The Mishnah (Berakhot 1: 1) states that according to Rabbi Eliezer the evening Shema can only be recited until the end of the first watch, after which time it is too late. Now there are two opinions, to be recorded later in the passage, on whether the night is divided into three watches (each of four hours duration) or four watches (each of three hours duration). The Gemara (3a) proceeds:
Which opinion does Rabbi Eliezer follow? If he holds that the night has four watches, let him say: “Until three hours” and if he holds that the night has three watches, let him say: “Until four hours” [i.e. why not state the more precise time instead of the indefinite term ‘watch’?]. Actually he holds that there are three watches in the night but [by referring to ‘watches’] he informs us that just as there are watches in heaven [when the angels sing God’s praises] there are watches on earth [i.e. it is possible to know on earth the times of the heavenly watches]. For it has been taught: ‘Rabbi Eliezer says: “There are three watches in the night and at each watch the Holy One, blessed be He, sits and roars like a lion, as it is said: The Lord doth roar from on high, and utter His voice from His holy habitation; He doth mightily roar upon His habitation [Jeremiah 25: 30]. And there is a sign for the matter [i.e. when the times in heaven can be discerned on earth]. At the first watch, the ass brays; at the second, the dogs bark; at the third, the babe sucks at its mother’s breast and a wife talks to her husband”. To which part of each watch does Rabbi Eliezer refer? If he refers to the beginning of the watches, what need is there for a sign in connection with the first watch since it is the beginning of the night? And if he refers to the end of the watches, what need is there for a sign in connection with the last watch since it is the beginning of the day? He refers to the end of the first watch, the beginning of the last watch and the middle of the middle watch. Or if you wish I can say, he refers in connection with all three to the end of the watch and as for your objection that there is no need for a sign for the end of the last watch, the practical difference is for one who lies in a dark [i. e. windowless] room [lit. ‘house’] where he cannot see when day breaks and wishes to know when the time arrives for the reading of the morning Shema. When the wife talks to her husband and the babe sucks at its mother’s breast let him rise and read the Shema. R. Isaac b. Samuel said in the name of Rav: “The night has three watches and at each watch the Holy One, blessed be He, sits and roars like a lion, saying: ‘Woe to the children on account of whose sins I destroyed My house and burned My Temple and exiled them among the nations of the world”’.
This whole section is a complete unit in itself but, in the usual manner of the Gemara, there is now introduced, because of the obvious association with the idea that God mourns for the destruction of the Temple, the story of Rabbi Jose and his meeting with Elijah. This section opens with the word tanya, ‘It was taught’ and continues:
Rabbi Jose said: Once, while walking along the way, I entered one of the ruins of Jerusalem in order to pray. Elijah, may he be remembered for good, came along and waited for me at the entrance, staying there until I had concluded my prayer. He then greeted me, saying: ‘Peace to you, my master, to which I responded: ‘Peace to you, my master and my teacher’. He said to me: ‘My son, why did you enter this ruin?’ ‘In order to pray’, I replied. He said: ‘You should have prayed by the wayside’. I replied: ‘I was afraid that the passersby would interrupt me’. But he retorted: ‘Then you should have recited an abbreviated prayer’. On that occasion I learnt three things from him: that one should not enter a ruin; that it is permitted to pray by the wayside; and that when prayer is recited at the wayside it should be an abbreviated prayer. He then said to me: ‘My son, what sound did you hear in this ruin?’ I replied: ‘I heard a heavenly voice [bat kol] cooing like a dove, saying: “Woe for My children on account of whose sins I destroyed My house, burned My Temple, and exiled them among the nations”’. He said to me: ‘By your life and by the life of your head, it does not only cry thus at that hour but three times daily. Moreover, whenever the Children of Israel enter their synagogues and houses of learning and respond: “Let His great name be blessed”, the Holy One, blessed be He, nods His head and declares: “Happy the King who is praised thus in His house. Woe to the Father who has banished his children. And woe to the children who have been banished from their Father’s table”’.
