Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Shevuot 3: When Two Oaths Are Four Oaths, Pt. 2

The rabbis explain that Masechet Shevuot follows Masechet Makkot in part because of the latter's final discussion of hair cutting.  The rabbis notice, the punishment of two sets of lashes for cutting the hair improperly is in fact an example of "two that are four".

The rabbis note examples of this rule regarding shevuot, oaths.  Regarding oaths that are utterances, there are two that are four: 

  • "I will eat" "I will not eat" actually include utterances of, "I ate" and "I did not eat" 
  • 'Awareness of defiling the Temple' includes awareness of ritual impurity before eating sacrificial food and before entering the Temple; this actually includes awareness of the ritual purity of sacrificial food and awareness that one was in a holy place  
  • Carrying out on Shabbat includes two that are four: a poor person or by a homeowner; bringing in by a poor person or by a homeowner  
  • Identification of leprous marks are "two that are four" with a wool-white leprous mark and a snow-white leprous mark; these include similar marks beside each of these marks

The rabbis argue about whether or not one should be punished with flogging for the violation of a prohibition which does not involve an action.  Reish Lakish clarifies that one is not flogged in this case because one cannot be forewarned with certainty. 

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Shevuot 2: When Two Oaths Are Four Oaths; Comparing and Contrasting

Shavuot are oaths.  Our first Mishna begins with the statement: regarding oaths (uttered through the lips), there are two types that are actually four types.  We learn from commentary that the two types are promising to take on a certain action and promising to refrain from acting in some way.  The reason that the Mishna tells us that these are actually four types is because we are not just liable regarding our future behaviour but also our past behaviour.

The next three paragraphs outline other situations where two types are four types.  These regarding the halachot of defiling the Temple, carrying on Shabbat, and identifying leprous marks.  This last example takes into consideration awareness of one's wrongdoing.  The Mishna goes on to explore the notion of awareness.  At what point might one become aware?  Should it matter whether that awareness was at the beginning or the end of the time before and/or after the transgression?  The rabbis consider whether or not such awareness would always or only sometimes result in a sliding-scale offering.

The Mishna considers the offerings brought by goats who might have defiled the Temple by entering in a state of ritual impurity or by consuming something ritually impure.  What if a Yom Kippur offering was intentionally ritually impure?  Interestingly, we learn that both the sacrifice and Yom Kippur atone for it themselves.  

In fact, we are reminded that the scapegoat that is sacrificed at Azazel atones for intentional and unintentional transgressions, for those that are major or minor, positive mitzvot or prohibitions, and transgressions punishable by karet (excision from the World-to-Come) or by a court-imposed death penalty.  The rabbis remind us that priests are atoned for by the bull and Israelites by the goats in the Yom Kippur offering.  This is connected both to the blood of these animals and the confessions said over these animals.

At the very end of today's daf, we begin our Gemara.  We learn that there must be a reason for beginning Masechet Shevuot after Masechet Makkot.  The rabbis suggest that the connection is the last teaching in Makkot which outlined the specific hair cutting which is permitted.  Perhaps liability for transgression involving haircutting is linked to the start of Shevuot, which discusses two types which are actually four types.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Makkot 22: How Administer Lashes

The rabbis complete their conversation regarding the number of lashes administered to a person who has transgressed many prohibitions in one grand action.  

A new Mishna teaches receiving lashes means receiving 39 lashes.  Rabbi Yehuda says that 40 lashes are administered, and that there is not an "extra" lash.  The lashes are evenly divided among three parts of the body, and the 40th lash is between the shoulder blades.  An estimation is made as to how many lashes the person can survive - and it is a number divisible by three.  If he is thought to survive 40 lashes but seems weak earlier, he is exempt.  He would have already have been humiliated enough.  However, if he was estimated to survive 18 lashes and is fine at 18, he is still exempt from the remaining lashes.  

The Gemara discusses the reasoning behind giving only 39 and not 40 lashes.  The directive was "b'mispar arbaim", the number followed by 40.  Rava says that most people are foolish for they stand for the Sefer Torah but do not stand for the wise Sages.  The Torah says 40 lashes and the rabbis say 39.  Rabbi Yehuda argues that one receives a full 40 lashes, with the final lash between the shoulders.  Rabbi Yitzchak adds that 39 lashes are for the sin while the last lash is to arouse G-d's love for him.  

We learn a new Mishna: if one transgresses something forbidden by two prohibitions, he receives the amount of the estimation if it was made for both prohibitions.  If the estimation was made for only one of his prohibitions, he receives that many lashes and then a second estimation is made and received after he recovers from that first number of lashes.

A third new Mishna teaches about how a person receives lashes.  He leans on a post and is tied there.  The overseer of the Beit Din tears his clothes until his chest is exposed.  The overseer stands on a rock holding two leather straps folded into four.  Two more straps of done skin are attached.  The handle of the whip is a handbreadth. The end of it wraps around the width of the person's back to reach his stomach.  One third of the lashes are applied to the stomach, and two thirds are on the back (Ritva says on the middle of the back, and Rambam says that one third are on each shoulder).  

The transgressor should be lashed with one hand at full strength.  If the transgressor dies, the overseer is exempt unless he applied an extra lash, in which case he is liable.  If the transgressor excretes urine or faces due to fear or pain, he is exempt for he has been humiliated.  Rabbi Yehuda says that a woman will be exempt for this reason, but a man is only exempt if he defecates.  

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Makkot 21: Bald Spots, Self-Harm, Tattoos

In yesterday's daf (Makkot: 20b), we learn a new Mishna that directs the ways in which men should and should not cut their hair.  If this cutting is incorrect, the Mishna teaches that the men will be liable to receive different numbers of lashes.  

