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Sunday, 8 Tammuz 5773 / June 16, 2013

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Issurei Mizbeiach - Chapter 4

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Issurei Mizbeiach - Chapter 4

Halacha 1

An animal or a fowl that was sodomized,1 which killed a person, which was set aside for pagan worship, or which was worshipped, are all unacceptable [as sacrifices] for the altar.2

Halacha 2

When an animal or a fowl had relations with a person, was sodomized, or killed a person, it should be executed by stoning if [the act was observed] by two witnesses.3 It is forbidden to benefit from their flesh.4 Needless to say, such animals are forbidden [as sacrifices] for the altar.

With regard to which situations was it said that they are forbidden [as sacrifices] for the altar? When [the animals] were permitted to ordinary individuals, e.g., there was only one witness [who observed the transgression] and the owner remained silent5 or the owner testified [concerning the transgression] although no witnesses were present.6 If there was one witness who observed the transgression and the owner contradicts him, the animals are permitted, even [as sacrifices] for the altar.

Halacha 3

When sport was made with an animal and it was trained to gore until it killed a person, it is acceptable [as a sacrifice] for the altar, because it is considered as having been compelled against its will.7

An animal is not disqualified because it had relations with a person or because it was sodomized unless the male who sodomized it was nine years old.8 Whether it was sodomized by a Jew, a gentile,9 or a servant, since it was sodomized by a human, it is disqualified. If a human was the recipient of sex from an animal, [the animal] is not disqualified unless the female with whom it had relations was three years old10 or the male with whom it had relations was nine years old.11

Halacha 4

When is an animal or a fowl disqualified because it was set aside for pagan worship?12 When the priests perform a deed with it, e.g., they shear it or work with it for the sake of pagan worship. With words alone, by contrast, it is not considered as set aside for pagan worship, for an entity cannot be consecrated to a false deity.13

Halacha 5

An animal that had relations with a person or that was sodomized becomes forbidden [as a sacrifice] for the altar whether it belongs to the person with whom it shared relations or it belongs to a colleague14 and regardless of whether those relations were carried out under compulsion or voluntarily, whether they were willful or inadvertent, or whether they were performed before [the animal was] consecrated or afterwards.15

When, by contrast, an animal is set aside for pagan worship, it becomes disqualified if it belonged to the person who set it aside and he set it aside for pagan worship before he consecrated it as a sacrifice. If, however, one set aside an animal belonging to a colleague16 or [even] his own animal after he consecrated it as a sacrifice,17it is permitted [to be offered as a sacrifice].18 [The rationale is that] a person cannot set aside an entity that does not belong to him [for pagan worship].19

Halacha 6

[When an animal] has been worshipped as a false deity, it is forbidden [as a sacrifice] whether one served his own animal or one belonging to a colleague,20 whether he acted under compulsion or voluntarily, willfullly or inadvertently, whether he did so before the animal was consecrated or afterwards. [In the latter instance,] it should be left to pasture until it becomes permanently blemished and then it should be redeemed, as we stated.21

When an animal is worshipped, it and everything upon it22 are forbidden [as sacrifices] for the altar. For it is forbidden to benefit from all coverings of entities worshipped as false deities.23 If, however, [an animal has merely been] set aside for pagan worship, it is forbidden, but the entities on it are permitted [as sacrifices for the altar].24

Halacha 7

When a person bows down to a mountain, although he may benefit from it,25 its stones are forbidden to [be used as part of] the altar.26 Similarly, when one bows down to a flowing stream in his land,27 its water is invalid28 for use as a libation.29

[Even though] an asherah30 has been nullified,31 one should not bring logs from it for the arrangement of wood on the altar.32 Similarly, when one bows down to an animal, just as it is disqualified [as a sacrifice] for the altar, its wool is disqualified for use in the priestly garments,33 its horns are disqualified for use as trumpets,34 its thighs are disqualified for use as flutes,35 and its intestines as strands [for the lyres].36 Everything is unacceptable.37

Halacha 8

Anything that is connected with the name of a false deity should not be employed in the service of the Sanctuary even though it is permitted to benefit from it.38

