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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin

Folio 60a

Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live;1  and this is followed by, Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death:2  thus, all who are included in the second prohibition are included in the first.3

'R. Eleazar said; They were also enjoined against the forbidden mixtures.' Whence do we derive this? — Samuel replied: Because Scripture saith, My statutes ye shall keep,4  implying the statutes which I have already decreed:5  viz., Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: Thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed.6  This teaches: just as in the case of animal life, the prohibition is against hybridization, so in plant life, the injunction is against grafting;7  and just as the former holds good both within the land [sc. Palestine] and without,8  so the latter holds good both within and without Palestine. But if so, does the verse, Ye shall therefore keep my statutes9  also imply the statutes which I imposed long ago?10  — There the verse reads, Ye shall therefore keep my statutes which I [now] command you: but here it reads, My statutes ye shall keep, implying the statutes decreed from of old shall ye keep.11

R. JOSHUA B. KARHA SAID etc. R. Aha b. Jacob said: He is not guilty unless he cursed the Tetragrammaton, excluding a biliteral Name,12  the blaspheming of which is not punishable. Is this not obvious, the Mishnah stating, May Jose smite Jose?13  — I might think that the name is used as a mere illustration;14  he therefore teaches otherwise.

Others give this version: — R. Aha b. Jacob said: This proves that the Tetragrammaton is also a Divine Name.15  But is it not obvious, since the Mishnah states: JOSE SMITE JOSE [using a four-lettered name]? — I might think that the great16  Name must be employed, whilst Jose is merely an illustration [of the mode of testifying]; therefore he teaches otherwise.

WHEN THE TRIAL WAS FINISHED, etc. Whence do we know that they arose? — R. Isaac b. Ami said, because the Writ saith — And Ehud came unto him: and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat.17  Now, does this not afford an ad majus conclusion: If Eglon king of Moab, who was only a heathen and knew but an attribute of God's name, nevertheless arose, how much more so must an Israelite arise when he hears the Shem Hameforash.18

Whence do we know that they rent their garments? — From the verse, Then came Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder, to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rab-Shakeh.19

WHICH RENT WAS NOT TO BE RESEWN. Whence do we derive this? — R. Abbahu said: A gezerah shawah is deduced from the word 'rent'.20  This verse states, with their clothes rent; whilst elsewhere is written, And Elisha saw it [sc. Elijah's ascension] and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more; and he took hold of his own clothes and rent them in two rents.21  Now, do we not understand from, 'and he rent them in two' that the cognate object is 'rents'; why then does the Writ expressly state 'rents'? — To teach that they were always to remain thus.22

Our Rabbis taught: He who hears [the Name blasphemed], and he who hears it from the person who first heard it [i.e., from the witness who testifies], are both bound to rend their garments. But the witnesses are not obliged to rend their clothes [when they hear themselves repeating the blasphemy in the course of their testimony], because they had already done so on first hearing it. But what does this matter: do they not hear it now too?23  — You cannot think so, because it is written, And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it [sc. the report of Rab-Shakeh's blasphemy] that he rent his clothes. Thus, Hezekiah rent his clothes, but they did not.

Rab Judah said in Samuel's name: He who hears the Divine Name blasphemed by a gentile need not rend his clothes. But if you will object, what of Rab-Shakeh?24  — He was an apostate Israelite.

Rab Judah also said in Samuel's name: One must rend his clothes only on hearing the Shem hameyuhad25  blasphemed, but not for an attribute of the Divine Name. Now both of these statements conflict with R. Hiyya's views. For R. Hiyya said: He who hears the Divine Name blasphemed nowadays need not rend his garments, for otherwise one's garments would be reduced to tatters.26  From whom does he hear it? If from an Israelite — are they so unbridled [as to sin thus so frequently]? But it is obvious that he refers to a gentile. Now, if the Shem hameyuhad is meant, are the gentiles so well acquainted with it [as to make such frequency possible]? Hence it must refer to an attribute, and concerning that he says that only nowadays is one exempt, but formerly one had to rend his clothes. This proof is conclusive.

THE SECOND WITNESS STATED, I TOO HAVE HEARD THUS. Resh Lakish said: This proves that 'I too have heard thus' is valid evidence in civil and capital cases,27  but that the Rabbis imposed a greater degree of stringency [insisting that each witness should explicitly testify]. Here, however, since this is impossible [on account of the desire to avoid unnecessary blasphemy], they reverted to Biblical law. For should you maintain that such testimony is [Biblically] invalid, can we execute a person when it is impossible for the evidence to be validly given?28

AND THE THIRD DID LIKEWISE. This anonymous statement agrees with R. Akiba, who likens three witnesses to two.29 

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Ex. XXII, 17.
  2. Ibid. 18.
  3. Therefore, since the Noachides were forbidden bestiality, they were also forbidden sorcery.
  4. Lev. XIX, 19.
  5. Since other precepts are not introduced by this formula, we interpret it thus.
  6. Hence these were pre-Sinaitic, i.e., given to the sons of Noah.
  7. For the first is a law against crossing two actual animals to produce a hybrid. So the second must refer to the grafting of one tree upon another of a different kind, but not to the sowing of different seeds together, which are trees in posse but not in esse.
  8. It is a general principle that any obligation imposed upon man and not dependent upon the soil is binding outside Palestine too.
  9. Ibid. XVIII, 26.
  10. That verse refers to God's statutes in general, and if Samuel's interpretation is correct, it follows that all the statutes of the Torah were given to the Noachides.
  11. The answer is based on the fact that in Lev. XIX, 19 'statutes' comes first in the verse, implying that they were already in existence, whilst in XVIII, 26 'Ye shall keep' is first, teaching that the statutes which follow were only then imposed.
  12. EL or YH.
  13. Thus, as a substitute a four lettered name is used, shewing that the Tetragrammaton must have been employed.
  14. Of how the witnesses gave their testimony. But the choice of a four lettered name — Jose — might be quite fortuitous.
  15. In addition to the Tetragrammaton, there were twelve-lettered, forty-two-lettered, and seventy-two-lettered Names. (Kid. 71a; Lev. Rab. XXIII; Gen. Rab. XLIV) R. Aha b. Jacob states that since 'Jose' is used as a substitute, it proves that even if the longer Names are not employed, but merely the Tetragrammaton, the guilt of blasphemy is incurred.
  16. I.e., of forty-two letters.
  17. Judg. III, 20.
  18. Lit., 'the distinguished Name', synonymous with the Shem hameyuhad, the unique Name. Both words designate something which is distinguished from other objects of its kind. (V. J. E., XI, 262) The term also means 'preeminent'. From Rashi here and in 'Er. 18b it appears that he does not regard the Shem hameforash as the Tetragrammaton. But Maimonides (Yad, Yesode Hatorah, VI, 2; Tefilah, XIV, 10) declares that they are identical. In general it was regarded as sinful to utter this Name (Sanh. 90a; 'A.Z. 17b; Kid. 71a), nor was it widely known, being an object of esoteric knowledge (Kid. Ibid; Yer. Yoma 40), though there were exceptions
  19. II Kings XVIII, 37. Their clothes were rent on account of Rab-Shakeh's blaspheming of God. Cf. Ibid. XIX, 4.
  20. Ibid. II, 11.
  21. Ibid. 12.
  22. I.e., never to be resewn; and by analogy, the same interpretation is placed upon II Kings XVIII, 37.
  23. Hence they should be obliged to rend their clothes again.
  24. Who was a gentile, and yet his hearers rent their clothes: in fact, that incident is the basis of the law.
  25. V. p. 408, n. 1.
  26. Blasphemy being of such frequent occurrence.
  27. I.e., in these cases, when the first witness has testified, it is sufficient, by Biblical law, for the second to say, 'I too heard (or saw) thus', without explicitly stating what he had heard or seen.
  28. If the testimony must be given in particular form, but cannot, it is obvious that the malefactor should not be executed.
  29. This is in reference to Deut. XIX, 15: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses shall the matter be established. The difficulty arises, if two witnesses are sufficient, surely three are: then why state it? R. Akiba answers, To teach that just as in the case of two, if one is proved invalid, the whole testimony loses its validity (since only one witness is left), so also, even if there are three or more, and one was proved invalid, the testimony of all is valueless, though there are still two or more valid witnesses left. Now, when the Mishnah states that the third also must testify 'I too heard thus', it is in conformity with R. Akiba's ruling, so that should he be contradicted as having been absent, the entire testimony is null. Otherwise, it would be unnecessary for the third witness to be examined at all.

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Sanhedrin 60b




GEMARA. What is meant by 'WHETHER HE SERVE IT'?3  — R. Jeremiah said: This is what is meant: Whether he serve it in its normal way, or sacrifice, make libations, offer incense, or prostrate himself, even if these acts are not the normal mode of worshipping that particular deity. Why is blood sprinkling not included? — Abaye said: Because sprinkling is the same as offering LIBATIONS,4  as it is written, their drink libations of blood will I not offer.5

Whence do we derive all these?6  — Our Rabbis taught: Had Scripture written, He that sacrificeth shall be utterly destroyed.7  I would have thought that the Writ refers to sacrificing without the Temple precincts;8  therefore Scripture adds: to any God, shewing that it refers to sacrificing to idols.9  From this I know only that sacrificing [as an abnormal act or worship] is punishable: Whence do I learn the same of offering incense and making libations? — From the additional words, save unto the Lord alone, whereby the Writ restricted all these services to the worship of the Divine10  name. Now, since sacrificing was singled out from the general statement,11  teaching that the latter applies to all services performed within the Temple precincts,12  whence can it be extended to include prostration? — From the verse, And he hath gone and served other gods, and prostrated himself before them,13  which is followed by, Thou shalt bring forth that man or that woman … and shalt stone them with stones.14  From this we learn the punishment: whence do we derive the formal prohibition? From the verse, For thou shalt prostrate thyself to no other god.15  I might think that I may also include embracing, kissing, and putting on its shoes [as punishable by death]:16  but the Writ saith, He hath sacrificeth.17  Now, sacrificing was included in the general statement;18  wherefore was it singled out? — That a comparison therewith might be drawn, and to teach you: just as sacrificing is distinguished, in that it is a service within the Temple precincts, and the death penalty is incurred through it, so for all services performed in the Temple precincts [in lawful worship] one is liable to death [when performing them idolatrously]. Hence prostration was singled out to illumine itself alone, whilst sacrificing was singled out to throw light upon the general proposition.19

The Master stated: 'I would have thought that the Writ refers to sacrificing without the Temple precincts'. But is that not punishable by extinction?20  — I might have thought: if he was warned, he is executed; if not, he is punished by extinction. It is therefore taught otherwise.

Raba, son of R. Hanan asked Abaye: Let us say that prostration was singled out in order to throw light upon the general law; and if you answer, in that case, why was sacrificing singled out too?21  To throw light upon itself, viz., that the intention to perform one act in the service of idolatry, even if made during the performance of another [non-idolatrous] act, renders one liable to punishment. For it has been taught: If one slaughtered a cow with the intention of sprinkling its blood and burning its fat idolatrously, — R. Johanan said,

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. A Moabite deity. 'That the statements of the Rabbis (on the repulsive mode of worship) are not wholly imaginative and do not take their colouring from the rites of some heathen or antinomian-Gnostic sects is shewn by the fact that the worship of Peor is ridiculed, but nowhere stigmatised as moral depravity, by the Rabbis, which latter might have been expected, had the assertion of the Rabbis been based on the Gnostic cults mentioned.' J. E. s.v. Baal-Peor.
  2. Mercurius, a Roman divinity, identified with the Greek Hermes; also a statue or a way-mark dedicated to Hermes, the patron deity of the wayfarer.
  3. Are not all the actions mentioned modes of worship?
  4. And already included in the Mishnah.
  5. Ps. XVI, 4.
  6. I.e., that guilt is incurred for all these acts of worship.
  7. Omitting the words, to any God, Ex. XXII, 19.
  8. Since this is forbidden elsewhere; Lev. XVIII, 3f; 8f.
  9. Now the reference must be to sacrificing as an abnormal mode of worship, for the normal act of worship is designated in Heb. by [H] (to serve), and the verse should have read, He who serves any other god by sacrificing to it. Every normal act of service is derived from Deut. XVII, 3.
  10. Heb. Shem Hameyuhad, v. p. 408, n. 1.
  11. In Deut. XVII, 2-5; v. next note.
  12. The penalty of death for idolatry is stated in Deut. XVII, 2-5; If there be found among you … a man or woman that hath wrought wickedness … And hath gone and served other gods and prostrated himself before them … thou shalt stone them with stones, till they die. 'And hath gone and served other gods' is a general statement, not particularizing any mode of service. Consequently, the verse in Ex. XXII, 19, which ordains the death penalty for sacrificing, is a singling out of a particular service from the general proposition of Deut. XVI, 3. Now it is one of the principles of exegesis that in such a case the particularized statement is intended to illumine and define the general proposition as a whole: thus just as sacrificing is a form of service performed within the Temple precincts (in lawful worship), so the general statement, 'and hath … served other gods' refers to such services, e.g., sprinkling of the blood, offering incense, and making libations. But prostration was not a mode of worship within the Temple precincts.
  13. Ibid. 3.
  14. Ibid. 4.
  15. Ex. XXXIV, 14.
  16. Since prostration is specially stated, I might think that it teaches that for any act of adoration, even if it is not the normal mode of worship, and not performed within the Temple precincts, just as prostration, guilt is incurred.
  17. Ibid. XXII, 19.
  18. Of Deut. XVIII, 3.
  19. For if prostration was singled out in order to throw light upon the general law, viz., that for paying honour to an idol in any shape one is liable to death, why should sacrificing have been singled out too, since thereby one certainly honours the deity?
  20. Kareth, v. Glos. cf. Lev. XVIII, 3f; 8f; whilst here the penalty of death is decreed.
  21. V. p. 411, n. 9.
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