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Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Sanhedrin veha’Onashin haMesurin lahem - Chapter 13, Sanhedrin veha’Onashin haMesurin lahem - Chapter 14, Sanhedrin veha’Onashin haMesurin lahem - Chapter 15

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Sanhedrin veha’Onashin haMesurin lahem - Chapter 13

1

When a person is sentenced to death, he is taken out of the court and led to the place of execution. One person stands at the entrance to the court with flags in his hands and a horse distant from him. An announcement is made before him: "So-and-so is being taken to be executed in this-and-this manner, because he violated this prohibition, in this place at this time. So-and-so and so-and-so are the witnesses. If there is anyone who knows a rationale leading to his acquittal, let them come and tell us."

If a person says: "I know a rationale that leads to his acquittal," the person with the flags waves them and the rider on the horse races to bring the defendant back to the court. If a factor leading to his acquittal is found, he is released. If not, he is taken back for execution.

If the defendant himself says: "I know a rationale that leads to my acquittal," even though there is no substance to his words, he is returned to the court once or twice. We suspect that perhaps out of fear, he could not present his arguments and when he is returned to the court, he will be composed and will state a substantial reason for acquittal.

If they return him to the court, and it is discovered that his words are without substance, for a third time, he is taken to be executed. If on this third occasion, he also says: "I know a rationale that leads to my acquittal," we return him to the court - even several times - if his words are substantial. For this reason, two scholars are sent to accompany him and listen to his statements on the way. If his words are of substance, he is returned to the court. If not, he is not returned.

If an argument leading to his acquittal is not discovered, he is brought out for execution. The witnesses are the ones who execute him in the manner for which he is liable. When a murderer is not executed by his witnesses, all other people are obligated to execute him.

Approximately ten cubits from the place of execution, he is told to confess. For all those who are executed should confess. For if they confess, they receive a portion in the world to come. If he does not know how to confess, we tell him: "Say 'may my death atone for my sins.' Even if he knows that he was the victim of false testimony, he should confess in this manner.

א

מִי שֶׁנִּגְמַר דִּינוֹ לְמִיתָה מוֹצִיאִין אוֹתוֹ מִבֵּית דִּין וְאֶחָד עוֹמֵד עַל פֶּתַח בֵּית דִּין וְהַסּוּדָרִין בְּיָדוֹ וְהַסּוּס רָחוֹק מִמֶּנּוּ. וְהַכָּרוֹז יוֹצֵא לְפָנָיו פְּלוֹנִי יוֹצֵא לֵהָרֵג בְּמִיתָה פְּלוֹנִית עַל שֶׁעָבַר עֲבֵרָה פְּלוֹנִית בְּמָקוֹם פְּלוֹנִי בִּזְמַן פְּלוֹנִי וּפְלוֹנִי וּפְלוֹנִי עֵדָיו מִי שֶׁיּוֹדֵעַ לוֹ זְכוּת יָבוֹא וִילַמֵּד עָלָיו. אָמַר אֶחָד יֵשׁ לִי לְלַמֵּד עָלָיו זְכוּת זֶה מֵנִיף בַּסּוּדָרִין וְזֶה הָרוֹכֵב עַל הַסּוּס רָץ וּמַחֲזִיר אֶת הַנִּדּוֹן לְבֵית דִּין. אִם נִמְצָא לוֹ זְכוּת פּוֹטְרִין אוֹתוֹ וְאִם לֹא יַחְזֹר וְיֵצֵא לַהֲרִיגָה. אָמַר הוּא בְּעַצְמוֹ יֵשׁ לִי לְלַמֵּד עַל עַצְמִי זְכוּת אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין מַמָּשׁ בִּדְבָרָיו מַחֲזִירִין אוֹתוֹ פַּעַם רִאשׁוֹנָה וּשְׁנִיָּה. שֶׁמָּא מִפְּנֵי הַפַּחַד נִסְתַּתְּמוּ טַעֲנוֹתָיו וּכְשֶׁיַּחֲזֹר לְבֵית דִּין תִּתְיַשֵּׁב דַּעְתּוֹ וְיֹאמַר טַעַם. הֶחְזִירוּהוּ וְלֹא נִמְצָא מַמָּשׁ בִּדְבָרָיו מוֹצִיאִין אוֹתוֹ פַּעַם שְׁלִישִׁית. אָמַר בַּשְּׁלִישִׁית יֵשׁ לִי לְלַמֵּד עַל עַצְמִי זְכוּת אִם יֵשׁ מַמָּשׁ בִּדְבָרָיו מַחֲזִירִין אוֹתוֹ אֲפִלּוּ כַּמָּה פְּעָמִים. לְפִיכָךְ מוֹסְרִין לוֹ שְׁנֵי תַּלְמִידֵי חֲכָמִים שֶׁשּׁוֹמְעִין דְּבָרָיו בַּדֶּרֶךְ אִם יֵשׁ מַמָּשׁ בִּדְבָרָיו מַחֲזִירִין אוֹתוֹ וְאִם לָאו אֵין מַחֲזִירִין אוֹתוֹ. אִם לֹא נִמְצָא לוֹ זְכוּת מוֹצִיאִין אוֹתוֹ. וְעֵדָיו הֵם הַהוֹרְגִין אוֹתוֹ בְּכָל מִיתָה שֶׁיִּתְחַיֵּב בָּהּ. וְרוֹצֵחַ שֶׁלֹּא הֲרָגוּהוּ עֵדָיו חַיָּבִין לַהֲמִיתוֹ בְּיַד כָּל אָדָם. רָחוֹק מִמְּקוֹם הַהֲרִיגָה כְּעֶשֶׂר אַמּוֹת אוֹמֵר לוֹ הִתְוַדֶּה שֶׁכֵּן דֶּרֶךְ כָּל הַמּוּמָתִין מִתְוַדִּין וְכָל הַמִּתְוַדֶּה יֵשׁ לוֹ חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. אִם אֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ לְהִתְוַדּוֹת אוֹמְרִים לוֹ אֱמֹר תְּהֵא מִיתָתִי כַּפָּרָה עַל כָּל עֲוֹנוֹתַי. אֲפִלּוּ יָדַע בְּעַצְמוֹ שֶׁשֶּׁקֶר הֵעִידוּ עָלָיו כָּךְ הוּא מִתְוַדֶּה:

2

After he confessess, he is given a granule of frankincense dissolved in a cup of wine, so that he will lose control of his mind and become drunk. Afterwards, he is executed in the manner for which he is liable.

ב

וְאַחַר שֶׁמִּתְוַדֶּה מַשְׁקִין אוֹתוֹ קֹרֶט שֶׁל לְבוֹנָה בְּכוֹס שֶׁל יַיִן כְּדֵי שֶׁתִּטָּרֵף דַּעְתּוֹ עָלָיו וְיִשְׁתַּכֵּר. וְאַחַר כָּךְ יֵהָרֵג בַּמִּיתָה שֶׁהוּא חַיָּב בָּהּ:

3

The wine, the frankincense, the stone used to execute a person stoned to death, the sword used to decapitate a defendant, the cloth used for strangulation, the pole on which a blasphemer or an idolater is hung after being executed, the flags that are waved before those being executed, and the horse that runs to save him all are paid for from communal funds. Anyone who wants to donate them may donate them.

ג

זֶה הַיַּיִן וְהַלְּבוֹנָה וְהָאֶבֶן שֶׁיִּסָּקֵל בָּהּ הַנִּסְקָל. וְהַסַּיִף שֶׁיֵּהָרֵג בּוֹ הַנֶּהֱרָג. וְהַסּוּדָר שֶׁחוֹנְקִין בּוֹ הַנֶּחְנָק. וְהָעֵץ שֶׁתּוֹלִין עָלָיו הַנִּתְלֶה. וְהַסּוּדָרִין שֶׁמְּנִיפִין בָּהּ לִפְנֵי הֲרוּגֵי בֵּית דִּין. וְהַסּוּס שֶׁרָץ לְהַצִּילוֹ. הַכּל בָּאִין מִשֶּׁל צִבּוּר. וּמִי שֶׁיִּרְצֶה לְהִתְנַדֵּב יָבוֹא וְיִתְנַדֵּב:

4

The court does not attend the funeral of the executed person. Whenever a court has a person executed, they are forbidden to eat for the remainder of that entire day.. This prohibition is included in the interdiction (Leviticus 19:26): "Do not eat upon the blood." A meal of comfort is not given the relatives of those executed by the court. This too is derived from the above verse. These acts are forbidden, but they are not punishable by lashes.

ד

אֵין בֵּית דִּין יוֹצְאִין אַחַר הַנֶּהֱרָג. וְכָל בֵּית דִּין שֶׁהָרְגוּ נֶפֶשׁ אֲסוּרִים לֶאֱכל כָּל אוֹתוֹ הַיּוֹם הֲרֵי זֶה בִּכְלַל לֹא תֹאכְלוּ עַל הַדָּם. וְאֵין מַבְרִין הַקְּרוֹבִים עַל הֲרוּגֵי בֵּית דִּין מִשּׁוּם לֹא תֹאכְלוּ עַל הַדָּם. וּדְבָרִים אֵלּוּ אֲסוּרִין וְאֵין בָּהֶן מַלְקוֹת:

5

When a person is held liable for the death penalty during Chol HaMoed, the court prolong their analysis of his judgment. The judges eat and drink. Afterwards, shortly before sunset, they conclude the judgment and have him executed.

ה

מִי שֶׁנִּתְחַיֵּב מִיתָה בְּחֻלּוֹ שֶׁל מוֹעֵד מְעַיְּנִין בְּדִינוֹ וְאוֹכְלִין בֵּית דִּין וְשׁוֹתִין וְאַחַר כָּךְ גּוֹמְרִין אֶת דִּינוֹ סָמוּךְ לִשְׁקִיעַת הַחַמָּה וְהוֹרְגִין אוֹתוֹ:

6

Mourning rites are not held for those executed by the court. Their relatives come and inquire about the well-being of the witnesses and the well-being of the judges to show that they have no bad feelings against them in their hearts and that they acknowledge that their judgment was true. Although they do not observe the mourning rites, they do observe aninut. For aninut is solely a reflection of the feeling in one's heart.

ו

הֲרוּגֵי בֵּית דִּין אֵין מִתְאַבְּלִין עֲלֵיהֶן. וּבָאִין קְרוֹבֵיהֶן וְשׁוֹאֲלִים אֶת שְׁלוֹם הָעֵדִים וְאֶת שְׁלוֹם הַדַּיָּנִים לְהוֹדִיעַ שֶׁאֵין בְּלִבָּם עֲלֵיהֶן כְּלוּם שֶׁדִּין אֱמֶת דָּנוּ. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין נוֹהֲגִין אֲבֵלוּת הֲרֵי הֵן אוֹנְנִים עֲלֵיהֶם שֶׁאֵין אֲנִינוּת אֶלָּא בַּלֵּב:

7

When a person was sentenced in one court, fled, and brought to another court, we do not reopen his case. Instead, wherever two people will arise and state: "We testify that this person was sentenced to death in this court and that so-and-so and so-and-so are those who testified against him," he is executed.

