Archive for February 2013

Parashat Mishpatim

Parashat Mishpatim
Shemot 21:1 - 24:18
Shabbat Shekalim
Shemot 30:11-16

[Mishkah (Tabernacle)]

Parashat Summary

Contains mitzvot touching almost every aspect of Jewish life
Included are many kashrut (kosher) laws
Agricultural requirements of the Shmittah (Sabbatical) year
Shabbat and Yom Tov laws 
Strict prohibitions against making a treaty with the 7 Kanaani nations
Prohibitions against introducing any form of idol-worship
Well-being in Eretz Yisrael depends directly on Yisrael's loyalty to Torah
After the Aseret HaDibrot (The Ten Commandments) is given, Moshe is called back to Har Sinai for 40 days and nights

 21:1 Ve'eleh hamishpatim asher tasim lifneihem
"And these are the ordinances [laws] which you shall set before them:
ve'eleh hamishpatim asher - and these are the ordinances that.  The final letters of these words can be rearranged to spell the name Marah.  For even before the revelation at Sinai, the Benei Yisrael  were taught the Torah's civil laws at Marah. (Mechilta; Sanhedrin 56b, cited in Rashi to 15:25) 

Mishpatim includes all types of laws administered by the court, referred to in Hebrew as the beit-din or Sanhedrin.  These mishpatim include laws of slavery, theft, liabilities of various types of custodians, and laws of damages.  Also included here are capital crimes, such as murder, idolatry, kidnapping, and witchcraft.  Although laws of jurisprudence are not unique to the Benei Yisrael, no other nation at this time or at any other time had divinely ordained laws of jurisprudence.

The laws are given here to illustrate that the Ten Commandments are not to be understood just as they were given, but that they include many other commandments, statutes, and ordinances.  Thus, these ordinances are the elaborations of the Ten Commandments.  For this reason, the sidrah commences with "And these are the ordinances which you shall set before them" referring only to qualified judges, who understand the scope of the Ten Commandments, not to unversed judges, who believe that the Ten Commandments include only what is stated in them explicitly.

This is demonstrated by the stringent rules of the Talmud (Gittin 88b), which demands that these laws be tried exclusively by duly ordained Jewish judges, not by civil courts nor by judges who were not ordained by judges whose ordination could be traced back to Moshe.  When the chain of ordination was interrupted during the period of the Amoraim, capital punishment and laws dealing with penalties and fines could no longer be adjudicated.  Even if local civil courts rule exactly as prescribed in the Torah, law suits between Jews may not be brought to these courts, but must be brought to a rabbinical court.

Tanchuma Mishpatim 2: Wherever it says, "these" in the Torah, this word is used to separate from what has been stated previously.  Where it says, "And these," it means that it is adding to what has been previously stated.

Rashi from Mechilta: Thus just as what has been previously stated, namely the Ten Commandments, were from Sinai, these too were from Sinai.  Now why was the section dealing with laws juxtaposed to the section dealing with the altar?  To tell you that you shall place the Sanhedrin adjacent to the Beit HaMikdash (other editions: the altar).

Mesiach Illemim explains that it would have been sufficient for the Torah to have merely stated, "These are the ordinances," without the word "and."  To this, Rashi replies from the Mechilta that the conjunction "and" connects this parsha with that of the Ten Commandments, to explain that just as the Ten Commandments were given at Har Sinai, so too were the laws of jurisprudence.

Mizrachi and others explain that wherever the word eleh, (these), is used in the Torah it is meant to disqualify whatever was mentioned previously, i.e., to imply that whatever was previously mentioned is of lesser importance.  This is totally inappropriate here, since the laws previously mentioned were the Ten Commandments.  Hence, Scripture could not have stated:  "These are the ordinances" without the word "and."  It could, however, have omitted the word eleh completely.  The fact that the word eleh is written, with the conjunction, indicates that it is to connect these laws with the aforementioned ones in order to inform us that they are equally important.

Zeh Yanachameinu explains that Rabbi Ishmael, who states that the laws of jurisprudence were given at Sinai, disagrees with the view that they were given in Marah (see Rashi on Shemot 15:25).  He suggests that perhaps Rabbi Ishmael does believe that they were originally given in Marah, but that they were repeated at Sinai.  This latter view appears also in Tosafot Hashalem.

Rashi also explains why the section dealing with the altar (Shemot 20:21-23) intervenes between the Ten Commandments and the section dealing with jurisprudence, and why this section was not placed immediately after the Ten Commandments.  Rashi comments that this order teaches us that the Sanhedrin, the seventy-one-member court that executes the laws, should be located adjacent to the Beit HaMikdash.

Be'er Mayim Chayim supports the version, "adjacent to the Sanctuary."  He argues that the Sanhedrin could not be located adjacent to the altar since that area is off limits to anyone but a Kohen.  the juxtaposition of the section dealing with the altar to this section dealing with the laws of jurisprudence alludes to the law that the Sanhedrin should convene adjacent to the Temple court, which housed the altar, not adjacent to the altar itself.  Indeed, the Great Sanhedrin was located in the Chamber of Hewn Stone, which was adjacent to the Temple court.

Zeh Yenachameinu suggests two reasons for this location of the Sanhedrin:
  1. It is to teach us that the Torah, represented by the laws of jurisprudence, is just as important as the Temple service.  These are two of the pillars that support the world, as in the words of Shimon the Righteous (Avot 1:2):  "The world stands on three things:  on the Torah, on divine service, and on acts of kindness." Lest we believe that civil and criminal laws were enacted merely to preserve civilization, the Torah requires the placement of the Sanhedrin adjacent to the Sanctuary, in order to teach us that the execution of justice is no less of a mitzvah than the divine Temple service.
  2. It is to teach us that just as the altar makes peace between Yisrael and G-d, so too does the Sanhedrin make peace between one person and another by judging who is right in their differences. The latter idea is also presented by Gur Aryeh.

Sefer Hazikkaron also asks why Mishpatim does not follow immediately after the Ten Commandments and then be followed by the section dealing with the altar.  He replies that if it were written in that order, we would say that there must be an altar adjacent to the Sanhedrin, and wherever the Sanhedrin convened, and altar would be built.  The Torah's intention, however, is not to imply that there must be an altar near the Sanhedrin, but that the Sanhedrin must be near the altar.  Therefore, the section dealing with the altar is written first, followed by the section dealing with the Sanhedrin.

asher tasim lifneihem which you shall set before them.

Rashi (from Mechilta, Eruvin 54b): The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moshe:  Do not think of saying, "I will teach them the chapter or the law (both terms seemingly refer to the Oral Torah) two or three times until they know it well, as it was taught, but I will not trouble Myself to enable them to understand the reasons for the matter and its explanation."  Therefore, it is said:  "you shall set before them," like a table, set with food and prepared to eat from, placed before someone.

Ramban explains that out of all the laws of the Torah, G-d wished to give the Benei Yisrael the laws of jurisprudence first because they are related to the Ten Commandments.  The first of the Ten Commandments deals with knowledge of the existence of the Deity, and the second commandment deals with the prohibition of idol worship.  These are followed by "You have seen that from the heavens I have spoken with you" (Shemot 20:19), which corresponds to "I am Hashem, your G-d" (Shemot 20:2); "You shall not make images of anything that is with Me.  Gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves" (Shemot 20:20) corresponds to "You shall not have the gods of others in My presence" (Shemot 20;3).  The laws delineated in the following section corresponds to "You shall not covet" (Shemot 20:14), for if one does not know the law governing a house, a field, or other property, he may believe he can take it for himself.  Therefore, the Torah states:  "And these are the ordinances which you shall set before them."  Fair and just ordinances will guide the Benei Yisrael among themselves, and teach them not to covet what is not rightfully theirs.

