Get the best of content every week!
Find answers to fascinating Jewish questions, enjoy holiday tips and guides, read real-life stories and more!

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Sanhedrin veha’Onashin haMesurin lahem - Chapter 25

Show content in:

Sanhedrin veha’Onashin haMesurin lahem - Chapter 25

Introduction to Hilchos

"Open your mouth, judge righteously, and render justice for the poor and indigent" Proverbs 31:9

The fourteenth book,

Sefer Shoftim

The Book of Judges

It contains five halachot. They are: Hilchot Sanhedrin V'HaOnshin Hamesurim Lahem - The laws of the courts and the penalties placed under their jurisdiction

Hilchot Edut - The laws of witnesses

Hilchot Mamrim - The laws of the rebellious ones

Hilchot Evel - The laws of mourning

Hilchot Melachim UMilchamotehem - The laws of kings and their wars


It is forbidden for a judge to assert himself in a lordly and haughty manner over his community. Instead, he should conduct himself with humility and awe. Any leader who casts unnecessary fear upon the community not for the sake of heaven will be punished. And he will not see a son who is a Torah scholar, as implied by a non-literal reading of Job 37:24: "Therefore people fear him - he will never see anyone with a wise heart."


אָסוּר לָאָדָם לִנְהֹג בִּשְׂרָרָה עַל הַצִּבּוּר וּבְגַסּוּת הָרוּחַ אֶלָּא בַּעֲנָוָה וְיִרְאָה. וְכָל פַּרְנָס הַמַּטִּיל אֵימָה יְתֵרָה עַל הַצִּבּוּר שֶׁלֹּא לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם נֶעֱנָשׁ. וְאֵינוֹ רוֹאֶה לוֹ בֶּן תַּלְמִיד חָכָם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (איוב לז כד) "לָכֵן יְרֵאוּהוּ אֲנָשִׁים לֹא יִרְאֶה כָּל חַכְמֵי לֵב":


Similarly, a judge may not treat them with capriciousness even though they are common people. He should not step over the heads of the holy people. Even though they are simple people and lowly, they are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the hosts of God whom He led out of Egypt with great power and a strong hand. He should patiently bear the difficulty of the community and their burden like Moses our teacher, as Numbers 11:12 states concerning him: "As a nursemaid will carry an infant." And Deuteronomy 1:16 states: "And I commanded your judges." This is a admonition to the judges to bear the community like a nursemaid carries an infant.

Take an example from Moses, the master of all prophets whom the Holy One, blessed be He, sent to Egypt, about whom Exodus 6:12 states: "And I commanded them concerning the children of Israel." The Oral Tradition relates that God told Moses and Aaron to accept this mission even though the people would curse them and stone them.


וְכֵן אָסוּר לוֹ לִנְהֹג בָּהֶן קַלּוּת רֹאשׁ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהֵן עַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ. וְלֹא יַפְסִיעַ עַל רָאשֵׁי עַם הַקֹּדֶשׁ. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהֵן הֶדְיוֹטוֹת וּשְׁפָלִים בְּנֵי אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק וְיַעֲקֹב הֵם וְצִבְאוֹת הַשֵּׁם שֶׁהוֹצִיא מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם בְּכֹחַ גָּדוֹל וּבְיַד חֲזָקָה. וְסוֹבֵל טֹרַח הַצִּבּוּר וּמַשָּׂאָן כְּמשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר בּוֹ כַּאֲשֶׁר יִשָּׂא הָאֹמֵן אֶת הַיֹּנֵק. וַהֲרֵי הוּא אוֹמֵר (דברים א טז) "וָאֲצַוֶּה אֶת שֹׁפְטֵיכֶם" זוֹ אַזְהָרָה לַדַּיָּן שֶׁיִּסְבּל אֶת הַצִּבּוּר (במדבר יא יב) "כַּאֲשֶׁר יִשָּׂא הָאוֹמֵן אֶת הַיּוֹנֵק". צֵא וּלְמַד מִמּשֶׁה רַבָּן שֶׁל כָּל הַנְּבִיאִים כֵּיוָן שֶׁשְּׁלָחוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בְּמִצְרַיִם וְנֶאֱמַר (שמות ו יג) "וַיְצַוֵּם אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל" אָמְרוּ מִפִּי הַקַּבָּלָה שֶׁאָמַר לָהֶם לְמשֶׁה וּלְאַהֲרֹן עַל מְנָת שֶׁיִּהְיוּ מְקַלְּלִים אֶתְכֶם וְסוֹקְלִין אֶתְכֶם בַּאֲבָנִים:


Just as a judge is commanded to fulfill this mitzvah; so, too, the community is commanded to show honor to a judge, as Deuteronomy 1:18 states: "And I commanded you...." This is a command to the community that they should treat a judge with awe. He should not act in a demeaning manner in their presence, nor should he conduct himself in a frivolous manner.


כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁנִּצְטַוָּה הַדַּיָּן לִנְהֹג בְּמִצְוָה זוֹ כָּךְ נִצְטַוּוּ הַצִּבּוּר לִנְהֹג כָּבוֹד בַּדַּיָּן. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים א יח) "וָאֲצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם" זוֹ אַזְהָרָה לַצִּבּוּר שֶׁתִּהְיֶה אֵימַת הַדַּיָּן עֲלֵיהֶן וְלֹא יִתְבַּזֶּה בִּפְנֵיהֶם וְלֹא יִנְהֹג קַלּוּת רֹאשׁ בְּעַצְמוֹ:


When a person is given a position of leadership over the community, he is forbidden to perform work in the presence of three people, lest he be demeaned in their eyes. Now if performing work in public is forbidden to him, certainly, it is forbidden for him to eat and drink or to become intoxicated in the presence of people at large and in the gatherings of the common people and in friendly get-togethers. Woe to those judges who conduct themselves in this manner, disgracing the Torah of Moses. They debase its judgments and lower them to the earth, casting them in the dust, bringing about harm to them and their descendants in this world and in the world to come.


כֵּיוָן שֶׁנִּתְמַנָּה אָדָם פַּרְנָס עַל הַצִּבּוּר אָסוּר בַּעֲשִׂיַּת מְלָאכָה בִּפְנֵי שְׁלֹשָׁה כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִתְבַּזֶּה בִּפְנֵיהֶם. אִם הַמְּלָאכָה בָּרַבִּים אֲסוּרָה עָלָיו קַל וָחֹמֶר לֶאֱכל וְלִשְׁתּוֹת וּלְהִשְׁתַּכֵּר בִּפְנֵי רַבִּים וּבִכְנִיסַת עַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ וּבִסְעוּדַת מֵרֵעוּת. אוֹי לָהֶם לְאוֹתָן הַדַּיָּנִים שֶׁנָּהֲגוּ בְּכָךְ מֵעֶלְבּוֹן תּוֹרַת משֶׁה שֶׁבִּזּוּ דִּינֶיהָ וְהִשְׁפִּילוּהָ עַד אֶרֶץ וְהִגִּיעוּהָ עַד עָפָר וְגָרְמוּ רָעָה לָהֶן וְלִבְנֵי בְּנֵיהֶם בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה וְלָעוֹלָם הַבָּא:


It is forbidden to conduct oneself capriciously in relation to the agent sent by the court. For the word of the court's agent is accepted as that of two witnesses with regard to the question of ostracism. Were he to say: "So-and-so disgraced me," "...disgraced the judge," or "...refused to appear in court," that person is ostracized on the basis of his statements. We do not, however, have a document recording the ban of ostracism composed until two witness come and testify that he refused to appear in the court.


אָסוּר לִנְהֹג קַלּוּת רֹאשׁ בִּשְׁלִיחַ בֵּית דִּין וַהֲרֵי הַשָּׁלִיחַ נֶאֱמָן כִּשְׁנַיִם לְעִנְיַן הַנִּדּוּי. שֶׁאִם אָמַר פְּלוֹנִי הִקְלַנִי אוֹ הִקְלָה הַדַּיָּן אוֹ לֹא רָצָה לָבוֹא לְדִין מְשַׁמְּתִין אוֹתוֹ עַל פִּיו. אֲבָל אֵין כּוֹתְבִין פִּיתְחָא עָלָיו עַד שֶׁיָּבוֹאוּ שְׁנַיִם וְיָעִידוּ עָלָיו שֶׁנִּמְנָע לָבוֹא לְבֵית דִּין:


An agent of the court is not liable for relating unfavorable gossip for telling the court about these matters. Whenever anyone causes aggravation to the agent of the court, the court has the license to have "stripes for rebellious conduct" administered to him.


אֵין שְׁלִיחַ בֵּית דִּין חַיָּב בַּאֲמִירַת דְּבָרִים מִשּׁוּם לָשׁוֹן הָרַע. וְכָל הַמְצַעֵר שְׁלִיחַ בֵּית דִּין יֵשׁ לְבֵית דִּין רְשׁוּת לְהַכּוֹתוֹ מַכַּת מַרְדּוּת:


When the agent of the court orders a person to appear in court, saying: "So-and-so sent me," and mentioning the name of only one of the judges, a document declaring his ostracism cannot be composed against the litigant unless the agent summons him in the name of all three judges.