When does the above apply? To a murderer. Other people who are obligated to be executed are not given that punishment until the witnesses who originally testified against them come and testify that they were sentenced to death. The witnesses must then execute the convicted themselves. The above applies provided testimony is given in a court of 23 judges.

ז

מִי שֶׁנִּגְמַר דִּינוֹ וּבָרַח וּבָא לְבֵית דִּין אַחֵר אֵין סוֹתְרִין אֶת דִּינוֹ אֶלָּא כָּל מָקוֹם שֶׁיַּעַמְדוּ שְׁנַיִם וְיֹאמְרוּ מְעִידִין אָנוּ אֶת אִישׁ פְּלוֹנִי שֶׁנִּגְמַר דִּינוֹ בְּבֵית דִּין פְּלוֹנִי וּפְלוֹנִי וּפְלוֹנִי עֵדָיו הֲרֵי זֶה יֵהָרֵג. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בְּרוֹצֵחַ. אֲבָל שְׁאָר חַיָּבֵי מִיתוֹת עַד שֶׁיָּבוֹאוּ עֵדָיו הָרִאשׁוֹנִים וְיָעִידוּ שֶׁנִּגְמַר דִּינוֹ וְיַהַרְגוּהוּ בְּיָדָם. וְהוּא שֶׁיָּעִידוּ בְּבֵית דִּין שֶׁל עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה:

8

When a person was sentenced to death by a court in the diaspora and fled to a court in Eretz Yisrael, we reopen his case at least. If he comes before the same court who sentenced him in the diaspora, we do not reopen his case, even though they sentenced him in the diaspora and now they are in Eretz Yisrael.

ח

מִי שֶׁנִּגְמַר דִּינוֹ בְּבֵית דִּין שֶׁהָיָה בְּחוּצָה לָאָרֶץ וּבָרַח לְבֵית דִּין שֶׁבְּאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל סוֹתְרִין אֶת דִּינוֹ עַל כָּל פָּנִים. וְאִם הָיוּ אוֹתָן בֵּית דִּין עַצְמָן שֶׁנִּגְמַר דִּינוֹ בִּפְנֵיהֶם אֵין סוֹתְרִין אֶת דִּינוֹ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁגְּמָרוּהוּ בְּחוּצָה לָאָרֶץ וְהֵם עַתָּה בְּאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל:

Sanhedrin veha’Onashin haMesurin lahem - Chapter 14

1

Four types of execution were given to the court: stoning, burning, decapitation with a sword, and strangulation. Stoning and burning are explicitly mentioned in the Torah. Moses our teacher taught that whenever the Torah mentions the death sentence without any further description, the intent is strangulation. When a person kills a colleague, he should be decapitated. Similarly, the inhabitants of a city that goes astray are executed by decapitation.

א

אַרְבַּע מִיתוֹת נִמְסרוּ לְבֵית דִּין. סְקִילָה וּשְׂרֵפָה וַהֲרִיגָה בְּסַיִף וְחֶנֶק. סְקִילָה וּשְׂרֵפָה מְפֹרָשִׁין הֵן בַּתּוֹרָה. וּמִפִּי משֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ לָמְדוּ שֶׁכָּל מִיתָה הָאֲמוּרָה בַּתּוֹרָה סְתָם הִיא חֶנֶק. וְהַהוֹרֵג אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ מִיתָתוֹ בְּסַיִף. וְכֵן אַנְשֵׁי עִיר הַנִּדַּחַת מִיתָתָן בְּסַיִף:

2

Every one of these forms of execution involves a positive commandment for the court to execute a person with the form of death for which he is liable. A king has permission to execute using only one of them - by decapitation.

ב

כָּל מִיתָה מֵהֶם מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה הִיא לְבֵית דִּין לַהֲרֹג בָּהּ מִי שֶׁנִּתְחַיֵּב בָּהּ. וְאֵין רְשׁוּת לַמֶּלֶךְ לַהֲרֹג בְּאַחַת מֵהֶן אֶלָּא בְּסַיִף בִּלְבַד:

3

Whenever a person is obligated to be executed and the court did not execute him, the judges negated the observance of a positive commandment, but do not transgress a negative commandment. There is one exception: a sorcerer. If they do not kill him, they violate a negative commandment, as Exodus 22:17 states: "Do not allow a sorcerer to live."

ג

כָּל מְחֻיָּב מִיתַת בֵּית דִּין שֶׁלֹּא הֵמִיתוּ אוֹתוֹ בֵּית דִּין בִּטְּלוּ מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה וְלֹא עָבְרוּ עַל מִצְוַת לֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה. חוּץ מִן הַמְכַשֵּׁף שֶׁאִם לֹא הֱמִיתוּהוּ עָבְרוּ עַל מִצְוַת לֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כב יז) "מְכַשֵּׁפָה לֹא תְחַיֶּה":

4

Stoning to death is a more severe form of execution than burning. Burning is a more severe form than decapitation, and decapitation is more sever than strangulation.

When a person is liable to be executed with two different forms of execution, he should be executed with the more severe form. This applies whether he committed two transgressions, one after the other, or he committed one transgression which involved two death penalties. Even if he was sentenced to be executed for the less severe form of execution and afterwards, committed a transgression punishable by the more severe form, should he be convicted, he is executed in the more severe manner.

