Translator's Introduction

This chapter also deals with a number of mitzvot that share a common theme and are derived from a single Biblical passage. Deuteronomy 13:2-12 relates:

[This is what you must do] when a prophet... arises and presents you with a sign or miracle... and says to you, "Let us follow after other gods whom you do not know and worship them." Do not listen to the words of that prophet.... That prophet... shall die, because he spoke rebelliously against God, your Lord....
[This is what you must do] if your brother..., your son, your daughter, your bosom wife, or your closest friend secretly proselytizes among you, and says, "Let us go and worship other gods whom neither you or your ancestors know."... Do not be attracted to him or listen to him. Do not let your eyes pity him. Do not show him any compassion. Do not try to cover up for him. Rather, you must surely put him to death. Your hand must be the first against him to kill him.... Stone him to death... because he tried to sway you away from God, your Lord.... And all Israel will hear and they will become afraid and they will not continue to do such evil things.

In Sefer HaMitzvot, the Rambam cites six mitzvot which are derived from this passage:
Negative Commandment 16: Not to persuade a single individual to worship [a false deity];
Negative Commandment 17: Not to love a mesit (one who proselytizes on behalf of a false deity);
Negative Commandment 18: Not to reduce one's hatred for him;
Negative Commandment 19: Not to save his life;
Negative Commandment 20: Not to advance any arguments on his behalf;
Negative Commandment 21: Not to withhold information that will lead to his conviction;


A person who proselytizes [a mesit] to any single Jew [a musat] - whether man or woman - on behalf of false deities should be stoned to death. [This applies] even if neither the mesit or the musat actually worshiped the false deity.

As long as he instructed him to worship [the false deity], he should be executed by stoning, regardless of whether the mesit was a prophet or an ordinary person, or whether the musat was a single individual - man or woman - or whether several people were proselytized.


הַמֵּסִית אֶחָד מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל בֵּין אִישׁ בֵּין אִשָּׁה הֲרֵי זֶה נִסְקָל אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא עָבַד הַמֵּסִית וְלֹא הַמּוּסָת עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים אֶלָּא מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוֹרָהוּ לַעֲבֹד. בֵּין שֶׁהָיָה הַמֵּסִית הֶדְיוֹט בֵּין שֶׁהָיָה נָבִיא בֵּין שֶׁהָיָה הַמּוּסָת יָחִיד אִישׁ אוֹ אִשָּׁה אוֹ יְחִידִים מִיתָתוֹ בִּסְקִילָה:


A person who proselytizes the majority of the inhabitants of a city is called a madiach rather than a mesit. If the person who leads the majority of a city astray is a prophet, he is executed by stoning, and the people who were led astray are judged as individuals, and are not considered to be inhabitants of an עיר הנדחת. [For the latter laws to be applied,] two people must proselytize them.

If a person says: "A false deity told me: 'Serve me,'" or "The Holy One, blessed be He, told me: 'Serve a false deity'" - he is considered a prophet who leads others astray. If the majority of the city's inhabitants are swayed by his words, he should be stoned to death.

A mesit should be stoned to death whether he proselytizes in plural terms or in singular. What is implied? He is considered a mesit if he tells a colleague, "I will worship a false deity. [Follow me.] I will go and worship..." or "Let us go and worship following the particular rite with which that deity is served," "I will slaughter. [Follow me.] I will go and slaughter..." or "Let us go and slaughter," "I will bring a burnt offering. [Follow me.] I will go and bring a burnt offering..." or "Let us go and bring a burnt offering," "I will offer a libation. [Follow me.] I will go and offer a libation..." or "Let us go and offer a libation," or "I will bow down. [Follow me.] I will go and bow down..." or "Let us go and bow down."

When a person proselytizes two individuals, they may serve as witnesses against him. They should summon him to court and testify against him, relating what he told them, and the mesit is stoned.


