Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Avodat Kochavim - Chapter Four, Avodat Kochavim - Chapter Five, Avodat Kochavim - Chapter Six

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Avodat Kochavim - Chapter Four

Translator's Introduction

Deuteronomy 13:13-19 relates:

Should you hear [a report about] one of your cities which God, your Lord, is giving you to dwell within, stating: "Unfaithful people have emerged from your midst and they have led astray the inhabitants of their city, saying: 'Let us worship other gods about whom you are not aware,' you must investigate and probe, making careful inquiry. If it is true and correct that such a revolting thing has occurred in your midst, you must surely kill all the inhabitants of the city by the sword. Destroy it and everything in it. [Kill] all its animals by the sword.
Gather all its goods in the midst of its main street. Burn the city and all its goods entirely for the sake of God, your Lord. [The city] shall remain an eternal ruin, never to be rebuilt. Let nothing that has been condemned remain in your possession, so that God's fierce anger will be allayed and He will grant you mercy. He will deal mercifully with you and will make you flourish as He promised your fathers.

Our Sages refer to a city condemned for these reasons as an עיר הנדחת - literally, "a city that has been led astray." In Sefer HaMitzvot, the Rambam derives four of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah from the above passage:
Negative Commandment 15: Not to proselytize among the masses on behalf of false deities;
Positive Commandment 186: To burn an עיר הנדחת;
Negative Commandment 23: Never to rebuild an עיר הנדחת;
Negative Commandment 24: Not to benefit from its spoil.

There is a unique dimension to the laws of an עיר הנדחת that is not found in regard to any of the other prohibitions of the Torah. In this context, the city is considered as a single entity and the inhabitants and their property are not considered as individuals but as members of this wicked collective (Tzaphnat Pane'ach, Likkutei Sichot, Vol. 9).

Sanhedrin 71a mentions a debate among the Sages. One maintained that the mitzvot concerning an עיר הנדחת were never actually fulfilled, and that the passage was instituted in the Torah only for the purpose of theoretical discussion. Another states explicitly: "I saw such a city and sat among its ruins." From Halachah 11 (see Note 50; see also Hilchot Melachim 11:2), it appears that the Rambam subscribes to the latter view.

This chapter deals only with the prohibition against proselytizing on behalf of a false deity to the majority of the members of a city. The prohibition against proselytizing to individuals for these purposes is mentioned in the following chapter.


Those who lead [the inhabitants of] a Jewish city astray are executed by stoning, even though they themselves did not worship a false deity, but [merely] proselytized to the inhabitants of their city until they worshiped it.

The inhabitants of the city that has been led astray (עיר הנדחת) are executed by decapitation if they worshiped a false deity or accepted it as a god.

What is the source that serves as a warning against proselytizing on behalf of a false deity? "Let not [the name of another deity] be heard through your mouth."


מַדִּיחֵי עִיר מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ נִסְקָלִין אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא עָבְדוּ עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים אֶלָּא הִדִּיחוּ אֶת יוֹשְׁבֵי עִירָם עַד שֶׁעָבְדוּ אוֹתָהּ. וְאַנְשֵׁי הָעִיר הַמֻּדָּחִין נֶהֱרָגִין בְּסַיִף וְהוּא שֶׁעָבְדוּ עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים אוֹ שֶׁקִּבְּלוּהָ עֲלֵיהֶם בֶּאֱלוֹהַּ. וְאַזְהָרָה לַמַּדִּיחַ מִנַּיִן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר "לֹא יִשָּׁמַע עַל פִּיךָ":


A city is not condemned as an עיר הנדחת until two or more individuals attempt to lead its inhabitants astray, as [Deuteronomy 13:14] states: "Unfaithful people have emerged...." The people who lead them astray must be from that tribe and from that city, as [the verse continues]: "from your midst."

Those led astray must be the majority [of the city's inhabitants]. They must number from [at least] 100 to the majority of the tribe. If, however, the majority of the tribe is led astray, they are judged as individuals, as implied by [the phrase in the following verse]: "the inhabitants of the city;" neither a small village nor a large metropolis. If there are fewer than 100, it is considered a small village. If the majority of the tribe is involved, it is considered to be a large metropolis.

Similarly, the laws applying to an עיר הנדחת are not enforced if:
the people who led them astray were women or minors,
they were led astray by a single individual,
a minority of the city were led astray,
they turned to idols on their own initiative, or
if those who led them astray came from outside the city.

Instead, [the violators] are considered to be individuals who worshiped false deities. All those who worshiped are executed by stoning, and their estate is given to their heirs like all others executed by a court.


אֵין הָעִיר נַעֲשֵׂית עִיר הַנִּדַּחַת עַד שֶׁיִּהְיוּ מַדִּיחֶיהָ מִתּוֹכָהּ וּמֵאוֹתוֹ הַשֵּׁבֶט שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר מִקִּרְבֶּךָ (דברים יג יד) "וַיַּדִּיחוּ אֶת יוֹשְׁבֵי עִירָם". וְעַד שֶׁיִּהְיוּ מַדִּיחֶיהָ שְׁנַיִם אוֹ יֶתֶר עַל שְׁנַיִם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג יד) "יָצְאוּ אֲנָשִׁים בְּנֵי בְלִיַּעַל וַיַּדִּיחוּ אֶת ישְׁבֵי עִירָם". וְעַד שֶׁיַּדִּיחוּ רֻבָּהּ. וְיִהְיוּ הַמֻּדָּחִין מִמֵּאָה וְעַד רֻבּוֹ שֶׁל שֵׁבֶט. אֲבָל אִם הֻדַּח רֻבּוֹ שֶׁל שֵׁבֶט דָּנִין אוֹתָם כִּיחִידִים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג טז) "ישְׁבֵי הָעִיר" לֹא כְּפָר קָטָן וְלֹא כְּרַךְ גָּדוֹל. וְכָל פָּחוֹת מִמֵּאָה כְּפָר קָטָן. וְרֻבּוֹ שֶׁל שֵׁבֶט כְּרַךְ גָּדוֹל. וְכֵן אִם הִדִּיחוּהָ נָשִׁים אוֹ קְטַנִּים אוֹ שֶׁהִדִּיחָהּ יָחִיד אוֹ שֶׁהֻדְּחָה מִעוּטָהּ אוֹ שֶׁהֻדְּחוּ מֵאֲלֵיהֶן אוֹ שֶׁהָיוּ מַדִּיחֶיהָ מִחוּצָה לָהּ אֵין דָּנִין בָּהּ דִּין עִיר הַנִּדַּחַת אֶלָּא הֲרֵי הֵן כִּיחִידִים שֶׁעָבְדוּ עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים וְסוֹקְלִין כָּל מִי שֶׁעָבַר וּמָמוֹנָן לְיוֹרְשֵׁיהֶן כִּשְׁאָר הֲרוּגֵי בֵּית דִּין:


The laws of an עיר הנדחת are enforced only by a court of 71 judges, as [implied by Deuteronomy 17:5]: "And you shall take the man or woman who did that wicked thing to your gates." [This can be interpreted to mean:] Individuals are executed by the courts which are found at the gates [of every city]. A multitude are only executed by the supreme court.


אֵין דָּנִין עִיר הַנִּדַּחַת אֶלָּא בְּבֵית דִּין שֶׁל אֶחָד וְשִׁבְעִים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יז ה) "וְהוֹצֵאתָ אֶת הָאִישׁ הַהוּא אוֹ אֶת הָאִשָּׁה הַהִיא אֲשֶׁר עָשׂוּ אֶת הַדָּבָר הָרָע הַזֶּה אֶל שְׁעָרֶיךָ", יְחִידִים נֶהֱרָגִים בְּבֵית דִּין שֶׁל כָּל שַׁעַר וְשַׁעַר וְאֵין הַמְרֻבִּים נֶהֱרָגִין אֶלָּא בְּבֵית דִּין הַגָּדוֹל:


None of the cities of refuge can ever be condemned as an עיר הנדחת, as [implied by Deuteronomy 13:13]: "one of your cities." [Similarly,] Jerusalem can never be condemned as an עיר הנדחת, because it was not divided among the tribes.

A border city is never condemned as an עיר הנדחת, so that gentiles will not enter and destroy Eretz Yisrael. One court should not condemn three cities located next to each other as an עיר הנדחת. If [the cities] are separated from each other, they may condemn them.


