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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin

Folio 64a

'Be silent, for one must not make mention of the name of the Lord.'1  [He said this] because his father and mother had not taught him [to serve the Lord], and straightway he brought forth an idol from his bosom, embracing and kissing it, until his stomach burst, his idol fell to the earth, and he upon it, thus fulfilling the verse, And I shall cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols.2  — That too was after they became addicted thereto.

Come and hear: And they cried with a loud voice unto the Lord their God.3  Now what did they say? — Rab Judah, or as others maintain R. Jonathan said: [They cried this:] 'Woe, woe, it is that [sc. idolatry] which destroyed the Sanctuary, burnt the Temple, slew the righteous, and exiled Israel from their land; and still it sports amongst us! Hast Thou not set it before us that we might be rewarded [for withstanding its allurements]? But we desire neither temptation nor reward!'4  — That too was after they were seduced by it. [Continuing Rab Judah's statement:] They fasted for three days, entreating for mercy; thereafter their sentence fell from Heaven, the word emeth [truth] written upon it. (R. Hanina said: This proves that the seal of the Holy One, blessed be He, is emeth.) The shape of a fiery lion's whelp issued from the Holy of Holies, and the Prophet said to Israel, That is the Tempter of Idolatry. Whilst they held it fast, a hair [of its body] fell out, and his roar of pain was heard for 400 parasangs.5  [In perplexity] they cried: 'What shall we do? Maybe Heaven will pity him !' The prophet answered: Cast him into a lead cauldron, and cover it with lead to absorb his voice, as it is written, And he said, This is wickedness; and he cast it into the midst of the ephah: and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth

    thereof.6  Then they said, 'Since the time is propitious, let us pray that the Tempter of Sin [may likewise be delivered into our hands].' So they prayed and it was delivered into their hands. They imprisoned it for three days; after that they sought a new laid egg for an invalid in the whole of Palestine and could not find one.7  Then they said, 'What shall we do? Shall we pray that his power be but partially destroyed?8  Heaven will not grant it.' So they blinded it with rouge. This was so far effective that one does not lust for his forbidden relations.

Rab Judah said in Rab's name: A gentile woman once fell sick. She vowed, 'If I recover, I will go and serve every idol in the world.' She recovered, and proceeded to serve all idols. On reaching Peor, she asked its priests, 'How is this worshipped'? They replied, 'People eat beets, drink strong drink, and then uncover themselves before it.' She replied, 'I would rather fall sick again than serve an idol in such a manner.' But ye, O House of Israel,9  were not so [as it is written, Slay ye every one his men] that were joined unto Baal Peor:10 ye were attached to it like an air-tight lid.11 Whereas, Whilst ye that did cleave unto the Lord your God,12  implies merely like two dates sticking to each other.13  In a Baraitha it has been taught: that were joined unto Baal Peor: [loosely] like a bracelet on the hands of a woman;14  whereas Whilst ye that did cleave unto the Lord your God indicates that they were firmly attached.15

Our Rabbis taught: Sabta, a townsman of Avlas,16  once hired an ass to a gentile woman. When she came to Peor, she said to him, 'Wait till I enter and come out again.' On her issuing, he said to her, 'Now do you wait for me too until I go in and come out again.'

    'But,' said she, 'are you not a Jew?' He replied, 'What does it concern thee?' He then entered, uncovered himself before it, and wiped himself on the idol's nose, whilst the acolytes praised him, saying, 'No man has ever served this idol thus.'

He that uncovers himself before Baal Peor thereby serves it, even if his intention was to degrade it. He who casts a stone at Merculis thereby serves it, even if his intention was to bruise it.

R. Manasseh was going to Be Toratha.17  On the way he was told, 'An idol stands here.' He took up a stone and threw it at the idol's statue. Thereupon they said to him: 'It is Merculis'. He said to them, 'But we have learned, HE WHO CASTS A STONE FOR MERCULIS18  THEREBY SERVES IT.' So he went and inquired at the Beth Hamidrash [whether he had done wrong, since his action was a gesture of contempt]. They informed him, We have learned, HE WHO CASTS A STONE AT MERCULIS19  [thereby serves it] — that is to say even if it is merely to bruise it. He said to them, 'Then I will go and remove it.' But they replied, 'Whether one casts a stone or removes it, he incurs guilt, because every stone thus removed leaves room for another.'


GEMARA. The Mishnah20  teaches idolatry and giving to Molech.21 R. Abin said: Our Mishnah is in accordance with the

    view that Molech worship is not idolatry. For it has been taught, [if one causes his seed to pass through the fire,] whether to Molech or to any other idol he is liable [to death]. R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon said: If to Molech, he is liable; if to another idol, he is not.

Abaye said: R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon and R. Hanina b. Antigonus said the one and same thing. R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon, that which has just been stated. R. Hanina b. Antigonus — as it has been taught: R. Hanina b. Antigonus said: Why did the Torah employ the word Molech? To teach that the same law applies to whatever they proclaimed as their king, even a pebble or a splinter.22 Rabina23  said: The difference between them is in respect of a temporary Molech.24

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Amos VI, 10.
  2. Now this too shows that the child had really been taught to believe in it.
  3. Nehem. IX, 4. This was on the fast-day held by the newly established community in Palestine.
  4. This also proves that it had a strong hold upon them.
  5. A parasang is 8000 cubits.
  6. Zech. V. 8.
  7. Through the imprisonment of the Tempter sexual lust was dormant throughout creation.
  8. Lit.. 'half and half'. That it may arouse only legitimate sexual desire.
  9. This is Rab's comment.
  10. Num. XXV, 5.
  11. This connects the Heb. [H] hanizmadim, who cleaved, with zamid [H], an exactly fitting lid.
  12. Deut. IV, 4.
  13. [H], dabak, used in this verse, does not imply so strong an attachment as zamad; thus they clung more fervently to Peor than to the Lord.
  14. Deriving hanizmadim from zamid, a bracelet.
  15. This reverses Rab's interpretation.
  16. In Cilicia, mentioned as one of the northern border places of the Land of Israel; Targum Jerus. Num. XXIV, 8; Targum Jonathan b. Uzziel a. I. (Jast.).
  17. A town in Babylonia, on the road to Pumbaditha, 'A.Z. 26a. It may perhaps be identified with Bithra, on the south of the royal canal, on the Seleucian road (A. Neubauer, Geographie du Talmud, p. 363).
  18. [H] i.e., as act of worship.
  19. [He was told that the reading in the Mishnah is [H] AT MERCULIS, implying even as a gesture of contempt.]
  20. On 53a.
  21. As two separate offences, proving that giving one's seed to Molech is not idolatry. The differences is, that if one sacrificed to Molech, or caused his son to pass through the fire to some other deity, he is not punished.
  22. Molech is connected with the idea of kingship. This shews that he too regards any fetish as a Molech.
  23. In his view they did not say the one and the same thing.
  24. I.e., anything which was only temporarily worshipped as Molech, such as a pebble which would obviously not be a permanent idol.] According to R. Hanina b. Antigonus, he is executed even then. But R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon holds that the law applies only to a permanent idol worshipped as Molech.
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Sanhedrin 64b


R. Jannai said: Punishment is not incurred unless one delivers his seed to the acolytes of Molech,1  for it is said, And thou shalt not give of thy seed to pass through the fire to Molech.2  It has been taught likewise: I might think, that if one caused his seed to pass through the fire to Molech, without first delivering it to the priests, he is liable: therefore the Writ teaches, Thou shalt not give. If he gave it to the priests, but did not cause it to pass through the fire, I might think that he is liable: therefore the Writ states, to pass through. If one delivered it [to the priests of Molech], but caused it to pass through to some other deity, I might think that he is punished: therefore the Writ teaches, to Molech. Now, if he delivered it to the priests and caused it to pass to Molech, but not through the fire, I might think that he is liable:

    but, as here is written, to pass through; and elsewhere it is stated, There shall not he found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire:3  just as there, the reference is to fire, so here too; and just as here the reference is to Molech, so there too.

R. Aha the son of Raba said: If one caused all his seed to pass through [the fire] to Molech, he is exempt from punishment, because it is written, of thy seed implying, but not all thy seed.4

R. Ashi propounded: What if one caused his blind or sleeping son to pass through,5  or if he caused his grandson by his son or daughter to pass through? — One at least of these you may solve. For it has been taught: [Any men … that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall he put to death … And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people;] because he hath given of his seed unto Molech.6 Why is this stated?7  — Because it is said, there shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire.8 From this I know it only of his son or daughter. Whence do I know that it applies to his son's son or daughter's son too? From the verse, [And if the people of the land do any ways hide their eyes from the man] when he giveth of his seed unto Molech [and kill him not: Then I will … cut him off.]9

Now the Tanna commences with the verse, 'because he hath given of his seed', but concludes with 'when he giveth of his seed'? — This is to intimate another deduction.10  Thus: [because he hath given] of his seed: From this I know only that the law applies to legitimate seed [that being the normal meaning of the word]; whence do I know that it also applies to illegitimate seed?11  — From the verse, when he giveth of his seed.12

Rab Judah said: He is only liable to punishment if he causes his seed to pass through in the normal way. How is that? — Abaye said: There was a loose pile of bricks in the middle, and fire on either side of it.13  Raba said: It was like the children's leaping about on Purim.14  It has been taught in support of Raba. Punishment is incurred only for causing one's seed to pass in the normal fashion; if he caused him to pass through on foot, he is exempt.15  He is liable only for his own issue; e.g., for his son and daughter, he is punished; but for his father or mother, brother or sister, he is not. If he passed through himself, he is free from punishment.16  R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon ruled that he is liable. Further, whether to Molech or to any other idol, he is liable. R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon said: If to Molech, he is liable; if to another idol, he is not.

Ulla said: What is R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon's reason? — Scripture saith, There shall not be found among thee …17  'among thee' means in thyself.18  And the Rabbis? Do they not interpret 'among thee' thus? Surely we have learnt: If one must search for a lost article of his own and of his father's, priority is given to his own. And we observed thereon: Why so? — To which Rab Judah replied: Scripture saith, Save that there shall be no poor among thee,19  teaching

    that one's own loss has priority over that of any other man?20  There the deduction follows from 'save that'.21

R. Jose, son of R. Hanina said: Why is extinction thrice threatened for idolatry?22  — One teaches extinction for the normal worship of idols; one for abnormal; and one for the service of Molech.23 But on the view that Molech worship is included in general idolatry, why is extinction mentioned in its case? — To apply to one who causes his son to pass through to an idol [not Molech], where such is not the normal mode of worship. Now, on the view that a megaddef24  is a worshipper of idols,22  why is extinction stated for it?25  — Even as it has been taught:26  That soul shall surely be cut off from among his people;27  he shall be cut off in this world and in the next: this is R. Akiba's view.28 R. Ishmael said: But the verse has previously stated 'that soul shall be cut off':29  are there then three worlds?30 But [interpret this:] 'and [that soul] shall be cut off' — in this world: 'he is to he cut off' — [of the following verse, and denoted by the infinitive]31  in the next; whilst as for the repetition [the finite form of the verb],32  that is because the Torah employs human phraseology.33

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. He explains this to be the meaning of the Mishnah UNLESS HE GIVES IT TO MOLECH.
  2. Lev. XVIII, 21. This proves that the offence consists of two parts; (i) formal delivery to the priests, and (ii) causing the seed to pass through the fire.
  3. Deut. XVIII, 10.
  4. Probably because this would not be accounted a normal mode of Molech worship: cp. pp. 438, 440.
  5. Is 'thou shalt not cause to pass' applicable only to a son who can naturally pass through himself, but not to a blind or sleeping son, who must be led or carried, or does it apply to all?
  6. Lev. XX, 2f.
  7. Since the passage commences by explicitly referring to this offence, why is it repeated?
  8. Deut. XVIII, 10.
  9. Lev. XX, 4. Hence the law applies also to grandsons.
  10. I.e., from the first verse, because etc. we learn that the law applies to one's grandsons too; when he giveth is stated in order that another law may be deduced.
  11. Not in the modern sense, but seed from a woman forbidden to him.
  12. This is superfluous, since it has already been stated twice in that passage that the reference is to this effect. Hence it indicates the application of the law to illegitimate seed.
  13. The victim walked along that pile to Molech, but was not burnt. The statement that Hezekiah was smeared with the blood of the salamander to render him fireproof (63b), shewing that the victim was actually burnt, does not refer to Molech, but to the divinities of Sepharvaim (Rashi).
  14. Probably referring to a game played on Purim when children jump over a fire lit in a pit. According to this, a pit was dug and a fire lit therein, and the victim leaped over it (So Rashi). Jast. translates: 'like the stirrup (a ring suspended from a frame) thrust over a bonfire on Purim;' cp. Aruch.
  15. This proves that the victim did not walk, but leaped to it.
  16. This too proves that the victim was not burnt in passing through the fire to Molech.
  17. Deut. XVIII, 10.
  18. Hence his view that one is liable if he passes through himself.
  19. Deut. XV, 4.
  20. The questioner understood this to be deduced from 'among thee' — in thyself. Since this is not taught in the name of any particular Tanna, it should agree with the Rabbis too.
  21. Heb. [H], implying an admonition to avoid any action which may lead to poverty. Naturally, this is not to be interpreted as permitting dishonesty, but merely insists that poverty must not be courted.
  22. Twice in Lev. XX, 2-5: Whosoever be he … that giveth of his seeds to Molech … I will cut him off from among his people … And if the people of the land … kill him not: Then I will set my face against that man … and will cut him off. Once in Num. XV, 30f. But the soul that doeth aught presumptuously … the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the Lord. This refers to idolatry.
  23. Which is not included in general idolatry, as stated above.
  24. In Num. XV, 30, the Heb. for 'he reproacheth' is megaddef.
  25. The meaning of megaddef is disputed in Ker. 7b. By a 'worshipper of idols' is meant, e.g., one who sings hymns in a heathen Temple.
  26. Since, being a normal part of idolatry, it is understood.
  27. Num. XV, 31. Continuing the verses quoted in note 3. In the Heb, as usual, this emphasis is denoted by the repetition of the verb, [H]
  28. He interprets the doubling of the verb as referring to two worlds.
  29. Ibid. 30.
  30. Rashi explains that this question is not put to R. Akiba, because he interprets megaddef in that previous verse as referring to blasphemy, not idolatry. But this question is rhetorically stated by R. Ishmael on his own assumption that megaddef means an idol worshipper.
  31. [H]
  32. [H]
  33. In ordinary human speech, such repetition is quite common.
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