Friday, a voice comes and calls out: It is time for you to rest, and go from here to rest, you impious! So we go to rest, and celebrate the sabbath. But at the end of the sabbath, when the Jews have finished their sedarim, the orders [of the service], and all their prayers, the bad angel called Dumah, who is in charge of us, comes, and cries out that we must go back into Hell, because the people of Israel have finished their sabbath. When we come back into Hell, they burn us the whole week with fire until the sabbath comes again, and that is the treatment we get etc. If you want to read more about this, see Rab. Bechai in the Parscha, Vajischma Jethro, that is, in his exposition of the eighteenth chapter of the second book of Moses, where he writes much about the sabbath.

Since God in the Law of Moses, and in the prophets, has stressed that they should refrain from all outside labor and not profane the sabbath, a very far reaching discussion came about on the part of the rabbis, what should be done, and what should not be done. A large tractate in the Talmud has been written on this, in which the most learned and prominent rabbis make comments, and one outdoes the other in pointedly describing how the sabbath must be observed. I will briefly state some of these points.

First, God requires not only men, but also animals to rest, according to the law, and so many delicate discussions take place on this. How far a beast, a horse or an ass etc., may go on the sabbath. Can it carry anything, and what? Such things are described and explained in the Talmud. For example, an animal may not leave the house on sabbath having with it or on it something by which it may be guided or led, such as a horse or ass with a bridle, a rein or a halter. An ape, a monkey, a dog, a hunting dog, cannot wear a collar by which it may be led, or to prevent it from running away. Such things can be put on on Friday, but not on the sabbath.

It is forbidden to let out a horse with a saddle, much less should it carry a man or other heavy load, and it should not be burdened or harmed. If someone comes home on the sabbath with a horse, or an ass, the saddle may be loosened, but not taken away. However, if the horse shakes it off, or throws it off, the Jew is not responsible, and is without sin. If someone leads a horse by the rein, he must make sure that the strap does not exceed a handbreath behind his hand, so that it should not seem that he is carrying the rein for himself; similarly it should not hang too long between him and the horse, so that it should not seem that he is leading the horse, but rather that he happens to have the rein in his hand, for it is a sin to carry anything on the sabbath.

You should not let a chicken walk around on the sabbath with a string or rag on its foot so that it can be recognised by somebody. You should take away such a thing on Friday, so that it can rest properly.

If an animal falls into a pit, and cannot get out by itself, then it should be given fodder until the sabbath is over, and then it should be dragged out. If there is deep water in the pit, so that it cannot be fed, straw or other materials should be placed under it so that it does not drown. If as a result the animal is able to get out by itself, the Jew has not sinned, and has not violated the sabbath.

Nota [note:] This appears to contradict what Christ retorted to the Jews when they accused him of curing sick people and making them healthy on the sabbath, since he says Mat. 12.11: If one of you has a sheep which has fallen into a pit on the sabbath, will he not pull it out, as much as to say, it is permitted to you to pull a sheep from the pit, in order to keep it alive, so how much more should one help a person, who is better than a sheep. From this it appears that it was permitted, where as their Jus Canonicum, [canon law] their spiritual talmudic law, states just the opposite. And so it is that the impious Jew Rabbi Lipman, in his book against the four gospels in history, which is called Nizáchon, Victori, or Triumph, in the year of Christ 1459. He accuses Christ of teaching falsely about their laws and customs, as Sebastianus Munsterus in Evangelio Matthæi Hebraico indicates. The answer is that Christ himself is the truth, who could speak truth alone, and nothing false or deceitful could be found in his mouth. Rather must the unbelieving Jews with their father the Devil, the father of all lies, be everlastingly shamed. It is true that the present day Talmudic law is thus, as Münster shows from the Saxon chronicles, where it is recorded that one sabbath a Jew (excuse me for mentioning it) fell into a cesspool, and they left him there and fed him [because they did not want to bring him out on the sabbath.] The bishop of that place thereupon strictly forbade them to bring him up on the next day, Sunday, being the Christian sabbath, so he had to stay there two days. So their present Talmudic law is indeed contrary to the word of Christ, but originally it was not so. First of all, this [apparent contradiction] was made possible by their Mischnajos, that is, the old Traditiones [traditions] and Constitutiones [ordinances] according to which up to the time of Christ and previously they had definitely not conducted themselves. In the second place, [at the time of Jesus's argument,] it was not protested and contradicted by the Pharisees and [other] Jews, who would certainly not have kept their mouths shut when something was contrary to their patent traditions and public laws. How come, then, that it got into their current law? [Namely, not to extract an animal or even a person, from a pit on the sabbath.] The answer is that it is a Nouella constitutio [a new ordinance] by the rabbis and authors of the Talmud in the Gemára or the completion of the Mischnájos and the old traditions, which they have inserted out of hatred towards the New Testament and Christian beliefs, some hundred years after the birth of Christ, and have derived it from an old tradition just for the sake of argumentation, as can clearly be seen in their Talmud. Let us continue with the matter at hand.

It is permissible on the sabbath to ask a Christian to milk a Jew's cow or goat, so that the milk will not oppress or hurt the animal, but not so that the Jew may make use of the milk, because then it would be the same as if the Jew milked the animal himself, since what someone does through the agency of another is the same as if he did it himself. Some wise men hold and declare that it is in order for the Jew to buy back the milk from the Christian for one or two pennies, because then it appears that the Christian milked the animal for his own benefit. But we cannot describe all these subtleties. Let us continue with something about people's rest and sanctification of the sabbath.

It is forbidden for a man or a woman to run on the sabbath, unless it is in furtherance of one of God's commands, for it is forbidden to step more than two feet or one ell (for that takes away one's eyesight, as is indicated above.) However, when young fellows run or jump when they walk abroad, to enjoy the sabbath, it is permitted provided it is for the honor of the sabbath. It is permitted to jump over a pit, but it is forbidden to walk through water, lest they should take off their stockings [and carry them.]

A man cannot carry any arms or weapons, such as sword, spear, suit of armor, etc.

A tailor cannot go out of the house with a needle stuck in his clothing.

A lame person who cannot walk without the aid of a stick or staff, may indeed carry a staff to guide him; but a blind man is forbidden to do so.

It is forbidden to go through deep water or mud on stilts, because although it seems as if the stilts carry the man, actually the man is carrying the stilts, and it is forbidden to carry anything.

Similarly one may not wear any mask or false face in order to frighten children.

It is permitted to use a plaster or cover which is covering a sore, but if it should fall off, it is forbidden to reattach it, or apply a new one.

It is forbidden to carry money, gold or silver, cross country whether in a sack or a satchel, or sewn into clothing.

It is permitted to wipe off dirt on the shoes on a wall or partition, but not on the ground because it might appear as if he was filling a hole. One can scrape off dirt from stockings or a coat with the nails provided it is still wet, but not when it is dry, for then it creates dust, and it seems as though he was grinding or crushing something.

If a person has dirtied his hands, he may wipe them on the tail of a cow, or the tail or mane of a horse, but he should not use a hand towel or other clean cloth, so that he should not be caused to wash it on the sabbath.

It is forbidden to use a fly-whisk to catch flies or gnats [on the sabbath.]

If a person needs to heed the call of nature, he may gather small stones [used instead of toilet tissue.] If he has a particular place for this in his house, he may gather a whole handful to take with him to do his business appropriately.

A louse may be killed; but Rabbi Eliezer taught and said Talmud, Shabbat 107b: One who kills a louse on the sabbath, is as though he killed a camel. There are so many disputes about these matters, that it is difficult to understand them. Some have concluded that it is forbidden to kill on the sabbath all creatures which increase in a natural manner, which includes fleas which get eggs through natural breeding. But it is permitted to kill the ones which derive from sweat or other bad humors, and some think that lice belong to this group. However, a doubt has been raised from the statement of a particular rabbi who says that lice also come from eggs, and teaches thus: Mar [the Master] said: God sits in heaven and feeds all creatures, from the horn of the Rhinoceros to the eggs of the louse, that is, from the biggest animal down to the smallest. It is not necessary to bring up here the discussions on this subject which occur in the Talmud; not everyone can grasp these subtleties.

It is forbidden to climb a tree [on the sabbath] for fear that a bough might get broken.

If someone has chickens or other creatures in a garden, or some other place where rain can fall, you should not spread oats or other grain in excess of what they can eat up, because the rain can cause the remainder to sprout and grow, and you might appear to be sowing seed on the sabbath, which is a great sin.

It is forbidden to beat on any instrument or implement in order to create tones or sounds in the manner of singing or dancing, and it is likewise forbidden to whistle with the mouth, but it is permissible to whistle to your manservant to indicate to him to come to you.

It is forbidden to knock on doors with the iron knocker that is on the door, or with hammers, even though he does not sound any song or dance music thereby; it is forbidden even if it seems like a nail being inserted, or something hammered in. For this reason the shul-knocker [Ger. Schulklopffer, the man who alerts people that it is time to pray] bangs with his fist on the door, when he alerts them to come to the shul. (This shul-knocker is like the sexton [Glöckner] of the Christians.) Some rabbis have declared it permissible to ask a Christian to play on the lute or other instrument when they are celebrating a wedding on sabbath [weddings were not solemnized on the sabbath, but were celebrated for seven days, which would include a sabbath] in order to honor the bride and groom. This is not regarded as being done for the Jew, but rather that all should enjoy the sabbath more. The Jew himself may not play, not only on an instrument, but he should not tap with the fingers on a table for dancing or to quiet an infant.

You must not write with the fingers letters of the alphabet on a wet table, or on ashes, or on the dust of the earth, but you may write characters in the air. You cannot erase writing on paper or a wax tablet.

In sum, they have thirty-nine headings of all activities under which they subsume all other activities, of whatever type you can report and set down. [Buxtorf writes referieren in Roman script, because he perceives it as a foreign word.] And just as a spring gushes forth and divides into several rivulets which all have something in common with the source of the spring, although often they change their nature on account of the places through which they flow, so many and various activities spring forth from these headings just like the rivulets derived from their source even though they appear to change. Similarly the details have a connection to their headings.

For example, the first heading is to till, or plow the field and cultivate. To this belong: digging, filling ditches, hoeing a garden, transplanting vegetables, planting trees, grafting vines, the same for twigs or branches, pruning, sprinkling or drenching vegetables or young trees with water, and any similar activity whereby the growth of anything may be fostered. Thus on account of the rule about ditches, the very wise rabbis have indeed permitted the sprinkling of water in a room in the house, in order to lay the dust, but they forbade wiping it or sweeping it out with a broom, lest you fill up a little hole as you wipe in the chamber or the room. On a similar basis they have forbidden shooting towards a pit with nuts, little balls or globes. It is forbidden to walk on unploughed land so as not to make or fill up a pit or hole. The second heading concerns cutting or reaping grain. This comprehends gathering dates, grapes, olives; breaking off fruit in order to remove the bees or the hive so as to take the honey, and similar activities. It is permissible to eat or sample fruit on the sabbath, while it is still hanging on the bough, but to break it off with the bough is forbidden. By the same token one should not go on a fertile ploughed field, especially if the weather is rainy, lest one pull up the seeds with one's shoes, which would be tantamount to mowing.

Observe that it was under this heading that the Jews were annoyed when the disciples of Christ broke off ears of corn on the sabbath, according to Matthew, chapter twelve.

Under the heading of threshing belongs the breaking off, grinding and pounding of flax and hemp; trimming wool; straining and pressing all juicy and moist fruits, such as olives, citrons, grapes, pomegranates, mulberries etc., or damp cloths, shirts or clothing, and the like. Suckling also belongs in this category, but there are many varied rabbinic opinions on this. They discuss if someone minding a child gets soiled with dirt on the sabbath, can she wash this off? Some are of the opinion that she should wash her hands and thereby clean up the mess; but Rabbi Jose forbids it on the grounds that it is a proper laundering.

From this you can form an opinion of the character of the other headings. These are called in the Talmud Abhos meláchos, that is, fathers of all activities. There is no difference whether one violates the headings, or that which flows from the headings, and is comparable to them. Such items are called Toledos, Generationes born and produced from the others. Anyone who is notified by witnesses that he has transgressed one type or the other is liable to the penalty of stoning, and if he sinned deliberately he is Chajeb Cáres, namely, that he is fit to be judged by God and taken out of this world. These matters are explained in the Talmud in the tractate concerning the sabbath in the seventh chapter. If someone wanted to describe all of this in many books, he could hardly find enough paper.

Although the Jews really believe that they observe the sabbath properly, and omit nothing that tends towards its honor and sanctification, experience indicates according to their own knowledge and understanding that so far they have not honored and sanctified the sabbath. In this sense you read in the Talmud Shabbat, 118b: R. Jochanan said: He who observes the sabbath as he ought, and keeps it properly, will have his sins forgiven provided that he abstains from idolatry, for it is written Is. 56.2: Let the man who does this, and the son of man who holds fast to this – that he keeps the sabbath – Mechalelo – and does not desecrate it. This is the usual meaning of the Hebrew word, in German, Entheiligen [desecrate.] But the wise rabbis in the Talmud say: You should not read Mechalelo but Machol lo, that is, he gets forgiveness. Rabh Jehuda taught: If the Israelites had observed properly the first sabbath (when they received the Law) no foreign people or tongue would have ruled over them, as it is written But on the seventh day some of the people went out to gather the manna, and did not find it. On account of this sin, Amalek came upon them, as it is written Ex. 17.8: And Amalek came out against Israel. Rabbi Jochanan says on account of Rabbi Simeon, son of Jochai: If Israel would only observe two sabbaths, they would immediately be delivered, as it is written Is. 56.4: [to the eunuchs] who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off...these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer, that is they will go back to Jerusalem. However, since the Jews have not been delivered, and have no hope of a deliverance, it must be that they have not properly kept the sabbath. They themselves know this well, for at the time that the Temple was still standing in Jerusalem, they did not observe the sabbath properly, so that on this account the city of Jerusalem was destroyed. For thus they write in the same place in the Talmud further: Abhai says: Jerusalem was destroyed only because they desecrated the sabbath, as it is written Ezek. 22.26: They did not observe my sabbaths, and I was profaned among them.

So the Jews celebrate the sabbath with good wine, meat and fish, and all luxuries as best as they can. They abstain from outside work, and rest so as not to put forth a little finger, and do not do anything which could approach work. If however they need something such as in winter for heating, or to kindle lights, to warm food or milk a cow, they take a poor, simple Christian boy or girl who must do this work for them. In this they boast that they will be lords, and the Christians will be their servants, who must do their work and suffer while they are lazy. It would be right and proper for the Christian authorities to forbid such things and not have services done for the Jews on the sabbath and other festivals.

In ending this chapter, I should refer to some of their prayers, in which they take account of the Christians, when they entreat God to give them the wealth of the nations, that he should extirpate the Ammonites, the Moabites and the Edomites, as they call us Christians. God should cast great fear and anguish over all the nations; he should bring to the heathen fear and vexation. However, I plan to talk about these matters in a special book, as well as other matters also that they write against the Christians and their authorities. So I will finish this chapter with the statement of God through the prophet Isaiah who upbraided the Jews and called on them in these words Is. 1.13: The sacrifice is an abomination to me. I cannot abide the new moons and sabbaths when you assemble and have trouble and anguish.


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Alan D. Corré
corre@uwm.edu