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Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Sanhedrin veha’Onashin haMesurin lahem - Chapter 25, Sanhedrin veha’Onashin haMesurin lahem - Chapter 26, Edut - Chapter 1

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Sanhedrin veha’Onashin haMesurin lahem - Chapter 25

1

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."

א

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":

2

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.

ב

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:

3

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.

ג

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:

4

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.

ד

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:

5

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.

ה

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:

6

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.

ו

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

7

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.

ז

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:

8

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.

ח

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:

9

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.

ט

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:

10

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.

י

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:

11

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.

יא

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:

Sanhedrin veha’Onashin haMesurin lahem - Chapter 26

1

Anyone who curses one of the judges of Israel transgresses a negative commandment, as Exodus 22:27 states: "Do not curse a judge." Similarly, if a person curses a nasi, whether the head of the Supreme Sanhedrin or a king, he transgresses a negative commandment, as the verse continues: "Do not curse a prince among your nation."

This prohibition does not apply only to a judge or a nasi. Instead, anyone who curses any other Jew receives lashes, as Leviticus 19:14 states: "Do not curse a deaf-mute." Why does the verse mention a deaf-mute? To teach you that even when a person who cannot hear and thus will not be bothered by being cursed, the person pronouncing the curse is lashed. It appears to me that a person who curses a child who is embarrassed receives lashes; the child resembles a deaf-mute.

א

כָּל הַמְקַלֵּל דַּיָּן מִדַּיָּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כב כז) "אֱלֹהִים לֹא תְקַלֵּל". וְכֵן אִם קִלֵּל הַנָּשִׂיא אֶחָד רֹאשׁ סַנְהֶדְרִי גְּדוֹלָה אוֹ הַמֶּלֶךְ הֲרֵי זֶה עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כב כז) "וְנָשִׂיא בְעַמְּךָ לֹא תָאֹר". וְלֹא דַּיָּן וְנָשִׂיא בִּלְבַד אֶלָּא כָּל הַמְקַלֵּל אֶחָד מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל לוֹקֶה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא יט יד) "לֹא תְקַלֵּל חֵרֵשׁ". וְלָמָּה נֶאֱמַר חֵרֵשׁ שֶׁאֲפִלּוּ זֶה שֶׁהוּא אֵינוֹ שׁוֹמֵעַ וְלֹא נִצְטַעֵר בִּקְלָלָה זוֹ לוֹקֶה עַל קִלְלָתוֹ. וְיֵרָאֶה לִי שֶׁהַמְקַלֵּל אֶת הַקָּטָן הַנִּכְלָם לוֹקֶה (הֲרֵי הוּא כְחֵרֵשׁ):

2

A person who curses a deceased person is not liable.

Since a person who curses any Jewish person is liable, why did the Torah set aside a special prohibition for a judge and for a nasi? For the person to be liable for two transgressions. Thus we learn that a person who curses any Jew, whether a man, woman, or child receives one set of lashes. If he curses a judge, he receives two sets of lashes. If he curses a nasi, he receives three sets of lashes. And if the son of a nasi curses his father, he is liable for four transgression, the three for which all others are liable and one for cursing his father.

ב

הַמְקַלֵּל אֶת הַמֵּת פָּטוּר. הוֹאִיל וּמְקַלֵּל כָּל אָדָם מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל חַיָּב לָמָּה יִחֵד לָאו עַל דַּיָּן וְלָאו עַל נָשִׂיא לְחַיְּבוֹ שְׁתַּיִם. נִמְצֵאתָ לָמֵד שֶׁהַמְקַלֵּל אֶחָד מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל בֵּין אִישׁ בֵּין אִשָּׁה בֵּין גָּדוֹל בֵּין קָטָן לוֹקֶה אַחַת. וְאִם קִלֵּל דַּיָּן לוֹקֶה שְׁתַּיִם. וְאִם קִלֵּל נָשִׂיא לוֹקֶה שָׁלֹשׁ. וּבֶן נָשִׂיא שֶׁקִּלֵּל אָבִיו חַיָּב מִשּׁוּם אַרְבָּעָה שֵׁמוֹת. שְׁלֹשָׁה שֶׁל כָּל אָדָם וְאֶחָד מִשּׁוּם הָאָב:

3

A person who curses himself receives lashes just as one who curses others, as Deuteronomy 4:9 states: "Take heed and guard your soul."