First, the Gemara discusses the creation of forbidden bald spots on one's head.  This could be purposefully or accidentally, perhaps from a person who has depilatory cream on the fingers and thumb of one hand and touched his hair.  Forewarnings and lashings follow the number of each one of these bald spots.  How big does a bald spot have to be?  The length of two missing hairs?  Or perhaps the size of a certain type of bean maybe a lentil or civilian bean?  The rabbis also connect this transgression with that of cutting on Shabbat, which is liable at the point of two hairs.  In fact, they consider Deuteronomy (22:5), which considers men wearing women's clothing.  This act of haircutting is considered to be connected to that prohibition.

Men are prohibited from cutting the extremities of his hair and rounding the corners of his head.  The rabbis debate about what these terms might mean.  They also speak about the beard, and the five points from which one must not cut.  Images in Steinsaltz describe the points from which hair must not be cut.

The Gemara notes that we are not permitted to cut ourselves over the bodies of the dead, and that each cut would make one liable to receive one flogging.  This act of self harm is not permitted as part of mourning rites, but it also forbidden more generally.  

We learn about tattoos in a new Mishna.  It states that one who imprints a tattoo by inserting dye into the recesses carved into the skin is liable to receive lashes.  However, if one receives a tattoo without carving the skin, or without imprinting with a dye - ink, kohl, or any other lasting substance, he is not liable. However, Rabbi Shimon ben Yehuda says in the name of Rabbi Shimon that one is only liable if G-d's name is written in the tattoo based on Leviticus (19:28).  That verse suggests that G-d is concerned that people do not inscribe anyone else's name of the Lord.  

Amud (a) ends with the first few thoughts of a new Mishna.  It names three examples of those who receive only one lashing for multiple transgressions.  These are a nazarite who drinks all day, a nazarite who exposes himself to corpses all day, a nazarite who shaves all day, and a person who wears a coat of diverse kinds over and over in the course of a day.  They are lashed multiple times if they are forewarned multiple times.  

A case of multiple punishments/lashings for one action is described, as well.  This would be one who ploughs a single furrow with an ox and donkey together, that are consecrated, and the field holds diverse kinds, and it is a Sabbatical Year and a festival, and the driver is both a priest and a nazarite, and the ploughing is in a place made impure by the presence of a corpse.  This is challenged - perhaps he is wearing diverse kinds, as well.  But the rabbis reject this, as that is a different category of transgression - just like the nazarite and priest would be punished not for ploughing but for doing this action near a corpse, which is a different category of punishment.  

The Gemara walks through each of these, of course.  At the end of our daf, the Gemara suggests other examples of multiple floggings resulting from one action.

Makkot 19: Ma'aser Sheni

Our daf continues the discussion about bikurim. However, we move into the discussion of "what about after the Temple,"  which applies to us today.  The rabbis consider how the ma'aser sheni should be separated and exchanged and consumed.  This brings the rabbis to a discussion of the holiness of place.

Jerusalem is understood as holding the presence of G-d and thus it will be holy forever.  The land of Israel is holy because of G-d's will; the presence of the Temple was proof of that holiness.  Thus we are to continue to the practice of ma'aser sheni through the somewhat symbolic transfer of value from one substance to another, and Jerusalem is the site of consumption and/or exchange.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Makkot 18: Eating Bikurim, Peace-Offerings

Today's daf reminds me that the Talmud is a collection of conversations focused on recreating what must have been practiced when the Temple was standing.  Not what Jews should be doing now (whether that "now" is 2000 years ago or today), but what Jews must have done in the past.  It is always amazing to be reminded of the fact that I am learning about what was thought about what was done so so long ago.

The rabbis continue to discuss how Jews would be punished for which transgressions.  How many lashes for eating a certain category of food outside of the wall?  How many lashes for a Kohen who partakes of a certain type of food in a certain place?  What actions are exempt, and when, and why?  

Considering bikurim, the first fruits brought to the Temple for the priests, in particular, the rabbis teach that they must be brought before Sukkot.  If not, the bikurim are left to rot.  Kri'ah, special readings, are not said after Sukkot.  Based on their consideration of other laws, the rabbis decide that bikurim may be eaten by Kohanim after the special readings are said.  If there are no special readings for certain offerings, then the food can be eaten as soon as it enters the azarah, the courtyard of the mikdash.

The rabbis examine the requirement of tenufa, to raise or wave the birkurim.  The Kohen must wave the bikurim like how the owner must wave the shelamim, the peace offering.  How could this be done at the same time?  Perhaps, we learn, the Kohen places his hands under those of the owners and they wave at the same time.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Makkot 17: Punishments for Transgressing the Halachot of Bikurim

Some quick notes on today's daf:
  • when tithing demai, produce with unclear ritual status, one separates ma'aser oni, the tithe for Leviim which may be substituted for money and given to the poor on the third and sixth year of the shemita cycle
  • maaser oni's source cannot be proven and thus it may not be tevel, food that can be eaten
  • the rabbis discuss how much tevel should be eaten before it becomes disallowed and would be punishable with lashes
A new Mishna teaches us that some certain acts are punished with forty lashes:
  • food sanctified as bikurim, first fruits brought to feed the priests, called kodshei kodoshim cannot be given to a zar and cannot be taken outside of the Temple courtyard
  • kodshei kalim are permitted in all of Jerusalem even to common people
  • one must recited a specific set of kriah, verses, before eating bikurim
  • bikurim must be eaten within its permitted boundaries
  • the pesach, main animal sacrifice, cannot have a bone broken 
  • those who break these laws and those who leave the sacrifice overnight are not punished with lashes
  • one who takes a mother bird from her chicks or eggs is lashed 
The Gemara questions why we would be stringent with some halachot and not with others.  Those who eat certain categories of food outside of the wall of the city will be punished with lashes.  Why wouldn't others be punished similarly for an equivalent transgression?  The Gemara lists the stringencies associated with different transgressions. The rabbis also consider whether someone may have transgressed in a number of ways and how his/her number of lashings might be determined.  