Abarbanel explains that in various ways the laws set forth in the following chapters are superior to the Noachide laws and to the laws agreed upon by the nations.  Abarbanel notes that they are superior in two ways:
  1. They include many elements not found in the laws devised by the nations.
  2. Since these laws were given by G-d, one who observes them is rewarded just as he is rewarded for keeping other commandments.  
The section commences with:  "And these are the ordinances which you shall set before them."  the conjunction "and" connects these laws to the Ten Commandments, denoting that these ordinances are included in the Ten Commandments.  Although the Ten Commandments are ten brief statements, many laws are derived from them.  Therefore, the Rabbis teach us (Sanhedrin 2b) that only expert judges may rule concerning these ordinances.  Simple judges may not rule concerning ordinances, since they believe that "You shall not murder" includes only its literal meaning, that one may not kill another human.  The wise person, however, understands that all these ordinances and more are included in the Ten Commandments, but G-d deemed it sufficient to list only these as the pattern for the other laws derived from them.

Abarbanel comments that the end of the sidrah teaches us the reward for those who keep these ordinances, as the Torah says:  "Behold, I am sending an angel before you, etc." (Shemot 23:20).

lifneihem - before them.

Rashi from Tanchuma 3: Before them, but not before gentiles.  Even if you know that they (gentiles) judge a certain law similarly to the laws of Yisrael, do not bring it to their courts, for one who brings Jewish lawsuits before gentiles profanes the Divine Name and honors the name of idols to praise them (other editions:  to give them importance, as it is said:  "For not like our Rock (G-d) is their rock, but yet our enemies judge us" (Devarim 32:31).  When we let our enemies judge us, this is testimony to our esteem of their deity.

Sefer Hazikkaron: Since the gentiles should know that "their rock is not like our Rock," how could the Benei Yisrael submit their litigation to the gentiles?  It must be that, G-d forbid, the Benei Yisrael think their (the gentiles') deities has importance.  Therefore, the Torah forbids taking lawsuits to gentile courts.

Rashi explains because the antecedent of "before them" is obscure (Gittin 88b), that this refers to the seventy elders who ascended to Har Sinai with Moshe before the giving of the Torah, mentioned in Shemot 24:1.  The Tosafists, however, explain that "before them" refers to "the judges" mentioned in v6 and other places in these chapters.

Ramban:  From this verse the Talmud derives that only those ordained by Moshe or by those who trace their ordination back to Moshe may officiate as judges. Even if un-ordained judges are knowledgeable in the case brought before them, they may not judge it unless both litigants agree to accept their decision.  Should the litigants agree to accept the decision of a non-Jewish judge, however, they may not submit their case to these judges.

Mechilta: Should Jewish judges issue a verdict and a litigant refuses to abide by their decision, the court may resort to coercion through non-Jews until the litigant obeys.

Hence, according to the Rashi, following the Rabbis, the expression of setting or placing the ordinances (tasim) can be interpreted in two ways:

  1.  G-d commanded Moshe to teach Yisrael the ordinances and explain them thoroughly, so that they would be like a table that is set, ready for a meal.  
  2. G-d commanded Yisrael to submit their lawsuits to qualified Jewish judges.

Ibn Ezra, in his brief commentary explains tasim lifeneyhem as analogous to "and placed before them all these words" (Shemot 19:7) and "And this is the law that Moshe placed" (Devarim 4:44), meaning that Moshe was to present these ordinances before the people either orally, in writing, or both.

In his long commentary, Ibn Ezra explains that after the Benei Yisrael said to Moshe, "You speak with us" (Shemot 20:16), and Moshe entered the opaque darkness, G-d said to him, "So shall you say to the Benei Yisrael" (Shemot 20:19), and He admonished the Benei Yisrael not to make gods of silver or gold.  He instructed Moshe that after his descent from the mountain, he should form a covenant with Yisrael that their G-d should be the Master alone.  G-d also instructed Moshe concerning the details of the laws of jurisprudence and the commandments that he should tell the Benei Yisrael.  If the Benei Yisrael agreed to accept them, G-d would then form a covenant with them.  At the termination of this parsha, after the laws, G-d said, "Behold, I am sending an angel before you" (Shemot 23:20).  This parsha's main theme is the Benei Yisrael's eradication of idolatry from their land as soon as they entered it, as Moshe had told them before they formed the covenant.  Thus, the beginning of the section warns the Benei Yisrael against worshiping other gods, and the end of the section admonishes them to eradicate pagan worship from their land in order that they will not "...worship their gods" (Shemot 23:33).

Source: Mikraoth Gedoloth - Shemot

Ve'eleh hamishpatim asher tasim lifneihemAnd these are the ordinances [laws] which you shall set before them

The previous section described how the Torah was given.  But there the Torah spoke on of the Ten Commandments. (Mechilta; Rashi)  It must be understood that, just as the Ten Commandments were given with thunder and lightening (19:16), so were all the laws mentioned in this section. (Mizrachi; Yeffeh Toar, p. 152; Tzedah LaDerech)

All the laws that are in this section were also given at Sinai.  They were given on the same day as the Ten Commandments, with similar thunder and lightning.  There is no difference between the manner in which these laws were given and that of the Ten Commandments. (Cf. Etz HaChayim)

These social laws were given before the rest of the Torah.  And even before the Benei Yisrael came to Sinai, G-d gave them social laws (mishpatim) at Marah (15:25).

The reason for this was that before the Torah could be given, all the Benei Yisrael had to be unified.  They had to have one heart, with peace, friendship and brotherhood, with no needless hatred whatsoever.

In order to learn the Torah, one must have peace.  If people discuss the Torah, it must be to attain truth, not to win arguments or display one's knowledge.

Thus, the basis of the entire Torah is peace; and this is the foundation upon which everything else rests.  Therefore, G-d gave social laws before He gave any of the other commandments of the Torah.  If a person has claims or arguments against his neighbor, there will be strife between them.  But through a system of justice, it is determined who is liable and who is innocent, and strife is avoided.

It is taught that the world is sustained by three things:
  1. by law
  2. by truth
  3. and by peace

Law - depends on a judge.  He must know how to judge a case fairly, and how to see through falsehood.

Truth - depends on the witnesses. They must be careful not to testify falsely.

Peace - depends on the litigants.  Whether one is exonerated or found liable, he should accept the verdict in a positive manner.  This removes the controversy form among them, and they can leave as if there was never any dispute between them.

If not for social laws, civilization would come to an end.  The strongest person would gain the upper hand, and each one would make use of his strength to take way that which was not rightly his.

Avraham reached a level where he could be called "G-d's friend," as G-d said, "[They are] the offspring of Avraham My friend" (Yeshayahu 41:8). But he only attained this because he taught the world how to live under the rule of law.  This was the lesson that he taught to his children.

Moshe also accepted Yitro's advice about appointing judges and officials to administer justice.  He wanted to insure that one person would never take the property of another illegally.  G-d agreed to this.

Yehoshua taught the Benei Yisrael, and made a covenant with them, explaining to them the main rules of Judaism.  His last words to the Benei Yisrael dealt with social laws.

After Yehoshua, there were judges in ever generation  who would correct the Benei Yisrael, and not allow them to violate the law.  It was because of this that they were successful against their enemies.

This was also the main task of the prophet Shmuel.  He would make circuits of the entire land of Yisrael each year to judge the Benei Yisrael. (1Shmuel 7:16).  Every year he went to different places, guiding the people, and ridding them of crime.

One of Shmuel's greatest accomplishments was crowning David as king of Yisrael.  Regarding David it is written, "David brought about justice and charity, and Yoav sustained the rest of the people." (2Shmuel 8:15; 1Divrei HaYamim 11:8; especially 1Divrei HaYamim 18:14)

King Shlomo's only request to G-d was that he be given wisdom to be able to judge the people fairly and justly (1Melachim 3:9).  He did not ask for wealth or fame.  G-d was pleased with this request, and gave Shlomo so much wisdom, that he became famous throughout the world as a fair and just ruler.

Similarly, when the Scripture speaks about the greatness of Mashiach, it says, "He will judge the poor with righteousness, and decide for the meek of the land with fairness" (Yeshayahu 11:4).

Yerushalayim, too, will only be rebuilt through the merit of justice. It is thus written, "Tziyon will be redeemed through justice" (Yeshayahu 1:27).  G-d desires justice more than any sacrifice. (Tur, Choshen Mishpat 1; Bet Yosef ad loc.)

The Torah was given at Har Sinai in the morning, as it is written, "It was the third day in the morning, and there was thunder and lightning" (19:16). On that day, G-d also gave the Benei Yisrael a legal code, which included both monetary laws and a criminal code. (Shemot Rabbah)

It is written, "The strength of the King is that He loves justice" (Tehillim 99:4).  G-d loves those who administer justice.  The Torah was given only so that justice would be carried out.  If there were no justice, everyone would do what he desired, because he would have no one to fear.  Little by little, he would commit many sins, and the Torah would be forgotten.

But when justice is administered, and the law is upheld, people learn; and in such an honest environment, civilization flourishes.  When people deal lawfully in business, they also keep all the other laws of Judaism.  Crime and wrongdoing then cease to exist. (Shemot Rabbah.  Cf. Akedat Yitzchak; Derash Moshe)

The Death Penalty

The courts of Yisrael were given the authority to impose the death penalty as a punishment for certain crimes.  The death penalty could take four forms:
  1. sekilah - stoning
  2. serefah - burning
  3. hereg - decapitation
  4. chenek - strangulation
When the Beit HaMikdash (the Holy Temple) was built, a special chamber was included.  It was known as Lish'kat HaGazit (the Chamber of Hewn Stone).  This is where the Sanhedrin sat when they judged capital cases.

It is a positive commandment for the courts to impose the death penalty where it is required by the Torah.  If a court fails to impose it, the court is guilty of violating one of the commandments of the Torah.

The death penalty can be imposed on men and women alike.  The penalty depends upon the crime, not the perpetrator.

Sekilah (stoning):  
If this was the penalty imposed, when the condemned person came to within four cubits (approx. 6 feet) of the stoning platform, he would be stripped of all his clothing except his pants.  A woman would also be allowed to wear a shirt. 
The stoning platform was twice the height of a man.  The two witnesses (through whose testimony he was condemned) would lead him to the top of this platform.  His hands would be tied, and one of the witnesses would push him down from the platform so that he would fall down face forward.  
If the condemned person died of this fall, he was considered to have been killed by "stoning," because in describing this penalty, the Torah says, "He shall be stoned or thrown down" (19:13).  This teaches that throwing a person from a high place is the same as stoning him. It makes no difference whether stones are thrown on him or he is thrown down on stones.  
If the condemned did not die immediately upon being thrown down, the two witnesses would take a large stone prepared especially for the purpose and throw it on his chest.  The stone had to be so heavy that it took the two of them to lift it. (Tanchuma, Pekudai)   
If the condemned was still alive, all the onlookers would pelt him with large stones until he was dead.  It is thus written, "The hand of the witnesses shall be the first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people" (Devarim 17:7)

There are eighteen crimes for which the penalty is death by stoning:
  1. Incest between a man and his mother.
  2. Incest between a man and his father's wife.
  3. Incest between a man and his daughter-in-law.
  4. Adultery with a betrothed girl.
  5. Homosexual sodomy.
  6. Bestiality.
  7. A woman submitting to an animal.
  8. Blasphemy.
  9. Idolatry (as explained in Yitro, on v20:5)
  10. Giving one's seed to Molech (VaYikra 20:2). This was a type of idolatry where a fire was burned, and one's children had to pass through it.
  11. Sorcery through necromancy (ov, VaYikra 20:27)
  12. Pythonism (yid'oni, Ibid.)
  13. Enticing individuals to idolatry, even if no act is committed.
  14. Instigating communities to idolatry.
  15. Witchcraft.
  16. Violating the Shabbat through any of the 39 categories of forbidden work.
  17. Cursing a parent.
  18. A rebellious son (Devarim 21:18-21).
For two of these crimes, blasphemy and idolatry, not only would the condemned be stoned, but after his death, he would be hanged.  This only applied to men; women were not hanged, since it was not seemly.

When hanging was required, a heavy pole would be placed in the ground.  Securely fastened to it would be a protruding board (like a gallows).  The hands of the executed criminal would be bound together, and the corpse would hang by it hands from the protruding beam.

Both the execution and hanging would take place shortly before sunset.  If a man was hanged, he would be taken down after a short while.  It was forbidden to allow him to remain on the gallows, since it is written, "[You shall hang him on a beam], but his body shall not remain over night on the beam" (Devarim 21:22, 23)

If a betrothed girl (naarah me'urasa) committed adultery, she would be stoned at the door of her father's house.  If he did not have a house, she would be stoned at the city gate. If the majority of the city were gentiles, she would be stoned at the door of the courthouse. The idea was that she should be stoned in an obvious place so as to publicize the execution. (Sefer Mitzvot HaGadol)

Serefah (burning):

This was accomplished by placing the condemned in dung up to his knees. A piece of tough cord would be placed inside a soft cloth, and it would be placed around the condemned person's neck.  The two witnesses would then pull on the cloth.  Meanwhile, a ladle of molten lead or tin was prepared.  While the molten metal was still on fire, the witnesses would pull on the cloth hard enough to force the condemned one to open his mouth.  The molten metal would then be poured down his mouth, burning out his insides.

There were ten crimes for which the penalty was death by burning:
  1. Adultery on the part of the daughter of a kohen-priest who was married.  (If she was merely betrothed, her penalty was stoning.)
  2. Incest between a man and his daughter.
  3. Incest between a man and his daughter's daughter.
  4. Incest between a man and his son's daughter.
  5. Incest between a man and his wife's daughter.
  6. Incest between a man and the daughter of his wife's daughter.
  7. Incest between a man and the daughter of his wife's son.
  8. Incest between a man and his mother-in-law.
  9. Incest between a man and the mother of his mother-in-law.
  10. Incest between a man and the mother of his father-in-law.

Hereg (decapitation):

This penalty consisted of decapitation as it was practiced by ancient governments.

There are two crimes for which the penalty of decapitation was imposed:
  1. Murder.
  2. Being a member of a community that worshiped idols collectively. 
The courts were not permitted to have pity on a murderer, saying, "One person has already been killed; what good will it do to take another life?"  G-d commanded us not to have pity on such a criminal, but to eliminate him from the world.  It is thus written, "Do not let your eye take pity on him. You must eliminate (the shedder) of innocent blood from Yisrael" (Devarim 19:13).  It is similarly written, "You must eliminate evil from your midst." (Devarim 13:6, 17:7, 19:19, 21:21, 22:21, 22:24, 24:7, 17:12, 22:22)

Chenek (strangulation):

This was carried out by placing the condemned in dung up to his knees.  A hard cloth would then be placed in a soft scarf, and it would be placed around the condemned's neck.  The two witnesses would then tighten it until he died.

There were six crimes carrying the penalty of death by strangulation:
  1. Adultery with a married woman.
  2. Wounding a parent.
  3. Kidnapping a fellow Jew.
  4. False prophecy.
  5. Prophesying in the name of heathen deities.
  6. A sage who is insubordinate to the Sanhedrin.
The reason for the harsh penalty for insubordination to the Sanhedrin was that the Sanhedrin in Yerushalayim was the supreme authority in Jewish law and the guardian of the Oral Torah.  It was this body that had the final say in all questions of law and judgment.  If one believed in Moshe and the Torah that he gave, he had to remain subordinate to the Sanhedrin. 

It is therefore forbidden for a rabbi to render a decision that goes against that of the Sanhedrin.  To do so is a crime punishable by strangulation. Furthermore, if the Sanhedrin finds it proper to enact legislation for the common benefit, it is forbidden for any individual to oppose them.

When two sages or two groups disputed a point of Torah law, both groups would go to Yerushalayim and present their case to the lower Sanhedrin that convened at the gate of the Temple Mount.  If they accepted the verdict of this lower Sanhedrin, the case would be settled.

If not, they would all present the case before a higher Sanhedrin, which convened at the outer gate of the Temple.  Again, if their verdict was accepted, the case would be settled.

If not, however, all would go to the supreme Sanhedrin which convened in the Chamber of Hewn Stone (Lish'kat HaGazit), a chamber within the Temple grounds used only by the Sanhedrin.  It was here that capital cases were judged, and decisions were rendered for all Yisrael.  Whatever decision that they rendered in a case was absolutely and finally binding for all parties.

If it then became known that one of the sages still followed his own opinion in this case, and rendered opinions that would mean acting against the Sanhedrin's decision, he would be considered an insubordinate sage (zaken mamre).  This was true even if the Sanhedrin's decision was lenient and he was taking a stricter view.

If there were two witnesses who would testify to his decision, he would incur the death penalty.  This was true even if he did not actually perform an act, but merely rendered a decision for others.  He would be taken to Yerushalayim, to the supreme Sanhedrin.  If this took place during the year, he would be kept in prison, and held there until the next festival.  The sentence would then be passed down, and the rabbi would be executed by strangulation.

The sentence would be delayed until a festival so as to publicize the event.  On festivals, Jews would come to Yerushalayim from all over the world.  Regarding the rebellious rabbi, the Torah says, "All the people shall hear it and fear" (Devarim 17:13).

Anyone executed by the courts would not be buried among other Jews.  Rather, they all had a separate place.  There was one place for those executed by stoning and burning, and a second place for those executed by decapitation and strangulation.  After a time, when the flesh had decayed, the bones would be exhumed and reburied in the ancestral graves. (Yad, Sanhedrin 14:9)

The Divine commandment requires that the condemned person must be buried on the same day that he is executed.  The corpse may not remain unburied overnight.  The stones with which he was killed, the pole upon which he was hanged, the sword with which he was decapitated, and the scarves used to strangle him were all buried alongside him.  Nothing would then be said against these objects, such as, "This was the stone that killed a man," or "This is the sword that severed his head."

The relatives of the executed man would not make the condolence meal (as in the case of other mourners) since it was forbidden for them to eat all that day.  It was similarly forbidden for the court that condemned a man to death to eat on the day he was executed.

However, if a person was executed during the intermediate days of a festival (chol ha-moed), the court was permitted to eat and drink in honor of the festival.  The sentence was passed before sundown, and the condemned man was then executed.

There is no mourning for a person executed by the courts.  After the execution, the condemned man's heirs and relatives were required to go to the court and to the witnesses, and inquire as to their welfare.  This was to demonstrate that they were not holding anything against them, and that they acknowledged that the trail was fair, with no gain to anyone involved. (Yad, Sanhedrin 13:4-6)


Just as the courts are commanded to execute a condemned criminal, so are they commanded to flog those who commit crimes for which the punishment of flogging (malkot) is prescribed.  The circumstances must be that two witnesses saw a person violating one of the Torah's prohibitions, and warned him that he should desist.  If he ignores them, he is brought to court.  After the witnesses testify and the trial is heard, he can be condemned to be flogged.

After sentence has been passed, the congregational overseer (chazon) pulls the garments off the criminal's upper body with all his strength.  It does not matter if they tear or unravel.  His chest is thus laid bare from the waist up.

The flogging place had a stone upon which the overseer would place his feet for support.  There was also a wooden pole to which the criminal's hands would be tied so that he would be helpless.

The flogging would be administered with a calfskin strap folded over four times.  At its end, it had two straps of donkey skin.  The strap was a hand-breadth wide and long enough to reach around to the criminal's belly. The strap also had a handle a hand-breadth long.

Thirty-nine lashes would be administered, a third on his chest between his breasts, and a third on each shoulder.  The leading judge would read certain verses, the second one would count the lashes, and the third would instruct the official to administer each blow.  If the criminal died as a result of the flogging, it was not considered an act of murder.

The verse that the first judge would read was, "If you do not carefully observe all the words of this Torah that are written in this book, so that you will fear the wonderful and awesome Name, HaShem your G-d, then G-d will strike you with extraordinary plagues.  He will also strike your children, and there will be terrible, long-lasting plagues, horrible epidemics of long duration.  He will bring back upon you all the diseases of Egypt that you dreaded, and they will be incurable.  There will also be every sickness and every plague that is not written in this book of the Torah; G-d will bring them upon you until you are destroyed  (Devarim 28:58-61).

There is an important reason that the criminal is flogged with thirty-nine lashes.  An embryo takes forty days to attain human form.  Thus, the very essence of a human being is forty.  He is given this many lashes to indicate that this is an act of mercy so that he will not die for his sin.

The number of lashes is thus thirty-nine, that is, forty less one.  This teaches that if he repents with heart and soul, his sin is forgiven, and he will be allowed to live. (Mabit, Beit Elokim 3:49)

There are 168 violations in the Torah for which the punishment is flogging:
  1. Making an idol even though one does not worship it, but only makes it for others.
  2. Making forbidden statues. 
  3. Turning and gazing at idols, in violation of the commandment, "Do not turn to the idols" (VaYikra 19:4)
  4. Setting up a monolith, as gentiles do for idolatrous purposes   The Torah forbids this, even if it is done for G-d. (Chinuch, Shoftim)
  5. Planting a tree in the Temple.
  6. Setting up a figured stone in violation of the commandment, "Do not set up a figured stone in your land upon which to bow" (VaYikra 26:1).  This teaches that it is forbidden to bow down on a specially decorated tone, since this is an idolatrous custom.  It appears as if one is bowing to the stone, even though this is not his intent. (Chinuch, BeHar)
  7. Swearing by the name of an idolatrous deity.
  8. Making a vow in the name of such a deity.
  9. Deriving enjoyment from such a deity.
  10. Rebuilding a city destroyed for idol worship (ir ha-nidachat).  Such a city must be burned, and it may never be rebuilt.
  11. Deriving enjoyment from anything from such a city, such as its lumber and stones.  All use of everything from such a city is forbidden; it all must be burned.
  12. Following gentile customs.
  13. Divination (kosem).
  14. Soothsaying (me'onen)
  15. Enchanting (menachesh)
  16. Charming (chover chaver)
  17. Consulting the dead.  All these are forbidden forms of occultism (Devarim 18:10,11).
  18. Erasing G-d's Name, damaging a stone from the Altar, or burning sanctified wood.
  19. Extinguishing the Altar fire, since this fire must burn constantly, day and night, without interruption (VaYikra 6:6).
  20. Climbing up to the Altar with stairs (20:23)
  21. Entering the Temple with ritually unclean clothing.
  22. Entering the Temple while ritually unclean from a flux or the like (VaYikra 15).
  23. Removing the staves from the Ark (25:15).
  24. Removing the breastplate from the efod (28:28).
  25. Tearing the priestly garment (me'il) (28:32).
  26. Offering sacrifice on the golden Altar (30:9).
  27. A priest entering the inner chamber of the Temple when it is not the time of Divine service.
  28. A maimed priest who enters the Temple (VaYikra 21:23)
  29. Entering the Temple while drunk (VaYikra 10:9-11).
  30. A maimed priest who participates in the Divine service (VaYikra 21:17).
  31. An uncircumcised priest who serves in the Temple.
  32. A priest who performs the service of a Levi (BaMidbar 18:3).
  33. A priest who enters the Temple with overgrown hair (VaYikra 10:6).
  34. A priest entering the Temple with torn vestments (Ibid.).
  35. Sanctifying a blemished animal for the Altar (Devarim 14:3).  This is considered disrespectful, since even to a fellow human being it would not be proper to make a gift of a blemished animal.
  36. Slaughtering a blemished animal as a sacrifice.
  37. Sprinkling the blood of such an animal on the Altar.
  38. Offering a blemished animal as a sacrifice for a gentile.
  39. Blemishing a consecrated animal.
  40. Making use of such an animal.
  41. Shearing the wool of such an animal.
  42. Burning leaven or honey on the Altar (VaYikra 2:11). Since they are substances that swell and rise, they may not be brought into the Temple.
  43. Allowing the remains of the meal offering (minchah) to become leaven (VaYikra 6:10)
  44. Burning a sacrifice without salting it (VaYikra 2:13).
  45. Offering an animal received as the hire of a harlot or the price of a dog (Devarim 23:19).
  46. Placing olive oil in a sin offering (VaYikra 5:11).
  47. Placing frankincense (levonah) in such an offering (Ibid.).
  48. Placing olive oil in the offering of a woman suspected of adultery (BaMidbar 5:15).
  49. Placing frankincense in such an offering.  It is forbidden to place oil or frankincense in the offering of a woman suspected of adultery.  Since she may have behaved like an animal, her offering must be like animal food, without any seasoning.
  50. Removing the head from a bird sacrificed as a sin offering (VaYikra 5:8).  A bird offering is slaughtered by nipping (melikah), where the priest pushes his fingernail through its spine until its vital passages (simanim) are severed. When doing so, he must be careful not to decapitate the bird completely.  To do so incurs a penalty of flogging.
  51. Substituting one sacrifice for another (VaYikra 27:10).
  52. Eating the flesh of a sacrifice that becomes ritually unclean (VaYikra 7:19).
  53. Eating an invalid sacrifice.
  54. Eating the flesh from the most holy sacrifices outside of the Temple area (Shemot 29:33).
  55. One who is not a kohen-priest eating the flesh of the most holy sacrifices (VaYikra 12:17).
  56. A non-priest eating the flesh of a first-born animal (Devarim 12:17).
  57. A kohen-priest's daughter who is married to a simple Yisraeli, eating priestly offerings, whether during the lifetime of her husband or after his death.
  58. A defiled priest who east the priestly crop offering (terumah).  That is, if a kohen-priest marries a harlot or a divorcee, any child born of this union is considered defiled (chalel) from the sanctity of a priest.  He is therefore forbidden to eat terumah.  Similarly, if a priest marries the defiled daughter of a priest, their children are also defiled priests.
  59. Eating sacrifices of secondary holiness (kadashim kalim) outside Yerushalayim.
  60. Eating such sacrifices before the blood is dashed on the Altar.
  61. Eating a first-born animal outside of Yerushalayim (Devarim 12:17).
  62. Eating the second tithe outside Yerushalayim.
  63. A priest who eats the first fruits before they are brought into the Temple (29:33).
  64. A priest who eats first fruits outside of Yerushalayim after they have been brought to the Temple.
  65. Eating the defiled second tithe in Yerushalayim before it has been redeemed.
  66. Eating the second tithe in Yerushalayim while ritually unclean (Devarim 26:14).
  67. Eating the second tithe or other sacred things while in the initial mourning period, before the deceased is buried.
  68. One who is uncircumcised due to reasons beyond his control, who eats sacrificial flesh or terumah.
  69. Eating the meal offering of a priest or other offerings that must be completely burned.
  70. Eating sin offerings which must be burned.
  71. Slaughtering the Pesach offering while having leaven in one's possession (34:25).
  72. Breaking a bone in the Pesach lamb, whether with one's hand or while chewing it (12:46).
  73. Removing flesh from the company eating the Pesach Lamb.
  74. Eating the flesh of the Pesach lamb raw or cooked.  It must only be eaten roasted (12:9)
  75. Eating the flesh of the Pesach lamb outside the prescribed group.
  76. Deriving personal use of something that is consecrated.
  77. Eating grain or other produce before tithes have been separated, even if the priestly portion (terumah) has been removed.
  78. Eating the flesh of an animal which must be stoned, even if it is properly slaughtered (21:28).
  79. Eating a non-kosher animal.
  80. Eating a non-kosher bird.
  81. Eating a non-kosher aquatic animal.
  82. Eating a non-kosher flying insect.
  83. Eating a small terrestrial animal.
  84. Eating a non-kosher aquatic insect or worm.  It is for this reason that infested water must be strained before it is used for culinary purposes.
  85. Eating land invertebrates, such as those that thrive in compost.
  86. Eating worms that grow in fruits.  Therefore, people who make jams and jellies without examining the fruit, are guilty of a major violation for eating their product.  If they sell the preserves or give them away as a gift, they also cause others to sin.  Since it was made by a Jew, people naturally assume that it is kosher.  For every such worm that is eaten, there are five separate penalties of flogging.
  87. Eating meat from an animal that was not properly slaughtered according to the law (nevelah).
  88. Eating flesh from an animal with a fatal lesion (terefah).
  89. Eating flesh from a living animal.  This refers to eating flesh cut off from an animal that is still alive.
  90. Eating the sciatic nerve (gid ha-nasheh) (Bereishit 32:33).
  91. Eating meat cooked with milk.
  92. Cooking meat and milk together, even if one does not eat it.
  93. Eating new grain before the 16th of Nissan, which was when the Omer was offered.  Even though the Temple is not standing today, if one knows that the grain is new, it may not be eaten, whether in Yisrael or elsewhere.  It can only be eaten after the proper time.
  94. Bringing a new meal offering before the two breads are brought on Shavuot.
  95. Eating fruit from a tree during the first three years after it is planted (orlah). All fruit that grows during the initial years may not be used in any manner whatsoever (VaYikra 19:23).
  96. Eating the growth of mixed plants in the vineyard (Devarim 22:9).
  97. Eating something containing leaven on Pesach, even if it contains a minute amount.
  98. Eating leaven on the day before Pesach after the cutoff time.
  99. Keeping leaven in one's possession on Pesach.
  100. Drinking wine offered as a libation to idols.
  101. A nazir eating grape products (BaMidbar 6:3).
  102. A nazir shaving himself.
  103. A nazir defiling himself.
  104. Shaving a leprous scab (VaYikra 13:33).  If it was shaved, the kohen-priest would not be able to tell if it was a sign of ritual defilement. (Chinuch, Tazria)
  105. Severing a leprous mark from one's body.  A person must realize that he must accept Divine punishment, and not think that he can hide it from people.  If one tries to remove the mark of sin, even worse punishments may come upon him.  Rather, he should repent, and beg G-d to heal him.
  106. Cultivating the valley where a calf is sacrificed (egla arufah) as atonement for an unsolved murder (Devarim 21:4).
  107. Sowing a field during the Sabbatical year.
  108. Cleaning a field during the Sabbatical year.  This includes removing chips and hoeing around plants to make them grow better.
  109. Reaping grain during the Sabbatical year, even if it grows on its own.
  110. Harvesting grapes during the Sabbatical year, even if they grow on their own.
  111. Sowing a field during the Yovel (Jubilee year), which comes every fifty years, after seven Sabbatical years.
  112. Reaping grain during the Yovel.
  113. Harvesting grapes during the Yovel.
  114. Reaping a field without leaving the corners for the poor (VaYikra 23:22).
  115. Harvesting grapes and not leaving the portion for the poor.
  116. Harvesting fallen grain (leket) and not leaving it for the poor.  This consists of the grain that falls during reaping; it may not be taken.
  117. Harvesting misformed clusters of grapes.
  118. Returning to get a sheaf of grain forgotten in the field (Devarim 24:19).
  119. Taking young birds without sending away the mother (Devarim 22:6).
  120. Planting two different species together (VaYikra 19:19).
  121. Planting grain in a vineyard (Devarim 22:9).
  122. Grafting one species of tree onto another.
  123. Crossbreeding different species of animals.
  124. Plowing with an ox and a donkey together, or harnessing them together to a wagon.  This is also forbidden with any two diverse species of animals (Devarim 22:10).
  125. Muzzling an animal while it is working to prevent it from eating (Devarim 25:4).
  126. Slaughtering a mother animal and its child on the same day.
  127. Taking something as security for a loan and not returning it at the proper time (Devarim 24:12).
  128. Taking such security from a widow (Devarim 24:17).  This is only forbidden after the loan, but not as a precondition when the loan is made.
  129. Taking as security the utensils used for cooking (Devarim 24:6). Since the poor man is left without a pot to cook in, he suffers.
  130. Committing perjury.
  131. Striking another person.
  132. Being a rebellious son.  On the first occasion, such a youngster is flogged.  On future occasions, the penalty is death by stoning.
  133. Slandering the virtue one one's wife.
  134. Cursing another person using G-d's Name.  Unfortunately, this is quite prevalent now.
  135. Swearing falsely.
  136. Swearing trivially, even though the oath is true. 
  137. Violating a vow.
  138. Walking beyond the permitted area (techum) on the Shabbat.
  139. Doing work on a festival.
  140. Shaving off the sides of one's head (peyot) (VaYikra 19:27).
  141. Shaving one's beard with a razor (Ibid.).
  142. Lacerating oneself for the dead (VaYikra 19:28).
  143. Making baldness on one's head for the dead (Devarim 14:1)
  144. Tattooing oneself, as gentiles do (VaYikra 19:28)
  145. Wearing a mixture of wool and linen (shaatnez) (Devarim 22:11).
  146. Wantonly destroying fruit trees.
  147. A man wearing the garments of woman.
  148. A woman wearing the garments of man.
  149. A kohen-priest defiling himself by contact with a corpse.
  150. A kohen-priest who marries a harlot and consummates the marriage.
  151. A kohen-priest who marries a divorcee and consummates the marriage.
  152. A kohen-priest who marries a defiled daughter of a priest (chalalah) and consummates the marriage.
  153. A high priest (kohen gadol) who is intimate with a widow, even if he does not marry her.
  154. Marrying a childless widow who is bound to her dead husband's brother (yibum) (Devarim 25:5).
  155. Remarrying one's divorced wife after she has been married to another man (Devarim 24:4).
  156. Intercourse with a prostitute.
  157. A bastard (mamzer), from an adulterous or incestuous union, who marries a Jewish woman and consummates the marriage.
  158. A man with maimed sexual organs who marries a Jewish woman and consummates the marriage (Devarim 23:2).
  159. Castrating a man or any male animal or bird (VaYikra 22:24).
  160. Raping a virgin (where the rapist must marry her) and then divorcing her (Devarim 22:29).
  161. One who libels the virtue of his wife and divorces her without remarrying her (Devarim 22:19).
  162. Physical contact with any member of the opposite sex with whom sexual intimacy is forbidden.  This includes hugging and kissing.  One who does this is suspected of sexual misconduct.
  163. Intermarriage with a gentile.  The marriage itself is forbidden, even if it is not consummated.
  164. An Ammoni proselyte who marries a Jewish woman and consummates the marriage (Devarim 23:4).
  165. A Moavi proselyte who marries a Jewish woman and consummates the marriage.
  166. A king who takes too many wives (Devarim 17:17).
  167. A king who acquires too many horses.
  168. A king who accumulates too much silver and gold.  This causes his heart to become haughty. (Yad; Sanhedrin 19)


There are some sins for which the punishment is "being cut off" (karet).

There are three ways in which the penalty of "cutting off" can take place.  Sometimes it can involve the body alone, while at other times it can involve the soul alone.  In some cases, it can involve both the body and the soul.

The usual implication of being "cut off" is that one's life is cut off and he dies prematurely.  If a person is good, but does a sin for which the penalty is karet, he dies in the prime of his life. (Bachya, Acharei Mot; Yad, Teshuvah 8)

One's years can be "cut off."  This means that one coes not live to be sixty.  According to others, it means that one does not live to be fifty. (Tosafot, Shabbat 25a, s.v. Karet)

After this, one's days can be cut off.  This means that after one reaches his 60th year, he does not live out the rest of his allotted days. (Bachya, loc. cit.)

All the above concerns the "cutting off" of the body.  In such a case, the soul remains untainted, and joins other souls in the delights of the Future World.  It is of such a case that the Torah says, "That man shall be cut off from among his people" (VaYikra 17:4).  Here, the Torah is speaking of a case where the person is only cut off physically from among his people, indicating premature death.

There is also a "cutting off" of the soul.  This occurs when a person violates a commandment carrying a penalty of karet, and his sins also generally outweigh his merits.  Such a person is considered wicked, and for him the penalty of karet means that his soul is cut off spiritually, and does not join the other Jewish souls in the next world.  Regarding such a person it is written, "That soul shall be cut off" (Bereishit 17:14).

Therefore, if we see a person eating leaven on Pesach, violating the Shabbat, or committing sexual crimes, and still living a long life, we should not be surprised.  The cutting off of the body by premature death only applies to a tzaddik who violates a sin with the penalty of karet.  He then dies prematurely to atone for his sin, so that he will gain serenity in the World to Come.

The third type of karet involves both the body and soul, and it is reserved for the sins of idolatry and blasphemy which are direct insults to G-d.  Regarding these sins, it is written, "Cut off, cut off (hikaret tikaret) shall be the soul, its sin shall remain with it" (BaMidbar 15:31).  The expression "cut off" is repeated twice to indicate that the individual will be cut off physically in this world, and spiritually in the World to Come.  (Bachya, loc. cit.)

There are 44 sins for which the penalty is karet.  Some of these also carry the death penalty if there are witnesses and proper warning, but where the death penalty cannot be imposed, the Divine penalty of karet is still exacted by G-d.  Therefore, although some of these sins are listed earlier among those carrying the death penalty, they are repeated here, since where the legal means to carry out the death penalty are not found, the penalty is karet.

Since there no longer exists a Sanhedrin that can impose the death penalty today, the penalty of karet is automatic for all these sins.  The only way that it can be avoided is by teshuvah (repentance).  One must be aware of this penalty, and not think that if no one sees him commit the sin that he will go scot free.

The following sins carry the penalty of karet:
  1. Incest between mother and son.
  2. Incest between a man and his mother-in-law.
  3. Incest between a man and his mother's mother.
  4. Incest between a man and his father's mother.
  5. Incest between father and daughter.
  6. Incest between a man and his daughter's daughter.
  7. Incest between a man and his son's daughter.
  8. Incest between a man and his wife's daughter.
  9. Incest between a man and the daughter of his wife's daughter.
  10. Incest between a man and the daughter of his wife's son.
  11. Incest between brother and sister.
  12. Incest between a man and the daughter of his father's wife.
  13. Incest between a man and his father's sister.
  14. Incest between a man and his mother's sister.
  15. Incest between a man and his wife's sister.
  16. Homeosexual relations between a man and his father.
  17. Homosexual relations between a man and his father's brother.  In both these cases, this is a penalty in addition to that for homosexual relations in general (#22). (Mishneh LaMelech)
  18. Incest between a man and his daughter-in-law, the wife of his sons.
  19. Incest between a man and his brother's wife.
  20. Adultery between any man and a married woman.
  21. Intercourse between a man and his wife before she immerses to rid herself of her menstrual impurity.  This penalty is all the more severe if the intercourse involves a woman who is not his wife.
  22. Homosexual sodomy.
  23. Incest between a man and his step-mother, the wife of his father.
  24. Incest between a man and the wife of his father's brother.
  25. Beastiality.
  26. A woman submitting to an animal.
  27. Idolatry.
  28. Giving one's seed to Molech.
  29. Necromancy (ov).
  30. Pythonism (yid'oni)
  31. Violating the Shabbat through any of the forbidden categories of work.
  32. Working on Yom Kippur.
  33. Eating or drinking on Yom Kippur.
  34. Eating leftover sacrifices (VaYikra 7:18, 19:8)
  35. Eating leaven on Pesach.
  36. Eating forbidden fats (VaYikra 7:23-25)
  37. Eating or drinking blood.
  38. Eating invalid sacrifices (piggul)
  39. Slaughtering sacrifices outside the Temple.
  40. Burning sacrifices outside the Temple.
  41. reproducing the anointing oil for personal use (Shemot 30:33)
  42. Reproducing the sacred incense for private use (Shemot 30:38)
  43. Offering incense outside the Temple.
  44. Making personal use of the sacred anointing oil. (Yad, Shegagot 1:4)
In all the cases where there is no death penalty, the above violations carry the penalty of flogging.  If a person repents and is flogged, his sin is atoned and he is freed from the penalty of karet.

Death by G-d's Hand

There are some sins for which the penalty of death by the hand of G-d (mitha bidei Shamayim).  This indicates that the person is punished by premature death for his sin, even if he has no other sin. (Tosafot, Shabbat 25a, s.v. Karet)  

Since death by the hand of G-d involves premature death, it is very much like karet.  However, where the penalty of karet is exacted, both the individual and his children can be killed.  Where the penalty is death by the hand of G-d, the offender dies, but no penalty is exacted against his children. (Aruch, s.v. Karet.  Cf. Gan HaMelech 29; Tosafot, loc. cit.; Rashi, ibid)

There are eighteen offenses for which the punishment is death by the hand of G-d:
  1. A non-kohen eating the priestly offering (terumah), whether it is clean or unclean.
  2. A non-kohen eating the terumah separated from the tithe (terumat maaser).  This is the portion that the Levi separates from his tithe to give to the kohen-priest.
  3. A non-kohen eating the first-fruits (bikkurim) after they were brought into Yerushalayim.
  4. A non-kohen who eats the dough offering (challah).
  5. Eating untithed produce (tevel).  This is produced from which terumah has not been separated.
  6. Eating bread from which the dough offering (challah) has not been taken.
  7. A ritually unclean kohen-priest eating ritually pure terumah.
  8. A non-kohen participating in the Temple service.
  9. A ritually unclean kohen participating in the Temple service.
  10. Participating in the Temple service while drunk.
  11. Participating in the Temple service after immersing, before the day is over.  Although the initial purification from ritual impurity involves immersion in a mikvah, the purification is not completed until the day is over.
  12. Participating in the Temple service without having offered the necessary purification sacrifice.  In some cases, immersion is not enough, and purification also requires sacrifice; without it, the purifcation ritual is not complete.  Until the sacrifice is offered, the kohen may not participate in the Temple service, and to do so is an offense for which the penalty is death by G-d's hand.
  13. Participating in the Temple service with overgrown hair.
  14. Participating in the Temple service with torn or frayed vestments.
  15. A kohen entering the Holy of Holies when it is not part of the Temple service.
  16. A kohen leaving the Temple during the service.
  17. A Levi performing a service designated for a kohen-priest.
  18. A kohen-priest participating in the Temple service without the proper vestments.  The High Priest wore eight vestments  and the ordinary priests wore four.  If any of these vestments were missing, the penalty was death by G-d's hand.
In all these cases, a penalty of flogging is imposed, just as in the case of offenses incurring the penalty of karet. (Yad, Sanhedrin 19)


Excommunication can take three forms:
  1. nidui
  2. cherem
  3. shamta
Nidui implies that the person must separate himself from the community.  It implies excommunication for at least thirty days.  If the person does not repent his deed, he is penalized again, and placed in nidui for an additional thirty days.  If he still remains rebellious, he is then placed in cherem.

Even though there is a chance that he will go to bad ways if excommunicated, we are not concerned.  Since he is a wicked person, we do not want him as part of the Jewish community.

Cherem is worse than nidui. While nidui merely implies that the individual is shunned by the community, cherem also implies that he is accursed.  Shamta is the worst of the three; its etymology implies sham mitah, "death is there." (Moed Katan 17a; Tur, Yoreh Deah 334; Bet Yosef ad loc.; Rosh, Moed Katan 3:8)  This implies that the ban remains in effect even when the person dies.

When a person is excommunicated it is forbidden to stand within 6 feet of him.  He cannot be counted among the three needed for the company blessing (zimun) after meals or among the ten (minyan) required for public worship.

Such a person must behave like a mourner.  It is therefore forbidden for him to have his hair cut, to wash, or to wear shoes or sandals. 

It is forbidden to enter the house of an excommunicated person.  Although his house may be large, the entire house is considered to be within 6 feet of his presence. (Yoreh Deah 334:1, 2, 11)

It is similarly forbidden to accompany such a person on a journey or on a ship.  It is forbidden to engage in any business with him.  It is also forbidden to correspond with him by letter. (Kenesset HaGedolah)

If the courts deem it necessary, they can even forbid the community to circumcise a child born to an excommunicated person.  His children can be excluded from Jewish schools, and his wife can be banished from entering the synagogue.

In some cases, the courts can be so strict as to place an automatic ban of excommunication on anyone who sits within 6 feet of the excommunicated person or eats and drinks with him.

If a person does not take the excommunication seriously, and does not keep all the rules, he is not to be released from it.  He must first keep all the laws of excommunication for as long as he ignored it.

If the excommunicated person dies before he is released, the court sends an agent, and the agent places a stone on the person's grave.  This is to indicate that the person who died deserves to be stoned.

When such a person dies, his relatives do not rend their clothing for him, and no eulogy is said.  The relatives also do not remove their shoes.

It is considered as if he had committed suicide, because he ignored the excommunication, and did not go to the court to ask them to release him.  It is as if he killed himself with his own hands. (Yoreh Deah 334:6-11)

There are thirty offenses for which the penalty is excommunication:
  1. Violation of the commandment, "Do not take the Name of HaShem your G-d in vain" (20:7).  Reverence and respect for G-d implies not using His Name trivially, and certainly not using it in an oath.
  2. Dishonoring an agent of the Jewish courts.  This is true even if one does not speak to him harshly.  If he dishonors the agent in any manner, he is showing disrespect for the courts.
  3. Calling another person a slave, a bastard, an informer, uncircumcised, or unclean. (Tur; Kenesset HaGedolah)  No matter how much one repents this, he is not atoned without being excommunicated or gaining forgiveness from the one he insulted. (Kenesset HaGedolah)
  4. Showing disrespect for anything in the Torah or in the rabbinical tradition. (Tur, loc. cit)  This includes saying that the additional prayers said on the Shabbat are derived from a Karaite custom. (Kenesset HaGedolah)  This also holds true if one shows disrespect for books of Torah literature, and certainly if one dishonors the Torah scroll itself.
  5. Refusing to come to court when issued a summons for a trial (din Torah).
  6. Refusing to accept a verdict handed down by a qualified Torah judge.
  7. Keeping a vicious dog which injures people in one's courtyard or property; or refusing to repair a bad latter which causes injury to passers-by.
  8. Selling to a gentile property adjoining the property of a Jew, and refusing to accept responsibility for any harm that will befall the Jew because of his gentile neighbor.
  9. Commiting perjury in a gentile court so as to gain the property of others illegally.  Such a person is under excommunication until he makes good the loss.
  10. A kohen-priest who slaughters an animal and does not give the priestly portions to another kohen-priest.
  11. Violating the second day of festivals that must be kept outside the Holy Land, by doing any of the categories of work that are forbidden on the Shabbat and festivals.  Even if he does the work through a gentile, he must be excommunicated. (Ibid.)  For people living outside the Holy Land, the second day of a festival must be kept exactly the same as the first day, except where burial of the dead is concerned.
  12. Doing work after noon on the day before Pesach. (Haggadah, p. 198)
  13. Causing people to eat sacrifices outside the Temple.  The Talmud relates that Todos, a leader of Roman Jewry, instructed his community to eat roast lamb on the first night of Pesach.  The sages admonished him and told him that he deserved to be excommunicated, since people might think that the roast lamb was the Pesach offering, and they might think that one was allowed to sacrifice outside of the Yerushalayim Temple. (Pesachim 53a)
  14. Causing the masses to desecrate G-d's Name (Chillul HaShem).
  15. Making the calculations to construct the Hebrew calendar outside the Holy Land.  This may only be done in Yerushalayim, as it is written, "Out of Tziyon shall come the Torah, and G-d's Word from Yerushalayim" (Yeshayahu 2:3)
  16. Causing others to sin.  This is forbidden by the commandment, "Do not place a stumbling block before the blind" (VaYikra 19:14).  This includes striking one's grown son, because this may cause him to insult the father and thus sin.  Also included is giving another person non-kosher food without informing him that it is forbidden.
  17. Preventing others form doing a good deed.  This includes the case where people want to do good, but refrain from doing so because they feel that this individual would not agree to it.  Also included is preventing a rabbi from giving a sermon in the synagogue, since such a sermon would be helpful to people in determining what is permitted and what is forbidden. (Kenesset HaGedolah)
  18. Slaughtering an animal improperly so that it is unkosher, and then selling it to a Jew.
  19. Willfully causing oneself to have an erection.  One causes oneself to have sinful fantasies, and this becomes so rooted in him that it is difficult for him to repent.
  20. Divorcing one's wife and then having business dealings with her.  This causes him to remain familiar with her, and not to reticent with her.
  21. Unlawfully excommunicating another.  If the person who was excommunicated complains to the courts, they must excommunicate the one who excommunicated him.
  22. Unlawfully permitting a married woman to remarry.  Thus, for example, if a man is drowned in unbounded water (mayim she'ain lahem sof), it is forbidden for his wife to remarry, since there is concern that he might have survived without anyone being aware of it, as often occurs. (Cf. Yevamot 16:4 [121a])  If a rabbi permits her to remarry, he is to be excommunicated.
  23. In a small town where there is no burial society, one who refuses to help in the burial of the dead, but does his own work instead.
  24. Bringing a case to a gentile civil court.
  25. Rendering decisions in the same city as one's master without his permission.
  26. Insulting a Torah scholar, even with words alone, and even after his death.  To insult him during his lifetime is obviously a sin.  The main difference, however, is that if the scholar is alive, the person insulting him cannot be released until he asks and gains forgiveness from the scholar.  However if a scholar is insulted, he may forgive the insulter and not excommunicate him.  It is the way of scholars to be insulted without retaliating, and therefore the early sages would not excommunicate someone who dishonored them.  This, however, is only true if the insult was in private.  If it was in public, it is forbidden for the scholar to be forgiving; and if he is, he is subject to punishment, since it was the Torah that was dishonored.
  27. Opening another person's letter and reading it without permission, since it may contain secrets that he does not want others to know about.  It is therefore a custom to write on the outside of a letter ופגי״ן דרגמ״ה (UPGYN DRGMH), which is an abbreviation of U'Phoretz Gader Yish'chenu Nachash DeRabenu Gershom Meor Ha-golah - "He who breaks a fence shall be bitten by [the] snake" (Kohelet 10:8) of Rabenu Gershom, Light of the Exile.  This referes to the decree of excommunication that Rabenu Gershom (965-1028) pronounced against anyone who read another's letter without permission. (Kenesset HaGedolah)  Even if a letter is open, if it has the letters UPGYN DRGMH on the outside, it is forbidden for an outsider to read it.  This is true even if the recipient leaves the ltter open where anyone can read it, since the sender may not have wanted any outside to read it. (Halachot Ketanot 1:59)
  28. Giving the money of another Jew over to gentiles.
  29. Intermarrying with Karaites.  The marriage itself is forbidden, since they do not keep the laws of menstrual separation properly.  Furthermore, many improprieties exist among them with regard to marriage and divorce.
  30. Dishonoring the groups that are set up to do good, especially the collectors and officials (gabaim).

These are the laws that you shall place before them...

G-d told Moshe, "These are the laws that you are to place before the Benei Yisrael.  Do not think that it is enough to review these laws with the people two or three times until they memorize them, as children are taught to memorize without understanding the reasons.  You must realize that you have an obligation to explain all the commandments of the Torah to them.  Place it before them like a set table, where a person can eat what he wishes. (Mechilta; Rashi)

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