It is to be noted that Elijah appears to Rabbi Jose not so much as a mysterious visitant from another world but more in the guise of a contemporary, though superior, teacher. The account of the two meeting as ‘rabbis’, one teaching the other and the two greeting one another in the conventional ‘rabbinic’ manner, is all presented in a completely matter-of-fact way, vastly different from the accounts, in the later mystical tradition, in which the appearance of Elijah (gilluy eliyahu) has such a powerful numinous quality. In the previous section God is said to ‘roar like a lion’ while here the heavenly voice is heard ‘cooing like a dove’. The change is probably either because in one of the ruins of Jerusalem the sound is more subdued or because the heavenly voice is best expressed in this more subdued form.
The Gemara (3a-b) now continues with a statement about entering a ruin. The association with the story of Rabbi Jose is obvious. This opens with the expression: ‘Our Rabbis taught’ (teno rabbanan).
‘There are three reasons why one must not enter a ruin: because of suspicion [that he has an assignation there with a harlot ,Rashi]; because of [the danger from] falling masonry; and because of the demons [ha-mazikin]’. ‘Because of suspicion’—but why not derive it from falling masonry [i.e. that reason alone would have sufficed]. It is a new ruin [that has collapsed only recently so that it has settled and there is no danger from further falls, Rashi]. But why not derive it from the demons? Two persons are present [and the demons do not normally attack two or more persons, only one]. But if there are two persons the reason for suspicion does not apply? The reference is to where the two are licentious. ‘Because of masonry’—but why not derive it from suspicion and demons? There are two worthy men [so there is no fear of demons since they are two and no suspicion since they are two and worthy]. ‘Because of demons’—but why not derive it from suspicion and masonry? The reference is to a new ruin and where there are two worthy men [so that there is no fear of masonry and no suspicion]. But if there are two there is no fear of demons either? In their haunts we are afraid [even where there are two]. And if you wish I can say, it actually refers to a new ruin in the field. There the reason of suspicion does not apply since a woman does not frequent a field but the reason of demons still applies.
To be noted here is that the Baraita (‘Our Rabbis taught’) mentions three reasons in the order: 1) suspicion; 2) masonry; 3) demons. Logically, the first question of the Gemara should have been: given the reason of suspicion, the first of the three, why are the other two reasons needed? But had this have been the first question, the reply would have been that the reason of masonry is required where there are two (hence no suspicion) and the reason of demons where the ruin is new and the two are licentious or, in the other suggestion, where the ruin is in the field. But then the whole of the ground would have been covered and there would have been no room for the skilful thrust and parry, question and counter-question, that are of the very essence of the Talmudic discussion. Too much is not revealed at once but only gradually so as to heighten the dramatic effect.
In the next section (3b) the Gemara take us further the theme of the watches in the night. This is also prefaced by: ‘Our Rabbis taught’:
‘There are four watches in the night’, these are the words of Rabbi [Judah the Prince]. Rabbi Nathan says: ‘There are three’. What is Rabbi Nathan’s reason [for saying that there are only three watches]? Because it is written: So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came onto the outermost part of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch [Judges 7: 19]. It has been taught: ‘The expression middle can only mean that there is one before it and one after it’. And Rabbi [what will he say to this?] What is the meaning of middle? One of the [two] middles. And Rabbi Nathan [what reply will he give?] Is it written: ‘One of the middles of those in the middle? It simply states the middle. And what is Rabbi’s reason? R. Zerika said R. Ami said R. Joshuas b. Levi said: One verse says: At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto Thee because of Thy righteous ordinances [Psalms 119: 62] and another verse says: Mine eyes have forestalled the night watches [Psalms 119: 148]. How so? Because there are four watches in the night [two before midnight and two after midnight]. And Rabbi Nathan? He will hold the same opinion as Rabbi Joshua, as we have been taught [in Mishnah, Berakhot 1: 2]: ‘Until three hours [the morning Shema can be recited] since the kings have the habit of rising at the third hour’ [hence since some people are still rising from their sleep it qualifies as ‘the time of rising’ for the reading of the Shema]. Thus there are six hours of the night [when David rose at midnight] and two of the day making two watches [of four hours each, David referring not to two watches before the day but to two watches before the rising of the earliest kings]. R. Ashi said: ‘A watch and a half is also referred to as watches’ [in the plural, hence although at midnight there was only a watch and a half until daybreak, David could still refer to the time as watches in the plural].