אֵין אַחַת מֵעָרֵי מִקְלָט נַעֲשֵׂית עִיר הַנִּדַּחַת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר ((דברים יז ב) "בְּאַחַד שְׁעָרֶיךָ") [בְּאַחַת עָרֶיךָ]. וְלֹא יְרוּשָׁלַיִם נַעֲשֵׂית עִיר הַנִּדַּחַת לְפִי שֶׁלֹּא נִתְחַלְּקָה לִשְׁבָטִים. וְאֵין עוֹשִׂין עִיר הַנִּדַּחַת בַּסְּפָר כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִכָּנְסוּ עוֹבְדֵי כּוֹכָבִים וְיַחֲרִיבוּ אֶת אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל. וְאֵין בֵּית דִּין אֶחָד עוֹשֶׂה שָׁלֹשׁ עֲיָרוֹת הַנִּדָּחוֹת זוֹ בְּצַד זוֹ. אֲבָל אִם הָיוּ מְרֻחָקוֹת עוֹשֶׂה:


[A city] is not condemned as an עיר הנדחת unless those who proselytize [the inhabitants] address them in the plural, telling them, "Let us go and worship," "Let us go and sacrifice," "Let us go and bring a burnt offering," "Let us go and offer a libation," "Let us go and bow down," or "Let us go and accept [the deity] as a god."

[The inhabitants] must listen and then worship [the deity] with its accepted mode of worship, or through one of the four modes of worship [mentioned in Chapter 3, Halachah 3], or accept it as a god.

What happens if all these conditions are not fulfilled with regard to a city or those who proselytize [its inhabitants]? Warnings are given to each person who worships false gods, and testimony [is delivered against them]. They are executed by stoning as individuals who worshiped false gods, and their estate is given to their heirs.


אֵין עוֹשִׂין עִיר הַנִּדַּחַת עַד שֶׁיַּדִּיחוּהָ מַדִּיחֶיהָ בִּלְשׁוֹן רַבִּים וְיֹאמְרוּ לָהֶן נֵלֵךְ וְנַעֲבֹד אוֹ נֵלֵךְ וְנִזְבַּח אוֹ נֵלֵךְ וְנַקְטִיר אוֹ נֵלֵךְ וּנְנַסֵּךְ אוֹ נֵלֵךְ וְנִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה אוֹ נֵלֵךְ וּנְקַבֵּל בֶּאֱלוֹהַּ וְהֵם שׁוֹמְעִים וְעָבְדוּ אוֹתָהּ דֶּרֶךְ עֲבוֹדָתָהּ אוֹ בְּאַחַת מֵאַרְבַּע עֲבוֹדוֹת אוֹ שֶׁקִּבְּלוּהָ בֵּאלוֹהַּ. עִיר הַנִּדַּחַת שֶׁלֹּא נִתְקַיְּמוּ בָּהּ וּבְמַדִּיחֶיהָ כָּל הַתְּנָאִים הָאֵלּוּ הֵיאַךְ עוֹשִׂים לָהֶם, מַתְרִין וּמְעִידִין בְּכָל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד מֵהֶן שֶׁעָבַד עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים וְסוֹקְלִין אוֹתָם כִּיחִידִים שֶׁעָבְדוּ וּמָמוֹנָם לְיוֹרְשֵׁיהֶם:


What is the judgment rendered against an עיר הנדחת when all the criteria for that judgment have been met?

The supreme Sanhedrin sends [emissaries] who investigate and probe until they have established clear proof that the entire city - or the majority of its inhabitants - have turned to the worship of false gods.

Afterwards, they send two Torah sages to warn them and to motivate them to repentance. If they repent, it is good. If they continue their wicked ways, the court commands the entire Jewish people to take up arms against them. They lay siege to the city and wage war against it until the city falls.

When the city falls, very many courts are set up, and [the inhabitants] are judged. All those people against whom two witnesses testify that they worshiped a false deity after receiving a warning are separated. If those who worshiped [the false deity] constitute only a minority [of the city's inhabitants], they are stoned to death, but the rest of the city is saved. If they constitute a majority, they are brought to the supreme Sanhedrin and their judgment is concluded there. All those who worshiped [the false deity] are executed by decapitation.

If the entire city was led astray, all of the inhabitants including the women and the children are slain by the sword. If a majority of the inhabitants were led astray, the transgressors' wives and children are slain by the sword. Whether the entire city or only a majority of its inhabitants were led astray, those who proselytized [on behalf of the false deity] are stoned to death.

All the property within it is collected within its main street. If it does not have a main street, a main street is made for it. If its main street is located outside its confines, its wall is extended until its [main street] is included within its confines, as [implied by Deuteronomy 13:17]: "[Gather all its goods] in the midst of its main street."

All live animals that are contained within are slain. All its property and the city [as a whole] are burned with fire. Burning them fulfills a positive commandment, as [the verse continues]: "Burn the city and all its goods entirely."


וְהֵיאַךְ דִּין עִיר הַנִּדַּחַת. בִּזְמַן שֶׁתִּהְיֶה רְאוּיָה לְהֵעָשׂוֹת עִיר הַנִּדַּחַת. בֵּית דִּין הַגָּדוֹל שׁוֹלְחִין וְדוֹרְשִׁין וְחוֹקְרִין עַד שֶׁיֵּדְעוּ בִּרְאָיָה בְּרוּרָה שֶׁהֻדְּחָה כָּל הָעִיר אוֹ רֻבָּהּ וְחָזְרוּ לַעֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים. אַחַר כָּךְ שׁוֹלְחִים לָהֶם שְׁנֵי תַּלְמִידֵי חֲכָמִים לְהַזְהִירָם וּלְהַחֲזִירָם. אִם חָזְרוּ וְעָשׂוּ תְּשׁוּבָה מוּטָב וְאִם יַעַמְדוּ בְּאִוַּלְתָּן בֵּית דִּין מְצַוִּין לְכָל יִשְׂרָאֵל לַעֲלוֹת עֲלֵיהֶן לַצָּבָא וְהֵן צָרִין עֲלֵיהֶם וְעוֹרְכִין עִמָּהֶן מִלְחָמָה עַד שֶׁתִּבָּקַע הָעִיר. כְּשֶׁתִּבָּקַע מִיָּד מַרְבִּין לָהֶם בָּתֵּי דִּינִין וְדָנִים אוֹתָם. כָּל מִי שֶׁבָּאוּ עָלָיו שְׁנֵי עֵדִים שֶׁעָבַד כּוֹכָבִים אַחַר שֶׁהִתְרוּ אוֹתוֹ מַפְרִישִׁין אוֹתוֹ. נִמְצְאוּ כָּל הָעוֹבְדִים מִעוּטָהּ סוֹקְלִין אוֹתָן וּשְׁאָר הָעִיר נִצּוֹל. נִמְצְאוּ רֻבָּהּ מַעֲלִין אוֹתָן לְבֵית דִּין הַגָּדוֹל וְגוֹמְרִין שָׁם דִּינָם וְהוֹרְגִין כָּל אֵלּוּ שֶׁעָבְדוּ בְּסַיִף. וּמַכִּין אֶת כָּל נֶפֶשׁ אָדָם אֲשֶׁר בָּהּ לְפִי חָרֶב טַף וְנָשִׁים אִם הֻדְּחָה כֻּלָּהּ. וְאִם נִמְצְאוּ הָעוֹבְדִים רֻבָּהּ מַכִּים אֶת כָּל הַטַּף וְנָשִׁים שֶׁל עוֹבְדִים לְפִי חָרֶב. וּבֵין שֶׁהֻדְּחָה כֻּלָּהּ בֵּין שֶׁהֻדְּחָה רֻבָּהּ סוֹקְלִין אֶת מַדִּיחֶיהָ וּמְקַבְּצִין כָּל שְׁלָלָהּ אֶל תּוֹךְ רְחוֹבָהּ. אֵין לָהּ רְחוֹב עוֹשִׂין לָהּ רְחוֹב. הָיָה רְחוֹבָהּ חוּצָה לָהּ בּוֹנִין חוֹמָה חוּץ מִמֶּנּוּ עַד שֶׁיִּכָּנֵס לְתוֹכָהּ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר "אֶל תּוֹךְ רְחֹבָהּ". וְהוֹרְגִין כָּל נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה אֲשֶׁר בָּהּ וְשׂוֹרְפִין אֶת כָּל שְׁלָלָהּ עִם הַמְּדִינָה בָּאֵשׁ. וּשְׂרֵפָתָהּ מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג יז) "וְשָׂרַפְתָּ בָאֵשׁ אֶת הָעִיר וְאֶת כָּל שְׁלָלָהּ":


The property of the righteous men - i.e., the remainder of the city's inhabitants who were not led astray with the majority - that is located within the city should be burned together with all its property. Since they resided there, their fortunes are destroyed.