When does the above apply? When the agent went and conveyed this message on a day on which it was not known that the court to hold session. On a day on which it is known to hold session, by contrast, everyone knows that all of the judges gather together. Even though the agent came and conveyed the message in the name of only one judge, it is as if he came in the name of all three.


שְׁלִיחַ שֶׁאָמַר פְּלוֹנִי שְׁלָחַנִי בְּשֵׁם אֶחָד מִן הַדַּיָּנִים וְלֹא רָצָה בַּעַל דִּין לָבוֹא אֵין כּוֹתְבִין עָלָיו פִּיתְחָא שֶׁל שַׁמְתָּא עַד שֶׁיֹּאמַר מִשֵּׁם שְׁלָשְׁתָּן. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים שֶׁהָלַךְ הַשָּׁלִיחַ בְּיוֹם שֶׁאֵינוֹ יָדוּעַ לִישִׁיבַת הַדַּיָּנִים. אֲבָל בַּיּוֹם הַיָּדוּעַ שֶׁהַדַּיָּנִים יוֹשְׁבִים בּוֹ לְדִין הַכּל יוֹדְעִים שֶׁכָּל הַדַּיָּנִים מְקֻבָּצִין וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁבָּא הַשָּׁלִיחַ בְּשֵׁם אֶחָד כְּאִלּוּ בָּא בְּשֵׁם שְׁלָשְׁתָּן:


When a person is summoned by the court and does not appear in court, a ban of ostracism is pronounced against him. This ban is recorded in a legal document; he is liable to pay the fee of the scribe who composes the document. When he comes to court, this document is torn.

If such a document was composed because a litigant did not accept a judgment, it may be torn up when he states that he is willing to accept it. When a court summons a litigant to appear on a certain day and he does not appear at all that day, a document recording the ban of ostracism is composed that evening.

When does the above apply? When he lived in the city and stubbornly refused to come. If, however, he lived in the outlying villages and would go in and go out from the city at times, we summon him to appear in court on Monday, Thursday, and the following Monday. If the second Monday passes without him appearing, we do not compose a ban of ostracism until the following day.


מִי שֶׁשָּׁלְחוּ לוֹ בֵּית דִּין לָבוֹא וְלֹא בָּא לַדִּין מְנַדִּין אוֹתוֹ וְכוֹתְבִין עָלָיו פִּיתְחָא וְנוֹתֵן שְׂכַר הַסּוֹפֵר וּבָעֵת שֶׁיָּבוֹא קוֹרְעִין הַפִּיתְחָא. כָּתְבוּ לוֹ פִּיתְחָא מִפְּנֵי שֶׁלֹּא קִבֵּל הַדִּין כֵּיוָן שֶׁאָמַר הֲרֵינִי מְקַבֵּל הַדִּין קוֹרְעִין נִדּוּיוֹ. קָבְעוּ לוֹ בֵּית דִּין זְמַן שֶׁיָּבוֹא הַיּוֹם וְלֹא בָּא כָּל אוֹתוֹ הַיּוֹם כּוֹתְבִין עָלָיו פִּיתְחָא לָעֶרֶב. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים כְּשֶׁהָיָה בַּמְּדִינָה וּמָרַד וְלֹא בָּא. אֲבָל אִם הָיָה בַּכְּפָרִים וְיוֹצֵא וְנִכְנָס קוֹבְעִים לוֹ זְמַן שֵׁנִי וַחֲמִישִׁי וְשֵׁנִי. וְאִם שָׁלַם יוֹם שֵׁנִי וְלֹא בָּא אֵין כּוֹתְבִין עָלָיו פִּיתְחָא עַד לְמָחָר:


We do not summon a person to court during the month of Nissan, nor during the month of Tishrei, because the people are occupied with the preparations for the festivals. Nor is a summons issued for Friday, or for the day preceding a festival. We do, however, issue a summons in Nissan, for him to appear after Nissan, and a summons in Tishrei, for him to appear after Tishrei. We do not, however, issue a summons on Friday for a litigant to appear after the Sabbath. The rationale is that everyone is busy on Friday.