Whether a person curses himself, a colleague, a nasi, or a judge, he does not receive lashes unless he curses using one of God's names: Yaw, Elohim, Shaddai, or the like, or with one of the descriptive terms used to characterize God, e.g., the Merciful One, the Vengeful One, or the like. Since a person is liable if he cursed a colleague with any of these descriptive terms, he is also liable if he cursed him in any other language. For the names with which the gentiles refer to the Holy One, blessed be He, are comparable to all of these descriptive terms.

The term arur ("cursed") can imply an oath, a curse, and a ban of ostracism.

ג

הַמְקַלֵּל עַצְמוֹ לוֹקֶה כְּמוֹ שֶׁקִּלֵּל אֲחֵרִים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים ד ט) "הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ וּשְׁמֹר נַפְשְׁךָ". וְאֶחָד הַמְקַלֵּל עַצְמוֹ אוֹ חֲבֵרוֹ אוֹ נָשִׂיא אוֹ דַּיָּן אֵינוֹ לוֹקֶה עַד שֶׁיְּקַלֵּל בְּשֵׁם מִן הַשֵּׁמוֹת. כְּגוֹן יָהּ וֵאלֹהִים וְשַׁדַּי וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן. אוֹ בְּכִנּוּי מִן הַכִּנּוּיִים כְּגוֹן חַנּוּן וְקַנֹּא וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן. הוֹאִיל וְהוּא חַיָּב אִם קִלֵּל בְּכָל הַכִּנּוּיִים כָּךְ אִם קִלֵּל בְּכָל לָשׁוֹן חַיָּב שֶׁהַשֵּׁמוֹת שֶׁקּוֹרְאִין בָּהֶן הַגּוֹיִם לְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא הֲרֵי הֵן כְּכָל הַכִּנּוּיִים. וְאָרוּר בּוֹ שְׁבוּעָה בּוֹ קְלָלָה בּוֹ נִדּוּי:

4

A person is not punished by lashing unless he is given a warning in the presence of two witnesses as applies with regard to the transgression of any other negative commandment. If, however, a warning was not issued, a curse was uttered without mentioned God's name or a descriptive term, e.g., he said merely: "Cursed be so-and-so," the curse was uttered indirectly, e.g., he said: "May so-and-so not be blessed unto God," or "May God not bless so-and-so," or the like, he is not lashed.

ד

אֵינוֹ לוֹקֶה עַד שֶׁיַּתְרוּ בּוֹ בִּפְנֵי עֵדִים כִּשְׁאָר כָּל חַיָּבֵי לָאוִין. אֲבָל אִם לֹא הָיְתָה שָׁם הַתְרָאָה אוֹ שֶׁקִּלֵּל בְּלֹא שֵׁם וּבְלֹא כִּנּוּי כְּגוֹן שֶׁאָמַר אָרוּר פְּלוֹנִי אוֹ שֶׁהָיְתָה הַקְּלָלָה בָּאָה מִכְּלַל הַדְּבָרִים כְּגוֹן שֶׁאָמַר אַל יְהִי פְּלוֹנִי בָּרוּךְ לַה' אוֹ אַל יְבָרְכֵהוּ אֵל וְכַיּוֹצֵא בִּדְבָרִים אֵלּוּ אֵינוֹ לוֹקֶה:

5

Even though he is not lashed, a person who curses a Torah scholar is placed under a ban of ostracism. And if the judges desire to have "stripes for rebellious conduct" administered to him, they can have him beaten and punished as they see fit, for he disgraced a learned elder.

If he denounces a common person, the judges may punish him as they see necessary according to the needs of the situation, depending on the person who gave the verbal abuse and the one who receives it.

ה

אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינוֹ לוֹקֶה אִם חֵרֵף תַּלְמִיד חָכָם מְנַדִּין אוֹתוֹ. וְאִם רָצוּ הַדַּיָּנִים לְהַכּוֹתוֹ מַכַּת מַרְדּוּת מַכִּין וְעוֹנְשִׁין אוֹתוֹ כְּפִי מַה שֶּׁיִּרְאוּ שֶׁהֲרֵי בִּזָּה אֶת הַזָּקֵן. וְאִם חֵרֵף עַם הָאָרֶץ עוֹנְשִׁין הַדַּיָּנִים בַּדָּבָר כְּפִי מַה שֶּׁהַשָּׁעָה צְרִיכָה לוֹ לְפִי הַמְחָרֵף וּלְפִי זֶה שֶׁנִּתְחָרֵף:

6

Although a judge or a nasi has the right to look past affronts to his honor, he cannot look past being cursed. Similarly, with regard to other people, even though the person who was cursed is prepared to look past the matter, the person who uttered the curse is lashed, for he committed a transgression and incurred liability.