Whoever derives even the slightest benefit from [the city's property] receives a single measure of lashes, as [Deuteronomy 13:18] states: "Let nothing that has been condemned remain in your possession."


נִכְסֵי הַצַּדִּיקִים שֶׁבְּתוֹכָהּ וְהֵם שְׁאָר יוֹשְׁבֵי הָעִיר שֶׁלֹּא הֻדְּחוּ עִם רֻבָּהּ נִשְׂרָפִין בִּכְלַל שְׁלָלָהּ הוֹאִיל וְיָשְׁבוּ שָׁם מָמוֹנָן אָבַד. וְכָל הַנֶּהֱנֶה מִמֶּנָּה בְּכָל שֶׁהוּא לוֹקֶה אַחַת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג יח) "וְלֹא יִדְבַּק בְּיָדְךָ מְאוּמָה מִן הַחֵרֶם":


[The following rules apply when] the witnesses who testified against an עיר הנדחת were disqualified as zomemim: Whoever takes possession of any property is considered to have acquired it and may derive benefit from it, since the [incriminating testimony - and thus, the judgment based upon it -] has been nullified.

Why do they acquire it? Because each of the city's inhabitants gave up ownership of his property after the judgment was rendered.

[An עיר הנדחת] may never be rebuilt, and a person who rebuilds it is [liable for] lashes, as [Deuteronomy 13:17] states: "...never to be rebuilt." It is permitted to use it for gardens and orchards. "Never to be rebuilt" implies only that it should not be rebuilt as a city, as it was previously.


וְעִיר הַנִּדַּחַת שֶׁהוּזְמוּ עֵדֵיהָ כָּל הַמַּחֲזִיק בִּנְכָסֶיהָ זָכָה וּמֻתָּר לֵהָנוֹת בּוֹ שֶׁהֲרֵי הוּזְמוּ. וְלָמָּה זָכָה בָּהּ שֶׁכָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד כְּבָר הִפְקִיר מָמוֹנוֹ מִשָּׁעָה שֶׁנִּגְמַר דִּינוֹ. וְאֵינָהּ נִבְנֵית לְעוֹלָם וְכָל הַבּוֹנֶה אוֹתָהּ לוֹקֶה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג יז) "לֹא תִבָּנֶה עוֹד". וּמֻתָּר לַעֲשׂוֹתָהּ גִּנּוֹת וּפַרְדֵּסִים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר לֹא תִבָּנֶה עוֹד לֹא תִבָּנֶה מְדִינָה כְּמוֹ שֶׁהָיְתָה:


[The following laws apply to] a caravan which journeys from one place to another, passes through an עיר הנדחת, and is led astray with it: If they had remained [in the city] thirty days, they are executed by decapitation and their property is condemned. If they were there for a lesser period, they are executed by stoning, but their property is given to their heirs.


שַׁיָּרָא הָעוֹבֶרֶת מִמָּקוֹם לְמָקוֹם אִם עָבְרָה בָּעִיר הַנִּדַּחַת וְהֻדְּחָה עִמָּהּ. אִם שָׁהֲתָה שָׁם שְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם נֶהֱרָגִין בְּסַיִף וּמָמוֹנָם אָבֵד וְאִם לָאו הֵן בִּסְקִילָה וּמָמוֹנָם לְיוֹרְשֵׁיהֶן:


Property belonging to people of other cities which is kept within [an עיר הנדחת] is not burned, but rather is returned to its owners. [This applies] even when [the inhabitants of the עיר הנדחת] accepted responsibility for it, as implied by [Deuteronomy 13:17]: "its goods" - i.e., its goods, and not those belonging to others.

[The following rules apply to] property belonging to the wicked - i.e., those who were swayed [to idol worship] - which was kept in other cities. If [that property] was gathered together with the property of the עיר הנדחת, they are burned together. If not, it is not destroyed, but rather is given to the heirs.


נִכְסֵי אַנְשֵׁי מְדִינָה אַחֶרֶת שֶׁהָיוּ מֻפְקָדִין בְּתוֹכָהּ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁקִּבְּלוּ עֲלֵיהֶן אַחֲרָיוּת אֵין נִשְׂרָפִין אֶלָּא יַחְזְרוּ לְבַעֲלֵיהֶן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג יז) "שְׁלָלָהּ" וְלֹא שְׁלַל חֲבֵרְתָהּ. נִכְסֵי הָרְשָׁעִים שֶׁהֻדְּחוּ שֶׁהָיוּ מֻפְקָדִין בִּמְדִינָה אַחֶרֶת אִם נִקְבְּצוּ עִמָּהּ נִשְׂרָפִין בִּכְלָלָהּ וְאִם לָאו אֵין מְאַבְּדִים אוֹתָם אֶלָּא יִנָּתְנוּ לְיוֹרְשֵׁיהֶם:


If an animal which partially belongs to [an inhabitant of] an עיר הנדחת and partially belongs to [a person living in] another city is found within [the עיר הנדחת], it is forbidden. [In contrast,] a loaf of bread which is owned by such [partners] is permitted, because it can be divided.


בְּהֵמָה חֶצְיָהּ שֶׁל עִיר הַנִּדַּחַת וְחֶצְיָהּ שֶׁל עִיר אַחֶרֶת שֶׁהָיְתָה בְּתוֹכָהּ הֲרֵי זוֹ אֲסוּרָה. וְעִסָּה שֶׁהִיא כֵּן מֻתֶּרֶת לְפִי שֶׁאֶפְשָׁר לְחַלְּקָהּ:


It is forbidden to benefit from an animal which belongs to [an inhabitant of] an עיר הנדחת and which was slaughtered, just as it is forbidden to derive benefit from an ox which was condemned to be stoned and was slaughtered.

We are permitted to benefit from the hair of both men and women of [the condemned city]. A wig, however, is considered part of "its goods," and is therefore forbidden.


בְּהֵמָה שֶׁל עִיר הַנִּדַּחַת שֶׁנִּשְׁחֲטָה אֲסוּרָה בַּהֲנָאָה כְּשׁוֹר הַנִּסְקָל שֶׁנִּשְׁחַט. שְׂעַר הָרֹאשׁ בֵּין שֶׁל אֲנָשִׁים בֵּין שֶׁל נָשִׁים שֶׁבָּהּ מֻתָּר בַּהֲנָאָה אֲבָל שֶׁל פֵּאָה נָכְרִית הֲרֵי הוּא מִכְּלַל שְׁלָלָהּ וְאָסוּר:


Produce which is connected [to its source of nurture] is permitted, as [implied by Deuteronomy 13:17]: "Gather [all its goods...] Burn..." - i.e., this includes only those articles which must merely be gathered and burned, and thus excludes produce which is still connected [to its source of nurture], and would have to be severed and gathered in order to be burned.

The same principle applies to [the inhabitants'] hair. Needless to say, the trees themselves are permitted and are bequeathed to the heirs.

[The following rules apply to] the consecrated property within it: Those animals which were consecrated to be sacrificed on the altar themselves must die, since "the sacrifices of the wicked are an abomination" [Proverbs 21:27]. Property which is consecrated for the purposes of the Temple must be redeemed, and afterwards is burned, [as implied by the word] "its goods" - its goods and not those which are consecrated.


פֵּרוֹת הַמְחֻבָּרִין שֶׁבְּתוֹכָהּ מֻתָּרִין שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג יז) "תִּקְבֹּץ" (דברים יג יז) "וְשָׂרַפְתָּ" מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ מְחֻסָּר אֶלָּא קִבּוּץ וּשְׂרֵפָה יָצְאוּ פֵּרוֹת הַמְחֻבָּרִין שֶׁהֵן מְחֻסָּרִין תְּלִישָׁה וְקִבּוּץ וּשְׂרֵפָה. וְהוּא הַדִּין לִשְׂעַר הָרֹאשׁ וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר הָאִילָנוֹת עַצְמָן שֶׁהֵן מֻתָּרִים וַהֲרֵי הֵן שֶׁל יוֹרְשֵׁיהֶם. הַהֶקְדֵּשׁוֹת שֶׁבְּתוֹכָהּ קָדְשֵׁי מִזְבֵּחַ יָמוּתוּ [שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר] "זֶבַח רְשָׁעִים תּוֹעֵבָה". קָדְשֵׁי בֶּדֶק הַבַּיִת יִפָּדוּ וְאַחַר כָּךְ שׂוֹרְפִין אוֹתָן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג יז) "שְׁלָלָהּ" וְלֹא שְׁלַל שָׁמַיִם:


[The following rules apply to] firstborn animals and the animal tithes that are found within [the עיר הנדחת]: Those that are unblemished are considered to be animals consecrated to be sacrificed on the altar and must die. Those that are blemished are considered to be "its animals," and are slain [with them].