אֵין קוֹבְעִין זְמַן לֹא בִּימֵי נִיסָן וְלֹא בִּימֵי תִּשְׁרֵי מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהָעָם טְרוּדִין בְּמוֹעֲדוֹת. וְלֹא בְּעֶרֶב שַׁבָּת וְלֹא בְּעֶרֶב יוֹם טוֹב. אֲבָל קוֹבְעִין בְּנִיסָן שֶׁיָּבוֹא אַחַר נִיסָן וּבְתִשְׁרֵי שֶׁיָּבוֹא אַחַר תִּשְׁרֵי. אֲבָל לֹא קוֹבְעִין בְּעֶרֶב שַׁבָּת שֶׁיָּבוֹא אַחַר שַׁבָּת מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהַכּל טְרוּדִין בְּעֶרֶב שַׁבָּת:


When a person was located in a city and the agent of the court went to summon him, but could not find him, a court date is not set until the agent finds him and conveys this information.

Different rules apply if he lives in a village outside the city. If he is accustomed to coming on that day, the agent may tell one of his neighbors, even a woman: "If so-and-so comes, inform him that the court summoned him to appear at this time." If he does not come that day, he is placed under a ban of ostracism that evening.

When does the above apply? When the way which he is wont to follow does not pass the place of the court. If, however, his path passes the court, he is not placed under a ban of ostracism until the agent notifies him himself. For perhaps the neighbors will not notify him. For they will rationalize: "His path passes past the entrance to the court. Certainly, he visited them and was released." Similarly, if he will not come into the city until the following day, we do not rely on the neighbors, for perhaps they will forget and fail to notify him.


מִי שֶׁהוּא בַּמְּדִינָה וְהָלַךְ שְׁלִיחַ בֵּית דִּין וְלֹא מְצָאוֹ אֵין קוֹבְעִין לוֹ זְמַן עַד שֶׁיִּמְצָא אוֹתוֹ הַשָּׁלִיחַ וְיֹאמַר לוֹ. הָיָה בִּכְפָר חוּץ לַמְּדִינָה אִם דַּרְכּוֹ לָבוֹא בְּאוֹתוֹ הַיּוֹם אוֹמֵר הַשָּׁלִיחַ אֲפִלּוּ לְאֶחָד מִן הַשְּׁכֵנִים אֲפִלּוּ לְאִשָּׁה אִם יָבוֹא פְּלוֹנִי הוֹדִיעוּהוּ שֶׁבֵּית דִּין קָבְעוּ לוֹ זְמַן שֶׁיָּבוֹא לְבֵית דִּין. וְאִם לֹא בָּא מְנַדִּין אוֹתוֹ לָעֶרֶב. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים כְּשֶׁאֵין הַדֶּרֶךְ שֶׁדַּרְכּוֹ לֵילֵךְ בָּהּ עַל מְקוֹם בֵּית דִּין אֲבָל אִם דַּרְכּוֹ עֲלֵיהֶן אֵין מְנַדִּין אוֹתוֹ עַד שֶׁיּוֹדִיעוֹ הַשָּׁלִיחַ בְּעַצְמוֹ שֶׁמָּא לֹא אָמְרוּ לוֹ הַשְּׁכֵנִים. שֶׁהֲרֵי הֵם אוֹמְרִין דַּרְכּוֹ עַל פֶּתַח בֵּית דִּין וּכְבָר הָלַךְ אֲלֵיהֶם וְנִפְטַר. וְכֵן אִם לֹא בָּא בַּמְּדִינָה עַד לְמָחָר אֵין סוֹמְכִין עַל הַשְּׁכֵנִים שֶׁמָּא שָׁכְחוּ וְלֹא אָמְרוּ לוֹ:


The following laws apply when a person comes to the court and accepts the judgment issued against him, he is told to make financial restitution, but does not do so. He is not placed under a ban of ostracism until he is given a warning on Monday, Thursday, and the following Monday. If he does not pay by that time, he is placed under a ban of ostracism until he pays what he is liable. If he waits 30 days and does not seek to have the ban of ostracism lifted, he is excommunicated.


מִי שֶׁבָּא לְבֵית דִּין וְקִבֵּל הַדִּין וְאָמְרוּ לוֹ לְשַׁלֵּם וְהָלַךְ וְלֹא שִׁלֵּם אֵין מְנַדִּין אוֹתוֹ עַד שֶׁיַּתְרוּ בּוֹ שֵׁנִי וַחֲמִישִׁי וְשֵׁנִי. וְאַחַר כָּךְ מְנַדִּין אוֹתוֹ עַד שֶׁיִּתֵּן מַה שֶּׁהוּא חַיָּב. וְאִם עָמַד שְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם וְלֹא תָּבַע לְהַתִּיר נִדּוּיוֹ מַחְרִימִין אוֹתוֹ:

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.
Vowelized Hebrew text courtesy Torat Emet under CC 2.5 license.
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.
Download Rambam Study Schedules: 3 Chapters | 1 Chapter | Daily Mitzvah