How are cases involving capital punishment judged? When the witnesses come to the court and say: "We saw this person violate such-and-such a transgression," the judges ask them: "Do you recognize him? Did you give him a warning?"

If they answer: "We do not recognize him," "We are unsure of his identity," or "We did not warn him," the defendant is exonerated.


כֵּיצַד דָּנִין דִּינֵי נְפָשׁוֹת. כְּשֶׁיָּבוֹאוּ עֵדִים לְבֵית דִּין וְאוֹמְרִים רָאִינוּ פְּלוֹנִי זֶה שֶׁעָבַר עֲבֵרָה פְּלוֹנִית. אוֹמְרִין לָהֶן מַכִּירִין אַתֶּם אוֹתוֹ הִתְרֵיתֶם בּוֹ. אִם אָמְרוּ אֵין אָנוּ מַכִּירִין אוֹתוֹ אוֹ נִסְתַּפֵּק לָנוּ אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא הִתְרוּ בּוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה פָּטוּר:


Both a Torah scholar and a common person need a warning, for the obligation for a warning was instituted only to make a distinction between a person who transgresses inadvertently and one who transgresses intentionally, lest the person say: "I transgressed inadvertently."

How is a warning administered? We tell him: "Desist..." or "Do not do it. It is a transgression and you are liable to be executed by the court..." or "to receive lashes for it." If he ceases, he is not liable. Similarly, if he remains silent or nods his head, he is not liable for punishment. Even if he says: "I know," he is not liable for punishment until he accepts death upon himself, saying: "It is for this reason that I am doing this." In such a situation, he is executed.

He must commit the transgression directly after receiving the warning, within the time to offer a salutation. If he waits longer than that, a second warning is necessary.

The warning is acceptable whether it was administered by one of the witnesses or by another individual, even a woman or a servant. Even if the transgressor hears the voice of the person administering the warning, but does not see him, and even if he himself administers the warning, he should be executed.


אֶחָד תַּלְמִיד חָכָם וְאֶחָד עַם הָאָרֶץ צָרִיךְ הַתְרָאָה שֶׁלֹּא נִתְּנָה הַתְרָאָה אֶלָּא לְהַבְחִין בֵּין שׁוֹגֵג לְמֵזִיִד שֶׁמָּא שׁוֹגֵג הָיָה. וְכֵיצַד מַתְרִין בּוֹ. אוֹמְרִין לוֹ פְּרשׁ אוֹ אַל תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁזּוֹ עֲבֵרָה הִיא וְחַיָּב אַתָּה עָלֶיהָ מִיתַת בֵּית דִּין אוֹ מַלְקוֹת. אִם פֵּרַשׁ פָּטוּר. וְכֵן אִם שָׁתַק אוֹ הִרְכִּין בְּרֹאשׁוֹ פָּטוּר. וַאֲפִלּוּ אָמַר יוֹדֵעַ אֲנִי פָּטוּר עַד שֶׁיַּתִּיר עַצְמוֹ לְמִיתָה וְיֹאמַר עַל מְנָת כֵּן אֲנִי עוֹשֶׂה. וְאַחַר כָּךְ יֵהָרֵג. וְצָרִיךְ שֶׁיַּעֲבֹר וְיַעֲשֶׂה תֵּכֶף לַהַתְרָאָה בְּתוֹךְ כְּדֵי דִּבּוּר. אֲבָל אַחַר כְּדֵי דִּבּוּר צָרִיךְ הַתְרָאָה אַחֶרֶת. וּבֵין שֶׁהִתְרָה בּוֹ אֶחָד מִן הָעֵדִים וּבֵין שֶׁהִתְרָה בּוֹ אַחֵר בִּפְנֵי עֵדִים אֲפִלּוּ אִשָּׁה אוֹ עֶבֶד אֲפִלּוּ שָׁמַע קוֹל הַמַּתְרֶה וְלֹא רָאָהוּ וַאֲפִלּוּ הִתְרָה בְּעַצְמוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה נֶהֱרָג:


If the witnesses say: "He was given a warning and we recognize him," the court intimidates them.