Monday, 20 November 2017

Makkot 16: Transgressions, Action/Inaction, Lashes

Some notes on today's daf:

  • Reish Lakish and Rabbi Yochanan agree that a person who breaks an oath to eat a loaf of bread on one day will not be lashed
  • Rabbi Yochanan says this is because the transgression requires no action
  • Reish Lakish says this because there cannot be a definite warning
  • It is suggested that transgressions with actions are punished by lashes
  • The only transgressions without actions punished with lashes are swearing falsely, temura, trading an ordinary animal for a sanctified animal, and cursing another with G-d's name
  • A new Mishna quotes Rabbi Yehuda: if one takes a mother bird from her chicks/eggs, s/he is lashed and cannot do a mitzvah to send it away
  • The Sages say that he can do a mitzvah, send it away, and avoid lashes
  • The general rule: one is not lashed for a transgression which involves an action
  • The rabbis discuss the case where a Yisrael rapes a woman, marries her, divorces her, then remarries her and is not lashed
  • We are reminded that the more severe punishment is the one that is carried out
  • The rabbis discuss p'eah, the corners of our fields left unharvested so that the poor can eat
  • If the entire field is harvested, the amount that should have been left for the poor is separated from the sheaves and given to the poor
  • If that is not done, then that same amount is rescued before the final processing is done - that is the last chance to fulfil the mitzvah
  • Like a rapist who will not be lashed, there can be exceptions
  • Al Da'as Rabim was made to vow he would no longer teach children because he hit them too much, but was made to annul the vow when he was needed again as a teacher
  • We learn in a new Mishna that one who eats the following things is lashed:
  • nevilot, what is rendered unkosher at the time of ritual slaughter 
  • treifot, animals with wounds causing them to die within one year and thus not permitted,
  • shekatzim or rmasim, insects or similar disgusting creatures that should not be eaten,
  • The rabbis share examples of citizens lashed for eating a bug in water, a worm in a cabbage, etc
  • People are lashed five times for eating an ant
  • People are lashed six times for eating a wasp
  • People are lashed if they urgently need to defecates and they hold it in, for that makes one detestable
  • For the same reason, one cannot drink from a bloodletter's tools or smush up different sized ants to consume them

  • A second new Mishna teaches that one who eats tevel or ma'aser rishon is lashed
  • Even if only one type of tithe was taken, the food is forbidden to be consumed 

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Makkot 15: Punishments, Forewarnings, and Unintentional Murderers

The rabbis are concerned about transferring ritual impurity when one visits the Temple.  They also discuss the consequences of rape for the rapist.  A rapist must marry his victim, to provide for her for the rest of her life.  And thus he is not flogged or lashed; his 'punishment' is bad enough.  But if the rapist is a kohen and his victim is divorced, the rapist cannot marry his victim.  Thus he should be flogged or lashed.   It is not so simple.  The rabbis consider whether or not a positive mitzvah outweighs a direct  halacha, etc.The Gemara notes differences between a defamer and a rapist.

What if the wrongdoer nullifies the mitzvah?  Practically speaking this could mean that he does not marry the woman he raped immediately, for example.  He is now liable to receive lashes, we learn.  Further, if he does not complete the mitzvah, he is lashed as well.  Reish Lakish takes issue with this, because there may not have been the forewarning that is required.  That man who was about to divorce his wife, for example, should have been forewarned about the punishment he may receive after he walks away from his mitzvah.  

The rabbis suggest that a person is not punished for taking an oath.  For example, one if fails to eat the loaf of bread that he swore he would eat.  However, both Rabbi Yeduha and Reish Lakish agree that he should not be flogged.  Rabbi Yehuda teaches that this is because this oath does not require an action; at any point in the day the person could eat a loaf and keep his oath. Reish Lakish believes this is because the forewarning is in fact uncertain.

Makkot 14: Transgressions Punished with Lashes: Forbidden Sexual Relationships

In daf 13, a new Mishna lists those who are punished with lashes.  Most of these are men who have had forbidden sexual relations.  In addition, it lists those who eat forbidden substances or who transgresses the halachot of the Temple and its offerings.  Of debate at the end of this Mishna is how much forbidden food must be eaten to be lashed.

The rabbis discuss whether all arayot, forbidden sexual relationships, should be punished by karet, cutting off one's relationship with G-d and shortening one's life, or lashes.  Is each individual forbidden relationship punished  separately?  To answer this question, the rabbis consider whether these crimes might involve bringing separate sacrifices to the Temple or whether all acts would be punished together with one sacrifice.

The rabbis determine that each transgression is separate and punished individually.  They walk through some of the different family relationships and question the notion of one's sister being the sister of one's parents as well.  If through convoluted family relationships this were the case, and if one had sexual relation with this sister, the rabbis wish to know how many punishments he might face.  

This brings the rabbis to ask whether his punishment would be different for his sister versus his half-sister. Rabbi Elazar teaches that where the Torah writes separate punishments for two transgressions but mentions karet one time only, there are two offerings brought to the Temple. 

Rabbi Yochanan notes that a woman enters the state of niddah when the blood leaves through her ervah, sexualized object, and not through a caesarian section wound.  

Our last Mishna had taught that if a tamei, ritually impure, person eats sanctified food or enters the mikdash, holy place, he is lashed.  That punishment is specific, but it is not clear what the warnings would be for these transgressions.  The rabbis argue about this: what are the different warnings for different transgressions?  At the very end of our daf, the rabbis begin a discussion about whether or not it is permitted to even touch food that is forbidden because it has been sanctified.  