If, however, a person is obligated to be placed under a ban of ostracism, because he conducted himself in an unbridled manner in court, and the judges desire to look past the affront to their honor and not impose a ban of ostracism, they have that license, provided it will not lead to a decline in the honor of the Creator. For example, people at large were repudiating the words of the Torah and the judges. Since the people overstepped the bounds, the court must act firmly and punish as they see necessary.

ו

אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ לַדַּיָּן אוֹ לַנָּשִׂיא לִמְחל עַל כְּבוֹדוֹ אֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִמְחל עַל קִלְלָתוֹ. וְכֵן שְׁאָר הָעָם אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁמָּחַל הַמְקֻלָּל מַלְקִין אֶת הַמְקַלֵּל שֶׁכְּבָר חָטָא וְנִתְחַיֵּב. אֲבָל מִי שֶׁנִּתְחַיֵּב נִדּוּי מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהִפְקִיר בְּבֵית דִּין וְרָצוּ בֵּית דִּין לִמְחל עַל כְּבוֹדָן וְלֹא נִדּוּהוּ הָרְשׁוּת בְּיָדָן. וְהוּא שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיֶה בַּדָּבַר הֶפְסֵד בִּכְבוֹד הַבּוֹרֵא. כְּגוֹן שֶׁהָיוּ הָעָם מְבַעֲטִין בְּדִבְרֵי תּוֹרָה וּבַדַּיָּנִים הוֹאִיל וּפָקְרוּ הָעָם בַּדָּבָר צְרִיכִין לְחַזֵּק וְלַעֲנשׁ כְּפִי מַה שֶּׁיֵּרָאֶה לָהֶם:

7

When any person has a judgment adjudicated by gentile judges and their courts, he is considered a wicked person. It is as if he disgraced, blasphemed, and lifted up his hand against the Torah of Moses our teacher. This applies even if their laws are the same as the laws of the Jewish people. This is indicated by Exodus 21:1: "These are the judgments that you shall place before them." "Before them" and not before gentiles; "before them" and not before ordinary people.

The following procedure should be carried out if the gentiles have a powerful law enforcement system and the opposing litigant is a stubborn and powerful person from whom one cannot expropriate property through the judicial system of the Jewish people. One should summon him before the Jewish judges first. If he did not desire to come, one may receive license from the court and salvage one's property from the litigant by having the case tried in a gentile court.

ז

כָּל הַדָּן בְּדַיָּנֵי עַכּוּ''ם וּבְעַרְכָּאוֹת שֶׁלָּהֶן אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהָיוּ דִּינֵיהֶם כְּדִינֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הֲרֵי זֶה רָשָׁע וּכְאִלּוּ חֵרֵף וְגִדֵּף וְהֵרִים יָד בְּתוֹרַת משֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כא א) "וְאֵלֶּה הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר תָּשִׂים לִפְנֵיהֶם" לִפְנֵיהֶם וְלֹא לִפְנֵי עַכּוּ''ם לִפְנֵיהֶם וְלֹא לִפְנֵי הֶדְיוֹטוֹת. הָיְתָה יַד הָעַכּוּ''ם תַּקִּיפָה וּבַעַל דִּינוֹ אַלָּם וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְהוֹצִיא מִמֶּנּוּ בְּדַיָּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל יִתְבָּעֶנּוּ לְדַיָּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל תְּחִלָּה. אִם לֹא רָצָה לָבוֹא נוֹטֵל רְשׁוּת מִבֵּית דִּין וּמַצִּיל בְּדַיָּנֵי עַכּוּ''ם מִיַּד בַּעַל דִּינוֹ: סְלִיקוּ לְהוּ הִלְכוֹת סַנְהֶדְרִין בְּסַ''ד

Edut - Chapter 1

Introduction to Hilchos Edut

These laws contain 8 mitzvot: Three positive commandments and five negative commandments. They are:

1. For a person who knows testimony to testify in court,
2. To question and interrogate the witnesses,
3. For a witness who testified in a case involving capital punishment not to serve as a judge,
4. Not to carry out a judgment based on the testimony of one witness,
5. Not to accept a person who is a transgressor as a witness,
6. Not to accept a relative as a witness,
7. Not to testify falsely,
8. To punish an ed zomaim in the manner he wished to have the defendant punished,

The explanation of these mitzvot is found in the coming chapters.