הַמֵּסִית אֶת רֹב אַנְשֵׁי הָעִיר הֲרֵי זֶה מַדִּיחַ וְאֵינוֹ נִקְרָא מֵסִית. הָיָה זֶה שֶׁהִדִּיחַ רֹב הָעִיר נָבִיא מִיתָתוֹ בִּסְקִילָה וְהַנִּדָּחִים הֲרֵי הֵן כִּיחִידִים וְאֵינָם כְּאַנְשֵׁי עִיר הַנִּדַּחַת עַד שֶׁיִּהְיוּ הַמַּדִּיחִים שְׁנַיִם. וְאֶחָד הָאוֹמֵר אָמְרָה לִי עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים עִבְדוּהָ. אוֹ שֶׁאָמַר אָמַר לִי הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עִבְדוּ עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים הֲרֵי זֶה נָבִיא שֶׁהִדִּיחַ. וְאִם הֻדְּחוּ אַחֲרָיו רֹב הָעִיר נִסְקָל. הַמֵּסִית שֶׁהֵסִית בֵּין בִּלְשׁוֹן רַבִּים בֵּין בִּלְשׁוֹן יָחִיד הֲרֵי זֶה נִסְקָל. כֵּיצַד. הָאוֹמֵר לַחֲבֵרוֹ אֶעֱבֹד כּוֹכָבִים אֵלֵךְ וְאֶעֱבֹד נֵלֵךְ וְנַעֲבֹד בַּעֲבוֹדָה פְּלוֹנִית שֶׁדֶּרֶךְ אוֹתָהּ עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים לְהֵעָבֵד בָּהּ. אֶזְבַּח אֵלֵךְ וְאֶזְבַּח נֵלֵךְ וְנִזְבַּח. אֲקַטֵּר אֵלֵךְ וַאֲקַטֵר נֵלֵךְ וּנְקַטֵּר. אֲנַסֵּךְ אֵלֵךְ וַאֲנַסֵּךְ נֵלֵךְ וּנְנַסֵּךְ. אֶשְׁתַּחֲוֶה אֵלֵךְ וְאֶשְׁתַּחֲוֶה נֵלֵךְ וְנִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה הֲרֵי זֶה מֵסִית. הֵסִית לִשְׁנַיִם הֲרֵי הֵן עֵדָיו וְהֵן מְבִיאִין אוֹתוֹ לְבֵית דִּין וּמְעִידִין עָלָיו שֶׁכָּךְ אָמַר לָהֶן וְסוֹקְלִין אוֹתוֹ:


A mesit does not need a warning.

If one proselytizes a single individual, the latter should tell him, "I have friends who would also be interested in this," and thus he should lure him into proselytizing before two people, so that the mesit can be executed.

If the mesit refuses to proselytize before two people, it is a mitzvah to set a trap for him. A trap is never set for a person who violates any of the Torah's other prohibitions. This is the only exception.

How is the trap set for him? The musat should bring two people and place them in a dark place where they can see the mesit and hear what he is saying without his seeing them. He tells the mesit: "Repeat what you told me privately."

[When] he does so, the musat should reply: "How can we forsake our God in heaven and serve wood and stone?" If [the mesit] retracts or remains silent, he is not held liable. If he tells him, "This is our obligation and this is beneficial to us," those who stand far off have him summoned to court and stoned.


וְאֵין הַמֵּסִית צָרִיךְ הַתְרָאָה. אָמַר לְאֶחָד הוּא אוֹמֵר יֵשׁ לִי חֲבֵרִים רוֹצִים בְּכָךְ וּמַעֲרִים עָלָיו עַד שֶׁיָּסִית בִּפְנֵי שְׁנַיִם כְּדֵי לְהָרְגוֹ. אִם לֹא רָצָה הַמֵּסִית לְהָסִית לִשְׁנַיִם מִצְוָה לְהַכְמִין לוֹ. כָּל חַיָּבֵי מִיתוֹת שֶׁבַּתּוֹרָה אֵין מַכְמִינִין עֲלֵיהֶן חוּץ מִזֶּה. כֵּיצַד מַכְמִינִין לוֹ. הַמּוּסָת מֵבִיא שְׁנַיִם וּמַעֲמִידָן בְּמָקוֹם אָפֵל כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּרְאוּ הַמֵּסִית וְיִשְׁמְעוּ דְּבָרָיו וְלֹא יִרְאֶה אוֹתָם, וְהוּא אוֹמֵר לַמֵּסִית אֱמֹר מַה שֶּׁאָמַרְתָּ לִי בְּיִחוּד, וְהוּא אוֹמֵר לוֹ, וְהַמּוּסָת מְשִׁיבוֹ הֵיאַךְ נַנִּיחַ אֶת אֱלֹהֵינוּ שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם וְנֵלֵךְ וְנַעֲבֹד אֶת הָעֵצִים וְאֶת הָאֲבָנִים. אִם חָזַר בּוֹ אוֹ שָׁתַק פָּטוּר. וְאִם אָמַר לוֹ כָּךְ הִיא חוֹבָתֵנוּ וְכָךְ יָפֶה לָנוּ, הָעוֹמְדִים שָׁם בְּרָחוֹק מְבִיאִין אוֹתוֹ לְבֵית דִּין וְסוֹקְלִים אוֹתוֹ:


It is a mitzvah for the musat to kill [the mesit], as [Deuteronomy 13:10] states: "Your hand must be the first against him to kill him."