The Gemara continues with various other associated themes together with a number of digressions. But the four sections of the passage we have examined, it can easily been seen, have been presented by the final editors as following neatly one after the other. Section one considers Rabbi Eliezer’s views and introduces the notion of God mourning. Section two contains in association with this theme the story of Rabbi Jose. Section three is then appropriately added because of the entering a ruin theme, which is a digression but an appropriate one. Finally in section four the Gemara considers the debate between Rabbi and Rabbi Nathan to which an incidental reference had been made in section one. The whole has been contrived so as to produce a formal literary construction, though, naturally, this does not rule out the idea that the final editors used earlier material as bricks for their edifice.
Especially to be noted is the recurrence of the number three throughout the passage: the three watches in the night; the three expressions in the cry of the Holy One, blessed be He, and of the heavenly voice; the three signs; the three times daily in the Elijah story; the three things Rabbi Jose learns from Elijah; the three reasons why one must not enter a ruin. All this follows a pattern found frequently in the Talmud of an arrangement of the material in threes as a literary device.
 The term ashmurah, used in the Mishnah for ‘watch’ is Biblical e.g. in Exodus 14: 24 and Lamentations 2: 19 and in the verses quoted here in our passage. In the Gemara the parallel term mishmarah is used (plural mishmarot).The division into watches is referred to in Matthew 14: 25 and Mark 6: 48. Originally the term referred to such matters as the watches of guards as in the Roman vigilae and in our passages it is extended to the watches of the angels on high. The term ashmurah is also found in Mishnah Yoma 1: 6. The debate between Rabbi and Rabbi Nathan in our passage regarding how many watches there are in the night is found in the Tosefta Berakhot 1: 3, ed. Zuckermandel, p.l. Meiri, Bet ha-Behirah, p.11, discovers a practical difference of the debate in the case of a man taking a vow to study until the end of the first watch or an employee undertaking to work for this period.
 See DS for a different reading: ‘Just as there are watches on earth [i.e. referred to in Scripture] so there are watches in Heaven’, which makes better sense, cf. Zohar 159a
 ‘Mightily roar’ is shaog yishag in Hebrew so that there are three ‘roarings’ in the verse, hence the three of Rabbi Eliezer.
 In all probability the wife speaking is here mentioned first because the man in the windowless house will only hear the voice of the woman whereas earlier the babe is mentioned first since it is because of her babe’s needs that the woman wakes up.
 The Karaites attacked the Talmud for indulging in such gross anthropomorphisms as God roaring like a lion. In defence of the Rabbis R. Hai Gaon (Otzar ha-Geonim, ed. Lewin, pp. 2-3) writes: ‘And when Rabbi Eliezer states that at each watch the Holy one, blessed be He, roars like a lion it is a metaphor [mashal] as the verse says: “He doth mightily roar upon His habitation” [i.e. if the Talmud is to be faulted on these grounds so is Scripture, which the Karaites do accept]. The essence of the matter is that the people of Israel should offer supplication over the Temple that has been destroyed, as it is said: “Arise and cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches” [Lamentations 2: 19] .Cf, Maharal of Prague: Netzah Yisrael, chapter 18, for a similar allegorical interpretation, though passages such as ours are really a kind of poetry and the Rabbinic poets were not bothered overmuch with the question of anthropomorphism.
 Reuben Margaliot: Nitzutzey Or, pp. 4b-5a, refers to other passages in which Elijah waits at the entrance e.g. I Kings 19: 13; Shabbat 33b; Sanhedrin 98a.
 See Bava Kama 73b for these conventional greetings between master and disciple.
