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By Solomon Zeitlin, Dropsie College. 

An ancient Baraita in the Talmud 1 ascribes to Ezra 
ten takkanot. These, as explained by the compilers of 
the Talmud, are not definitely clear to us. In fact, for 
a long time many have been astonished by the Baraita's 
ascribing them to Ezra. Moreover, when we investigate 
Rabbinic sources, we find that to the editors of the Talmud 
the takkanot presented difficulties, as some of these takkanot 
had been considered as already contained in the Torah. 
However, it is evident that the sources of these takkanot 
were unknown to the Rabbis, 2 and also the underlying causes 
and reasons. As we investigate these takkanot carefully and 
thoroughly we realize their significance in Jewish religious 
life. The Pharisees, who, animated by the general purpose 
to harmonize religion and life, brought about reforms in 
religious life, e. g. the laws of Erub that made the Sabbath 
less burdensome, 3 also made important reforms in the laws 
of clean and unclean, that were extremely burdensome to 
Israel if literally construed and enforced according to the 
Torah. For example, such as were suddenly affected by 
bodily impurity (noctis pollutio, ^P) or defiled by contact 
with a corpse would, by literal interpretation of the Torah, 

1 B. Baba kamma 8a a ; Pal. Megillah IV, i, 75 a. 

2 See Weiss, Dor Dor we-Doreschaw, II, 66. 

8 Concerning the time when Solomon introduced the device of ' erubin ' 
(Erubin aia and Shabbat 14 b) see Geiger in he-Halus, VI, and also 
Derenbourg, Essai sur I'Histoire de la Palestine, p. 144. 



have to depart from the city,* the law being as severe in 
their case as in the case of those having a contagious 
disease like leprosy. It would have been impracticable 
in the period, when the Jewish people were at the pinnacle 
of their intellectual and material development, that a 
person merely by reason of such an occurrence should be 
constrained to give up communal life and leave the city. 
So the Sages amended the law in accordance with the new 
requirements. Such men as these, having no contagious 
disease (including those affected by noctis pollutio, and 
others), were merely incapacitated from entering the 
Temple-court or the Sanctuary, but were not compelled 
to keep apart from their fellow citizens and leave the city. 6 

Now we will examine the takkanot themselves, that the 
Baraita ascribes to Ezra. This is the list : (i) Reading 
from the Scroll at Sabbath afternoon service ; (a) Reading 
from the Scroll at morning service on Mondays and 
Thursdays ; 6 (3) Holding court on Mondays and Thursdays; 
(4) Ritual bath (tebilah) for ">"\p ^jn ; (5) Eating garlic on 
Eve of Sabbath ; (6) Washing clothes [giving them out to 
be washed] on Thursdays ; (7) That a woman should rise 
early and bake; (8) That a woman should gird herself 
with a belt ; (9) That pedlars should carry about their 
wares in the cities ; (10) That a woman should dress her 
hair before immersion. 

The first three, concerning the reading from the Penta- 
teuch on Sabbath afternoon, and on Monday and Thursday 

4 Num. 5. a ; Deut. 23. 11. 5 Pesahim 67 and 68. 

• In Pal. Megillah, ibid., the takkanot to read from the Scroll during 
Minhah of Sabbath and on Monday and Thursday are reckoned as one 
ta^kanah ; and there is another to complete the list, viz. D'BOrj liTC 
ND3n 7V33 11 Dy WirmD. But this, we are informed in the Talmud 
Babli (Sanhedrin 19 a), was a ruling of R. Jose in Sepphoris. 


mornings, and sessions of court on Mondays and Thursdays, 
are fairly intelligible to us. 7 The fourth takkanah con- 
cerning the requirement that a np hyi must receive or 
undergo tebilah, seems thus to have been understood by 
the compilers of the Talmud, and so the Gemara asks in 
reference thereto : ' Is this not known from the Torah — 
that one who has experienced pollution should undergo 
tebilah ?' 8 But such is not the real purport of the takkanah ; 
there is involved in it a reform in the laws of purification. 
As we have noted above, originally it was incumbent on the 
■Hp 7jn to leave the camp, to undergo tebilah, and there- 
after to wait until evening (after sunset he became clean). 9 
For historical evidence that such was at one time the 
Jewish law, note what King Saul said when David failed 
to appear at his father-in-law's table : "lino ab rr\pD ; 10 the 
expressions he uses are quite consonant with the obligation 
of a man suddenly confronted with pollution to leave the 
city, and the observance of such a law might not be felt as 
a hardship or obstacle in such a small kingdom. 

