So the Rabbi Said to the Atheist…

English: A complete set of the Babylonian

The Babylonian Talmud relates these delightful little tales about a Rabbi and an atheist (in tractate Sanhedrin, 22).

There was an atheist who said to Rabban Gamaliel: Your God is a thief, as it reads [Gen. ii. 21]: “Lord God caused a deep sleep . . . and he slept; and he took one of his ribs.” Said R. Gamaliel’s daughter to him: Let me answer him. And she said to him: Would you assist me to take revenge on a thief who robbed me this night, by stealing a silver pitcher, however he left a golden one instead? And he said to her: I would like that such thief would come to me every day. Then she said: Was it not better for Adam that one bone was taken from him, and in its stead was given a woman to him, who shall serve him? Rejoined the atheist: I mean why stealing; could He not take it from Adam when he was awake? She then took a piece of meat, put it in glowing ashes, and when roasted took it out and gave it to him to eat. To which he said: It is repulsive to me. Rejoined she: Eve would also have been repulsive to Adam if he could have seen how she was formed.

The same atheist said to Rabban Gamaliel: I am aware of what your God is doing now. R. Gamaliel sighed deeply. And to the question: Why are you sighing? he said: I lost every information of my son who is now in the sea countries. Can you perhaps assist me by informing me where he is? And he rejoined: Where shall I know this from? Rejoined Rabban Gamaliel: You don’t know what is in this world, and you claim to know what is in heaven?

At another time the same said to Rabban Gamaliel: It reads [Ps. cxlvii. 4]: “Who counted the number of the stars,” etc. What prerogative is this? I also can do this. R. Gamaliel took some grain, put it in a sieve, and while straining told him to count the grain. And he rejoined: Let the sieve stand and I will count it. Rejoined R. Gamaliel: The stars are also always moving. According to others R. Gamaliel answered him: Can you tell me how many teeth are in your mouth? And he put his hand in his mouth and began to count them. Rejoined R. Gamaliel: You are not aware of the number of teeth in your mouth, and you claim to know how many stars there are in heaven?