[The following rules apply to] terumah which is contained within the city: If it has already been given to a priest, it should be allowed to rot, because it is considered his private property. If it is still in the possession of an Israelite, it should be given to a priest in another city, because it is considered to be "the property of heaven," and its consecrated nature extends to its actual substance.


הַבְּכוֹר וְהַמַּעֲשֵׂר שֶׁבְּתוֹכָהּ תְּמִימִים הֲרֵי הֵן קָדְשֵׁי מִזְבֵּחַ וְיָמוּתוּ. וּבַעֲלֵי מוּמִים הֲרֵי הֵן בִּכְלַל בְּהֶמְתָּהּ וְנֶהֱרָגִין. הַתְּרוּמוֹת שֶׁבְּתוֹכָהּ אִם הִגִּיעוּ לְיַד כֹּהֵן יֵרָקְבוּ מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהֵם נְכָסָיו. וְאִם עֲדַיִן הֵן בְּיַד יִשְׂרָאֵל יִנָּתְנוּ לְכֹהֵן שֶׁל מְדִינָה אַחֶרֶת מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהֵן נִכְסֵי שָׁמַיִם וּקְדֻשָּׁתָן קְדֻשַּׁת הַגּוּף:


The second tithe, money used to redeem the second tithe, and sacred writings in it must be entombed.


מַעֲשֵׂר שֵׁנִי וְכֶסֶף מַעֲשֵׂר שֵׁנִי וְכִתְבֵי הַקֹּדֶשׁ שֶׁבְּתוֹכָהּ הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ יִגָּנְזוּ:


Anyone who administers the judgment of an עיר הנדחת is considered as if he offered a burnt offering consumed entirely by fire, as [Deuteronomy 13:17] states: "...entirely for the sake of God, your Lord." Furthermore, such action diverts [Divine] wrath from the Jews, as [the following verse continues]: "so that God's fierce anger will be allayed," and it brings them blessing and mercy [as the verse] states: "And He will grant you mercy. He will deal mercifully with you and will make you flourish."


כָּל הָעוֹשֶׂה דִּין בְּעִיר הַנִּדַּחַת הֲרֵי זֶה כְּמַקְרִיב עוֹלָה כָּלִיל שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג יז) "כָּלִיל לַה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ". וְלֹא עוֹד אֶלָּא שֶׁמְּסַלֵּק חֲרוֹן אַף מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג יח) "לְמַעַן יָשׁוּב ה' מֵחֲרוֹן אַפּוֹ". וּמֵבִיא עֲלֵיהֶם בְּרָכָה וְרַחֲמִים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג יח) "וְנָתַן לְךָ רַחֲמִים וְרִחַמְךָ וְהִרְבֶּךָ":

Avodat Kochavim - Chapter Five

Translator's Introduction

This chapter also deals with a number of mitzvot that share a common theme and are derived from a single Biblical passage. Deuteronomy 13:2-12 relates:

[This is what you must do] when a prophet... arises and presents you with a sign or miracle... and says to you, "Let us follow after other gods whom you do not know and worship them." Do not listen to the words of that prophet.... That prophet... shall die, because he spoke rebelliously against God, your Lord....
[This is what you must do] if your brother..., your son, your daughter, your bosom wife, or your closest friend secretly proselytizes among you, and says, "Let us go and worship other gods whom neither you or your ancestors know."... Do not be attracted to him or listen to him. Do not let your eyes pity him. Do not show him any compassion. Do not try to cover up for him. Rather, you must surely put him to death. Your hand must be the first against him to kill him.... Stone him to death... because he tried to sway you away from God, your Lord.... And all Israel will hear and they will become afraid and they will not continue to do such evil things.

In Sefer HaMitzvot, the Rambam cites six mitzvot which are derived from this passage:
Negative Commandment 16: Not to persuade a single individual to worship [a false deity];
Negative Commandment 17: Not to love a mesit (one who proselytizes on behalf of a false deity);
Negative Commandment 18: Not to reduce one's hatred for him;
Negative Commandment 19: Not to save his life;
Negative Commandment 20: Not to advance any arguments on his behalf;
Negative Commandment 21: Not to withhold information that will lead to his conviction;


A person who proselytizes [a mesit] to any single Jew [a musat] - whether man or woman - on behalf of false deities should be stoned to death. [This applies] even if neither the mesit or the musat actually worshiped the false deity.

As long as he instructed him to worship [the false deity], he should be executed by stoning, regardless of whether the mesit was a prophet or an ordinary person, or whether the musat was a single individual - man or woman - or whether several people were proselytized.


הַמֵּסִית אֶחָד מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל בֵּין אִישׁ בֵּין אִשָּׁה הֲרֵי זֶה נִסְקָל אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא עָבַד הַמֵּסִית וְלֹא הַמּוּסָת עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים אֶלָּא מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוֹרָהוּ לַעֲבֹד. בֵּין שֶׁהָיָה הַמֵּסִית הֶדְיוֹט בֵּין שֶׁהָיָה נָבִיא בֵּין שֶׁהָיָה הַמּוּסָת יָחִיד אִישׁ אוֹ אִשָּׁה אוֹ יְחִידִים מִיתָתוֹ בִּסְקִילָה:


A person who proselytizes the majority of the inhabitants of a city is called a madiach rather than a mesit. If the person who leads the majority of a city astray is a prophet, he is executed by stoning, and the people who were led astray are judged as individuals, and are not considered to be inhabitants of an עיר הנדחת. [For the latter laws to be applied,] two people must proselytize them.

If a person says: "A false deity told me: 'Serve me,'" or "The Holy One, blessed be He, told me: 'Serve a false deity'" - he is considered a prophet who leads others astray. If the majority of the city's inhabitants are swayed by his words, he should be stoned to death.

A mesit should be stoned to death whether he proselytizes in plural terms or in singular. What is implied? He is considered a mesit if he tells a colleague, "I will worship a false deity. [Follow me.] I will go and worship..." or "Let us go and worship following the particular rite with which that deity is served," "I will slaughter. [Follow me.] I will go and slaughter..." or "Let us go and slaughter," "I will bring a burnt offering. [Follow me.] I will go and bring a burnt offering..." or "Let us go and bring a burnt offering," "I will offer a libation. [Follow me.] I will go and offer a libation..." or "Let us go and offer a libation," or "I will bow down. [Follow me.] I will go and bow down..." or "Let us go and bow down."

When a person proselytizes two individuals, they may serve as witnesses against him. They should summon him to court and testify against him, relating what he told them, and the mesit is stoned.


הַמֵּסִית אֶת רֹב אַנְשֵׁי הָעִיר הֲרֵי זֶה מַדִּיחַ וְאֵינוֹ נִקְרָא מֵסִית. הָיָה זֶה שֶׁהִדִּיחַ רֹב הָעִיר נָבִיא מִיתָתוֹ בִּסְקִילָה וְהַנִּדָּחִים הֲרֵי הֵן כִּיחִידִים וְאֵינָם כְּאַנְשֵׁי עִיר הַנִּדַּחַת עַד שֶׁיִּהְיוּ הַמַּדִּיחִים שְׁנַיִם. וְאֶחָד הָאוֹמֵר אָמְרָה לִי עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים עִבְדוּהָ. אוֹ שֶׁאָמַר אָמַר לִי הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עִבְדוּ עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים הֲרֵי זֶה נָבִיא שֶׁהִדִּיחַ. וְאִם הֻדְּחוּ אַחֲרָיו רֹב הָעִיר נִסְקָל. הַמֵּסִית שֶׁהֵסִית בֵּין בִּלְשׁוֹן רַבִּים בֵּין בִּלְשׁוֹן יָחִיד הֲרֵי זֶה נִסְקָל. כֵּיצַד. הָאוֹמֵר לַחֲבֵרוֹ אֶעֱבֹד כּוֹכָבִים אֵלֵךְ וְאֶעֱבֹד נֵלֵךְ וְנַעֲבֹד בַּעֲבוֹדָה פְּלוֹנִית שֶׁדֶּרֶךְ אוֹתָהּ עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים לְהֵעָבֵד בָּהּ. אֶזְבַּח אֵלֵךְ וְאֶזְבַּח נֵלֵךְ וְנִזְבַּח. אֲקַטֵּר אֵלֵךְ וַאֲקַטֵר נֵלֵךְ וּנְקַטֵּר. אֲנַסֵּךְ אֵלֵךְ וַאֲנַסֵּךְ נֵלֵךְ וּנְנַסֵּךְ. אֶשְׁתַּחֲוֶה אֵלֵךְ וְאֶשְׁתַּחֲוֶה נֵלֵךְ וְנִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה הֲרֵי זֶה מֵסִית. הֵסִית לִשְׁנַיִם הֲרֵי הֵן עֵדָיו וְהֵן מְבִיאִין אוֹתוֹ לְבֵית דִּין וּמְעִידִין עָלָיו שֶׁכָּךְ אָמַר לָהֶן וְסוֹקְלִין אוֹתוֹ:


A mesit does not need a warning.