Friday, 17 November 2017

Makkot 12: After Being Exiled

A very brief outline of the conversations recorded in today's daf:

  • whether burial is permitted in a city of refuge
  • where murderers actually live in cities of refuge
  • whether it is permitted to chase and kill a murderer who leaves the city of refuge
  • how that murderer is punished
  • whether or not a father and son may flog each other in such circumstances
A new Mishna is introduced:
  • a tree is on the border of a city of refuge
  • it is as if all of the tree has the status of the foliage
  • thus if a murderer hides on the trunk of a tree outside the border of the city, it is as if he hides in the foliage within the city limits
  • whether people may throw stones, arrows or otherwise try to harm a murderer hiding in foliage
a second new Mishna is detailed:
  • if a person visits a city of refuge and kills someone, he is exiled to a different neighbourhood within the city
  • if a Levi is killed in his city, the murderer is exiled to a different city of refuge
Finally, we begin a new Mishna:
  • If a murderer is honoured within a city of refuge, he should publicly announce that he was tried as a murderer
  • If they still wish to bestow the honour upon him, it is permitted

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Makkot 11: Said vs. Said, Exceptions and Irregularities That Might End One's Exile

Before introducing a new Mishna, the rabbis note that there are two ways of saying "he said".  One is dabeir, which has a harsh connotation, and the other is amar, which has a more neutral connotation.  The rabbis suggest that different forms of this same word could suggest meaningful context.  They go on to discuss the last eight lines before Moshe Rabbeinu's death and even the proper way to prepare a Torah scroll (without sewn sinew, like tefilin).

The first new Mishna in today's daf teaches that a murderer is allowed to leave the city of refuge and return to town when the High Priest dies.  This is true regardless of whether the  High Priest is anointed with oil, wearing the extra garments of a High Priest, or once substituted for the High Priest.  This is why the mothers of the High Priest live in a city of refuge and take care of its people; they are worried that the people of that place might pray for their sons, the High Priests, to die.  

The Gemara discusses the possible meanings of this Mishna.  For example, they note that there is no guarantee that mothers can keep their sons alive through encouraging - or discouraging - prayer.  We are told about the wise words, "If Tuvya sins, should Zigud be punished?"  And, less tastefully, "If Shechem had to have Dinah, why should Migavai have to be circumsized?"  One Sage suggests that the High Priests are responsible, for they should be praying that no-one at all is murdered.

Returning to the question of the end of exile, the rabbis speak about Judah's bones as they are carried with the people.  They wonder whether his bones will be reassembled so that he can join in the World-to-Come.  The rabbis also note that if a person is exiled when there is no High Priest placed, he may never be permitted to leave his city of refuge.

A second Mishna is introduced in today's daf.  It teaches about when exiled murderers are permitted to return to their cities of origin.  If the High Priest died, another would be appointed.  A person's sentence would end when that High Priest dies, for example.  An exiled murderer is not permitted to leave in order to perform a mitzvah.  More, he is not permitted to leave to testify nor to serve in the army or otherwise serve the city.  In fact others are permitted to kill him without consequence if he is seen outside of the city limits.

Our daf ends with a conversation about when the murderer might be excused.  If there are irregularities in the case, including unusual happenings in the placement of a High Priest, the murderer might be permitted to return to his city.  There are a number of questions raised about the treatment of a murderer who dies before he was sentenced or before he was brought to a city of refuge.  While they are careful to follow the letter of the law, the rabbis seem to be more lenient regarding this topic than some others.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Makkot 10: More on the Cities of Refuge

The rabbis begin with a debate about the cities of refuge.  Were these really the locations of the cities?  Why were some closer together and others far apart?  Where were the murders committed more frequently?  Were there more cities than the six listed in our Mishna?  Perhaps there were in fact 42 cities more, but they could only be accessed if one intended to arrive there.  What if a city were too small to safely protect a murderer?  What if a city were too large to protect a murderer from a vengeful relative entering?

The rabbis decide about the size, nature and work of a city chosen as refuge.  For example, they determine that the city should be of intermediate size with sufficient water and food to sustain its inhabitants.  The  Sages taught that if the murderer is a student, his rabbi should move with him to the city of refuge.  Thus rabbis are warned to teach Torah only to students who are fit to learn.  Then again, an accidental killing might not be avoidable.  Rabbi Yehuda suggests that when a rabbi moves to a city of refuge, his school should travel with him.  Torah is seen as protective.

If Torah is protective, perhaps one is safe as long as one is learning Torah.  We are reminded of the story of Rabbi Chisda, who avoided the angel of death by reading Torah on a tree in Rav's study hall for an extended time.  When the angel of death split the tree, Rav Chisda was startled and looked up for a moment.  Because he stopped learning for that small moment, the angel was able finally to kill Rabbi Chisda.  The rabbis then discuss whether or not those who crave abundance in different areas are rewarded.

The rabbis then return to our past Mishna and note that the roads leading to the cities of refuge were marked with directional signs.  This is elaborated upon.  Perhaps G-d decides who will walk down which path; who will choose righteousness and who will sin.  

When considering punishment, the rabbis tell of two men who killed, one intentionally and one unintentionally.  They says that the intentional murderer sit beneath a ladder and the unintentional murderer descend the ladder.  When the person descending falls, he kills the man under the ladder. This leads to the appropriate punishments: the intentional murderer is killed and the unintentional murderer must be exiled.

We learn that an unintentional murderer is not permitted to live in a city of refuge with too many unintentional murderers, nor is he permitted in a city with too few elders.  There should be a balance of residents in every city.  Further, there are a number of mitzvot associated with elders, particularly for those who are exiled to a city of refuge.  

Monday, 13 November 2017

Makkot 9: Cities of Refuge and the Ger Moshav

A ger toshav, a stranger or non-Jew who sits with Jews and lives according the the Noahide laws, is exiled or even executed for committing an unintentional murder.  A person is considered to be living in a state of being forewarned, and thus s/he should have known not to do such a thing.  The rabbis attempt to determine what our texts teach about the cities of refuge - are Gentiles permitted to live there?  Or were they intended only for Jews?  Should there be a city of exile only for Gentiles?

