The following rule applies when a person strikes a colleague intentionally with a stone or a piece of wood and causes his death. We assess the object with which he was struck, and the place where he was struck, and determine whether or not it is likely that such an article would cause death when used to give a blow in such a place.

This is implied by Numbers 35:17-18, which states: "If he struck him with a fist-sized stone that could cause death... or if he struck him with a fist-sized wooden article that could cause death." "That could cause death" teaches that the murder weapon must be such that would likely cause him to die.

Striking a person on his heart cannot be compared to striking him on his thigh.


הַמַּכֶּה אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ בְּזָדוֹן בְּאֶבֶן אוֹ בְּעֵץ וֶהֱמִיתוֹ. אוֹמְדִין דָּבָר שֶׁהִכָּהוּ בּוֹ וּמָקוֹם שֶׁהִכָּה עָלָיו. אִם רָאוּי אוֹתוֹ חֵפֶץ לְהָמִית בְּאֵיבָר זֶה אוֹ אֵינוֹ רָאוּי. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר לה יז) "בְּאֶבֶן יָד אֲשֶׁר יָמוּת בָּהּ הִכָּהוּ" (במדבר לה יח) "אוֹ בִּכְלִי עֵץ יָד אֲשֶׁר יָמוּת בּוֹ הִכָּהוּ". עַד שֶׁיִּהְיֶה בּוֹ כְּדֵי לְהָמִית. וְאֵינוֹ דּוֹמֶה מַכֵּהוּ עַל לִבּוֹ לְמַכֵּהוּ עַל יְרֵכוֹ:


Since the verse states "That could cause death," this phrase also implies that we assess the place where the victim was struck.

Just as we assess the object with which he was struck, and the place where he was struck, we also assess the force of the blow. This is implied by the phrase (Ibid.): "a fist-sized stone," from which we infer that we evaluate the force of the hand. For one cannot compare a person who throws a stone at his colleague from a distance of two cubits to one who throws a stone from a distance of ten cubits. At ten cubits, the stone will have more force. Nor can one compare a person who throws a stone at his colleague from a distance of ten cubits to one who throws a stone from a distance of 100 cubits. For over an extended distance, the force of the blow will be diminished.


הוֹאִיל וְנֶאֱמַר (במדבר לה יז) "אֲשֶׁר יָמוּת בָּהּ" מִכָּאן שֶׁאוֹמְדִין מְקוֹם הַמַּכָּה. וּכְשֵׁם שֶׁאוֹמְדִין הַחֵפֶץ שֶׁהִכָּה בּוֹ וּמְקוֹם הַמַּכָּה כָּךְ אוֹמְדִין כֹּחַ הַהַכָּאָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר לה יז) "בְּאֶבֶן יָד" מִכָּאן שֶׁמְּשַׁעֲרִין אֶת הַיָּד. אֵינוֹ דּוֹמֶה זוֹרֵק אֶבֶן בַּחֲבֵרוֹ בְּרִחוּק שְׁתֵּי אַמּוֹת לְזוֹרֵק בּוֹ בְּרִחוּק עֶשֶׂר שֶׁבְּרִחוּק עֶשֶׂר יִהְיֶה כֹּחָהּ יָתֵר. וְאֵינוֹ דּוֹמֶה זוֹרֵק בְּרִחוּק עֶשֶׂר לְזוֹרֵק בְּרִחוּק מֵאָה שֶׁבְּרִחוּק הַמָּקוֹם בְּיוֹתֵר יִתְמַעֵט כֹּחַ הַהַכָּאָה:


Similarly, the blow itself and the power of the killer and the victim should be assessed: Is he large or small? Is he strong or weak? Is he healthy or sickly? These and all similar questions should be investigated. This is all implied by the phrase: "That could cause death." It teaches that all the factors involved in the person's death should be assessed.


וְכֵן מְשַׁעֲרִין הַמַּכָּה עַצְמָהּ וּמְשַׁעֲרִין כֹּחַ הַהוֹרֵג וְכֹחַ הַנֶּהֱרָג. אִם הוּא גָּדוֹל אוֹ קָטָן אוֹ חָזָק אוֹ חַלָּשׁ אוֹ בָּרִיא אוֹ חוֹלֶה. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר לה יז) "אֲשֶׁר יָמוּת בָּהּ". מִיתָתוֹ שֶׁל זֶה מְשַׁעֲרִין כָּל סִבּוֹתֶיהָ:


The Torah did not mention a minimum size with regard to an iron object, as Numbers 35:16 states: "If he struck him with an iron utensil and he dies, he is a murderer." This applies even to a needle, provided the object is pointed like a needle, a spit, a knife or the like.