How do they intimidate them in cases involving capital punishment? They say: "Maybe you are speaking on the basis of supposition, or on the basis of hearsay, one witness from another witness, or maybe you heard from a trustworthy person?" "Maybe you do not know that ultimately we will subject you to questions and cross-examination?"

"Know that cases involving capital punishment do not resemble those involving financial matters. With regard to financial matters, if there is any deceit, a person can make financial restitution and receive atonement. With regard to capital punishment, the victim's blood and the blood of his unborn descendants are dependent on the murderer until eternity. As it is said with regard to Cain, 'The voice of the blood of your brother is crying out.' The Torah uses the plural form of the word blood, implying his blood and the blood of his descendants."

"For this reason, man was created alone in the world. This teaches us that a person who eliminates one soul from the world is considered as if he eliminated an entire world. Conversely, a person who saves one soul is considered as if he saved an entire world."

"All the inhabitants of the world are created in the image of Adam, the first man, and yet no one person's face resembles the face of his colleague. Therefore each person can say: 'The world was created for me.'"

"If you might say: 'Why should we enter this difficulty?' It is written Leviticus 5:1: 'If he witnessed, observed, or knew....' If you will say: 'Why should we become responsible for shedding the defendant's blood?' It is already said: 'At the destruction of the wicked, there is joy.'"

If they stand by their word, the witness of the greater stature is brought into the court alone and he is questioned and cross-examined, as will be explained in Hilchot Edut. If his testimony appears to be factual, the second witness is brought into the court, and he is questioned as the first one was. Even if there are 100 witnesses, each one is questioned and cross-examined.

If the testimony of all the witnesses is accurate, we begin the judgment with a statement that tends to acquittal as stated. We tell him: "If you did not transgress, do not fear their words." Then we judge him. If grounds for acquittal are found, he is released. If they do not find grounds for acquittal, the defendant is imprisoned until the following day.

On that day, the Sanhedrin divides itself into pairs and they examine the judgment. They eat little and do not drink wine throughout that entire day. They debate the matter throughout the night, each one with his comrade or alone. On the morrow, they come to the court early. Each of those who voted for acquittal state: "I am the one who voted for acquittal yesterday, and I still favor that ruling." Each of those who voted for conviction state: "I am the one who voted for conviction yesterday, and I still favor that ruling," or "...I have changed my mind and I vote for acquittal." If they erred in that regard, or did not know who voted for conviction or who voted for acquittal on the basis of one rationale and hence are considered only as one, as we explained, the two scribes of the court remind them, for they write down the rationale given by each one of them.

We begin the judgment. If they find a rationale to acquit him, they acquit him. If it is necessary to add judges, they add. If there is a majority of judges who seek to convict him, and he is convicted, he is taken out to be executed immediately.

The place where the court conducts the execution is outside the court and removed from it, as implied by Leviticus 24:14: "Take the blasphemer outside the camp...." It appears to me that it should be approximately 6 mil, the distance between the court of Moses our teacher which was before the entrance of the Tent of Meeting and the extremities of the camp of the Jewish people.


אָמְרוּ הָעֵדִים הָיְתָה לוֹ הַתְרָאָה וּמַכִּירִין אָנוּ אוֹתוֹ מְאַיְּמִין בֵּית דִּין עֲלֵיהֶן. וְכֵיצַד מְאַיְּמִין עַל עִסְקֵי נְפָשׁוֹת. אוֹמְרִים לָהֶן שֶׁמָּא תֹּאמְרוּ מֵאֹמֶד וּמִשְּׁמוּעָה עֵד מִפִּי עֵד מִפִּי אָדָם נֶאֱמָן שְׁמַעְתֶּם. אוֹ שֶׁמָּא אֵין אַתֶּם יוֹדְעִים שֶׁסּוֹפֵנוּ לִבְדֹּק אֶתְכֶם בִּדְרִישָׁה וַחֲקִירָה. הֱווּ יוֹדְעִים שֶׁלֹּא כְּדִינֵי מָמוֹנוֹת דִּינֵי נְפָשׁוֹת. דִּינֵי מָמוֹנוֹת אָדָם נוֹתֵן מָמוֹנוֹ וּמִתְכַּפֵּר לוֹ דִּינֵי נְפָשׁוֹת דָּמוֹ וְדַם זַרְעוֹ תְּלוּיִין בּוֹ עַד סוֹף כָּל הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהֲרֵי בְּקַיִן נֶאֱמַר (בראשית ד י) "קוֹל דְּמֵי אָחִיךָ צֹעֲקִים" דָּמוֹ וְדַם זַרְעוֹ. לְפִיכָךְ נִבְרָא אָדָם יְחִידִי בָּעוֹלָם לְלַמֵּד שֶׁכָּל הַמְאַבֵּד נֶפֶשׁ אַחַת מִן הָעוֹלָם מַעֲלִין עָלָיו כְּאִלּוּ אִבֵּד עוֹלָם מָלֵא וְכָל הַמְקַיֵּם נֶפֶשׁ אַחַת בָּעוֹלָם מַעֲלִין עָלָיו כְּאִלּוּ קִיֵּם עוֹלָם מָלֵא. הֲרֵי כָּל בָּאֵי עוֹלָם בְּצוּרַת אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן הֵם נִבְרָאִים וְאֵין פְּנֵי כָּל אֶחָד מֵהֶן דּוֹמִין לִפְנֵי חֲבֵרוֹ. לְפִיכָךְ כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד יָכוֹל לוֹמַר בִּשְׁבִילִי נִבְרָא הָעוֹלָם. שֶׁמָּא תֹּאמְרוּ מַה לָּנוּ וּלְצָרָה זוֹ הֲלֹא כְּבָר נֶאֱמַר (ויקרא ה א) "וְהוּא עֵד אוֹ רָאָה אוֹ יָדָע". אוֹ שֶׁמָּא תֹּאמְרוּ מַה לָּנוּ לָחוֹב בְּדָמוֹ שֶׁל זֶה וַהֲלֹא כְּבָר נֶאֱמַר (משלי יא י) "וּבַאֲבֹד רְשָׁעִים רִנָּה". אִם עָמְדוּ בְּדִבְרֵיהֶן מַכְנִיסִין אֶת הַגָּדוֹל שֶׁבָּעֵדִים וּבוֹדְקִים אוֹתוֹ בִּדְרִישָׁה וַחֲקִירָה כְּמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר בְּהִלְכוֹת עֵדוּת. אִם נִמְצֵאת עֵדוּתוֹ מְכֻוֶּנֶת מַכְנִיסִין אֶת הַשֵּׁנִי וּבוֹדְקִין אוֹתוֹ כָּרִאשׁוֹן. אֲפִלּוּ הָיוּ מֵאָה עֵדִים בּוֹדְקִין כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד בִּדְרִישָׁה וַחֲקִירָה. נִמְצְאוּ דִּבְרֵי כָּל הָעֵדִים מְכֻוָּנִים פּוֹתְחִין לִזְכוּת כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ. וְאוֹמְרִים אִם לֹא חָטָאתָ אַל תִּירָא מִדִּבְרֵיהֶם וְדָנִין אוֹתוֹ. אִם מָצְאוּ לוֹ זְכוּת פְּטָרוּהוּ וְאִם לֹא מָצְאוּ לוֹ זְכוּת אוֹסְרִין אוֹתוֹ עַד לְמָחָר. וּבוֹ בַּיּוֹם מִזְדַּוְּגִין הַסַּנְהֶדְרִין זוּגוֹת זוּגוֹת לְעַיֵּן בְּדִינוֹ. וּמְמַעֲטִין בְּמַאֲכָל וְאֵין שׁוֹתִין יַיִן כָּל אוֹתוֹ הַיּוֹם. וְנוֹשְׂאִין בַּדָּבָר כָּל הַלַּיְלָה כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד עִם זוּג שֶׁלּוֹ אוֹ עִם עַצְמוֹ בְּבֵיתוֹ. וְלַמָּחֳרָת מַשְׁכִּימִין לְבֵית דִּין. הַמְזַכֶּה אוֹמֵר אֲנִי הוּא הַמְזַכֶּה וּמְזַכֶּה אֲנִי בִּמְקוֹמִי וְהַמְחַיֵּב אוֹמֵר אֲנִי הוּא הַמְחַיֵּב וּמְחַיֵּב אֲנִי בִּמְקוֹמִי אוֹ חָזַרְתִּי בִּי וַאֲנִי מְזַכֶּה. וְאִם טָעוּ בַּדָּבָר וְלֹא יָדְעוּ מִי הֵם שֶׁחִיְּבוּ אוֹ זִכּוּ מִטַּעַם אֶחָד שֶׁאֵינָן נֶחְשָׁבִין אֶלָּא כְּאֶחָד כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ. הֲרֵי סוֹפְרֵי הַדַּיָּנִין מַזְכִּירִין אוֹתָן שֶׁהֲרֵי כּוֹתְבִין טַעַם שֶׁל כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד. וּמַתְחִילִין בְּדִינוֹ. אִם מָצְאוּ לוֹ זְכוּת פְּטָרוּהוּ וְאִם הֻצְרְכוּ לְהוֹסִיף מוֹסִיפִין. רַבּוּ הַמְחַיְּבִין וְנִתְחַיֵּב מוֹצִיאִין אוֹתוֹ לְהָרְגוֹ. ומָקוֹם שֶׁהוֹרְגִין בּוֹ בֵּית דִּין הָיָה חוּץ לְבֵית דִּין וְרָחוֹק מִבֵּית דִּין. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא כד יד) "הוֹצֵא אֶת הַמְקַלֵּל אֶל מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה". וְיֵרָאֶה לִי שֶׁיִּהְיֶה רָחוֹק כְּמוֹ שִׁשָּׁה מִילִין כְּמוֹ שֶׁהָיָה בֵּין בֵּית דִּינוֹ שֶׁל משֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ שֶׁהָיָה לִפְנֵי פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וּבֵין מַחֲנֵה יִשְׂרָאֵל:


