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Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Sanhedrin veha’Onashin haMesurin lahem - Chapter 13

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Sanhedrin veha’Onashin haMesurin lahem - Chapter 13

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


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.


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:


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.


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


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.


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:


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.


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:


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.


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


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.


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:


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.


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:


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.


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:

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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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