If, however, a person strikes a colleague with a hunk of metal or the like, we evaluate the blow as we would evaluate it if it had been dealt with a piece of wood or a stone.


כְּלִי בַּרְזֶל לֹא נָתְנָה בּוֹ תּוֹרָה שִׁעוּר. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר לה טז) "וְאִם בִּכְלִי בַרְזֶל הִכָּהוּ וַיָּמֹת רֹצֵחַ הוּא". וַאֲפִלּוּ בְּמַחַט. וְהוּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶה לוֹ חֹד כְּמוֹ מַחַט אוֹ שִׁפּוּד אוֹ סַכִּין וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן. אֲבָל אִם הִכָּהוּ בְּעֶשֶׁת שֶׁל בַּרְזֶל וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהּ אוֹמְדִין אוֹתָהּ כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁאוֹמְדִין הָעֵץ אוֹ הָאֶבֶן:


When a person strikes a colleague without an object and kills him - e.g., he strikes him with his hand or foot or butts him with his head and kills him - we should assess the force of the blow, the strength of the victim and the place where the blow was given. One cannot compare a person poking at a colleague with his finger to one who kicks his colleague with all his strength. Nor can one compare a blow given on the heart to a blow given in the groin. Nor can one compare a weak person who strikes a healthy, strong person to a healthy, strong person who strikes a weak or sickly person.


הַמַּכֶּה אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ בְּלֹא כְּלִי וֶהֱמִיתוֹ. כְּגוֹן שֶׁהִכָּהוּ בְּיָדוֹ אוֹ בְּרַגְלוֹ אוֹ נְגָפוֹ בְּרֹאשׁוֹ וֶהֱמִיתוֹ מְשַׁעֲרִין כֹּחַ הַמַּכָּה וְכֹחַ הַנֶּהֱרָג וּמְקוֹם הַמַּכָּה. אֵינוֹ דּוֹמֶה דּוֹחֵף חֲבֵרוֹ בְּאֶצְבָּעוֹ לְבוֹעֵט בּוֹ בְּרַגְלוֹ בְּכָל כֹּחוֹ. וְאֵינוֹ דּוֹמֶה מַכֵּהוּ עַל לִבּוֹ לְמַכֵּהוּ עַל מָתְנָיו. וְאֵינוֹ דּוֹמֶה חַלָּשׁ הַמַּכֶּה אֶת הַבָּרִיא הֶחָזָק לְבָרִיא חָזָק הַמַּכֶּה חַלָּשׁ אוֹ חוֹלֶה:

Mishneh Torah (Moznaim)

Featuring a modern English translation and a commentary that presents a digest of the centuries of Torah scholarship which have been devoted to the study of the Mishneh Torah by Maimonides.


What is the source that teaches that an assessment must be made in such an instance? Numbers 35:21 states: "Or if he maliciously strikes him with his hand and he dies, the one who strikes him shall certainly die." Although it mentions "with his hand," the verse also states that the blow must be given "maliciously." Implied is that we assess the force of the blow.


וּמִנַּיִן שֶׁמְּשַׁעֲרִין בְּכָל אֵלּוּ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר לה כא) "אוֹ בְאֵיבָה הִכָּהוּ בְיָדוֹ וַיָּמֹת מוֹת יוּמַת הַמַּכֶּה". אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר בְּיָדוֹ הִצְרִיךְ הַכָּתוּב לִהְיוֹת הַהַכָּאָה בְּאֵיבָה מִכְּלָל שֶׁמְּשַׁעֲרִין כֹּחַ הַהַכָּאָה:


Similarly, when a person pushes a colleague from a rooftop, causing him to fall and die, we assess the height of the place from which he pushed him and the strength of the person who was pushed. For an infant who fell cannot be compared to an adult who fell.

What is the source that teaches that we must assess the height from which the victim fell? Numbers 35:20 states: "If he pushes him down with hatred."

It appears to me that any place that is not more than ten handbreadths high is not considered of sufficient height to kill, as explained with regard to an animal that fell into a cistern.