What is meant by a present given to a harlot?39 When one tells a harlot, "This entity is given to you as your wages."40 This applies to a gentile harlot, a maidservant, a Jewish woman who is forbidden to the man41 as an ervah42or by a negative commandment.43 If, however, a woman is unmarried, the present given to her may be used [as a sacrifice] even if the man is a priest.44 Similarly, if a person's wife is a niddah,45 a present given to her may be used [as a sacrifice] even though she is an ervah.46

Halacha 9

If a man married one of the women forbidden to him because of a negative commandment,47 whatever he gives her for the sake of intimate relations is considered as "the present [of a harlot]"48 and is forbidden [to be offered as a sacrifice]. A present given [by a male to] a male [for the purpose of intimacy] is forbidden [as a sacrifice].49 If a woman gives a present to a male for the purpose of intimacy, [it is not considered] "a present [of a harlot]" and is permitted [as a sacrifice].50

Halacha 10

When a person tells a colleague: "Here is an article for you. In return for it, have your [Canaanite] maidservant spend the night with my Jewish bondsman," it is considered "a present [of a harlot]."51 [The above applies] provided [the Jewish bondsman] does not have a wife and children. If, however, he does have a wife and children, he is permitted [to engage in intimacy] with a Canaanite maidservant, as will be explained.52 This also applies if one tells a harlot:53 "Here is an article for you. In return for it, engage in relations with so-and-so who is Jewish." [The present is considered as] "a present [of a harlot]."

Halacha 11

If a person made an agreement to give a harlot one lamb and [instead,] he gave her many - even if he gave her 1000 - they are considered as "presents [to a harlot]"54 and are all forbidden [as sacrifices] for the altar.

If he gave her a present and did not engage in relations with her, but told her: "Let this be in your possession until I engage in relations with you," it becomes forbidden [as a sacrifice] when he engages in relations with her.55 If she had it sacrificed before he engaged in relations with her, it is acceptable56 and if she was obligated to bring a sacrifice, she has discharged her obligation, provided when he gave it to he told her: "When you accept my [proposition], you acquire it from the present time."57 If he did not tell her so, [it is not acceptable] because she cannot bring an article that does not belong to her58 as a sacrifice.

Halacha 12

If she took the initiative and consecrated it [for a sacrifice] before he entered relations with her and afterwards, he engaged in relations with her [before it was sacrificed], there is an unresolved doubt59 whether it is considered "the present [of a harlot"] - because he engaged in relations with her before it was sacrificed - or whether it is not considered as such, since she consecrated it before relations.60 Hence, it should not be sacrificed,61 but if it is sacrificed, it is acceptable.62

Halacha 13

If he engaged in relations with her, but did not give her anything, and then afterwards - even many years afterwards - he gave it to her, it is considered "the present [of a harlot"].

When does the above apply?63 With regard to a gentile woman64 whom he told: "Engage in relations with me in exchange for this lamb," for she does not have to draw it into her domain [to acquire it]65 or with regard to a Jewish woman when the lamb was left in her courtyard and he told her: "If I do not give you money on this day, [the lamb] is yours."66 If, however, he told her : "Engage in relations with me in exchange for this lamb" without any further explanation and then engaged in relations and sent her the lamb afterwards, it is permissible [to be sacrificed; it is not considered] "the present [of a harlot]."

Halacha 14

Only the actual physical substance of [the article given] is forbidden as "the present [of a harlot]" or "the exchange [for a dog]." Therefore [these prohibitions] apply only to articles that are [in essence] fit to be sacrificed on the altar, e.g., a kosher animal, turtle doves, small doves, wine, oil, and fine flour. If he gave her money67 and she bought a sacrifice with it, it is acceptable.

Halacha 15

If he gave her grain and she had it made into fine flour; [he gave her] olives and she had oil made from them; [he gave her] grapes, and she had wine made from them, they are acceptable, because their form has changed.68

If he gave her a consecrated animal as her present, it does not become forbidden to the altar.69 Even if he designated her as one of those to eat from his Paschal sacrifice70 or his festive offering71 as a present, the consecrated animals are not disqualified, for the Temple already acquired them at the time they were consecrated.72 Similarly, if he gave her an entity that did not belong to him, he did not disqualify it, for a person cannot cause an article that does not belong to him to be forbidden unless the owner despairs of its recovery.73

If, however, he gave her doves, even though they are consecrated, they can be considered as "a present to a harlot." This concept was conveyed as part of the Oral Tradition.74

Halacha 16

What is meant by "an exchange for a dog"?75 A person tells a colleague: "Take this lamb in exchange for this dog." Similarly, if he exchanged a dog for several animals or fowl, they are all forbidden [as sacrifices] for the altar.

Halacha 17

When two partners divided [their goods], one took ten lambs and one took nine lambs and a dog, [the lambs] that are with the dog are permitted [as sacrifices], but [there are restrictions with regard to] the ten given in exchange for them. If the value of one of them is equivalent to the value of the dog or greater, it should be set aside and it [alone] is considered as "the exchange [for a dog]." The remainder are permitted [as sacrifices]. If the value of each of them is less than the value of the dog, they are all forbidden.76

Halacha 18

If [the entity given in] exchange [for the dog] underwent a change, for example, he exchanged a dog for wheat and ground it into flour, it is permitted.77

The present [given] to a dog78 and an exchange given for a harlot79are permitted. "A present to a harlot" and "the exchange for a dog" are permitted to be given to the Temple, for they undergo a change.80 The actual substance of a present [to a harlot] should not be used as beaten metal for the Temple, as [implied by Deuteronomy 23:19]: "For every vow," [which is interpreted81] as including sheet metal.


The Rambam does not mention an animal that had relations with a person, for that is not possible with regard to a fowl.


The Rambam mentioned this concept in the previous chapter. In this chapter, he outlines the details of these restrictions. The point of this halachah is that the restrictions apply to a fowl as well as to an animal.


See Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 1:16; Hilchot Nizkei Mammon 10:1.


Even if slaughtered according to Jewish Law (Hilchot Ma'achalot Assurot 4:22; Hilchot Nizkei Mammon 11:9).


In matters of financial law, the testimony of one witness is of consequence only that it can require an oath to be taken.


Similarly, the testimony of a person regarding his own property is of no consequence.

In his Commentary to the Mishnah (Zevachim 8:1), the Rambam mentions two other instances where this law applies: the animal was consecrated before being brought to court or the forbidden sexual act was performed by a gentile.


See Hilchot Nizkei Mammon 6:5 which explains that such an animal is not executed, because Exodus 21:28 requires such a punishment: "When an ox gores...," i.e., that it does so on its own initiative, and not when it was prompted to gore.

See the gloss of the Radbaz to Chapter 3, Halachah 5, where he states that such an animal should be forbidden to the altar under all circumstances just like a sodomized animal is.


For relations with a male are not significant until that age (Hilchot Ishut 11:3; Hilchot Yibbum VeChalitzah 1:16; et al).


See Hilchot Melachim 9:5-6 which states that although a gentile is liable to be executed for engaging in sexual relations with an animal, the animal itself is not executed. Nevertheless, involvement in the transgression disqualifies it as a sacrifice.


See Hilchot Na'arah Betulah 1:8, et al, where it is explained that until a girl is three years old, sexual relations with her are not significant.


The Ra'avad takes issue with the Rambam on the latter point, noting that the ages the Rambam mentions are relevant with regard to the punishment of execution by stoning. Nevertheless, he argues that since the animal is disqualified from being offered as a sacrifice, because it becomes offensive to offer it after it engaged in forbidden relations, that concept would seemingly apply regardless of the age of the human with whom it engaged in those relations. Moreover, since the animal derived pleasure, the sexual activity should be considered significant. The Kessef Mishneh justifies the Rambam's ruling, explaining that what is significant here is the halachic definition of sexual relations, not the pleasure the animal experiences. Since halachicly, the act is not considered as sex, the animal is not forbidden.


The Radbaz explains that this is speaking about both an animal which is itself going to be worshipped, and also an animal that will be used for the service of a pagan deity.


The Ra'avad differs with the Rambam and maintains that if one designated an animal as a false deity, that is sufficient to cause the animal to become repugnant and forbidden as a sacrifice, even if a deed is not performed. The Radbaz brings support for the Ra'avad's ruling from Isaiah 30:22 which when speaking about making the covering of idol's impure uses the expression: "Tell it: 'Be gone,'" implying that "telling it," i.e., speaking is sufficient to cause an article to be considered as an idol.

The difference between the Rambam's view and that of the Ra'avad results from a variation in the text of Temurah 29a. According to the Rambam, the passage is speaking about an animal dedicated to the service of a false deity, while according to the Ra'avad, it refers to an animal intended to be worshiped as a false deity. (The standard printed text supports the Rambam's version, although Rashi mentions the other version as well.). The Radbaz explains that according to the Rambam an animal is forbidden as a sacrifice only when it is forbidden to benefit from it. As the Rambam states in Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 8:1, whether an animal is designated to be worshipped or as a sacrifice to a false deity, it does not become forbidden until a deed is performed. The Ra'avad differs and maintains that the prohibition against benefiting from the animal is different from the prohibition against offering the animal as a sacrifice. More stringent rules apply in the latter context.


The Radbaz states that in an instance where two witnesses did not observe the transgression (as stated in Halachah 2), the person who engaged in relations with the animal is not at all liable to its owner financially, for he is not prohibited against benefiting from the animal.


In contrast to an animal which kills which is not disqualified if it was goaded into killing (see Halachah 3), an animal that engaged in relations with a human is disqualified in all instances. Since the act causes it to be considered loathsome, the circumstances under which the act was performed are of no consequence.


This applies even (as stated in the previous halachah), he performed a deed indicating that the animal was set aside for pagan worship (Radbaz).


For once he consecrated it as a sacrifice, it is as if it no longer belongs to him.


Since a transgression has not been performed with it as of yet, it is not considered as loathsome (Radbaz).


As the Rambam states in Hilchot Avodat Kochavim (and in many other sources) a person cannot cause an article that does not belong to him to become forbidden.


The Ra'avad quotes Avodah Zarah 54a which states that the above restriction applies only when one performs a deed with the article he worshipped. From the Rambam's statements in Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 8:1, it is apparent that he maintains that the principle that a person cannot cause property that does not belong to him to be forbidden to be used applies even if he actually worships the article as a false deity and even when he performs a deed. The Rambam here is speaking about causing the article to be forbidden as a sacrifice to the altar and for that, a deed is not necessary.


Chapter 3, Halachah 10. Since the animal was consecrated, it cannot be used for ordinary purposes until it is redeemed and it cannot be redeemed until it is blemished.


Any garments or ornaments used to adorn the false deity. In his Commentary to the Mishnah (Teumrah 6:1), the Rambam explains the reason for this restriction is that the ornaments were worshipped together with the false deity.


See Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 8:7.


Since they have not been worshipped, one is permitted to benefit from them and they may even be used as sacrifices [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (loc. cit.)].


See Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 8:1 which states that "Any article that was not touched by human hands or made by man will is permitted to be used even though it was worshipped as a false deity."


Or any other part of the Temple building (Radbaz). As stated in Hilchot Beit HaBechirah 2:16, the altar was made with whole stones, both large and small over which is poured a liquid with lime, pitch, and molten lead. In the above instance, since the stones were taken from a mountain that was worshipped, it is inappropriate for them to be used for the altar.


Implied is that if the water is not his own, it may be used even as a libation even though it was worshipped (Rav Yosef Corcus). The Radbaz notes that no such leniency is granted with regard to the stones mentioned in the previous clauae. He differentiates between the two as follows: The water of a spring is constantly flowing. Thus the water that was worshipped is not the same water that will be used for the libation. The stones of the mountain, by contrast, were worshipped themselves. Hence even though they are not a person's private property, they may not be used for the Temple.


In this instance as well, an ordinary person is permitted to use the water, but it is inappropriate to be used for the altar.


I.e., the water libation offered during the Sukkot holiday. See Hilchot Temidim UMusafim 10:6-10.


A tree that is worshipped. See Exodus 34:13; Deuteronomy 7:5, 12:3, Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 8:3; et al.


In Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 8:8, the Rambam writes that once a gentile nullifies the connection of a worshipped entity to paganism, it is permitted to benefit from it. The subsequent halachot in that chapter describe the process of nullification. Here the Rambam is emphasizing that although it is permitted to benefit from the article afterwards, the fact that it was once worshipped - or served as an accessory to an article worshipped - prevents it from being offered as a sacrifice.


Similarly, the branches of a palm tree that was worshipped should not be used as a lulav (Hilchot Lulav 8:1).


See the conclusion of the tractate of Kinnim which mentions how a sacrificial animal can be used for these purposes.

There the Mishnah states that the wool is unacceptable for use as techelet. The Kessef Mishneh notes that although in Chapter 3, Halachah 14, the Rambam ruled that even though wheat was worshipped, the flour made from it is not disqualified for use as a meal offering, because it underwent a change. In this and the other instances mentioned below, although the color and the form of the article may have undergone a change, that change does not alter its fundamental nature and it is still disqualified for the altar and its service.

Such wool is also disqualified for use in tzitzit or for any other purpose associated with a mitzvah. See Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 11:8).


I.e., as shofarot that are sounded together with the trumpets (Hilchot Taaniot 1:4).


Among the instruments sounded in the Temple service were flutes (Hilchot K'lei HaMikdash 3:4-6). Apparently, the thighs of sacrificial animals were hollowed out and converted into such instruments.


Which were also employed in the Temple service (ibid.).


Because it was an integral part of an entity that was worshipped.


This general principle summarizes the concepts mentioned in the previous halachot. The Rambam now goes on to discuss other reasons why animals were forbidden as sacrifices.


Which is forbidden to be used as a sacrifice as stated in Chapter 3, Halachah 7.


I.e., in exchange for intimacy.


The Rambam is explaining that here the emphasis is on the halachic meaning of the term zonah ("harlot") and not its popular meaning. The point is not that the present is forbidden because it was given in exchange for intimacy, but that it was given in exchange for intimacy with a woman who meets the halachic definitions of that term. That definition is given in Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 18:1: "Based on the Oral Tradition, we learned that the term zonah7 used by the Torah refers to one who is not a nativeborn Jewess (thus excluding a gentile woman or maidservant) [or] a Jewish woman who engaged in relations with a man she was forbidden to marry, violating a prohibition that is universally applicable" (excluding the prohibited relations the Rambam mentions).


Incestuous and adulterous sexual relations for which one is liable for karet (Hilchot Ishut 1:5). These forbidden relationships are mentioned in Leviticus, Chapter 18.


The nine forbidden relationships mentioned in Hilchot Isut 1:7.


I.e., although he is engaging in intimacy out of lust and in exchange for payment, the woman is not termed a harlot, as Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 18:2 states: "Whenever a person has relations with an unmarried woman, even if she is a harlot who wantonly makes herself available to everyone... she is not deemed as a zonah... for she is not forbidden to marry [the people with whom she engaged in relations]."


I.e., she has experienced menstrual bleeding and has not purified herself afterwards.


For such relationships are also punishable by karet (see Hilchot Issurei Biah 4:1). Nevertheless, the fact that a woman is in the niddah state does not prevent the consecration of a woman from taking effect.


The consecration of such a woman is binding and she is considered as his wife (Hilchot Ishut 4:14).


Because he is forbidden to marry her and thus the present meets the criteria mentioned in the previous halachah.


See Temurah 29b.


The Radbaz explains that the Rambam's intent is that although in a strict halachic sense, there is no prohibition against offering such an article as a sacrifice, it is an abomination unto God and should not be offered.


There are two points expressed by this halachah: a) that, as stated above, a Canaanite maidservant is considered as a harlot;

b) that even though the present is not being given by the person engaging in the intimate relations, the present is still forbidden as a sacrifice.


Hilchot Avadim 3:3-4.


I.e., one might think that the law applies only with regard to a bondsman and his master, for the master has authority over the bondsman and has certain responsibilities toward him, but not with regard to two free men who are not associated in this manner (Kessef Mishneh).


And not an ordinary gift (Radbaz, Kessef Mishneh). This applies even when he does not explicitly say that he gave them to her because of the relations they shared (Radbaz).


Because it was given to her in exchange for relations. It is not significant whether it was given before the relations or afterwards.


Because they had not engaged in relations yet. We do not say that since it was designated as "a present for a harlot," it is forbidden as a sacrifice (Radbaz).


Thus she was the legal owner at the time it was sacrificed.


If he did not make such a stipulation, he remains the legal owner of the animal. It is in the woman's possession as security, but she is not its owner.


Temurah 29b considers this question and does not reach a conclusion.


And from the time an entity is consecrated, it is considered as having been given to the Temple. Hence, it could be considered as if it already had been sacrificed.


Instead, it should be left to pasture until it contracts a disqualifying blemish.


As evident from Hilchot Temidim UMusafim 7:20, this is the ruling whenever there is a question whether an substance offered as a sacrifice is acceptable.


The principle under which this halachah operates is that for a "present to a harlot" to be forbidden as a sacrifice, it must be acquired by the woman at the time of relations even though it does not come into her full possession until afterwards.(Temurah 29a).


I.e., if the gentile woman later desires to offer this animal as a sacrifice, it is not accepted from her. Although we do accept animals brought by gentiles as burnt offerings, the animals must be acceptable.


According to Scriptural Law, an exchange is completed when an exchange is made. Hence, at the time the two engaged in relations, the lamb became the woman's property. Nevertheless, our Sages ordained that movable property is not transferred to the legal domain of the recipient until he acquires it through meshichah, physically drawing it into his possession (Hilchot Mechirah 3:1). Our Sages, however, did not impose this decree with regard to gentiles and transactions with them follow the original guidelines of Scriptural Law (see (Hilchot Zechiyah UMatanah 1:14). Hence a gentile harlot became the legal owner of the lamb directly after the relations. Hence it is considered as "the present of a harlot." The fact that it was not given to her until years afterwards is not significant.


Because a person's courtyard can acquire an article on his or her behalf when it is placed within (Hilchot Zechiyah UMatanah 4:8). Hence, while the women is holding the lamb in lieu of the money, it is considered to have entered her possession.


Or other entities.


The finished product is considered as different from the raw material from which it is made.


For a consecrated article is not considered as his personal property. Hence, it is not his to give her (Temurah 30b).


To partake of a Paschal sacrifice, one must designated to partake of it from the outset.


This refers to the festive offering brought on the fourteenth of Nisan to accompany the Paschal sacrifice. See Hilchot Korban Pesach 4:11.


Although the owner retains the right to give others to partake of the offerings, they are not considered as his private property. Instead, he is giving them the right to partake of consecrated property, not his own possessions.


For at that point - since the owner has despaired of its return and it has departed from the possession of the thief - the harlot becomes its legal owner (see Hilchot Geneivah 5:3). Accordingly, it is disqualified as a sacrifice.


I.e., the Rambam understands Temurah 30b as deriving this law from the exegesis of a verse. According to logic, we would apply the principle: A person cannot cause an article that does not belong to him to be become forbidden.

The Ra'avad differs with the Rambam regarding the interpretation of the above passage. He maintains that it is speaking about ordinary doves. Nevertheless, since blemished doves are acceptable as sacrifices (Chapter 3, Halachah 1), one might think that a present to a harlot is also acceptable. Therefore, the Torah must teach us that this is not the case. The Radbaz and the Kessef Mishneh favor the Ra'avad's understanding of the passage.


Which is forbidden for the altar, as stated in Chapter 3, Halachah 7.


For a certain portion of each one is being given in exchange for the dog.


For the article being offered is not considered as the article exchanged.


I.e., a person sodomized a dog and separated a lamb as a fee.


I.e., a person gave a colleague a lamb in exchange for a maidservant that was a harlot.


I.e., the articles donated to the Temple treasury are sold and the money used for improvements. Thus the distasteful article itself is not becoming part of the Temple.


See Temurah 30a.

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About the book
Featuring a modern English translation and a commentary that presents a digest of the centuries of Torah scholarship which have been devoted to the study of the Mishneh Torah by Maimonides.
About the Publisher
Moznaim is the publisher of the Nehardaa Shas, a new, state-of-the-art edition of the Talmud and all major commentaries in 20 volumes. Click here to purchase or email the publisher at
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  –Talmud, Taanit 7b
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About the book
Featuring a modern English translation and a commentary that presents a digest of the centuries of Torah scholarship which have been devoted to the study of the Mishneh Torah by Maimonides.
About the Publisher
Moznaim is the publisher of the Nehardaa Shas, a new, state-of-the-art edition of the Talmud and all major commentaries in 20 volumes. Click here to purchase or email the publisher at