ד

סְקִילָה חֲמוּרָה מִן הַשְּׂרֵפָה וּשְׂרֵפָה חֲמוּרָה מִן הַסַּיִף וְהַסַּיִף חֲמוּרָה מִן הַחֶנֶק. וְכָל מִי שֶׁנִּתְחַיֵּב בִּשְׁתֵּי מִיתוֹת נִדּוֹן בַּחֲמוּרָה בֵּין שֶׁעָבַר שְׁתֵּי עֲבֵרוֹת זוֹ אַחַר זוֹ בֵּין שֶׁעָבַר עֲבֵרָה אַחַת שֶׁחַיָּב עָלֶיהָ שְׁתֵּי מִיתוֹת אֲפִלּוּ נִגְמַר דִּינוֹ לְקַלָּה וְאַחַר כָּךְ עָבַר עַל הַחֲמוּרָה וְנִגְמַר דִּינוֹ נִדּוֹן בַּחֲמוּרָה:

5

Both men and women are executed in these four ways.

ה

וְאֶחָד הָאִישׁ וְאֶחָד הָאִשָּׁה דָּנִין אוֹתָן בְּאַרְבַּע מִיתוֹת:

6

Whenever people who are all liable to be executed are mixed together, each one of them is executed in the less severe manner.

ו

כָּל חַיָּבֵי מִיתוֹת שֶׁנִּתְעָרְבוּ זֶה בָּזֶה נִדּוֹן כָּל אֶחָד מֵהֶן בַּקָּלָה שֶׁבָּהֶן:

7

When a person who has been sentenced to death becomes mixed together with others and it is unable to distinguish him from them, and similarly, when a person who was not convicted becomes mixed together with others who have been convicted and sentenced to death and it is unable to distinguish him from them, they are all released from liability. The rationale is that we complete the judgment of a person only when he is present.

ז

מִי שֶׁנִּגְמַר דִּינוֹ שֶׁנִּתְעָרֵב עִם שְׁאָר הָעָם וְלֹא נוֹדַע מִי הוּא מֵאֵלּוּ. אוֹ מִי שֶׁלֹּא נִגְמַר דִּינוֹ שֶׁנִּתְעָרֵב עִם מִי שֶׁנִּגְמַר דִּינוֹ וְלֹא נוֹדַע מִי הוּא. כֻּלָּן פְּטוּרִין לְפִי שֶׁאֵין גּוֹמְרִין דִּינוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם אֶלָּא בְּפָנָיו:

8

When a convicted person fights for his life and it is impossible for the court to have him bound so that he can be executed in the manner in which he is obligated to die, the witnesses should kill him in any manner they can, for he has been sentenced to death. No one else, however, has the right to kill him first.

For this reason, if the hands of the witnesses are cut off, the convicted person is released. If, however, at the outset, the witnesses did not have hands, the convicted person should be executed by others.

When does the above apply? To all people who are liable to be executed by the court with the exception of a murderer. When, however, a murderer has been sentenced by the court every person should pursue him using any means possible to kill him until he is executed.

ח

מִי שֶׁעָמַד עַל נַפְשׁוֹ וְלֹא יָכְלוּ בֵּית דִּין לְאָסְרוֹ עַד שֶׁיְּמִיתוּהוּ בְּמִיתָה שֶׁהוּא חַיָּב בָּהּ הוֹרְגִין אוֹתוֹ עֵדָיו בְּכָל מִיתָה שֶׁיְּכוֹלִין לַהֲמִיתוֹ בָּהּ מֵאַחַר שֶׁנִּגְמַר דִּינוֹ. וְאֵין רְשׁוּת לִשְׁאָר הָעָם לַהֲמִיתוֹ תְּחִלָּה. לְפִיכָךְ אִם נִקְטְעָה יַד הָעֵדִים פָּטוּר. וְאִם הָיוּ הָעֵדִים גִּדְּמִין מִתְּחִלָּה יֵהָרֵג בְּיַד אֲחֵרִים. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בִּשְׁאָר מְחֻיְּבֵי מִיתוֹת בֵּית דִּין חוּץ מִן הָרוֹצֵחַ. אֲבָל הוֹרֵג נֶפֶשׁ שֶׁנִּגְמַר דִּינוֹ רוֹדְפִין אַחֲרָיו בְּכָל דָּבָר וּבְיַד כָּל אָדָם עַד שֶׁמֵּמִיתִין אוֹתוֹ:

9

All of the people executed by the court should not be buried in their family plots together with the entire Jewish people. Instead, the court sets aside two different burial plots: one for those who are stoned and those who are burnt, and the other for those who are decapitated and strangled. This is a halachah conveyed by the Oral Tradition.

When the flesh of the corpse decomposes, they would gather the bones and rebury them in their ancestral plots. The relatives may make a coffin and shrouds in which to rebury the bones.

ט

כָּל הֲרוּגֵי בֵּית דִּין אֵין קוֹבְרִין אוֹתָן בְּקִבְרֵי אֲבוֹתֵיהֶם בִּכְלַל יִשְׂרָאֵל. אֶלָּא שְׁנֵי קְבָרוֹת מְתַקְּנִין לָהֶן בֵּית דִּין אֶחָד לַנִּסְקָלִין וְלַנִּשְׂרָפִין וְאֶחָד לַנֶּהֱרָגִין וְלַנֶּחְנָקִין. וְדָבָר זֶה הֲלָכָה מִפִּי הַשְּׁמוּעָה. נִתְאַכֵּל הַבָּשָׂר הָיוּ מְלַקְּטִין אֶת הָעֲצָמוֹת וְקוֹבְרִין אוֹתָן בְּקִבְרוֹת אֲבוֹתֵיהֶן. וְיֵשׁ לִקְרוֹבֵיהֶן לַעֲשׂוֹת לָהֶן אָרוֹן וְתַכְרִיכִין:

10

The court must be very patient with regard to laws involving capital punishment and ponder the matter without being hasty. Whenever a court executes a person once in seven years, it is considered a savage court. Nevertheless, if it happens that they must execute a person every day, they do. They do not, however, judge two cases involving capital punishment on the same day. Instead, one is judged immediately, and the other on the following day.

If, however, the two people committed the same sin and are punished with the same form of execution, e.g., a man and a woman who committed adultery, we judge both of them on the same day. Therefore if an adulterer had relations with the daughter of a priest, since he is executed by strangulation and she is burnt to death, they are not executed on the same day.

י

צְרִיכִין בֵּית דִּין לְהִתְיַשֵּׁב בְּדִינֵי נְפָשׁוֹת וּלְהַמְתִּין וְלֹא יָאִיצוּ. וְכָל בֵּית דִּין שֶׁהָרְגוּ נֶפֶשׁ בְּשֶׁבַע שָׁנִים הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ חַבְּלָנִין. אַף עַל פִּי כֵן אִם אֵרַע לָהֶם לַהֲרֹג בְּכָל יוֹם וְיוֹם הוֹרְגִין. אֲבָל אֵין דָּנִין לְעוֹלָם שְׁנַיִם בְּיוֹם אֶחָד אֶלָּא דָּנִין זֶה הַיּוֹם וְהַשֵּׁנִי לְמָחָר. הָיוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם בַּעֲבֵרָה אַחַת וּמִיתָה אַחַת כְּגוֹן נוֹאֵף עִם נוֹאֶפֶת דָּנִין שְׁנֵיהֶם בְּיוֹם אֶחָד. לְפִיכָךְ אִם הָיָה הַנּוֹאֵף בּוֹעֵל בַּת כֹּהֵן הוֹאִיל וְהוּא בְּחֶנֶק וְהִיא בִּשְׂרֵפָה אֵין הוֹרְגִין שְׁנֵיהֶן בְּיוֹם אֶחָד:

11

Cases involving capital punishment are adjudicated only when the Temple is standing. It is also necessary that the High Court hold its sessions in the Chamber of Hewn Stone in the Temple. This is derived from the statements of Deuteronomy 17:12 with regard to a rebellious elder: "who refuses to heed the priest." According to the Oral Tradition, it was taught: "At a time when there is a priest offering sacrifices on the altar, cases involving capital punishment are adjudicated." This applies provided the court is holding sessions in its place.

יא

אֵין דָּנִין דִּינֵי נְפָשׁוֹת אֶלָּא בִּפְנֵי הַבַּיִת וְהוּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶה בֵּית דִּין הַגָּדוֹל שָׁם בַּלִּשְׁכָּה שֶׁבַּמִּקְדָּשׁ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר בְּזָקֵן מַמְרֵא (דברים יז יב) "לְבִלְתִּי שְׁמֹעַ אֶל הַכֹּהֵן" וְגוֹ' וּמִפִּי הַשְּׁמוּעָה לָמְדוּ שֶׁבִּזְמַן שֶׁיֵּשׁ כֹּהֵן מַקְרִיב עַל גַּבֵּי הַמִּזְבֵּחַ יֵשׁ דִּינֵי נְפָשׁוֹת וְהוּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶה בֵּית דִּין הַגָּדוֹל בִּמְקוֹמוֹ:

12

At the outset, when the Temple was constructed, the Supreme Sanhedrin would hold session in the Chamber of Hewn Stone in the Courtyard of the Israelites. The place where the judges would sit was not consecrated. For only kings of the House of David were permitted to sit in the Temple Courtyard.

When the moral character of the Jewish people declined, the Sanhedrin went in exile. They traveled to ten different places in exile, the last being Tiberias. Afterwards, until the present age, the Supreme Sanhedrin has never been convened. And it is an accepted tradition, that in the future, the Sanhedrin will first convene in Tiberias, and from there, they will proceed to the Temple.

יב

בַּתְּחִלָּה כְּשֶׁנִּבְנָה בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ הָיוּ בֵּית דִּין הַגָּדוֹל יוֹשְׁבִין בְּלִשְׁכַּת הַגָּזִית שֶׁהָיְתָה בְּעֶזְרַת יִשְׂרָאֵל וְהַמָּקוֹם שֶׁהָיוּ יוֹשְׁבִין בּוֹ חֹל הָיָה שֶׁאֵין יְשִׁיבָה בַּעֲזָרָה אֶלָּא לְמַלְכֵי בֵּית דָּוִד. וּכְשֶׁנִּתְקַלְקְלָה הַשּׁוּרָה גָּלוּ מִמָּקוֹם לְמָקוֹם וְלַעֲשָׂרָה מְקוֹמוֹת גָּלוּ וְסוֹפָן לִטְבֶרְיָא וּמִשָּׁם לֹא עָמַד בֵּית דִּין גָּדוֹל עַד עַתָּה. וְקַבָּלָה הִיא שֶׁבִּטְבֶרְיָא עֲתִידִין לַחְזֹר תְּחִלָּה וּמִשָּׁם נֶעֱתָקִין לַמִּקְדָּשׁ:

13

40 years before the destruction of the Temple, capital punishment was nullified among the Jewish people. Although the Temple was still standing, since the Sanhedrin went into exile and were not in their place in the Temple, these laws could not be enforced.

יג

אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה קֹדֶם חֻרְבַּן בַּיִת שֵׁנִי בָּטְלוּ דִּינֵי נְפָשׁוֹת מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהָיָה הַמִּקְדָּשׁ קַיָּם. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁגָּלוּ הַסַּנְהֶדְרִין וְלֹא הָיוּ שָׁם בִּמְקוֹמָן בַּמִּקְדָּשׁ:

14

In the era when cases involving capital punishment were adjudicated in Eretz Yisrael, such cases could also be adjudicated in the diaspora, provided the members of that court received semichah in Eretz Yisrael. As we have already stated, the Sanhedrin exercises judicial authority in Eretz Yisrael and in the diaspora.

יד

בִּזְמַן שֶׁדָּנִין דִּינֵי נְפָשׁוֹת בְּאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל דָּנִין דִּינֵי נְפָשׁוֹת בְּחוּצָה לָאָרֶץ. וְהוּא שֶׁיִּהְיוּ הַסַּנְהֶדְרִין סְמוּכִין בָּאָרֶץ כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ שֶׁהַסַּנְהֶדְרִין נוֹהֶגֶת בָּאָרֶץ וּבְחוּצָה לָאָרֶץ:

Sanhedrin veha’Onashin haMesurin lahem - Chapter 15

1

How is the mitzvah of stoning carried out? Four cubits from the place of execution, we remove the clothes of the person to be stoned; we do, however, cover his sexual organ in front. A woman is not executed naked. Instead, she is allowed to wear one cloak.

The place of execution was two storeys high. The convicted person ascends there with his hands tied, together with his witnesses. One of the witnesses pushes him at his loins from behind, he falls over, landing on his heart on the ground. If he dies because of this, they have fulfilled their obligation, for Exodus 19:13 states: "Or he will be cast down or stoned," creating an equation between a person who has a stone fall upon him with one who himself falls on the earth.

If he does not die after this fall, the witnesses pick up a stone that is so large it requires two people to carry it. The second witness lets go and the first casts the stone on the convicted person's heart. If he dies because of this, they have fulfilled their obligation. If not, he should be stoned by the entire Jewish people, as Deuteronomy 17:7 states: "The hand of the witnesses shall be raised up against him first to execute him, and the hand of the entire nation afterwards."

א

כֵּיצַד מִצְוַת הַנִּסְקָלִין. רָחוֹק מִבֵּית הַסְּקִילָה אַרְבַּע אַמּוֹת מַפְשִׁיטִין אֶת הַמְחֻיָּב סְקִילָה בְּגָדָיו וּמְכַסִּין עֶרְוָתוֹ מִלְּפָנָיו. וְאֵין הָאִשָּׁה נִסְקֶלֶת עֲרֻמָּה אֶלָּא בְּחָלוּק אֶחָד. וּבֵית הַסְּקִילָה גָּבוֹהַּ שְׁתֵּי קוֹמוֹת עוֹלֶה לְשָׁם הוּא וְעֵדָיו וְיָדָיו אֲסוּרוֹת. וְאֶחָד מִן הָעֵדִים דּוֹחֲפוֹ עַל מָתְנָיו מֵאֲחוֹרָיו וְהוּא נֶהֳפָךְ וְנוֹפֵל עַל לִבּוֹ לָאָרֶץ. אִם מֵת בָּהּ יָצָא שֶׁהֲרֵי נֶאֱמַר (שמות יט יג) "סָקוֹל יִסָּקֵל אוֹ יָרֹה יִיָּרֶה" הִנֵּה הִשְׁוָה הַנִּסְקָל שֶׁנָּפַל אֶת הָאֶבֶן עָלָיו עִם הַנִּדְחָף שֶׁנָּפַל הוּא בְּעַצְמוֹ עַל הָאָרֶץ. וְאִם לֹא מֵת מִדְּחִיפָה זוֹ מַגְבִּיהִין הָעֵדִים אֶבֶן שֶׁהָיְתָה מֻנַּחַת שָׁם מַשָּׂא שְׁנֵי בְּנֵי אָדָם וְהָעֵד הַשֵּׁנִי מַרְפֶּה אֶת יָדוֹ וּמַשְׁלִיךְ הָאֶבֶן עַל לִבּוֹ. אִם מֵת בּוֹ יָצָא וְאִם לָאו רְגִימָתוֹ בְּכָל יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יז ז) "יַד הָעֵדִים תִּהְיֶה בּוֹ בָרִאשֹׁנָה לַהֲמִיתוֹ וְיַד כָּל הָעָם בָּאַחֲרֹנָה":

2

An idolater should be stoned at the gateway to the place where he performed the transgression. If the majority of the population of a city are gentiles, he should be stoned at the entrance to the court. This concept has been conveyed by the Oral Tradition. The term "to your gates" where Deuteronomy 17:8 states that an idolater should be executed refers to the gate where he performed the transgression and not the gate where he was sentenced.

ב

עוֹבֵד עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה אֵין סוֹקְלִין אוֹתוֹ אֶלָּא עַל שַׁעַר שֶׁעָבַד בּוֹ. וְאִם הָיְתָה עִיר שֶׁרֻבָּהּ עַכּוּ''ם סוֹקְלִין אוֹתוֹ עַל פֶּתַח בֵּית דִּין. וְדָבָר זֶה קַבָּלָה מִפִּי הַשְּׁמוּעָה אֶל שְׁעָרֶיךָ זֶה שַׁעַר שֶׁעָבַד בּוֹ וְלֹא שֶׁנִּגְמַר דִּינוֹ בּוֹ:

3

The mitzvah of executing a person by burning is performed as follows: The convicted is placed in fertilizer until his knees. A firm cloth is placed within a soft cloth and they are wound around his neck. The two witnesses are positioned on either side and each pull the cloths toward himself until the convicted opens his mouth. Tin, lead, and the like are melted down and then poured into his mouth. The molten metal descends and burns his innards.

ג

מִצְוַת הַנִּשְׂרָפִין הָיוּ מְשַׁקְּעִין אוֹתוֹ בְּזֶבֶל עַד אַרְכֻּבּוֹתָיו וְנוֹתְנִים סוּדָר קָשֶׁה לְתוֹךְ הָרַךְ וְכוֹרֵךְ עַל צַוָּארוֹ. וּשְׁנֵי עֵדָיו זֶה מוֹשֵׁךְ אֶצְלוֹ וְזֶה מוֹשֵׁךְ אֶצְלוֹ עַד שֶׁהוּא פּוֹתֵחַ אֶת פִּיו. וּמַתִּיכִים אֶת הַבְּדִיל וְאֶת הָעוֹפֶרֶת וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן וְהוּא זוֹרֵק לְתוֹךְ פִּיו וְהִיא יוֹרֶדֶת וְשׂוֹרֶפֶת אֶת בְּנֵי מֵעָיו:

4

The mitzvah of decapitation is performed as follows: We cut of his head with a sword as the kings do.

ד

מִצְוַת הַנֶּהֱרָגִין מַתִּיזִין אֶת רֹאשׁוֹ בְּסַיִף כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁהַמְּלָכִים עוֹשִׂים:

5

The mitzvah of executing a person by strangulation is performed as follows: The convicted is placed in fertilizer until his knees. A firm cloth is placed within a soft cloth and they are wound around his neck. Each of the two witnesses pulls the cloths toward himself until the convicted expires.

ה

מִצְוַת הַנֶּחְנָקִין מְשַׁקְּעִין אֶת הַמְחֻיָּב בְּזֶבֶל עַד אַרְכֻּבּוֹתָיו וְנוֹתְנִין סוּדָר קָשֶׁה לְתוֹךְ הָרַךְ וְכוֹרְכִין עַל צַוָּארוֹ זֶה מוֹשֵׁךְ אֶצְלוֹ וְזֶה מוֹשֵׁךְ אֶצְלוֹ עַד שֶׁתֵּצֵא נַפְשׁוֹ:

6

It is a positive commandment to hang a blasphemer and an idolater after they have been executed, as implied by Deuteronomy 21:23: "A person who is hung is cursing God." This refers to the blasphemer. With regard to an idolater, Numbers 15:30 states: "He blasphemes God."

A man is hung, but a woman is not hung, as implied by Deuteronomy 21:22: "When a man has sinned and is condemned to die, after he is executed, you shall hang him...."

ו

מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה לִתְלוֹת אֶת הַמְגַדֵּף וְעוֹבֵד עַכּוּ''ם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כא כג) "כִּי קִלְלַת אֱלֹהִים תָּלוּי" הֲרֵי מְגַדֵּף אָמוּר וּבְעוֹבֵד עַכּוּ''ם נֶאֱמַר (במדבר טו ל) "אֶת ה' הוּא מְגַדֵּף". וְהָאִישׁ נִתְלֶה וְאֵין הָאִשָּׁה נִתְלֵית שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כא כב) "כִּי יִהְיֶה בְאִישׁ חֵטְא מִשְׁפַּט מָוֶת וְהוּמָת וְתָלִיתָ אֹתוֹ":

7

How is the mitzvah of hanging carried out? After the convicted is stoned, a beam is implanted in the ground with a rafter protruding from it. The two hands of the corpse are intercrossed and he is hung close to sunset.

He is released immediately. If not, a negative commandment is transgressed, as Ibid.:23 states: "Do not let his corpse tarry overnight on the beam."

ז

כֵּיצַד מִצְוַת הַנִּתְלִין. אַחַר שֶׁסּוֹקְלִין אוֹתָן מְשַׁקְּעִין אֶת הַקּוֹרָה בָּאָרֶץ וְעֵץ יוֹצֵא מִמֶּנָּה וּמַקִּיפִין שְׁתֵּי יָדָיו זוֹ לָזוֹ וְתוֹלֵהוּ סָמוּךְ לִשְׁקִיעַת הַחַמָּה וּמַתִּירִין אוֹתוֹ מִיָּד. וְאִם לָן עוֹבְרִין עָלָיו בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כא כג) "לֹא תָלִין נִבְלָתוֹ עַל הָעֵץ":

8

It is a positive mitzvah to bury the persons executed by the court on the day of their execution, as Ibid. states: "For you shall surely bury him on that day."

Not only those executed by the court, but anyone who leaves a deceased overnight without burying him transgresses a negative commandment. If, however, a burial is delayed overnight to honor the deceased, e.g., to bring a coffin or shrouds, there is no transgression.

ח

וּמִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה לִקְבֹּר אֶת כָּל הֲרוּגֵי בֵּית דִּין בְּיוֹם הַהֲרִיגָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כא כג) "כִּי קָבוֹר תִּקְבְּרֶנּוּ בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא". וְלֹא הֲרוּגֵי בֵּית דִּין בִּלְבַד אֶלָּא כָּל הַמֵּלִין אֶת מֵתוֹ עוֹבֵר עָלָיו בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה. הֱלִינוֹ לִכְבוֹדוֹ לְהָבִיא לוֹ אָרוֹן וְתַכְרִיכִין אֵינוֹ עוֹבֵר עָלָיו:

9

We do not hang a person on a tree that is still growing from the ground, only from one which has been detached. In this way, the tree will not have to be chopped down before the person's burial. For the tree on which the executed is hung is buried with him, so that it will not be an unfavorable remembrance, causing people to say: "This is the tree on which so-and-so was hung."