וְכֵן הַדּוֹחֵף אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ מֵרֹאשׁ הַגַּג וְנָפַל וּמֵת מְשַׁעֲרִין גֹּבַהּ הַמָּקוֹם שֶׁהִפִּילוֹ מֵעָלָיו וְכֹחַ הַנִּדְחָף. שֶׁאֵינוֹ דּוֹמֶה בֶּן יוֹמוֹ שֶׁנָּפַל לְגָדוֹל שֶׁנָּפַל. וּמִנַּיִן שֶׁמְּשַׁעֲרִין גֹּבַהּ הַמָּקוֹם. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר לה כ) "וְאִם בְּשִׂנְאָה יֶהְדָּפֶנּוּ". וְיֵרָאֶה לִי שֶׁכָּל מָקוֹם שֶׁאֵין בְּגָבְהוֹ עֲשָׂרָה טְפָחִים אֵין בּוֹ כְּדֵי לְהָמִית כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמְרוּ בְּבוֹר לְעִנְיַן בְּהֵמָה:


The same laws apply if a person strikes a colleague with a stone, a block of wood, a clod of earth, a block of salt or sulfur, or a basket full of dust or pebbles, or even if he strikes him with a cake of dried figs. This is implied by the phrase "That could cause death" - i.e., anything that may cause death. And it is the weight of the object that makes it fit to cause death.


אֶחָד הַמַּכֶּה אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ בְּאֶבֶן אוֹ בְּעֵץ. אוֹ שֶׁהִכָּהוּ בְּגוּשׁ עָפָר אוֹ בְּגוּשׁ מֶלַח וְגָפְרִית אוֹ בְּסַל מָלֵא עָפָר אוֹ צְרוֹרוֹת וַאֲפִלּוּ בְּפֶלַח דְּבֵלָה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר לה יז) "אֲשֶׁר יָמוּת בָּהּ" כָּל שֶׁהוּא רָאוּי לְהָמִית וְהַכֹּבֶד הוּא שֶׁמֵּמִית:


When a person pushes a colleague into water or into a fire, an assessment should be made. If the person could ascend, the one who pushed him is not liable for execution. If he could not ascend, the one who pushed him is liable.

Similarly, if one held a colleague in water or in fire until he did not have any strength to ascend, and the colleague died, the one who held him is liable, even if he did not push him there at the outset.

Similarly, a person is liable for execution in all of the following instances: he held his hand over a colleague's mouth and nose until he left him in his death throes, unable to live; he bound a colleague and left him in the sun or the cold until he died; he built an airtight construction over him that prevented air from coming in; he placed a colleague in a house or a cave and filled it with smoke until he died; or he placed a colleague in an airtight marble building and lit a candle, causing the colleague to die because of the lack of air. In all of these instances, the person who caused the victim's death is executed; it is as if he had strangled him by hand.


הַדּוֹחֵף אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ לְתוֹךְ הַמַּיִם אוֹ לְתוֹךְ הָאֵשׁ אוֹמְדִין אוֹתוֹ אִם יָכוֹל לַעֲלוֹת מִשָּׁם פָּטוּר מִמִּיתַת בֵּית דִּין וְאִם לָאו חַיָּב. וְכֵן אִם כָּבַשׁ עָלָיו [בְּתוֹךְ הַמַּיִם אוֹ] בְּתוֹךְ הָאֵשׁ עַד שֶׁלֹּא נִשְׁאַר בּוֹ כֹּחַ לַעֲלוֹת וּמֵת חַיָּב. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינוֹ הוּא הַדּוֹחֵף בַּתְּחִלָּה. וְהוּא הַדִּין לְמַנִּיחַ יָדוֹ עַל פִּי חֲבֵרוֹ וְחָטְמוֹ עַד שֶׁהִנִּיחוֹ מְפַרְפֵּר וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְחַיּוֹת. אוֹ שֶׁכְּפָתוֹ וְהִנִּיחוֹ בַּצִּנָּה אוֹ בַּחַמָּה עַד שֶׁמֵּת. אוֹ שֶׁבָּנָה עָלָיו מָקוֹם עַד שֶׁמָּנַע מִמֶּנּוּ הָרוּחַ. אוֹ שֶׁהִכְנִיסוֹ לַמְּעָרָה אוֹ לַבַּיִת וְעִשֵּׁן עָלָיו עַד שֶׁמֵּת. אוֹ שֶׁהִכְנִיסוֹ לְבַיִת שֶׁל שַׁיִשׁ וְהִדְלִיק עָלָיו נֵר עַד שֶׁהֱמִיתוֹ הַהֶבֶל. בְּכָל אֵלּוּ נֶהֱרָג עָלָיו שֶׁזֶּה כְּמִי שֶׁחֲנָקוֹ בְּיָדוֹ:


Different rules apply, however, in the following instances: A person binds a colleague and leaves him to starve to death; he binds him and leaves him in a place that will ultimately cause him to be subjected to cold or heat, and these influences indeed come and kill the victim; he covers him with a barrel; he uncovers the roof of the building where he was staying; or he causes a snake to bite him. Needless to say, a distinction is made if a colleague dispatches a dog or a snake at a colleague. In all the above instances, the person is not executed. He is, nevertheless, considered to be a murderer, and "the One who seeks vengeance for bloodshed" will seek vengeance for the blood he shed.