After a defendant has been convicted, we do not delay the matter, but instead execute him immediately. Even if a woman is pregnant, we do not wait until she gives birth. Instead, we give her a blow against the womb so that the fetus will die first. If, by contrast, she is already in the throes of labor, we wait until she gives birth.

Whenever a woman is executed, it is permitted to benefit from her hair.


מִשֶּׁנִּגְמַר דִּינוֹ אֵין מַשְׁהִין אוֹתוֹ אֶלָּא יֵהָרֵג בְּיוֹמוֹ. אֲפִלּוּ הָיְתָה עֻבָּרָה אֵין מַמְתִּינִין לָהּ עַד שֶׁתֵּלֵד. וּמַכִּין אוֹתָהּ כְּנֶגֶד בֵּית הַהֵרָיוֹן עַד שֶׁיָּמוּת הַוָּלָד תְּחִלָּה. אֲבָל אִם יָשְׁבָה עַל הַמַּשְׁבֵּר מַמְתִּינִין לָהּ עַד שֶׁתֵּלֵד. וְכָל אִשָּׁה שֶׁתֵּהָרֵג מֻתָּר לֵהָנוֹת בִּשְׂעָרָהּ:


When a person is being taken out to be executed and a sacrifice of his has already been slaughtered, we do not execute him until the blood of his sin offering or guilt offering has been sprinkled on the altar for his sake. If, however, he was already convicted and the animal designated as a sacrifice has not been slaughtered already, we do not wait until the sacrifice is brought, for we do not prolong his judgment.


מִי שֶׁיָּצָא לֵהָרֵג וְהָיָה זִבְחוֹ זָבוּחַ אֵין הוֹרְגִין אוֹתוֹ עַד שֶׁמַּזִּין עָלָיו מִדַּם חַטָּאתוֹ וַאֲשָׁמוֹ. וְאִם נִגְמַר דִּינוֹ וַעֲדַיִן לֹא נִשְׁחַט הַזֶּבַח אֵין מַמְתִּינִין לוֹ עַד שֶׁיַּקְרִיבוּ עָלָיו קָרְבָּנוֹ שֶׁאֵין מְעַנִּין אֶת דִּינוֹ: