Texts

Talmud Berachot 62a

It has been taught: R. Akiba said: Once I went in after R. Joshua to a privy, and I learnt from him three things. I learnt that one does not sit east and west but north and south; I learnt that one evacuates not standing but sitting; and I learnt that it is proper to wipe with the left hand and not with the right. Said Ben Azzai to him: Did you dare to take such liberties with your master? He replied: It was a matter of Torah, and I required to learn. It has been taught: Ben ‘Azzai said: Once I went in after R. Akiba to a privy, and I learnt from him three things. I learnt that one does not evacuate east and west but north and south. I also learnt that one evacuates sitting and not standing. I also learnt it is proper to wipe with the left hand and not with the right. Said R. Judah to him: Did you dare to take such liberties with your master? — He replied: It was a matter of Torah, and I required to learn. R. Kahana once went in and hid under Rab’s bed. He heard him chatting [with his wife] and joking and doing what he required. He said to him: One would think that Abba’s mouth had never sipped the dish before! He said to him: Kahana, are you here? Go out, because it is rude. He replied: It is a matter of Torah, and I require to learn.

Talmud Avodah Zara 17a

They said about Eleazar ben Durdia that there was no prostitute in the world with whom he did not have intercourse at least once. He heard that there was one particular prostitute in a town near the sea who would receive a purse full of dinars for her services. He took a purse full of dinars and went to her, crossing over seven rivers. During intercourse she passed gas. She said: Just like this gas will never return to its place so too Eleazar ben Durdia will never have his repentance accepted (literally – will never return).
He went and sat between two mountains and hills. He said: Mountains and hills, request mercy for me. They said: Before we request mercy for you we have to request mercy for ourselves, at is says (Isaiah 54:10) “For the mountains will be moved and the hills will falter…”

He said: Heavens and earth, request mercy for me. They said: Before we request mercy for you we have to request mercy for ourselves, at is says (Isaiah 51:6) “For the heavens will dissipate like smoke, and the earth will wear out like a garment…”

He said: Sun and moon, request mercy for me. They said: Before we request mercy for you we have to request mercy for ourselves, at is says (Isaiah 24:23) “The moon will be humiliated and the sun will be shamed…”

He said: Stars and constellations, request mercy for me. They said: Before we request mercy for you we have to request mercy for ourselves, at is says (Isaiah 34:4) “All the host of the heavens will dissolve…”

He said: This matter depends solely on me. He put his head between his knees and began to tremble from crying until he died. A heavenly voice declared: R. Eleazar ben Durdia is ready for the world-to-come.

Talmud Menachot 44a

It was taught: R. Nathan said, There is not a single precept in the Torah, even the lightest, whose reward is not enjoyed in this world; and as to its reward in the future world I know not how great it is.

Go and learn this from the precept of tzitzit (fringes). Once a man, who was very scrupulous about the precept of tzitzit, heard of a certain harlot in one of the towns by the sea who accepted four hundred gold [denars] for her hire. He sent her four hundred gold [denars] and appointed a day with her. When the day arrived he came and waited at her door, and her maid came and told her, ‘That man who sent you four hundred gold [denars] is here and waiting at the door’; to which she replied ‘Let him come in’. When he came in she prepared for him seven beds, six of silver and one of gold; and between one bed and the other there were steps of silver, but the last were of gold. She then went up to the top bed and lay down upon it naked.

He too went up after her in his desire to sit naked with her, when all of a sudden the four fringes [of his garment] struck him across the face; whereupon he slipped off and sat upon the ground. She also slipped off and sat upon the ground and said, ‘By the Roman Capitol, I will not leave you alone until you tell me what blemish you saw in me.

‘By the Temple’, he replied, ‘never have I seen a woman as beautiful as you are; but there is one precept which the Lord our God has commanded us, it is called tzitzit, and with regard to it the expression ‘I am the Lord your God’ is twice written, signifying, I am He who will exact punishment in the future, and I am He who will give reward in the future. Now [the tzitzit] appeared to me as four witnesses [testifying against me]’.

She said, ‘I will not leave you until you tell me your name, the name of your town, the name of your teacher, the name of your school in which you study the
Torah’. He wrote all this down and handed it to her. Thereupon she arose and divided her estate into three parts; one third for the government, one third to be distributed among the poor, and one third she took with her in her hand; the bed clothes, however, she retained.

She then came to the Beth Hamidrash of R. Hiyya, and said to him, ‘Master, give instructions about me that they make me a proselyte’. ‘My daughter’, he replied; ‘perhaps you have set your eyes on one of the disciples?’ She thereupon took out the script and handed it to him. ‘Go’, said he ‘and enjoy your acquisition’. Those very bed-clothes which she had spread for him for an illicit purpose she now spread out for him lawfully. This is the reward [of the precept] in this world; and as for its reward in the future world I know not how great it is.

Talmud Menachot 29b

Rav Yehuda quoted Rav: When Moses ascended to the heights [to receive the Torah] he found God sitting and drawing crowns upon the letters. Moses said to God, “Master of the Universe, what is staying Your hand [from giving me the Torah unadorned]?”
God replied, “There is a man who will arise many generations in the future, his name is Akiva b. Yosef. He will interpret mound upon mound of halachot (laws) from each and every marking.”

Moses requested, “Master of the Universe, show him to me.” God said, “Turn backwards [and you will see him].”

Moses [found himself in R. Akiva’s classroom where he] sat at the back of the eighth row. He didn’t understand what they were talking about and felt weak. Then, they came to a matter about which the students asked Akiva, “Rabbi, how do you know this?” He told them, “It is the [oral] law given to Moses at Sinai.” Moses felt relieved.

He returned to God and said, “Master of the Universe, you have a person like this and [still You choose to] give the Torah through my hands?” God replied, “Silence! This is according to My plan.”

Moses said, “Master of the Universe, you’ve shown me his teaching (Torah), show me his reward.” God said, “Turn [backwards and you may see it]. Moses turned around and beheld [the Roman torturers] weighing his [Akiva’s] flesh on the market scales. He said to God, “Master of the Universe, that was his Torah and this is his reward!?”
God said, “Silence! This is according to My plan”

Midrash Bamidbar Rabbah 9:34

A king of the Arabs asked Rabbi Akiva, “I am black and my wife is black. Yet she gave birth to a white son. Shall I kill her for being unfaithful to me?”

Rabbi Akiva answered, “Are the paintings in your house portaits of white or black people?”

The king answered, “white.”

Rabbi Akiva said, “When you had relations with her, she fixed her eyes on the portaits of white persons and as a result gave birth to a white child. If you are surprised by what I say, consider our father Jacob’s flocks, which where influenced during their conception by rods set up in front of them (in Genesis 30).
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