Monday, 31 July 2017

Sanhedrin 15: Valuations, Judging, Capital Punishment, Punishment for Idolatry

What is the process for valuation of movable property, like utensils?  We know that the valuation of land that would be removed to pay for one's vow would require ten experts.  If movable property were to be removed from that land for the same purposes, three experts would be required to evaluate it.  Redeeming property from consecration requires three judges.  Does elevating property to the status of consecration also require three judges?  At least three judges are required to ensure that valuations are not too low and not too high.  

The Gemara wonders why the valuation of consecrated land is made by nine judges and one priest.  Priests are written in Leviticus, chapter 27, ten times. Also, using the word priest might have been a restrictive expression following a restrictive expression (after the first mentioning of 'priest')to amplify its importance.  This is argued, of course.  It is noted that a person cannot be consecrated -- however, a person can be valuated.  This might be done to understand the value of a slave in the context of a land transaction.  

The conversation turns to the valuation of one's hair when it is attached to one's head and its valuation when it has been cut.  It is evaluated by three or ten judges in both situations?  This is compared to grape vines that are attached to the land.  any item attached to the land is viewed as the land itself.  But does this analogy work?  Hair becomes more valuable as it stays on the head and grows longer.  Grapes can be picked, but they diminish in value when left on the vine.  

What about our Mishna's statement about twenty-three judges judging cases of capital law and animals that copulate with people.  The Gemara wonders about who is doing the action of "lying with".  It discusses who should be killed, the person - woman or man - and/or the animal in question. They note that Exodus 21:29 teaches us that the "ox shall be stoned and also its owner shall be put to death".  Is the ox to be killed by stoning as well?

Our notes in Steinsaltz reminds us that stoning is the harshest punishment of four punishments in the Torah.  It meant that a person was dropped eight cubits (four metres) to the ground.  If he had not died, the injured party would drop a large stone on him.  If he was still alive, others would throw stones at him until he died. It was used as punishment for the following 'crimes':

  • incest with one's mother
  • male intercourse
  • cursing G-d
  • cursing one's parents
  • idol worship
  • desecration of Shabbat
  • adultery with a betrothed young woman
Execution by the sword was used as punishment in the following cases:
  • murder
  • living in an idolatrous city
  • rebelling against the king
Strangulation was done by wrapping a scarf around one's neck and pulling on both ends.  It was used as punishment for:
  • one who strikes his father or mother 
  • kidnapping
  • rebelling as an elder
  • acting as a false prophet
  • most adulterers
  • a man who commits adultery with a priest's daughter

The Gemara discusses capital punishment and the implications of these halachot and verses.  Again, the rabbis note that one who takes it upon himself to kill an animal that is going to be sentenced to death by twenty-three judges has achieved a moral victory.  However, there is no financial reward for his efforts.  This statement leaves me wondering whether there is a need for a court of twenty-three judges if a person can take the law into his own hands.

Our daf ends with a discussion about individuals versus large groups of people when it comes to punishment for idolatry.  How many people make up an idolatrous city?  Rabbi Yoshiya says from ten to one hundred people.  Rabbi Yonatan says from one hundred to a majority of a tribe.  

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