Parables - 27. Tosefta Ohalot 16:8

27. Tosefta Ohalot 16:8 (Zuckermandel 614)

27 . תוספתא, אהלות טז ח


R. Joshua says: He who learns and does not labor
[to accomplish it] is like a man who sows
but does not harvest.* He who studies Torah and
forgets [it, to what may] he be compared? To a
woman who gives birth and buries [her infant].



ר' יהושע אומר: השונה ואינו
עמל, כאיש זורע ולא קוצר. והלמד
תורה ושוכח, דומה לאשה שיולדת


* Once again we hear the emphasis upon deed together with study. The parable’s message of the
importance of deeds illustrated by the agricultural setting of the lack of laborers at the time of
harvest may also be reflected in a saying of Jesus: “The harvest is great, but those who labor are
few” (Matt 9:37–38; Luke 10:2). See Appendix No. 2 and our note on the saying of R. Tarfon in
m. Avot 2:15.
The moral is from the world of the Sages (i.e., study of the Torah), and the parable from the world of
agriculture and family. The parable possesses considerable literary exaggeration. Forgetfulness is a
mistake and unfortunate, but by itself it bears no resemblance to the burying of a small child. Instead,
the parable is intended to embolden the message. Hyperbole was a well-known and important literary

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