If one proselytizes a single individual, the latter should tell him, "I have friends who would also be interested in this," and thus he should lure him into proselytizing before two people, so that the mesit can be executed.

If the mesit refuses to proselytize before two people, it is a mitzvah to set a trap for him. A trap is never set for a person who violates any of the Torah's other prohibitions. This is the only exception.

How is the trap set for him? The musat should bring two people and place them in a dark place where they can see the mesit and hear what he is saying without his seeing them. He tells the mesit: "Repeat what you told me privately."

[When] he does so, the musat should reply: "How can we forsake our God in heaven and serve wood and stone?" If [the mesit] retracts or remains silent, he is not held liable. If he tells him, "This is our obligation and this is beneficial to us," those who stand far off have him summoned to court and stoned.


וְאֵין הַמֵּסִית צָרִיךְ הַתְרָאָה. אָמַר לְאֶחָד הוּא אוֹמֵר יֵשׁ לִי חֲבֵרִים רוֹצִים בְּכָךְ וּמַעֲרִים עָלָיו עַד שֶׁיָּסִית בִּפְנֵי שְׁנַיִם כְּדֵי לְהָרְגוֹ. אִם לֹא רָצָה הַמֵּסִית לְהָסִית לִשְׁנַיִם מִצְוָה לְהַכְמִין לוֹ. כָּל חַיָּבֵי מִיתוֹת שֶׁבַּתּוֹרָה אֵין מַכְמִינִין עֲלֵיהֶן חוּץ מִזֶּה. כֵּיצַד מַכְמִינִין לוֹ. הַמּוּסָת מֵבִיא שְׁנַיִם וּמַעֲמִידָן בְּמָקוֹם אָפֵל כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּרְאוּ הַמֵּסִית וְיִשְׁמְעוּ דְּבָרָיו וְלֹא יִרְאֶה אוֹתָם, וְהוּא אוֹמֵר לַמֵּסִית אֱמֹר מַה שֶּׁאָמַרְתָּ לִי בְּיִחוּד, וְהוּא אוֹמֵר לוֹ, וְהַמּוּסָת מְשִׁיבוֹ הֵיאַךְ נַנִּיחַ אֶת אֱלֹהֵינוּ שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם וְנֵלֵךְ וְנַעֲבֹד אֶת הָעֵצִים וְאֶת הָאֲבָנִים. אִם חָזַר בּוֹ אוֹ שָׁתַק פָּטוּר. וְאִם אָמַר לוֹ כָּךְ הִיא חוֹבָתֵנוּ וְכָךְ יָפֶה לָנוּ, הָעוֹמְדִים שָׁם בְּרָחוֹק מְבִיאִין אוֹתוֹ לְבֵית דִּין וְסוֹקְלִים אוֹתוֹ:


It is a mitzvah for the musat to kill [the mesit], as [Deuteronomy 13:10] states: "Your hand must be the first against him to kill him."

It is forbidden for the musat to love the mesit, as [the previous verse states]: "Do not be attracted to him." Since [Exodus 23:5] states with regard to an enemy: "You must surely help him," [the question arises:] Perhaps you should help a mesit? The Torah [Deuteronomy, ibid.] teaches, "Do not... listen to him."

Since [Leviticus 19:16] teaches: "Do not stand idly over your brother's blood," [the question arises:] Perhaps you should not stand idly over a mesit's blood? The Torah teaches, [Deuteronomy, ibid.] "Do not let your eyes pity him."

The musat is forbidden to advance any arguments on his behalf, as [the verse continues,] "Do not show him any compassion." If he knows incriminating evidence, he is not permitted to remain silent, as [the verse continues,] "Do not try to cover up for him."

What is the verse which serves as a warning against a common person proselytizing as a mesit? "And all Israel will hear and they will become afraid [and they will not continue to do such evil things]" (Deuteronomy 13:12).


מִצְוָה בְּיַד הַמּוּסָת לְהָרְגוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג י) "יָדְךָ תִּהְיֶה בּוֹ בָרִאשׁוֹנָה לַהֲמִיתוֹ" וְגוֹ'. וְאָסוּר לַמּוּסָת לֶאֱהֹב אֶת הַמֵּסִית שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג ט) "לֹא תֹאבֶה לוֹ". וּלְפִי שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר בְּשׂוֹנֵא (שמות כג ה) "עָזֹב תַּעֲזֹב עִמּוֹ" יָכוֹל אַתָּה עוֹזֵב לָזֶה תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר (דברים יג ט) "וְלֹא תִשְׁמַע אֵלָיו". וּלְפִי שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא יט טז) "וְלֹא תַעֲמֹד עַל דַּם רֵעֶךָ" יָכוֹל אִי אַתָּה עוֹמֵד עַל דָּמוֹ שֶׁל זֶה תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר (דברים יג ט) "וְלֹא תָחוֹס עֵינְךָ". וְאָסוּר לַמּוּסָת לְלַמֵּד עָלָיו זְכוּת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג ט) "וְלֹא תַחְמל". וְאִם יָדַע לוֹ חוֹבָה אֵינוֹ רַשַּׁאי לִשְׁתֹּק מִמֶּנָּה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג ט) "וְלֹא תְכַסֶּה עָלָיו". וְאַזְהָרָה לְהֶדְיוֹט הַמֵּסִית מִנַּיִן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג יב) "וְכָל יִשְׂרָאֵל יִשְׁמְעוּ וְיִרָאוּ":


[The following rules apply to] a person who proselytizes others by telling them to worship him: Should he tell them: "Worship me," and they worship him, he should be stoned. If they did not worship him, even though they accepted and agreed to his statements, he is not liable for stoning.

In contrast, if he proselytizes by telling them to worship another man or another false deity, [different rules apply:] If they accept his statements and say, "We will go and worship," even if they have not actually worshiped, both of them - the mesit and the musat - should be stoned. [Deuteronomy 13:9] states: "Do not be attracted to him or listen to him." Thus, if one was attracted and listened, one is held liable.


הַמֵּסִית אֲחֵרִים לְעָבְדוֹ וְאָמַר לָהֶם עִבְדוּנִי אִם עֲבָדוּהוּ נִסְקָל וְאִם לֹא עֲבָדוּהוּ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁקִּבְּלוּ מִמֶּנּוּ וְאָמְרוּ הֵן אֵינוֹ נִסְקָל. אֲבָל אִם הֵסִית לַעֲבוֹדַת אִישׁ אַחֵר אוֹ לִשְׁאָר מִינֵי עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים אִם קִבֵּל מִמֶּנּוּ וְאָמַר הֵן נֵלֵךְ וְנַעֲבֹד אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁעֲדַיִן לֹא עָבַד שְׁנֵיהֶן נִסְקָלִין הַמֵּסִית וְהַמּוּסָת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג ט) "לֹא תֹאבֶה לוֹ וְלֹא תִשְׁמַע אֵלָיו" הָא אִם שָׁמַע וְאָבָה חַיָּב:


What is meant by [the expression], a prophet who prophesies in the name of false gods? A person who says: "This false deity or this star told me that we are commanded to do such and such or to refrain from doing so." [This applies] even when he stated the law accurately, labeling the impure as impure and the pure as pure.

If a warning was given to him [beforehand], he is executed by strangulation, as [Deuteronomy 18:20] states: "And one who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die." The warning against this [transgression] is included in the statement, [Exodus 23:13:] "And you shall not mention the name of other gods."