The Gemara discusses Abimelech, Avraham and Sarah.  Abimelech returned Sarah because he learned that Avraham was a prophet.  What if he had not been a prophet? Shouldn't his wife have been returned in that case as well?  We are reminded of the verse, "Would you even slay a righteous nation? (Genesis 20:4).  The Gemara uses this as proof that a Gentile, a descendant of Noah, is executed even for an unintentional murder even if he says that it was permitted, because he actually should have known.

A new Mishna shares a conflict regarding a blind person who kills unintentionally.  Rabbi Yeduda says that he is exiled but Rabbi Meir disagrees.  This is considered to be so because one would know that s/he was forwarded.  When considering enemies, he principal is that when a witness could say that this was done knowingly, then the murderer is not exiled.  If a witness would say that it was done unknowingly, then the murderer is exiled. 

Another new Mishna teaches us to where unintentional murderers are exiled.  Three cities of refugee were in the east bank of the Jordan and three other cities of refuge were in the land of Canaan, or in Eretz Yisrael, as described in Numbers (35:14).  The rabbis discuss when and how the cities are built and used.   

They discern from Numbers (35:13) that all six cities would admit them equally.  Deuteronomy (19:3) instructs the community to build, level and pave roads between these city and the main cities.  Two Torah scholars should accompany the murderer so that if an avenger approaches, s/he can be dissuaded.  the nerdier can speak  on his own behalf as well.  Finally, we learn that at first, muderers (both intentional and unintentional) would flee to a city of refuge from which he would be brought back by the court of his city.  If when tried he was liable to be exiled, he would be accompanied back to the city of refuge again.

The Gemara begins with explaining where the cities of refuge were placed.  The rabbis describe three cities in two north-south rows.  These are Kedesh, Shechem and Hebron on the west, and Golan, Ramoth and Bezer on the east.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Makkot 8: Public Unintentional Murder, Relatives and Unintentional Murder

We are introduced to two new Mishnayot in today's daf.  The first involves where the crime was committed, and the second is about the relationship between the two parties.  Here is a very brief review.

  • If a person throws a rock into a public square and it hits someone, he is exiled
  • Exceptions include whether or not the person might have known that someone would put their head into area, if at night s/he did not check behind a stone fence before dismantling a wall, whether or not the person was warned, etc.
  • A father a son will not be exempt from exile for killing the other
  • A Jew or Gentile will not be exempt from exile except in specific circumstances
The rabbis piece together each of these guidelines within the context of limiting exile.

Makkot 7: Exile of Accidental Murderers, Upward/Downward Motions

Yesterday's daf introduced a Mishna regarding pairs of witnesses compared with single witnesses which might be added together to be considered a pair.  To decree capital punishment, unlike monetary issues, the rabbis are very careful about their interpretations.

Today's daf also moves us into Perek II.  We are introduced to another Mishna before beginning Perek II.  It teaches that when a person runs away after being sentenced to death, he will not be retried when he is found, whether that court is his previous court or another.  Certainly there will be witnesses to affirm has past verdict and the ensuing circumstances. Further, we learn that a Sanhedrin should be valid both in and outside of HaAretz.

Some rabbis argue that a Sanhedrin that executes a transgressor only once in seven years is called a destructive tribunal.  Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria say this is true of a court that executes one person in seventy years.  Rabbis Tarfon and Akiva assert that had they been on these courts, there would have been no executions at all.  Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says that such rabbis would increase the number of murderers amount the Jewish people, for there would be fewer deterrents to committing murder.

Perek II begins with a new Mishna which lists those who are exiled to one of three cities established outside of the main city:

  • one who kills another unintentionally through his downward motion is exiled
  • one who kills another unintentionally through his upward motion is not exiled
Thus these people are exiled:
  • one whose roller used to smooth the mortar of one's roof falls and kills someone
  • one whose barrel that was on a roof that falls and kills someone
But these are not exiled:
  • one who was pulling a roller toward him and it fell from his hands onto a person below
  • one who was lifting a barrel and the rope was cut causing the barrel to fall on a person below
  • one who climbed a ladder and fell on someone below
The Gemara focuses on where these guidelines originated.  There are Torah verses (Number 35:23, Deuteronomy 19:4, Numbers 35:22, Exodus 21:13, and Deuteronomy 19:5) that lead the rabbis to understand why directions are important - and why certain people are sent to 'ownerless land', or exiled.

The rabbis then consider some specific cases.  If a person is killed because a ladder rung hit him from above, and it was knocked out when a person was climbing up.  Is this a downward motion or an upward motion? Rabbi Yochanan decrees that this is a case where a downward motion for the purpose of an upward motion caused an unintentional murder, and thus the murderer is exiled.  The rabbis note later that a person is responsible for checking into whether or not the rung of one's ladder is damaged or worm infested before using the ladder.

We learn that a upward motion is also connection with a motion in front of the person, while a downward motion is connected to what happens behind a person.  An example is the swing of a butcher's cleaver, where the backward swing behind one's head is an upward motion, and the forward swing in front of one's body is a downward motion.  

A second new Mishna shares an argument between Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi and the rabbis.  Is a person exiled after an ax breaks from its handle and kills someone; if part of a tree breaks off after being hit by an ax and kills someone?  Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi believes that these murderers should be exiled while the rabbis disagree.

The Gemara begins to explore this Mishna by looking at the word 'v'nashal' which could be read in one way and pronounced in another in the Torah.  The rabbis ask whether or not the Torah reading or vocalization of this word is authoritative.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Makkot 5: Conspiring Witnesses and Execution, Numbers, Consequences

A brief overview of today's daf:

Mishna: The punishment of money is divided among conspiring witnesses but lashes are not. The proof lies in two texts that each describe actions as wicked: 

Gemara: Witnesses are only understood as conspiring when they describe those liable to receive lashes and those liable to receive the death penalty.  Just like the death penalty cannot be divided, lashes cannot be divided.  Though each of the witnesses' actions caused the victim's money to be vulnerable, they can combine what is owed to equal the victim's potential loss.  

Mishna: Conspiring witnesses must be attempting to impeach the witnesses themselves and not just their testimony.  Only two witnesses are required to counter the testimony of many other witnesses to prove that all of the other witnesses were conspiring.

Gemara: Witnesses who claim one was murdered because they saw it happen - but the angle at which they were situated makes that almost impossible would be called false witnesses.  However, perhaps they had superior eyesight. Similarly, witnesses who claim that a person could not have been present at a crime committed at a certain time are called 'conspiring'.  Could the person have had a flying camel (a racing camel)?  The Gemara speaks of other cases where crimes are committed but the timing is difficult to judge - could it have been Shabbat, with more stringent rules applying, or on Sunday?

The rabbis consider those who hire witnesses.  In fact the rabbis wonder if the presumptive state is that of dishonesty and that Jewish witnesses should be assumed to be false witnesses.  Do they even know the content of the testimony?  

Mishna: Conspiring witnesses are only executed after the trial has ended and one has been pronounced guilty.  The Sadducees, who follow Torah law without rabbinical interpretation, would execute conspiring witnesses only after the victim was in fact executed, for they stand by "life for a life".  

Gemara: The rabbis delve into the halachot of forbidden sexual relationships to prove that one does not derive a prohibition based on an a fortiori inference.  They question whether or not one can be sentenced to be exiled based on these same considerations.  Simon ben Shatach and Rabbi Yehuda ben Tabbai both adhered to the notion that both witnesses must be judged as conspiring for either to be punished.  The rabbis then argued about whether or not these rabbis were correct in their thinking, and how we will ever be able to discern the truth of their words after their deaths.

Mishna: Why does Deuteronomy 17:6 mention that two or three witnesses can testify that one should be killed?  Isn't two enough?  The rabbis consider a number of possible factors, including the strength of three witnesses when only two are required, other numbers of witnesses, and what might void another's testimony, among others.  

Makkot 4: More Than One Punishment for Conspiring Witnesses?

How much diluted water with wine will invalidate a mikvah? How much water with milk will do the same?  Do we hold similar standards when a barrel of drawn water falls into the Mediterranean Sea where one is about to enter a mikvah?  What about the fact that that sea is quite still? Do our considerations change when that same barrel falls into a more standard body of water being used as a mikvah?  A related question is raised: if a loaf of teruma falls upon spilled wine, does the bread continue to hold its status as teruma?

A new Mishna returns the conversation to that of conspiring witnesses.  If two witnesses are found to be conspiring after testifying that a man owed two hundred and fifty dinars to another man, are they both flogged (the man's punishment for holding money that is not his) and they have to repay the money owed?  This would mean that they would be punished twice, and the rabbis have suggested that people should not be punished twice for the same crime.  Instead, the more serious punishment is applied on its own. Secondly, we are told of conspiring witnesses who testify that someone is liable to get forty lashes.  Should they receive eighty lashes?  One set as the victim's punishment, and the second set as the given consequence for bearing false witness against one's neighbour?  The rabbis decide that forty lashes are appropriate in this case.

The Gemara considers the notion of two punishments for the same crime.  Though this is not usually allowed, there are some exceptions.  For example, a husband who defames his wife by claiming that she is not a virgin is liable to flogging and to pay a fine of 100 silver coins.  The rabbis take issue with the punishment of flogging.  Is an action required before that punishment has been determined to be appropriate? Through examining other cases, the rabbis suggest that flogging is in fact the punishment administered when the defining characteristic of a case is that one violated a prohibition where no action was taken in that violation.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Makkot 3: The Punishments of Conspiring Witnesses, Shemita, Other Transgressions

Before introducing a new Mishna the rabbis continue their conversation.  They consider what should be done if only one of the two witnesses admits to have conspired?  The rabbis discuss where one might be able to divide the punishment/consequence, like in the case case of money owed, and when they might not, like in the case of lashes where each witness could receive the same number of lashes.  What makes a witness liable to pay, the rabbis wonder.  Is admission necessary?  Is admission enough?

Our new Mishna teaches about what should be done if witnesses conspire to say that a man divorced his wife but did not give her her ketuba.  Should they be liable to pay the sum of the ketuba after being discovered to be conspiring witnesses?  They could argue that in the near or far future the husband could in fact divorce his wife and give her the sum of her ketuba.  They did not conspire to have him pay a sum that he would not otherwise have had to pay.  In this case, the Mishna teaches that the court would determine how much one would be willing to pay for this woman's ketuba while knowing that if she were divorced or widowed the purchaser would receive that payment but if she dies, her husband will inherit from her and the purchaser would receive nothing.

The Gemara wonders how the worth of the woman's ketuba should be decided.  It would be worth less than if the husband inherited it, Rashi comments.  Does the worth of her ketuba include her usufruct property, that which she brought with her into the marriage, or does it include only the value of the ketuba itself? 

A second new Mishna comment on what to do when witnesses testify that one man owned another man 1000 dinars that were borrowed on the condition that he is to give the money back between now and thirty days which have passed.If the borrower says that the condition was that the money must be repaid between now and ten years from now and the witnesses were rendered conspiring witnesses, they cannot be liable to pay the entire 1000 dinars.   Instead, the court estimates how much money one would be willing to give to keep a loan of 1000 dinars.  It calculates the difference between that sum owed up to thirty days away and up to ten years away.  That sum is what the conspiring witnesses must pay as punishment.

The Gemara asks how the shemita, the Sabbatical year, would play into a debt over ten years.  At the end of year six, the loan would be forgiven.  Should the debt be calculated differently?  Commentary by Steinsaltz notes that Rashi added some insight: loans held with collateral are not subject to the shemita laws because the lender is owning property of the borrower.  Rabbi Yehuda notes that when people make an agreement about the payment of a loan and the shemita laws override that agreement, the contract is void and the loan must be repaid without conditions at the shemita year.  

We learn one Sage's teachings: when the contract states that one can borrow for an unspecified period of time, it is unreasonable to ask for the money to be repaid within thirty days.  In fact, it is noted that borrowing for a shorter period of time than thirty days is usually done without a promissory note at all.  

Rav Yehuda teaches that Rav said that one who tears or cuts a new opening in a garment's neck is liable to bring a sin offering.  S/he transgressed the law of labour - 'hitting with a hammer' - or the primary law of tearing.  Rav Kahana disagrees and says that this action is similar to the permitted action of removing a wine covering where one is using a utensil.  His point is disputed: removing a wine covering is doing something meant to be done, while opening a neck hole is creating a connecting element as per the weave of the fabric.  

Rav Yehuda quotes Rav again:  when one sixty-fourth log of wine is dropped into a container of three log of drawn water, even if the water looks like wine, it does not invalidate a mikva less than 40 log of water.  Rav Kahana disagrees again: the discolouration of the water being added creates "dye water", which is forbidden in a mikvah.  This is countered as well: it is not called dye water, it is called diluted wine.  Wine does not invalidate a mikva.  This is argued as well, of course - doesn't a kortov, three log of water into which a small amount of wine has fallen, disqualify a mikva?  Not so, it is argued.  And this will be continued in tomorrow's daf.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Makkot 2: Conspiring Witnesses, Standard Punishments and Exceptions

This discussion about conspiring witnesses, those witnesses who testify intentionally to pervert justice to achieve a guilty verdict, is based on Deuteronomy 19:16-21.  In these verses, we learn that a conspiring witness is judged and then sentenced to the same punishment that would have befallen the original person on trial.  This removes evil from the community, and we should not feel pity.  Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

Our first Mishna asks how witnesses are found to be conspiring.  If two witnesses testify that they are testifying against a priest that he is the son of a divorced woman or of a chalutza, rendering him a chalal and thus barred from the priesthood, one cannot make those witnesses chalal.  Instead they are given forty lashes.  Similarly if two witnesses testify that one is liable to be exiled to a city of refuge for accidentally killing someone, and others testify that they are conspiring witnesses, the two witnesses in question are not exiled. Instead they receive forty lashes.  

The Gemara notes that conspiring witnesses who testify that a daughter of a priest has had intercourse with a man not her husband are not killed by burning.  Instead, the rabbis argue, they are punished as the man she had intercourse with would have been punished.  But what if the person accused actually already was living with the consequences of what s/he had done, or of his/her status?  Is there no punishment for conspiring witnesses in such a case?  

Rabbi Yochanan suggests that one would only be punished with exile if an action had been completed.  Perhaps a conspiring witness should receive lashes as punishment.  For example, one "should not bear false witness against one's neighbour" (Exodus 20:13).  

The rabbis tell of four exceptions to the rule (conspiring witnesses are punished with the punishment they sought for an innocent party):

  • they are not rendered the son of a divorced woman or a chalitza
  • they are not exiled
  • they do not pay the ransom if they falsely testify that the forewarned ox of one person killed another
  • they are not sold as Hebrew slaves if they falsely testify that one stole property and will be sold as a Hebrew slave if he can't repay the owner
The Gemara questions whether paying ransom might be considered a form of atonement.  Further, it is noted that one does not pay a fine based on his own admission.  This is an interpretation of a different verse, one that teaches about paying a double fine to one's neighbour for a particular crime but not due to one's own admission.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Sanhedrin 113: Spoils, Nature, Wisdom About Justice in General

Continuing their discussion of the when an entire city might be destroyed, the rabbis speak of a mezuzah.  If even one mezuzah is found, they argue, the city cannot be destroyed.  This is not necessarily because there is one person who has kept the mitzvah regarding mezuzah. Instead, it is because such a wayward city should be destroyed by fire.  A mezuzah cannot be destroyed by fire.  

The rabbis consider other potential 'spoils' of a city.  What about trees?  We learn that if a tree is attached to the ground or if a tree has been detached.  The rabbis say that people can derive benefit  from trees still attached to the ground.  A detached tree should not leave the city as spoils.  So what should be done with that land and its trees?  The rabbis argue that constructing gardens and orchards is permissible.  

The Gemara assumes that a story about Elijah solving a problem in I Kings is based on the city of Jericho.  

Today's daf marks the end of Masechet Sanhedrin.  At the very end of our daf, the rabbis share some words of wisdom.  They teach that when a wicked person comes into the world, wrath comes into the world, based on Proverbs (18:3).  When a wicked person is eliminated from the world, good enters the world (Proverbs 11:10).  When a righteous person passes from this world, evil enters the world (Isaiah 57:1).  Then again, Genesis (5:29) teaches that when a righteous person comes into this world, good enters the world as well.  

It makes sense that the rabbis wished to end our masechet with thoughts about the balance between what is good and what is bad.  The past many dapim have been devoted to the execution of justice; how we should measure and deal with good and evil.  At the very end of our daf, we the rabbis leave us with a sense of hope, particularly regarding those who are righteous.  The lesson?  Strive for and encourage righteousness.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Sanhedrin 112: How to Manage an Ir HaNidachas

In daf 111, we were introduced to a new Mishna.  We learned about the Ir HaNidachas. a Jewish city where the majority of the population has turned to idol worship.  Some rabbis say that residents of such a city would not merit the World-to-Come even if they repent.  Others claim that this opinion was removed from the historical text and that there were conditions which might allow residents to merit the World-to-Come.  Today's daf explores those conditions in great detail.  Some of the considerations include:

  • did people entice themselves to worship idols or were they coerced?
  • were men the enticers or were women and children, who don't really count as full people, the enticers?
  • people must be individually judged and convicted to know that a majority worship idols
  • would many betei dinim be required for such a task? how could such a task be completed quickly?
  • if a caravan or donkey driver stopped in the city for 29 days or less and were enticed to worship  idols, is he subject to the same punishment?  Different means of capital punishment are suggested for different lengths of time in the city.  Rabbis argue that one is not a resident until living in a city for 12 months.
  • what property should be destroyed and what property should be spared?  If property such as an animal or bread dough is owned equally by a resident and a non-resident, can it be split?  The rabbis agree that a dough can be split but an animal must be slaughtered.  Property in the city should be destroyed as it led the people to worship idols there
  • should a wig be spared if it is attached to a woman's head by wax?  What if it is hanging on a peg in her home?
  • a city requires a square; should one be built if there is no square already present?
  • what happens to property that is hekdesh, consecrated for use in/toward the Temple?
  • is consecrated property automatically blemished by being held in an Ir HaNidachas?  or are they still spoils of the city?
  • what is done with the terumah of the city?  Is it left to rot?
  • Jerusalem can never be called an Ir HaNidachas
  • can teruma from an Ir HaNidachas be brought into Jerusalem at all?

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Sanhedrin 110: Korach's Wife, Korach, the Ten Tribes, Children, and the World-to-Come

Korach's wife is villainized at the start of today's daf.  She speaks of Moshe's ill intent when he made himself the leader and his family members the next in line.  He treated Leviim like excrement when he had them shave their heads.  He shaved his own head only to mock the Leviim.  He offered them only a small portion of terumah compared with that donated to the Kohanim.  And the clothing he insisted upon required small bits of valuable blue dye - why not insist that all of the important people wear clothing made exclusively with that dye?  He may have been in a forbidden relationship while he was married, as well.

The Gemara notes that anyone who persists in a feud transgresses a halacha.  Anyone who challenges King David's authority should be bitten by a snake.  Anyone who challenges the rabbi's authority challenges G-d's authority.  Anyone who complains about a rabbi complains about G-d.  Anyone who is upset about a rabbi is upset with G-d.  Anyone who has a quarrel with a rabbi has a quarrel with G-d.  The rabbis end this section with a description of Korach's incredible wealth - 300 donkeys were required to carry the keys to the storage of his treasures.  Two of those treasures were found and one is said to be waiting to be discovered by tzadikim.

How did Korach die?  The Gemara shares a number of different possibilities.  It is clear that there was a thirst for Karachi's punishment after he lied regarding Moshe, the leader of the Jewish people.  One tale suggests that he was burned, and many voices seem to speak to a desire for G-d to create a gehenna to burn him* if G-d had not already created such a thing.  A tour guide is said to have pointed out the cave where Korach and his peers were burned, and a woollen towel wrapped around a stick that was poked into the cave came out singed and smouldering.  The rabbis say that this is why it is said that the generation of the desert has no place in the World-to-Come.  Of course, proof texts are provided for each of these comments.

The rabbis agree that the ten lost (or exiled) tribes will have no share in the World-to-Come.  They  share a number of proof texts that confirm this opinion.  However, Rabbi Akiva might have been expected to use different proof texts that suggest that with teshuva, repentance, these generations might be permitted to enter the World-to-Come.

We end our daf with a conversation about children entering the World-to-Come.  Are they permitted to enter at all?  If so, what is the cutoff point?  Should a fetus enter, even if it might have died in childbirth?  Should a child be permitted into the World-to-Come when s/he can speak?  Or at birth?  Or when circumcized?  Or when s/he can say "amen"?  Of course people must have suffered inordinately due to infants and babies dying in the times of the Talmud.  People would have wanted to believe that their children would be permitted to enter the World-to-Come.

As an aside, we are told that "amen" is both an affirmation of what was just stated and an acronym for el melech ne'eman, G-d the King is trustworthy.

*Gehenna is the name of a valley near Jerusalem.  It was said to be the site of child sacrifice.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Sanhedrin 109: The People of Sodom as Wicked and Sinners; Others Kept Out of the World-to-Come

We begin with a story about Nachum of Gam Zo, who was said to be practiced in miracles.  A chest filled with his community's taxes was emptied while he slept on route.  It was replaced with dirt.  Nachum convinced the emperor that his life should be spared because the dirt was in fact from Abraham and it carried magical properties.  It was used to help to win battles.  Nacho was released. However, when it was realized that the dirt was just dirt, many people were killed.

The rabbis return to the question of the generation of the flood, which was refused entrance to the World-to-Come.  What was their sin?  Was it building a tower to reach heaven so that G-d would hear the need for rain?  Were they actually building the tower for idol worship?  

We are reminded that the people of Sodom are said to have no share in the World-to-Come, either.  When the men of Sodom are described as "wicked" and "sinners" in Genesis (13:13), the rabbis interpret "wicked" to refer to the mens' actions in this world and "sinners" to reflect their inappropriateness for the World-to-Come.  Or perhaps "wicked" refers to sins of the body and "sinners" refers to sins with money.  Or the other way around.  The rabbis are able to find proof texts for each of these and other interpretations.  

Verses in Job explain the reasons behind the intense vilification of Sodomites.  It was bad enough that they were described in the Torah as wicked sinners who defied G-d.  These verses provide examples of their behaviour.  They slept naked.  They treat orphans and widows with disrespect, stealing and lying.  Their four judges apply rulings that are opposite in intent and action to those of the Jews.  Some of these sound like stories from "Chelm"; they are almost laughable.  These include the judgement about a pregnant woman who is struck by a man and then miscarries - her husband is instructed to give his wife to the man who struck her who will impregnate her again for the husband.

A number of other stories are shared of the wickedness of the people of Sodom.  We are told that when a poor person entered the town, each person would give him one dinar with his name written on it.  No-one would accept that money to buy bread, and so the stranger would starve to death.  At this point all would approach him and take back their personalized dinar.

The Gemara states that the spies who told of bad things in Canaan have no share in the World-to-Come, nor do Korach and his descendants.  The rabbis speak of those who did not repent on their own.