אֲבָל הַכּוֹפֵת אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ וְהִנִּיחוֹ בָּרָעָב עַד שֶׁמֵּת. אוֹ שֶׁכְּפָתוֹ וְהִנִּיחוֹ בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁסּוֹף הַצִּנָּה אוֹ הַחַמָּה לָבוֹא לְשָׁם וּבָאָה וֶהֱמִיתַתּוּ. אוֹ שֶׁכָּפָה עָלָיו גִּגִּית. אוֹ שֶׁפָּרַע עָלָיו אֶת הַמַּעֲזִיבָה. אוֹ שֶׁהִשִּׁיךְ עָלָיו אֶת הַנָּחָשׁ. וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר אִם שִׁסָּה בּוֹ כֶּלֶב אוֹ נָחָשׁ. בְּכָל אֵלּוּ אֵין מְמִיתִין אוֹתוֹ. וַהֲרֵי הוּא רוֹצֵחַ. וְדוֹרֵשׁ דָּמִים דּוֹרֵשׁ מִמֶּנּוּ דָּם:


Similarly execution is not required in the following instances. A person pushed his colleague into a cistern and there was a ladder that he could have used to climb out, or he shot an arrow at him, but he was holding a shield with which he could protect himself - and another person came and took away the ladder or the shield. Neither of the two is executed by the court.

Moreover, even if the person who pushed the victim is himself the one who takes away the ladder, he is not liable for execution. God will, however, seek him out and avenge the bloodshed.


וְכֵן הַדּוֹחֵף חֲבֵרוֹ בְּבוֹר וְהָיָה שָׁם סֻלָּם שֶׁיָּכוֹל לַעֲלוֹת עָלָיו. אוֹ שֶׁזָּרַק בּוֹ חֵץ וְהָיָה תְּרִיס בְּיָדוֹ לְהָגֵן עָלָיו. וּבָא אַחֵר וְסִלֵּק אֶת הַסֻּלָּם וְהֵסִיר אֶת הַתְּרִיס. שְׁנֵיהֶן אֵין נֶהֱרָגִין בְּבֵית דִּין. אֲפִלּוּ הָיָה הַדּוֹחֵף עַצְמוֹ הוּא שֶׁחָזַר וְסִלֵּק הַסֻּלָּם פָּטוּר מִמִּיתַת בֵּית דִּין. וְנִדְרָשׁ מִמֶּנּוּ הַדָּם:


When a person throws a stone against a wall, and the stone rebounds and kills a person, the thrower of the stone is liable for execution by the court. For it was propelled by the power of the person who threw it.

A similar principle applies with regard to a person playing with a ball, who was given a warning and caused death by throwing it. If the victim was within four cubits of the wall, he is not liable. If the victim was beyond four cubits away, even if he was standing at the end of a distance of 100 cubits, the thrower is liable, provided the ball is of sufficient weight to kill, as explained.


הַזּוֹרֵק צְרוֹר בַּכֹּתֶל וְחָזְרָה הָאֶבֶן לַאֲחוֹרֶיהָ וְהָרְגָה חַיָּב מִיתַת בֵּית דִּין שֶׁמִּכֹּחוֹ הִיא בָּאָה. וְכֵן אֵלּוּ שֶׁמְּשַׂחֲקִין בְּכַדּוּר שֶׁהִתְרוּ בָּהֶן וְהָרְגוּ. בְּתוֹךְ אַרְבַּע אַמּוֹת פְּטוּרִין. חוּץ לְאַרְבַּע אַמּוֹת אֲפִלּוּ לְסוֹף מֵאָה אַמָּה חַיָּבִין. וְהוּא שֶׁיֵּשׁ בָּהּ כְּדֵי לְהָמִית כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ:


If a person threw a stone upward and it went to the side and caused death, the one who threw it is liable.

If a person binds a colleague and puts him in a place where he cannot flee, and then turns a current of water on him, causing him to die, the killer should be executed. This law applies provided the victim dies from the first burst of water that flows because of his deeds.


זָרַק אֶבֶן לְמַעְלָה וְהָלְכָה לַצְּדָדִין וְהָרְגָה חַיָּב. הַכּוֹפֵת אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ וְהִנִּיחוֹ בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִבְרֹחַ וְהֵצִיף עָלָיו מַיִם וּמֵת הֲרֵי זֶה נֶהֱרָג עָלָיו. וְהוּא שֶׁיָּמוּת מִכֹּחַ רִאשׁוֹן הַבָּא מִמַּעֲשָׂיו: