Anyone who curses one of the judges of Israel transgresses a negative commandment, as Exodus 22:27 states: "Do not curse a judge." Similarly, if a person curses a nasi, whether the head of the Supreme Sanhedrin or a king, he transgresses a negative commandment, as the verse continues: "Do not curse a prince among your nation."
This prohibition does not apply only to a judge or a nasi. Instead, anyone who curses any other Jew receives lashes, as Leviticus 19:14 states: "Do not curse a deaf-mute." Why does the verse mention a deaf-mute? To teach you that even when a person who cannot hear and thus will not be bothered by being cursed, the person pronouncing the curse is lashed. It appears to me that a person who curses a child who is embarrassed receives lashes; the child resembles a deaf-mute.
A person who curses a deceased person is not liable.
Since a person who curses any Jewish person is liable, why did the Torah set aside a special prohibition for a judge and for a nasi? For the person to be liable for two transgressions. Thus we learn that a person who curses any Jew, whether a man, woman, or child receives one set of lashes. If he curses a judge, he receives two sets of lashes. If he curses a nasi, he receives three sets of lashes. And if the son of a nasi curses his father, he is liable for four transgression, the three for which all others are liable and one for cursing his father.
A person who curses himself receives lashes just as one who curses others, as Deuteronomy 4:9 states: "Take heed and guard your soul."
Whether a person curses himself, a colleague, a nasi, or a judge, he does not receive lashes unless he curses using one of God's names: Yaw, Elohim, Shaddai, or the like, or with one of the descriptive terms used to characterize God, e.g., the Merciful One, the Vengeful One, or the like. Since a person is liable if he cursed a colleague with any of these descriptive terms, he is also liable if he cursed him in any other language. For the names with which the gentiles refer to the Holy One, blessed be He, are comparable to all of these descriptive terms.
The term arur ("cursed") can imply an oath, a curse, and a ban of ostracism.
A person is not punished by lashing unless he is given a warning in the presence of two witnesses as applies with regard to the transgression of any other negative commandment. If, however, a warning was not issued, a curse was uttered without mentioned God's name or a descriptive term, e.g., he said merely: "Cursed be so-and-so," the curse was uttered indirectly, e.g., he said: "May so-and-so not be blessed unto God," or "May God not bless so-and-so," or the like, he is not lashed.
Even though he is not lashed, a person who curses a Torah scholar is placed under a ban of ostracism. And if the judges desire to have "stripes for rebellious conduct" administered to him, they can have him beaten and punished as they see fit, for he disgraced a learned elder.
If he denounces a common person, the judges may punish him as they see necessary according to the needs of the situation, depending on the person who gave the verbal abuse and the one who receives it.
Although a judge or a nasi has the right to look past affronts to his honor, he cannot look past being cursed. Similarly, with regard to other people, even though the person who was cursed is prepared to look past the matter, the person who uttered the curse is lashed, for he committed a transgression and incurred liability.
If, however, a person is obligated to be placed under a ban of ostracism, because he conducted himself in an unbridled manner in court, and the judges desire to look past the affront to their honor and not impose a ban of ostracism, they have that license, provided it will not lead to a decline in the honor of the Creator. For example, people at large were repudiating the words of the Torah and the judges. Since the people overstepped the bounds, the court must act firmly and punish as they see necessary.
When any person has a judgment adjudicated by gentile judges and their courts, he is considered a wicked person. It is as if he disgraced, blasphemed, and lifted up his hand against the Torah of Moses our teacher. This applies even if their laws are the same as the laws of the Jewish people. This is indicated by Exodus 21:1: "These are the judgments that you shall place before them." "Before them" and not before gentiles; "before them" and not before ordinary people.
The following procedure should be carried out if the gentiles have a powerful law enforcement system and the opposing litigant is a stubborn and powerful person from whom one cannot expropriate property through the judicial system of the Jewish people. One should summon him before the Jewish judges first. If he did not desire to come, one may receive license from the court and salvage one's property from the litigant by having the case tried in a gentile court.
Published and copyright by Moznaim Publications, all rights reserved.
To purchase this book or the entire series, please click here.
The text on this page contains sacred literature. Please do not deface or discard.
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 email@example.com