נָבִיא הַמִּתְנַבֵּא בְּשֵׁם עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים כֵּיצַד. זֶה הָאוֹמֵר אָמְרָה לִי עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים פְּלוֹנִית אוֹ כּוֹכָב פְּלוֹנִי שֶׁמִּצְוָה לַעֲשׂוֹת כָּךְ וְכָךְ אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא לַעֲשׂוֹת, אֲפִלּוּ כִּוֵּן אֶת הַהֲלָכָה לְטַמֵּא אֶת הַטָּמֵא וּלְטַהֵר אֶת הַטָּהוֹר, אִם הִתְרוּ בּוֹ בִּפְנֵי שְׁנַיִם הֲרֵי זֶה נֶחְנָק שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יח כ) "וַאֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּר בְּשֵׁם אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים וּמֵת הַנָּבִיא הַהוּא". וְאַזְהָרָה שֶׁלּוֹ מִכְּלָל שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כג יג) "וְשֵׁם אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים לֹא תַזְכִּירוּ":


It is forbidden to enter into a discussion or a debate with one who prophesies in the name of a false deity. We may not ask him to perform a sign or wonder, and if he does so on his own accord, we should pay no attention to it nor think about it. Whoever contemplates about the wonders [he performed, thinking], "Perhaps they are true," violates a negative commandment, as [Deuteronomy 13:4] states: "Do not listen to the words of that prophet."

Similarly, a false prophet should be executed by strangulation. [He is to be executed] although he speaks in the name of God and neither adds to nor diminishes [the mitzvot], as [Deuteronomy 18:20] states: "However, the prophet who dares to speak a matter in My name which I did not command - that prophet shall die."


וְאָסוּר לַעֲרֹךְ דִּין וּתְשׁוּבָה עִם הַמִּתְנַבֵּא בְּשֵׁם עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים וְאֵין שׁוֹאֲלִין מִמֶּנּוּ אוֹת וּמוֹפֵת. וְאִם עָשָׂה מֵעַצְמוֹ אֵין מַשְׁגִּיחִין עָלָיו וְאֵין מְהַרְהֲרִין בּוֹ. וְכָל הַמְחַשֵּׁב בְּאוֹתוֹת שֶׁלּוֹ שֶׁמָּא אֱמֶת הֵן עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג ד) "לֹא תִשְׁמַע אֶל דִּבְרֵי הַנָּבִיא הַהוּא". וְכֵן נְבִיא הַשֶּׁקֶר מִיתָתוֹ בְּחֶנֶק אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁנִּתְנַבֵּא בְּשֵׁם ה' וְלֹא הוֹסִיף וְלֹא גָּרַע שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יח כ) "אַךְ הַנָּבִיא אֲשֶׁר יָזִיד לְדַבֵּר דָּבָר בִּשְׁמִי אֵת אֲשֶׁר לֹא צִוִּיתִי" (דברים יח כ) "וּמֵת הַנָּבִיא הַהוּא":


[The category of] a false prophet includes:
a) one who "prophesies" regarding something that was never heard through prophetic vision;
b) one who "prophesies" about a subject which he heard from another prophet, saying that this prophecy was given to him.

[Both of these individuals] are to be executed by strangulation.


אֶחָד הַמִּתְנַבֵּא מַה שֶּׁלֹּא שָׁמַע בְּמַרְאֵה הַנְּבוּאָה אוֹ מִי שֶׁשָּׁמַע דִּבְרֵי נָבִיא חֲבֵרוֹ וְאָמַר שֶׁדָּבָר זֶה לוֹ נֶאֱמַר וְהוּא נִתְנַבֵּא בּוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה נְבִיא שֶׁקֶר וּמִיתָתוֹ בְּחֶנֶק:


Anyone who refrains from executing a false prophet because of the latter's [spiritual] level, [as expressed by] his adherence to the paths of prophecy, violates a negative commandment, as [Deuteronomy 18:22] states: "Do not fear him." Similarly, included within [the scope of the prohibition:] "Do not fear him" are one who withholds incriminating testimony against [a false prophet] and one who is afraid or in awe of his words.

A false prophet may be tried only by the [supreme] court of 71 judges.


כָּל הַמּוֹנֵעַ עַצְמוֹ מֵהֲרִיגַת נְבִיא הַשֶּׁקֶר מִפְּנֵי מַעֲלָתוֹ שֶׁהֲרֵי הוֹלֵךְ בְּדַרְכֵי הַנְּבוּאָה הֲרֵי זֶה עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יח כב) "לֹא תָגוּר מִמֶּנּוּ". וְכֵן הַמּוֹנֵעַ עַצְמוֹ מִלְּלַמֵּד עָלָיו חוֹבָה אוֹ הַפּוֹחֵד וְיָרֵא מִדְּבָרָיו הֲרֵי הוּא בִּכְלַל לֹא תָגוּר מִמֶּנּוּ. וְאֵין דָּנִין נְבִיא הַשֶּׁקֶר אֶלָּא בְּבֵית דִּין שֶׁל שִׁבְעִים וְאֶחָד:


A person who makes a vow or takes an oath in the name of a false deity is [liable for] lashes, as [Exodus 23:13] states: "And you shall not mention the name of other gods."

[This applies] both to one who takes such an oath for his own reasons and to one who takes such an oath because of a gentile. It is forbidden to have a gentile take an oath on his deity. It is even forbidden to mention the name of a gentile deity without any connection to an oath, as [implied by the expression], "You shall not mention."


הַנּוֹדֵר בְּשֵׁם עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים וְהַנִּשְׁבָּע בָּהּ לוֹקֶה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כג יג) "וְשֵׁם אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים לֹא תַזְכִּירוּ". אֶחָד הַנִּשְׁבָּע בָּהּ לְעַצְמוֹ וְאֶחָד הַנִּשְׁבָּע בָּהּ לַעֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים. וְאָסוּר לְהַשְׁבִּיעַ הָעוֹבֵד כּוֹכָבִים בְּיִרְאָתוֹ. אֲפִלּוּ לְהַזְכִּיר שֵׁם עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים שֶׁלֹּא דֶּרֶךְ שְׁבוּעָה אָסוּר שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר "לֹא תַזְכִּירוּ":


A person should not tell a colleague: "Wait for me near a particular false deity," or the like.

It is permitted to mention the name of any false deity that is mentioned in the Bible - e.g., Peor, Ba'al, Nevo, Gad, and the like. It is forbidden to cause others to take oaths or vows in the name of false deities. [In regard to all these prohibitions,] the only [transgressor] liable for lashes is one who [himself] makes a vow or an oath in the name [of a false deity].


לֹא יֹאמַר אָדָם לַחֲבֵרוֹ שְׁמֹר לִי בַּצַּד עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים פְּלוֹנִית וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהּ. וְכָל עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים הַכְּתוּבָה בְּכִתְבֵי הַקֹּדֶשׁ מֻתָּר לְהַזְכִּיר שְׁמָהּ כְּגוֹן פְּעוֹר וּבֵל וּנְבוֹ וְגָד וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן. וְאָסוּר לִגְרֹם לַאֲחֵרִים שֶׁיִּדְּרוּ וְשֶׁיְּקַיְּמוּ בְּשֵׁם עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים. וְאֵינוֹ לוֹקֶה אֶלָּא הַנּוֹדֵר בִּשְׁמָהּ וְהַמְקַיֵּם בִּשְׁמָהּ וְהוּא הַנִּשְׁבָּע בִּשְׁמָהּ:

Avodat Kochavim - Chapter Six


Anyone who willingly, as a conscious act of defiance, performs the deeds associated with an ov or a yid'oni is liable for karet. If witnesses were present and warned him, he should be stoned to death. If he performed these actions inadvertently, he must bring a fixed sin offering.

What do the deeds associated with an ov involve? A person stands up and offers an incense offering of known content. He holds a wand of myrtle in his hand and waves it while whispering a known incantation in a hushed tone. [This continues] until the person making the inquiry hears a voice, as if another person is speaking to him and replying to his questions. It appears as if the words are coming from below the earth in a very low tone, to the extent that it cannot be perceived by the ear, but only sensed by thought.

Similarly, among the deeds associated with an ov is taking the skull of a corpse, offering incense, and chanting incantations until one hears a voice in a very low tone emanating from his armpits and replying [to his questions]. Anyone who performs one of these acts should be stoned to death.


הָעוֹשֶׂה אוֹב אוֹ יִדְּעֹנִי בִּרְצוֹנוֹ בְּזָדוֹן חַיָּב כָּרֵת וְאִם הָיוּ שָׁם עֵדִים וְהַתְרָאָה נִסְקָל. הָיָה שׁוֹגֵג מֵבִיא חַטָּאת קְבוּעָה. כֵּיצַד הוּא מַעֲשֵׂה הָאוֹב. זֶה שֶׁהוּא עוֹמֵד וּמַקְטִיר קְטֹרֶת יְדוּעָה וְאוֹחֵז שַׁרְבִיט שֶׁל הֲדַס בְּיָדוֹ וּמְנִיפוֹ וְהוּא מְדַבֵּר בַּלָּאט בִּדְבָרִים יְדוּעִים אֶצְלָם עַד שֶׁיִּשְׁמַע הַשּׁוֹאֵל כְּאִלּוּ אֶחָד מְדַבֵּר עִמּוֹ וּמְשִׁיבוֹ עַל מַה שֶּׁהוּא שׁוֹאֵל בִּדְבָרִים מִתַּחַת הָאָרֶץ בְּקוֹל נָמוּךְ עַד מְאֹד וּכְאִלּוּ אֵינוֹ נִכָּר לָאֹזֶן אֶלָּא בְּמַחֲשָׁבָה מַרְגִּישׁ בּוֹ. וְכֵן הַלּוֹקֵחַ גֻּלְגּלֶת הַמֵּת וּמַקְטִיר לָהּ וּמְנַחֵשׁ בָּהּ עַד שֶׁיִּשָּׁמַע כְּאִלּוּ קוֹל יוֹצֵא מִתַּחַת שֶׁחְיוֹ שָׁפָל עַד מְאֹד וּמְשִׁיבוֹ. כָּל אֵלּוּ מַעֲשֵׂה אוֹב הֵן וְהָעוֹשֶׂה אֶחָד מֵהֶן נִסְקָל:


What do the deeds associated with a yid'oni involve? A person places a bone from a bird whose name is yidua in his mouth, offers incense, and performs other deeds until he falls into a trance, [losing self-control] like an epileptic, and relates events which will occur in the future.

All of these are types of idol worship. What is the source for the warning against them? [Leviticus 19:31]: "Do not turn to the ovot or the yid'onim."


כֵּיצַד מַעֲשֵׂה הַיִּדְּעֹנִי. מֵנִיחַ עֶצֶם עוֹף שֶׁשְּׁמוֹ יָדוּעַ בְּפִיו וּמַקְטִיר וְעוֹשֶׂה מַעֲשִׂים אֲחֵרִים עַד שֶׁיִּפּל כְּנִכְפֶּה וִידַבֵּר בְּפִיו דְּבָרִים שֶׁעֲתִידִים לִהְיוֹת. וְכָל אֵלּוּ מִינֵי עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים הֵן וְאַזְהָרָה שֶׁלָּהֶן מִנַּיִן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא יט לא) "אַל תִּפְנוּ אֶל הָאֹבֹת" וְגוֹ':


Anyone who willingly, as a conscious act of defiance, gives of his progeny to Molech is liable for karet. If he did so inadvertently, he must bring a fixed sin offering. If witnesses were present and warned him, he should be stoned to death, as [Leviticus 20:2] states: "Whoever gives of his progeny to Molech will surely die. The people will stone him."

Which verse serves as a warning for this [prohibition]? "Do not give of your progeny to Molech" [Leviticus 18:21]. Also, further on [Deuteronomy 18:10] states: "There shall not be found among you one who passes his son or daughter through fire."

What was done? A person would kindle a great fire and then take some of his progeny and give them to the priests who serve the fire. After the child was given to them, the priests return the son to his father to pass him through the fire at his will. The father of the child is the one who passes his child through the fire with the priests' permission. He passes him through the fire from one side to the other [while carrying him, the father walking on] his feet in the midst of the flames.

Thus, [the father] does not cremate his son to Molech, as sons and daughters are cremated in the worship of other deities. Rather, this form of worship called Molech involved merely passing [the child through the fire]. Therefore, if one performed this service to a deity other than Molech, one is not liable.


הַנּוֹתֵן מִזַּרְעוֹ לַמּלֶךְ בִּרְצוֹנוֹ וּבְזָדוֹן חַיָּב כָּרֵת. בְּשׁוֹגֵג מֵבִיא חַטָּאת קְבוּעָה. וְאִם עָשָׂה בְּעֵדִים וְהַתְרָאָה נִסְקָל שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא כ ב) "אֲשֶׁר יִתֵּן מִזַּרְעוֹ לַמּלֶךְ מוֹת יוּמָת" וְגוֹ'. וְאַזְהָרָה שֶׁלּוֹ מִנַּיִן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא יח כא) "וּמִזַּרְעֲךָ לֹא תִתֵּן לְהַעֲבִיר לַמּלֶךְ" וּלְהַלָּן הוּא אוֹמֵר (דברים יח י) "לֹא יִמָּצֵא בְךָ מַעֲבִיר בְּנוֹ וּבִתּוֹ בָּאֵשׁ". כֵּיצַד הָיוּ עוֹשִׂים. מַדְלִיק אֵשׁ גְּדוֹלָה וְלוֹקֵחַ מִקְצָת זַרְעוֹ וּמוֹסְרוֹ לְכֹהֲנֵיהֶם עוֹבְדֵי הָאֵשׁ. וְאוֹתָן הַכֹּהֲנִים נוֹתְנִין הַבֵּן לְאָבִיו אַחַר שֶׁנִּמְסַר בְּיָדָן לְהַעֲבִירוֹ בָּאֵשׁ בִּרְשׁוּתוֹ וַאֲבִי הַבֵּן הוּא שֶׁמַּעֲבִיר בְּנוֹ עַל הָאֵשׁ בִּרְשׁוּת הַכֹּהֲנִים וּמַעֲבִירוֹ בְּרַגְלָיו מִצַּד זֶה לְצַד אַחֵר בְּתוֹךְ הַשַּׁלְהֶבֶת. לֹא שֶׁהוּא שׂוֹרְפוֹ לַמּלֶךְ כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁשּׂוֹרְפִין בְּנֵיהֶם וּבְנוֹתֵיהֶם לַעֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים אַחֶרֶת אֶלָּא בְּהַעֲבָרָה בִּלְבַד הָיְתָה עֲבוֹדָה זוֹ שֶׁשְּׁמָהּ מלֶךְ. לְפִיכָךְ הָעוֹשֶׂה עֲבוֹדָה זוֹ לַעֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים אַחֶרֶת חוּץ מִמּלֶךְ פָּטוּר:


One is not liable for karet or stoning until one gives over his son to Molech, passing him through the fire as he carries him. If he gives him over, but does not pass him through the flames, or passes him through the flames without giving him over, or gives him over and passes him through the flames, but does not carry him, he is not held liable.

He is not held liable until he gives over some of his progeny and leaves some of his progeny, as [implied by Leviticus 20:3]: "For he gave of his progeny to Molech" - i.e., some [of his progeny] and not his entire [progeny].


אֵינוֹ חַיָּב כָּרֵת אוֹ סְקִילָה עַד שֶׁיִּמְסֹר בְּנוֹ לַמּלֶךְ וְיַעֲבִירוֹ בְּרַגְלָיו בָּאֵשׁ דֶּרֶךְ הַעֲבָרָה. מָסַר וְלֹא הֶעֱבִיר הֶעֱבִיר וְלֹא מָסַר. אוֹ שֶׁמָּסַר וְהֶעֱבִיר שֶׁלֹּא בְּדֶרֶךְ הַעֲבָרָה פָּטוּר. וְאֵינוֹ חַיָּב עַד שֶׁיִּמְסֹר מִקְצָת זַרְעוֹ וְיָנִיחַ מִקְצָת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא כ ג) "כִּי מִזַּרְעוֹ נָתַן לַמּלֶךְ" מִקְצָתוֹ וְלֹא כֻּלּוֹ:


[The prohibition against giving one's progeny to Molech includes:] both progeny of legitimate pedigree and illegitimate pedigree, sons and daughters, children and grandchildren. One is liable for giving over any of one's descendants, because they are all included in the term "progeny."

In contrast, if one passed one's brothers, sisters, or ancestors [through the fire] or if one caused oneself to be passed through the fires, one is not held liable. A person who passes one of his progeny [through the fire] while he is sleeping or blind is not liable.


אֶחָד זֶרַע כָּשֵׁר וְאֶחָד זֶרַע פָּסוּל אֶחָד בָּנָיו וּבְנוֹתָיו בְּנֵיהֶם וּבְנֵי בְּנֵיהֶם עַל כָּל יוֹצְאֵי יְרֵכוֹ הוּא חַיָּב מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהֵן זַרְעוֹ. אֲבָל אִם הֶעֱבִיר אֶחָיו אוֹ אַחְיוֹתָיו אוֹ אֲבוֹתָיו אוֹ שֶׁהֶעֱבִיר עַצְמוֹ פָּטוּר. הֶעֱבִיר אֶחָד מִזַּרְעוֹ וְהוּא יָשֵׁן אוֹ שֶׁהָיָה סוּמָא פָּטוּר:


A monument which the Torah has forbidden is a structure around which people gather. [This prohibition applies] even [when it was constructed] for the service of God, because this is a pagan practice, as [Deuteronomy 16:22] states: "Do not erect a monument which God hates." Whoever erects a monument is [liable for] lashes.

Similarly, [a person who bows down on] the kneeling stone mentioned in the Torah receives lashes - even if he prostrates oneself upon it to God - as [Leviticus 26:1] states: "Do not place a kneeling stone in your land to prostrate yourself upon it." The pagans would customarily place a stone before a false deity so that they could prostrate themselves upon it. Therefore, this practice is not followed in the worship of God.

A person is not [liable for] lashes until he spreads out his hands and feet on the stone, thus prostrating himself on it entirely. This is what the Torah means by bowing.


מַצֵּבָה שֶׁאָסְרָה תּוֹרָה הִיא בִּנְיָן שֶׁהַכּל מִתְקַבְּצִין אֶצְלָהּ וַאֲפִלּוּ לַעֲבֹד אֶת ה' שֶׁכֵּן הָיָה דֶּרֶךְ עוֹבְדֵי כּוֹכָבִים. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים טז כב) "וְלֹא תָקִים לְךָ מַצֵּבָה". וְכָל הַמֵּקִים מַצֵּבָה לוֹקֶה. וְכֵן אֶבֶן מַשְׂכִּית הָאֲמוּרָה בַּתּוֹרָה אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהוּא מִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה עָלֶיהָ לַשֵּׁם לוֹקֶה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא כו א) "וְאֶבֶן מַשְׂכִּית לֹא תִתְּנוּ בְּאַרְצְכֶם לְהִשְׁתַּחֲוֹת עָלֶיהָ" מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהָיָה דֶּרֶךְ עוֹבְדֵי כּוֹכָבִים לְהַנִּיחַ אֶבֶן לְפָנֶיהָ לְהִשְׁתַּחֲוֹת עָלֶיהָ. לְפִיכָךְ אֵין עוֹשִׂין כֵּן לַה'. וְאֵינוֹ לוֹקֶה עַד שֶׁיִּפְשֹׁט יָדָיו וְרַגְלָיו עַל הָאֶבֶן וְנִמְצָא כֻּלּוֹ מֻטָּל עָלֶיהָ שֶׁזּוֹ הִיא הִשְׁתַּחֲוָיָה הָאֲמוּרָה בַּתּוֹרָה:


Where does the [prohibition mentioned above] apply? Every place outside the Temple. In the Temple, however, it is permitted to bow down to God on stone.

This concept is derived as follows: [Leviticus, ibid.] states: "Do not place... in your land." "In your land," it is forbidden to prostrate oneself on stones. You may, however, prostrate yourself on hewn stones in the Temple.

For this reason, it is a universally accepted custom among the Jewish people to place mats, straw, or hay in synagogues that are paved with stones, to separate between their faces and the stones. If it is impossible to find anything to separate between them and the stones, the person should go to another place to prostrate himself, or lie on his side, so that he will not press his face to the stone.


בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בִּשְׁאָר (הָאֲרָצוֹת) אֲבָל בַּמִּקְדָּשׁ מֻתָּר לְהִשְׁתַּחֲווֹת עַל הָאֲבָנִים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא כו א) "בְּאַרְצְכֶם", בְּאַרְצְכֶם אִי אַתֶּם מִשְׁתַּחֲוִים עַל הָאֲבָנִים אֲבָל אַתֶּם מִשְׁתַּחֲוִים עַל הָאֲבָנִים הַמְפֻצָּלוֹת בַּמִּקְדָּשׁ. וּמִפְּנֵי זֶה נָהֲגוּ כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל לְהַצִּיעַ מַחְצְלָאוֹת בְּבָתֵּי כְּנֵסִיּוֹת הָרְצוּפוֹת בַּאֲבָנִים אוֹ מִינֵי קַשׁ וְתֶבֶן לְהַבְדִּיל בֵּין פְּנֵיהֶם וּבֵין הָאֲבָנִים. וְאִם לֹא מָצָא דָּבָר מַבְדִּיל בֵּינוֹ וּבֵין הָאֶבֶן הוֹלֵךְ לְמָקוֹם אַחֵר וּמִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה אוֹ שׁוֹחֶה עַל צִדּוֹ וָמַטֶּה כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יַדְבִּיק פָּנָיו בָּאֶבֶן:


A person who prostrates himself to God upon paved stones without spreading out his hands and feet is not [liable for] lashes. He is, however, punished by "blows for rebelliousness." In contrast, one who prostrates himself to a false deity should be stoned to death, whether or not he spreads out his hands and feet. As soon as he buries his face in the ground [he is liable].


כָּל הַמִּשְׁתַּחֲוֶה לַה' עַל הָאֲבָנִים הַמְפֻצָּלוֹת בְּלֹא פִּשּׁוּט יָדַיִם וְרַגְלַיִם אֵינוֹ לוֹקֶה אֶלָּא מַכִּין אוֹתוֹ מַכַּת מַרְדּוּת. אֲבָל לַעֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים אֶחָד הִשְׁתַּחֲוָיָה בְּפִשּׁוּט יָדַיִם וְרַגְלַיִם אוֹ בְּלֹא פִּשּׁוּט יָדַיִם וְרַגְלַיִם מִשָּׁעָה שֶׁיִּכְבּשׁ פָּנָיו בַּקַּרְקַע נִסְקָל:


A person who plants a tree near the altar or anywhere in the Temple courtyard - regardless of whether it is a fruit-bearing tree or not - is [liable for] lashes, as [Deuteronomy 16:21] states: "Do not plant an asherah or any other tree near the altar of God, your Lord." [This prohibition applies] even when he did so to beautify the Temple and make it more attractive.

[The reason for this prohibition is] that this was a pagan practice. They would plant trees near their altars so that people would gather there.


הַנּוֹטֵעַ אִילָן אֵצֶל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ אוֹ בְּכָל הָעֲזָרָה בֵּין אִילַן סְרָק בֵּין אִילַן מַאֲכָל אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁעֲשָׂאוֹ לְנוֹי לַמִּקְדָּשׁ וְיֹפִי לוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה לוֹקֶה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים טז כא) "לֹא תִטַּע לְךָ אֲשֵׁרָה כָּל עֵץ אֵצֶל מִזְבַּח ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ". מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהָיָה זֶה דֶּרֶךְ עוֹבְדֵי כּוֹכָבִים נוֹטְעִין אִילָנוֹת בְּצַד מִזְבֵּחַ שֶׁלָּהּ כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּתְקַבְּצוּ שָׁם הָעָם:


It is forbidden to construct a porch made of wood in the Temple as one would do in one's courtyard. Even though [the wood would be affixed] within the structure and not planted within the ground. This is an extra restriction, as [implied by the words:] "any other tree" [in the verse cited above]. Instead, all the porches and structures which protruded from the walls within the sanctuary were of stone and not of wood.


אָסוּר לַעֲשׂוֹת אַכְסַדְרָאוֹת שֶׁל עֵץ בַּמִּקְדָּשׁ כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁעוֹשִׂין בַּחֲצֵרוֹת, אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהוּא בְּבִנְיָן וְאֵינוֹ עֵץ נָטוּעַ הַרְחָקָה יְתֵרָה הִיא שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים טז כא) "כָּל עֵץ". אֶלָּא כָּל הָאַכְסַדְרָאוֹת וְהַסְּבָכוֹת הַיּוֹצְאוֹת מִן הַכְּתָלִים שֶׁהָיוּ בַּמִּקְדָּשׁ שֶׁל אֶבֶן הָיוּ לֹא שֶׁל עֵץ:

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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Vowelized Hebrew text courtesy Torat Emet under CC 2.5 license.
The text on this page contains sacred literature. Please do not deface or discard.