 The expression ‘learning three things’ is found in Berakhot 27a; Shabbat 40b and freq. See my article ‘The Numbered Sequence as a Literary Device in the Babylonian Talmud’ in the Hebrew Annual Review, Vol. 7, 1983 (Robert Gordis Festschrift), ed. R. Ahroni, Ohio State University, pp. 137-150.
 Jonah Fraenkel: ‘Time and Its Role in the Aggadic Story’ (Heb.) in Studies in Aggadah, Targum and Jewish Liturgy in Memory of Joseph Heinemann, ed. Jakob J. Petuchowski and Ezra Fleishcher, Jerusalem, 1981, pp. 133-162 (English trans. in Binah: Studies in Jewish Thought, vol.2, ed. Joseph Dan, New York and London, 1989, pp.31-56) notes how the time sequence in this and in other Aggadic passages is arranged in such a way that the material is allowed to unfold gradually, each stage coming in at just the right moment. Fraenkel, however, disagrees with Rashi who understands ‘My house’ in the narrative as referring to the Temple. According to Fraenkel the reference is to the synagogue. But this seems unlikely since in the account of the Holy One, blessed be He, roaring like a lion, ‘My house’ obviously does refer to the Temple and the two accounts are placed in juxtaposition.
 The only other reference in the Talmud to the simile of the dove in connection with God is to the spirit of God in Hagigah 15a.Cf. Matthew 3: 16 which suggests that the comparison is quite early. In our passage, however, it is possible that the simile is used because Israel is compared to a dove, see Midrash Canticles I, 15 and the article ‘Dove’ in JE, vol. 4, pp. 664-5.
 Perhaps referring to the three services of the day.
 The reference is to the response yehey shmey rabba in the Kaddish.
 For a similar usage of God nodding His head to express approval see Berakhot 7a.
 For gilluy eliyahu see the chapter on ‘Elijah in Jewish Mysticism’ (chapter 4) in A. Wiener: The Prophet Elijah in the Development of Judaism, London, 1978, pp. 78-111. In two other Talmudic passages (Yevamot 63a and Sanhedrin 113a-b) Rabbi Jose is described as being on familiar terms with Elijah.
 bat kol means literally ‘the daughter of a voice’, perhaps to denote a kind of echoing voice.
 Unlike the Baraitot of Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Jose which are introduced by tanya. It is not clear generally why the Bavli at times uses one form at other times the other form. It has been conjectured that teno rabbanan is used to introduce a Baraita in which no specific authorities are named whereas when names are given the introductory fomula is tanya. This fits in very well with Baraitot in our passage but not with the Baraita of Rabbi and Rabbi Joshua which is prefaced by teno rabbanan. For a discussion of this question see H. Albeck: Mehkarin Bivraita ve-Tosefta, Jerusalem, 1944, pp. 3-13.
 The other term used for demons is shedim but whereas the term mazikin refers to malevolent beings shedim sometimes can be benevolent. Meiri, Bet ha-Behirah, to our passage follows his usual demythologizing tendency and understands mazikin as ‘whatever danger there is to those who enter’. Cf. Meiri’s (p. 14) interpretation of the statement in the Yerushalmi that the reason for the Shema recited before going to sleep is to ward off the mazikin.
 See the commentary of Samuel Strashun (the Reshash) in the Vilna, Romm ed. where ‘new’ is understood to mean a building that is a ruin not because part of it has fallen in but because the builders have left it in an unfinished state so that there is no danger from falling masonry.
 See Mishnah Kiddushin 4: 12.
 The meaning here is presumably that these men are not above suspicion but will still obey a definite ruling by the Rabbis that they must not enter a ruin.
 The meaning of mekoman, lit. ‘their place’, may be that, demons haunt ruins, or the meaning may be that the particular ruin is known to be haunted and see Rashi.
 Rabbi Joshua refers to the whole of the third hour but, evidently, the meaning here is that the kings rise during the third hour but never before and David is saying that he rises before even the earliest risers among the kings.
 See my article mentioned above note 9.