הלכות עדות פרק ראשון - הקדמה הלכות עדות יש בכללן שמונה מצות שלש מצות עשה וחמש מצות לא תעשה וזה הוא פרטן: (א) להעיד לבית דין למי שיש לו עדות
(ב) לדרוש ולחקור העדים
(ג) שלא יורה העד בדין זה שהעיד עליו בדיני נפשות
(ד) שלא יקום דבר בעד אחד
(ה) שלא יעיד בעל עבירה
(ו) שלא יעיד קרוב
(ז) שלא להעיד בשקר
(ח) לעשות לעד זומם כאשר זמם וביאור מצות אלו בפרקים אלו:

1

A witness is commanded to testify in court with regard to all pertinent testimony that he knows. This applies both to testimony that will cause his colleague to be held liable or testimony that will vindicate him. With regard to financial cases, this applies only when he is summoned to testify. The source for this commandment is Leviticus 5:1: "And should he witness, see, or know of the matter, if he does not testify, he will bear his sin."

א

הָעֵד מְצֻוֶּה לְהָעִיד בְּבֵית דִּין בְּכָל עֵדוּת שֶׁיּוֹדֵעַ. בֵּין בְּעֵדוּת שֶׁיְּחַיֵּב בָּהּ אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ בֵּין בְּעֵדוּת שֶׁיְּזַכֵּהוּ בּוֹ. וְהוּא שֶׁיִּתְבָּעֶנּוּ לְהָעִיד בְּדִינֵי מָמוֹנוֹת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא ה א) "וְהוּא עֵד אוֹ רָאָה אוֹ יָדָע אִם לוֹא יַגִּיד וְנָשָׂא עֲוֹנוֹ":

2

If the witness was a wise man of great stature and the judges of the court did not possess the same degree of wisdom, he may refrain from testifying. The rationale is that it is not becoming to his dignity for him to go to testify before them. Hence, the positive commandment of honoring the Torah takes precedence.

When does the above apply? With regard to testimony concerning financial matters. With regard to testimony that safeguards a person from a prohibition, by contrast, or testimony in cases involving capital punishment or lashes, he must go and testify. This is derived from Proverbs 21:30: "There is no wisdom or understanding... before God." Implied is that whenever the desecration of God's name is involved, honor is not granted to a master.

ב

הָיָה הָעֵד חָכָם גָּדוֹל וְהָיָה בְּבֵית דִּין פָּחוּת מִמֶּנּוּ בְּחָכְמָה. הוֹאִיל וְאֵין כְּבוֹדוֹ שֶׁיֵּלֵךְ לִפְנֵיהֶם עֲשֵׂה שֶׁל כְּבוֹד תּוֹרָה עָדִיף וְיֵשׁ לוֹ לְהִמָּנַע. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בְּעֵדוּת מָמוֹן. אֲבָל בְּעֵדוּת שֶׁמַּפְרִישׁ בָּהּ מִן הָאִסּוּר וְכֵן בְּעֵדוּת נְפָשׁוֹת אוֹ מַכּוֹת הוֹלֵךְ וּמֵעִיד שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (גמרא ברכות יט ב) "אֵין חָכְמָה וְאֵין תְּבוּנָה לְנֶגֶד ה'". כָּל מָקוֹם שֶׁיֵּשׁ חִלּוּל הַשֵּׁם אֵין חוֹלְקִין כָּבוֹד לָרַב:

3

A High Priest is not obligated to testify. An exception is made only with regard to matters involving a king. In such an instance, he should go to the High Court and testify. With regard to other testimony, he is not obligated.

ג

כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל אֵינוֹ חַיָּב לְהָעִיד אֶלָּא עֵדוּת שֶׁהִיא לְמֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל בִּלְבַד. הוֹלֵךְ לְבֵית דִּין הַגָּדוֹל וּמֵעִיד בָּהּ. אֲבָל בִּשְׁאָר הָעֵדֻיּוֹת פָּטוּר:

4

It is a positive commandment to question the witness and to interrogate them, asking many questions and weighing their replies exactingly. They should divert their attention from one matter to another while questioning them, so that they will refrain from speaking or retract their testimony if there appear to be flaws in it, as Deuteronomy 13:15 states: "And you shall inquire and research thoroughly."

The judges must show extreme care when questioning the witnesses, lest from their questions the witnesses learn to lie. They ask them seven questions:

a) In which seven year cycle the event occurred?

b) In which year?

c) In which month?

d) On which day of the month?

e) On which day of the week?

f) At what time?

g) In which place?

Even if a witness says: "He killed him today," or "He killed him yesterday," we ask him all the above questions. In addition to these seven questions which are asked universally, the judges inquire into the fundamental issues involved. For example, if the witnesses testify that a person worshipped false deities, the judges ask them: "Which deity did he worship?" "What service did he perform?" If they testified that he desecrated the Sabbath, the judges ask them: "Which forbidden labor did he perform?" "How did he perform it?" If they testify that he ate on Yom Kippur, the judges ask them: "Which food did he eat?" "How much did he eat?" If they testified that he killed someone, the judges ask them: "With what did he kill him?" Inquiries of this type are considered as fundamental questions (chakirot).

ד

מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה לִדְרשׁ אֶת הָעֵדִים וּלְחָקְרָן וּלְהַרְבּוֹת בִּשְׁאֵלָתָן וּמְדַקְדְּקִין עֲלֵיהֶן וּמְסַיְּעִין אוֹתָן מֵעִנְיָן לְעִנְיָן בְּעֵת הַשְּׁאֵלָה כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּשְׁתְּקוּ אוֹ יַחְזְרוּ בָּהֶן אִם יֵשׁ בְּעֵדוּתָן דֹּפִי. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג טו) "וְדָרַשְׁתָּ וְחָקַרְתָּ וְשָׁאַלְתָּ הֵיטֵב". וּצְרִיכִין הַדַּיָּנִים לְהִזָּהֵר בְּעֵת חֲקִירַת הָעֵדִים [שֶׁמָּא מִתּוֹכָהּ יִלְמְדוּ לְשַׁקֵּר. וּבְשֶׁבַע חֲקִירוֹת בּוֹדְקִין אוֹתָם]. בְּאֵי זוֹ שָׁבוּעַ. בְּאֵי זוֹ שָׁנָה. בְּאֵי זֶה חֹדֶשׁ. בְּכַמָּה בְּחֹדֶשׁ. בְּאֵי זֶה יוֹם מִימֵי הַשַּׁבָּת. וּבְכַמָּה שָׁעוֹת בַּיּוֹם. וּבְאֵי זֶה מָקוֹם. אֲפִלּוּ אָמַר הַיּוֹם הֲרָגוֹ אוֹ אֶמֶשׁ הֲרָגוֹ שׁוֹאֲלִין לָהֶן בְּאֵי זֶה שָׁבוּעַ בְּאֵי זוֹ שָׁנָה בְּאֵי זֶה חֹדֶשׁ בְּכַמָּה בַּחֹדֶשׁ בְּאֵי זֶה יוֹם בְּאֵי זוֹ שָׁעָה. וּמִכְּלַל הַחֲקִירוֹת יֶתֶר עַל הַשֶּׁבַע הַשָּׁווֹת בַּכּל שֶׁאִם הֵעִידוּ עָלָיו שֶׁעָבַד עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה שׁוֹאֲלִין לָהֶן אֶת מֶה עָבַד וּבְאֵי זוֹ עֲבוֹדָה עָבַד. הֵעִידוּ שֶׁחִלֵּל אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת שׁוֹאֲלִין אוֹתָן אֵי זוֹ מְלָאכָה עָשָׂה וְהֵיאַךְ עָשָׂה. הֵעִידוּ שֶׁאָכַל בְּיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים שׁוֹאֲלִין אוֹתָן אֵי זֶה מַאֲכָל אָכַל וְכַמָּה אָכַל. הֵעִידוּ שֶׁהָרַג אֶת הַנֶּפֶשׁ שׁוֹאֲלִין אוֹתָן בַּמֶּה הֲרָגוֹ. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה הֲרֵי הוּא מִכְּלַל הַחֲקִירוֹת:

5

The derishot and the chakirot involve the matters that constitute the essence of the testimony. On their basis, the person will either be held liable or released. They include defining the deed that was performed, the time when it was performed, and the place where it was performed. On these basis, the testify of the witnesses will or will not be refuted through hazamah. For we cannot refute the testimony of the witnesses unless they define the time and place of the deed involved.

ה

הַחֲקִירוֹת וְהַדְּרִישׁוֹת הֵן הַדְּבָרִים שֶׁהֵן עִקַּר הָעֵדוּת וּבָהֶן יִתְחַיֵּב אוֹ יִפָּטֵר. וְהֵן כַּוָּנַת הַמַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁעָשָׂה וְכִוּוּן הַזְּמַן וְכִוּוּן הַמָּקוֹם שֶׁבָּהֶן יָזֹמּוּ הָעֵדִים אוֹ לֹא יָזֹמּוּ. שֶׁאֵין אָנוּ יְכוֹלִים לְהָזִים הָעֵדִים עַד שֶׁיְּכַוְּנוּ הַזְּמַן וְהַמָּקוֹם:

6

In addition, the judges question the witnesses exceedingly with regard to matters that do not involve the fundamental aspects of the testimony and their testimony is not dependent on them. These questions are called bedikot. The more a judge questions the witnesses with bedikot, the more praiseworthy it is.

What are examples of bedikot? Witnesses testified that a person killed a colleague. The witnesses were questioned with the seven chakirot which we mentioned which define the time and the place of the act. Similarly, they were interrogated with regard to the deed and they defined the deed and the murder weapon. The judges continue to interrogate them. They ask: What were the murderer and the victim wearing, white clothes or black clothes? Was the earth where he was killed white or red? These and similar questions are called bedikot.

An incident once occurred when witnesses stated that a murder took place under a fig tree. The judges questioned the witnesses: "Were the figs black or white?", "Were their stems long or short?" The more a judge questions the witnesses with bedikot like these, the more praiseworthy it is.

ו

וְעוֹד מַרְבִּין לִבְדֹּק הָעֵדִים בִּדְבָרִים שֶׁאֵינָן עִקָּר בָּעֵדוּת וְאֵינָהּ תְּלוּיָה בָּהֶם. וְהֵם הַנִּקְרָאִים בְּדִיקוֹת. וְכָל הַמַּרְבֶּה בִּבְדִיקוֹת הֲרֵי זֶה מְשֻׁבָּח. כֵּיצַד הֵן הַבְּדִיקוֹת. הֲרֵי שֶׁהֵעִידוּ עָלָיו שֶׁהָרַג וְנֶחְקְרוּ בְּשֶׁבַע חֲקִירוֹת שֶׁמָּנִינוּ. שֶׁהֵן בְּכַוָּנַת הַזְּמַן וְכַוָּנַת הַמָּקוֹם. וְנִדְרְשׁוּ בְּכַוָּנַת הַמַּעֲשֶׂה וְכִוְּנוּ הַמַּעֲשֶׂה וְכִוְּנוּ הַכְּלִי שֶׁהֲרָגוֹ בּוֹ. בּוֹדְקִין אוֹתָן עוֹד וְאוֹמְרִים לָהֶן מֶה הָיָה לְבוּשׁ הַנֶּהֱרָג אוֹ הַהוֹרֵג. בְּגָדִים לְבָנִים אוֹ שְׁחוֹרִים. עֲפַר הָאָרֶץ שֶׁנֶּהֱרַג עָלֶיהָ לָבָן אוֹ אָדֹם. אֵלּוּ וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן הֵם הַבְּדִיקוֹת. מַעֲשֶׂה שֶׁאָמְרוּ הָעֵדִים הֲרָגוֹ בְּמָקוֹם פְּלוֹנִי תַּחַת הַתְּאֵנָה וּבָדְקוּ הָעֵדִים וְאָמְרוּ לָהֶם תְּאֵנִים שֶׁלָּהּ שְׁחוֹרוֹת הָיוּ אוֹ לְבָנוֹת עֻקְצִין שֶׁל אוֹתָם הַתְּאֵנִים אֲרֻכּוֹת הָיוּ אוֹ קְצָרוֹת. וְכָל הַמַּרְבֶּה בִּבְדִיקוֹת וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן הֲרֵי זֶה מְשֻׁבָּח:

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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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