However, what was not felt to impede progress in the 
days of Saul was felt by the Pharisees to be a great 
hindrance in their desire to bring about agreement between 
religion and a larger life. By their method of exegesis 
they explained naro (camp) as row runo (camp wherein 
the Shechinah resided) ; therefore the law of temporary 
banishment could apply only to the Sanctuary proper, 
and to the 'Azarah, known also as rroi> rone ' camp of the 
Levite group ', and not to the whole city. 11 

7 See Derenbourg, ibid., pp. 32-3. 

8 Lev. 15. 16 ; Deut. 23. 12. 9 Ibid. 10 1 Sam. 30. 24-6. 
11 SeeZeitlin, 'Les dix-huit Mesures ', Revue des Etudes Juives, LXVIII, 

p. 29 ; Pesahim 68 a ; Sifre, 255. 


Similarly in the matter of sunset. For according to the 
Torah, mere bathing of the body in water would not have 
been deemed sufficient to render a person pure, unless the 
sun had set on him thereafter, and he is called by the 
Talmud dv!>ud. The Sages then ordained that, if he had 
taken the prescribed bath, he was ipso facto pure, and relieved 
of the necessity of waiting until sunset. 12 This reform 
the Talmud ascribes to Ezra in these words, r6'3D JpTi Kin 
i~\\> ~bmb, meaning to say, that it is sufficient for him to 
undergo tebilah, as he need not leave the city nor concern 
himself as to when the sun will set. 

The law of DV ^30, according to which tebilah alone 
does not suffice, but it is necessary to wait for sunset, 
the Pharisees made, by their decree, apply in cases of 
terumah — if a priest was unclean, he would not only have 
to undergo tebilah, but be inhibited from eating terumah 
until night. 12 * This is one of the ' Eighteen Measures ' 
that were decreed by Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel. 13 And 

» Sifra Emor 4, 1 : CDS' »3*liyD3 TOnm D^31N DJW btOW flD 
DV ^130 T2>8D3 B^3W JH "in. Tosefta Parah 3, 6: !>3KJ X>J)D 
DV ^3tD3. 

12 * ncrwe nonnh ov inno phr6 -una . . . 3iyn ~iy kdbv 

Sifra Shemini 8. 

13 See Zeitlin, ibid. This decree was a consequence of the Pharisees' 

hostility to the priesthood, which was particularly strong in the last days 
of the Second Temple, so strong indeed that they virtually decreed that 
almost everything disqualified terumah, and terumah disqualified had to be 
burnt (see my article, ibid.) ; and also that almost everything rendered 
the priest unclean and unfit to eat terumah and %odesh, going so far as to say 
that if any man (of the priesthood) carried any object on his shoulder, 
though it touched nothing unclean, still some object polluted might be lying 
underground as far down as the spade might dig — and who knows but 
that there might be some pollution at that depth ? — consequently it would 
also render unclean the man who carried the object (see Ohalot 16. 1). 
In line, possibly, with this general principle, they made the ruling that the 


now we are able to understand the controversy between 
the Pharisees and the Sadducees in the matter of the 
burning of the Red Heifer. The Sadducees, adhering as 
they did to the old Halakah, and basing their arguments 
on the plain meaning of Scripture, said : When is a man 
purged of his uncleanness ? After sunset. Tebilah alone 
does not render him pure. As the priest who burns 
the Red Heifer must be pure, 14 and we are appre- 
hensive lest by accident he come under the head of 
TintD vb mpD, or lest his brother priests have touched 
him, in which case the tebilah (ablution) would not have 
the immediate effect of purging him and qualifying him 
to burn the Heifer — therefore the Sadducees considered it 
necessary to defer that burning until after sunset. 

The Pharisees, however, who had adopted the principle 
that, if one took the prescribed bath, he is rendered pure 
without waiting for the sun to set, said the priest may burn 
the Heifer before sunset, immediately after tebilah. 

As for the pomp wherewith the ceremony of the Red 
Heifer was surrounded, the purpose of the Pharisees was 

priests should not eat of terumah until after sunset, apprehending that 
the priest might have been contaminated by some object, and maintaining, 
as they did, that for eating of terumah immersion did not suffice, but that 
setting of the sun was necessary, consequently terumah could not be eaten 
in the day-time. This makes intelligible the first Mishnah of the Talmud, 
as, after asking from what time we are allowed to read JIGS', it says, when 
the priests begin to eat terumah : nVE>D rWUn J/DSf nK '^p VIO'KD 
jnonna ^laK^ D'DJSJ D^ronC. The Talmud is astonished, asking why 
the Mishnah does not in so many words say ' from the appearance of the 
stars'. But if we say that the Sages decreed that the priests should not 
eat terumah until after sunset, that is, until nightfall, the Mishnah very 
clearly indicates to us when we can read the SD'i', when the priests 
gather to eat their terumah, which did actually serve the people as a criterion 
whereby, the sun having set, they might know that they could read the yt255>. 

14 Num. 19. 5-9. 



to demonstrate in public that their view had won recogni- 
tion. They actually defiled the priest who was to burn 
the Heifer. DE> nrfn r6'3D mi— A pool was there in which 
he could immerse his whole body, after which he might 
burn the Heifer, without waiting for the sun to set — all 
this the Pharisees did, miflDa Dnoix VT> &6t? D'pmn '3SD 
TITO nrvn kw 15 'so that the Sadducees should not have 
occasion to say that it had to be done at sunset '. 

This is the reason underlying the difference between 
the Pharisees and the Sadducees in the matter of the 
burning of the Red Heifer, namely, the principle of Of i>l3D, 
and not, as is generally believed, that the Sadducees were 
more exacting in the matter of the purity of the priest who 
burned the Heifer, and the Pharisees less exacting, less 

The fifth takkanah is ' to eat garlic on the eve of 
the Sabbath'. The Talmud's explanation, that garlic is 
a mnK D'MO, induces love, and that Friday night is the 
ruiy JOT, makes thereof a strange, grotesque takkanah, and 
long ago many expressed surprise that a Baraita should 
ascribe it to Ezra, particularly as the making Sabbath eve 
the ruiy }DT is one of the most recent things in the Talmud. 16 
This takkanah has, in my opinion, no connexion with njiy, 
but was really a great and significant reform in the develop- 
ment of the laws of clean and unclean. Originally, they 
did not permit the eating of garlic, because before plucking 
it from the ground they moistened it with water, 17 and by 
this pouring of water upon it they rendered it susceptible 

16 Parah 3. 7 ; Tosefta, ibid. " Ketubot 62 b. 

17 Tosefta Makshirin 3. 3 : NDD '33 !>JO X2W "OX t«ip |3 WID^H 
jrilN pj&lp 13 "1C1K1 DnD3 vfyy PWO? »JBD. They evidently were in 
the habit of pouring water upon it before plucking, as it was so sharp as to 
produce tears in those who ate it. 


of becoming unclean. For in Leviticus n. 38 the expression 
occurs JHt bv D'D JJV *3l. However, the earlier Sages so 
revised the Law, that seed is rendered susceptible of re- 
ceiving impurity through the pouring of water thereon, only 
when detached, not when attached (by nature) to the soil 
(Sifra Shemini it, 3); and this takkanah the Talmud 
ascribes to Ezra. 18 What hitherto was obscure now becomes 
clear — we are able to understand a Mishnah in Yadaim 4 
which brings in a disputation between the Sadducees and 
the Pharisees: DriNt? CETiB to^y UN D'taip Dipm DnoiN 
DriKB> cpro D3^y un D^aip BWien xsncm ; pivan m onnno 
nn3pn rvao ntan D'on nox m annuo ' The Sadducees say, 
We complain against you, Pharisees, because ye declare 
clean the p1X3. The Pharisees say, We complain against 
you, Sadducees, that ye declare clean the stream of water 
that comes from the cemetery.' All the commentators 
who have discussed this Mishnah, and all the scholars who 
have spoken about the matters of dispute between the 
Pharisees and the Sadducees, have taken for granted that 
the word pww implies pouring from one vessel into another, 
and hence they interpret the Sadducees as saying, 'We 
find fault with you, O Pharisees, because in case a man 

18 This enables us to understand the answer the Sages gave Halafta 
ben Konia: btfrW bJ? "YlrlDl W*lp }3 W1bW6 NOD NiT p DN 
(Tosefta, ibid.), equivalent to saying, 'Ye who do not avail yourselves 
of the takkanah, that seed never becomes susceptible of uncleanness through 
pouring thereon of water save when detached from the soil, have occasion 
to investigate, but not the great bulk of Israel who abide by that takkanah ; 
for them it is clean and unquestionably permissible as food'. Similarly 
they disposed of the objection that Joshua ben Perahiah made to importing 
wheat from Egypt, where, as no rain falls, water is necessarily poured upon 
the seed, making it, according to that teacher, susceptible of uncleanness. 
The Sages, applying to Egyptian wheat the ruling concerning that which 
was attached to the soil, observed that it might be unclean for Joshua 
ben Perahiah but not for the vast body of Israel who abided by the takkanah. 

F 2 


pours a liquid from a clean vessel into a vessel that is 
unclean ye maintain that what is left in the upper vessel 
remains clean ', and that the Pharisees rejoin thereto, ' We 
have as much right to find fault with you that ye declare 
clean the stream of water that issues from a cemetery'. 
This interpretation of the Mishnah appears to me un- 
acceptable. For, aside from our not being able to find 
any evidence that the Sadducees ever declared unclean 
the water that remained in the upper vessel when part 
thereof had been poured into an unclean vessel, and aside 
from inability to see whereon they could base such a 
view — according to this interpretation, the answer that the 
Pharisees give does not fit in with the question that the 
Sadducees propound. The Sadducees are thus repre- 
sented as asking why they (the Pharisees) declare clean 
the water in the upper vessel when a part has been poured 
therefrom into an unclean vessel, and the Pharisees are 
represented as answering with the query, why they (the 
Sadducees) declare clean the water that issues from the 
cemetery — which is wholly irrelevant and bears no relation 
to the original question. 

The word pfiM which almost everywhere has the con- 
notation of pouring out from one vessel into another, has, 
it appears to me, misled the commentators ; they thought 
that in this passage also it had that connotation. Here, 
however, PWM, nif al of P2T, refers to the status of that which 
has received the water. The dispute resolves itself thus: 
' The Sadducees say, We object to your declaring seed 
clean in case water has been poured thereon — we mean 
that ye make distinction (as far as the Law is concerned) 
between that which is attached to the soil and that which 
is detached — which is above the ground, and claim that 


in case water is poured on the seed while it is attached 

to the soil, that seed does not become susceptible of 

receiving pollution ; that only when the seed has been 

removed from the ground does the pouring of water thereon 

render it susceptible of impurity.' To this, the answer 

of the Pharisees appears to be directed, and in fact proves 

that to have been the purport and burden of the question ; 

for the rejoinder is virtually, ' Do ye not also make a 

similar distinction in the matter of defilement between that 

which is attached to the ground and that which is detached, 

when ye admit that the stream of water, though coming 

from a cemetery (than which nothing is more unclean), is 

clean, because the stream of water is attached to the soil ? ' 19 

That the eating of garlic served as a means of emphasizing 

some principle we can see from another Mishnah, also very 

ancient. 20 He that forswears benefit from 'men who rest 

on the Sabbath ' is forbidden to derive benefit from 

Cutheans as well as Israelites, since the Cutheans, though 

they do not regard as binding the takkanot and gezerot 

added by the Sages (e. g. the Erub), do rest on Sabbath in 

conformity with the Torah. He that forswears benefit 

from ' men who eat garlic ' is forbidden in case of Israelites, 

and permitted in case of Cutheans. The reason in the latter 

case is that the Cutheans adhered to the old Halakah 

based on Scripture, and consequently did not eat garlic, 

because before plucking it from the ground, it was 

customary to wet it, pouring water upon it, and thereby 

19 R. Leszynsky, Die Sadduerier, pp. 38-43, says that plJTO in this 
passage means 'honey'. See also Geiger, Urschrift, p. 147; Derenbourg, 
£5501, p. 134. 

*• Nedarim 3. 10 : / D , ni33 "YIDK1 btrfVi 11DK TOV TDW3 TrUi! 
OVUM iniDl btOJPa "VIDK D155> 'bsVXO is the correct reading. See 
Bet Joseph, Tur Yoreh De'ah, § 214. 


it was rendered susceptible of becoming unclean ; and since 
the Torah makes no distinction between detached from and 
attached to the soil, and the emendation of the Sages, 
that only such seed as is detached is susceptible of receiving 
defilement, but not that which is attached to the soil, 
had not been adopted by the Samaritans. Hence, he who 
had forsworn benefit from people who ate garlic was 
regarded as not having included Cutheans in his vow, 
since they did not eat garlic, whereas he was forbidden 
benefit from Israelites, who having accepted the takkanah 
of the Sages, did eat garlic. Now we can understand why 
this (fifth) takkanah was considered so important as to be 
ascribed to Ezra. 21 

The sixth takkanah, naca 'troru pD33D Yrw, evidently 
permitted giving garments to the launderers on Thursdays. 
This accords well with the Hillelite Halakah that allows 
giving work to a Gentile three days before the Sabbath, 
though it is probable that he may not finish it before 
Sabbath. See Shabbat 1 1 a. 22 

The seventh takkanah, nawi noatrD new wintr, is ex- 
plained in the Talmud to mean, the housewife should get 
up early to bake in order to give of her bread to the poor 
man. According to my opinion, this takkanah also bore 
some relation to Sabbath observance, particularly as in 
the Palestinian Talmud, the reading is »a*ij>a ns paiK vrre> 
ninac ; that is, this regulation had for its purpose, that on 
Fridays baking should be begun in time for a crust to be 

21 In ordaining that garlic be eaten on Sabbath eve the Sages appear 
to have availed themselves of a custom that already existed (Nedarim 8. 6), 
and by sanctioning it to have given concrete expression to their views. 

2J R. Zadok says that in Rabban Gamaliel's house they used to give 
clothes to the launderer three days before Sabbath, see ibid. 


formed on the bread while it was still day (see Shabbat 19 
and last Mishnah of Shabbat 1). This takkanah emanated 
from the Hillelite school ; the Shammaite school, however, 
insisted that the work must be completely finished before 
sunset (Shabbat 1. 4-1 1). 

The eighth takkanah, *irD3 JTWn new xnne>, the Talmud 
regards as designed to promote modesty in behaviour. 
The etymology of "l^D is a bit obscure. Rashi says that 
' Senar ' is a pair of trousers. Apparently the purpose of 
the takkanah was, as explained in the Talmud, to promote 
modest behaviour ; the essence thereof accordingly would 
have been : though trousers are originally included in men's 
garments which are ipso facto forbidden to women, still 
since the wearing of them by women will be promotive 
of modesty, we commend and even recommend the new 
custom. Or it is possible that the takkanah was required 
by reason of the "i^D being a garment of foreign origin, 
whether in vogue among the Persians (ujjj) or identical 
with the (mvdpiov (belt) in vogue among the Greeks; how- 
ever, mjMV, or feminine delicacy, motivated the reform 
in dress. 

The ninth takkanah, nn«in ptno pbn VfW, is regarded 
in the Talmud as facilitating the sale of women's orna- 
ments. It seemed better that the pedlars should carry 
their stock into all parts of the cities rather than that 
by their coming into the houses jealousy of the husbands 
be aroused, and domestic unpleasantness result — so the sales 
should be negotiated on the street. 23 In the Yerushalmi, 

23 Yebamot 34 b. In case a pedlar is seen leaving the house and his 
wife girding herself with a ' Senar ', the husband has the right to divorce 
her without dower. See ibid., 63b, where the Talmud quotes Ben Sira 
assaying: iTOy -\2lb D^JIOn ion 'JWfB Vn Ml. 


in connexion with the pedlars hawking their wares in 
the open, the expression is used ^NIB" nua b>V n«3 *«» 
• on account of the dignity of the daughters of Israel ', and 
after this they made a regulation that the citizens must 
not prevent these pedlars from freely moving about to sell 
their wares. 2 * 

The tenth takkanah, rtalDl nssin ntPN Knnt?, evokes 
expressions of surprise in the Babylonian Talmud, to this 
effect : Since according to the ordinance of the Torah a 
woman must dress her hair before taking the ritual bath, 
wherein does the takkanah consist ? what new element does 
it contain ? Had the redactors of the Babylonian Talmud 
been aware in this case of the Palestinian Gemara, they 
would not have asked this question, for there they would 
have seen nrnntsi* amp nssin nm ttnw ppnn (tniy) Nin 
OW ntJ^t? ' He (Ezra) amended the law, so that a woman 
might dress her hair three days before her purification '. 

The reason for the takkanah was as follows : When 
a woman at the close of her separation period desired 
to cast off her uncleanness, she had to take the prescribed 
ritual bath at night; 25 the dressing of her hair had 
(originally) to be on the day immediately preceding her 
tebilah. 29 However, if her time for tebilah fell on Saturday 
night or on a Sunday night, Sunday itself being Yom Tob, 
and so she could not by reason of the sanctity of Sabbath 
or of Yom Tob cleanse and comb her hair — what was 

44 This takkanah, that the citizens should not hamper the pedlars in their 
efforts to sell their goods, was made because these men, who had formerly 
entered houses, were now, out of regard for the reputation of Jewish women, 
disallowed to enter houses ; the merchants of the city were, therefore, not 
to hinder them from exercising the privilege granted by the other takkanah 
of going about in the cities to sell their wares. See Baba batra as a. 

23 Yoma 6 a. 2 « See Niddah 67 b and 68 a. 


there for her to do? Then the Sages ordained that in 
case the night for tebilah of a Niddah was at the conclusion 
of Sabbath, or at the close of the festival of Rosh-ha- 
Shanah that fell on Thursday and Friday, making it impos- 
sible for her to cleanse and comb her hair immediately 
previous to her tebilah, she might instead cleanse and 
comb her hair on Friday, that is, three days before her 
purification. 27 This was the iakkanah that the Talmud 
ascribed to Ezra. 

Now we can fully understand why just these takkanot 
were ascribed to Ezra, inasmuch as we have seen their impor- 
tance and their value in the development of the laws of 
mntil HNDIti, the laws of the Sabbath, and in domestic life. 

As for the time of these takkanot, Weiss 28 has well 
shown that they do not go back to Ezra's day. In my 
opinion, they were instituted neither by one man nor in one 
period, but were the results of the evolution of the ancient 
Halakot according to the demands of the time, some of these 
takkanot being very ancient, and others not quite so ancient. 
The takkanot in the matter of mriDi nsoitD are very ancient, 
e. g. the ' takkanot shunt ', that the only time that seed 
becomes susceptible of receiving pollution is when it is 
detached from the soil. That it is very old is seen by 
what is stated of Joshua ben Perahiah as opposed thereto. 29 
The takkanot or amendments in the laws of Sabbath 
enabling the Jews to give clothes to the launderer on 
Thursday, and to bake bread on Friday while it was day, 
are from the times of Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai ; 80 

27 The Babylonian Amoraim were divided in opinion on this matter. 
See Niddah, ibid. 

28 Dor Dor we-Doreschaw, II, p. 66. 

29 See Tosefta Makshirin 3. 4. 

30 It is very likely that this iakkanah about reading from the Scroll 


therein we can see traces of how the ancient Halakot were 
remoulded, and how the Pharisees strove to bring the religion 
into consonance with life, and to amend the Pentateuchal 
law, if such were life's demands. 

during the Sabbath afternoon service was instituted at the close of the 
period of the Second Temple, the purpose being (on Sabbaths) to restrict 
it to the afternoon, as the Sages preferred that the people free from work 
should go to the Bet-ha-Midrash to hear the exposition of the Sages and 
not read the Holy Scriptures, and therefore they decided that reading of 
the Scriptures was permissible on Sabbath from Minhah and after. And this 
we find in a Tosefta (Shabbat 14) : STtpn '3ri33 pip fN nOM? »S by *]K, 
and we also find in the Talmud that it is not allowed to read the Scriptures 
until the afternoon service : rbvtbl nrUOil JO N^N {Tip *2T02 |Hlp CN 
(Pal. Shabbat 15 c) ; and also the question arose among the Amoraim : 
If the fifteenth of Adar falls on a Sabbath, what should be done in regard 
to reading of Megillat Esther, as it is forbidden to read from the Scriptures 
before Minhah (J. Megila 74 b) ? See S. Zeitlin, ' Les dix-huit Mesures ', 
R£J., LXVIII, pp. 34-5-