Similarly, the stone, the sword, and the cloths used for execution are all buried near the deceased, but not in his actual grave.

ט

אֵין תּוֹלִין עַל אִילָן הַמְחֻבָּר לַקַּרְקַע אֶלָּא עַל הַתָּלוּשׁ כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יְהֵא מְחֻסַּר קְצִיצָה. שֶׁהָעֵץ שֶׁנִּתְלָה עָלָיו נִקְבָּר עִמּוֹ שֶׁלֹּא יְהֵא לוֹ זִכָּרוֹן רַע וְיֹאמְרוּ זֶה הָעֵץ שֶׁנִּתְלָה עָלָיו פְּלוֹנִי. וְכֵן הָאֶבֶן שֶׁנִּסְקַל בָּהּ וְהַסַּיִף שֶׁנֶּהֱרַג בּוֹ הַנֶּהֱרָג וְהַסּוּדָרִין שֶׁחוֹנְקִין בָּהֶן הַכּל נִקְבָּרִין בִּתְפִישַׂת הַנֶּהֱרָג אֲבָל לֹא בַּקֶּבֶר עַצְמוֹ:

10

The Torah mentions 18 people who are executed by stoning. They are: a) a person who engages in relations with his mother, b) with his father's wife, c) his daughter-in-law, d) a maiden who was consecrated, e) a man involved in homosexual relations, f) a man who sodomizes an animal, g) a woman who has relations with an animal, h) a blasphemer, i) an idolater, j) a person who gives his descendants to Molech, k) a person who divines with an ov, l) a person who divines with an yidoni, m) a person who entices others to worship idols, n) the people who lead a city to idol worship, o) a sorcerer, p) a person who desecrates the Sabbath, q) a person who curses his father or his mother, and r) a wayward and rebellious son.

י

כָּל הַנִּסְקָלִין שֶׁבַּתּוֹרָה שְׁמוֹנָה עָשָׂר וְאֵלּוּ הֵן. הַבָּא עַל הָאֵם. וְעַל אֵשֶׁת אָב. וְעַל כַּלָּתוֹ. וְעַל נַעֲרָה הַמְאֹרָסָה. וְעַל הַזָּכוּר. וְהַשּׁוֹכֵב עִם בְּהֵמָה. וְהָאִשָּׁה הַמְּבִיאָה אֶת הַבְּהֵמָה עָלֶיהָ. וְהַמְגַדֵּף. וְעוֹבֵד עַכּוּ''ם. וְהַנּוֹתֵן מִזַּרְעוֹ לַמּלֶךְ. וּבַעַל אוֹב. וּבַעַל יִדְּעוֹנִי. וְהַמַּסִּית. וְהַמַּדִּיחַ. וְהַמְכַשֵּׁף. וְהַמְחַלֵּל אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת. וּמְקַלֵּל אָבִיו אוֹ אִמּוֹ. וּבֶן סוֹרֵר וּמוֹרֶה:

11

There are 10 people who are executing by burning: a) a priest's daughter who commits adultery, b) a person who has relations with his daughter, c) with his daughter's daughter, d) with his son's daughter, e) with his wife's daughter, f) with the daughter of his wife's daughter, g) with the daughter of his wife's son, h) with his mother-in-law, i) with the mother of his mother-in-law, and j) with the mother of his father-in-law.

The latter prohibitions apply if the man has relations with them during his wife's lifetime. After his wife's death, these relations are punishable by kerait alone like other incestuous relationships.

יא

כָּל הַנִּשְׂרָפִין עֲשָׂרָה וְאֵלּוּ הֵן. בַּת כֹּהֵן שֶׁזִּנְּתָה תַּחַת בַּעְלָהּ. וּבָא עַל בִּתּוֹ. וְעַל בַּת בִּתּוֹ. וְעַל בַּת בְּנוֹ. וְעַל בַּת אִשְׁתּוֹ. וְעַל בַּת בִּתָּהּ. וְעַל בַּת בְּנָהּ. וְעַל חֲמוֹתוֹ. וְעַל אֵם חֲמוֹתוֹ. וְעַל אֵם חָמִיו. וְהוּא שֶׁבָּא עֲלֵיהֶן בְּחַיֵּי אִשְׁתּוֹ. אֲבָל לְאַחַר מִיתַת אִשְׁתּוֹ הֲרֵי הֵן בְּכָרֵת בִּלְבַד בִּכְלַל הָעֲרָיוֹת:

12

There are two who are decapitated: a murderer, and the inhabitants of a city enticed to idolatry.

יב

הַנֶּהֱרָגִין שְׁנַיִם. הָרוֹצֵחַ וְהַנִּדָּח:

13

There are six who are executed by strangulation: a) an adulterer, b) a person who wounds his father or mother, c) a person who kidnaps a fellow Jew, d) a rebellious elder, e) a false prophet, and f) a person who prophecies in the name of a false deity.

Thus the court executes individuals for a totality of 36 prohibitions.

יג

הַנֶּחְנָקִין שִׁשָּׁה וְאֵלּוּ הֵן. הַבָּא עַל אֵשֶׁת אִישׁ. הַחוֹבֵל בְּאָבִיו אוֹ בְּאִמּוֹ. וְגוֹנֵב נֶפֶשׁ מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל. וְזָקֵן מַמְרֵא. וּנְבִיא הַשֶּׁקֶר. וְהַמִּתְנַבֵּא בְּשֵׁם עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה. נִמְצְאוּ כָּל הֲרוּגֵי בֵּית דִּין שִׁשָּׁה וּשְׁלֹשִׁים:

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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