It is forbidden for the musat to love the mesit, as [the previous verse states]: "Do not be attracted to him." Since [Exodus 23:5] states with regard to an enemy: "You must surely help him," [the question arises:] Perhaps you should help a mesit? The Torah [Deuteronomy, ibid.] teaches, "Do not... listen to him."

Since [Leviticus 19:16] teaches: "Do not stand idly over your brother's blood," [the question arises:] Perhaps you should not stand idly over a mesit's blood? The Torah teaches, [Deuteronomy, ibid.] "Do not let your eyes pity him."

The musat is forbidden to advance any arguments on his behalf, as [the verse continues,] "Do not show him any compassion." If he knows incriminating evidence, he is not permitted to remain silent, as [the verse continues,] "Do not try to cover up for him."

What is the verse which serves as a warning against a common person proselytizing as a mesit? "And all Israel will hear and they will become afraid [and they will not continue to do such evil things]" (Deuteronomy 13:12).


מִצְוָה בְּיַד הַמּוּסָת לְהָרְגוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג י) "יָדְךָ תִּהְיֶה בּוֹ בָרִאשׁוֹנָה לַהֲמִיתוֹ" וְגוֹ'. וְאָסוּר לַמּוּסָת לֶאֱהֹב אֶת הַמֵּסִית שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג ט) "לֹא תֹאבֶה לוֹ". וּלְפִי שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר בְּשׂוֹנֵא (שמות כג ה) "עָזֹב תַּעֲזֹב עִמּוֹ" יָכוֹל אַתָּה עוֹזֵב לָזֶה תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר (דברים יג ט) "וְלֹא תִשְׁמַע אֵלָיו". וּלְפִי שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא יט טז) "וְלֹא תַעֲמֹד עַל דַּם רֵעֶךָ" יָכוֹל אִי אַתָּה עוֹמֵד עַל דָּמוֹ שֶׁל זֶה תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר (דברים יג ט) "וְלֹא תָחוֹס עֵינְךָ". וְאָסוּר לַמּוּסָת לְלַמֵּד עָלָיו זְכוּת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג ט) "וְלֹא תַחְמל". וְאִם יָדַע לוֹ חוֹבָה אֵינוֹ רַשַּׁאי לִשְׁתֹּק מִמֶּנָּה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג ט) "וְלֹא תְכַסֶּה עָלָיו". וְאַזְהָרָה לְהֶדְיוֹט הַמֵּסִית מִנַּיִן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג יב) "וְכָל יִשְׂרָאֵל יִשְׁמְעוּ וְיִרָאוּ":


[The following rules apply to] a person who proselytizes others by telling them to worship him: Should he tell them: "Worship me," and they worship him, he should be stoned. If they did not worship him, even though they accepted and agreed to his statements, he is not liable for stoning.

In contrast, if he proselytizes by telling them to worship another man or another false deity, [different rules apply:] If they accept his statements and say, "We will go and worship," even if they have not actually worshiped, both of them - the mesit and the musat - should be stoned. [Deuteronomy 13:9] states: "Do not be attracted to him or listen to him." Thus, if one was attracted and listened, one is held liable.


הַמֵּסִית אֲחֵרִים לְעָבְדוֹ וְאָמַר לָהֶם עִבְדוּנִי אִם עֲבָדוּהוּ נִסְקָל וְאִם לֹא עֲבָדוּהוּ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁקִּבְּלוּ מִמֶּנּוּ וְאָמְרוּ הֵן אֵינוֹ נִסְקָל. אֲבָל אִם הֵסִית לַעֲבוֹדַת אִישׁ אַחֵר אוֹ לִשְׁאָר מִינֵי עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים אִם קִבֵּל מִמֶּנּוּ וְאָמַר הֵן נֵלֵךְ וְנַעֲבֹד אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁעֲדַיִן לֹא עָבַד שְׁנֵיהֶן נִסְקָלִין הַמֵּסִית וְהַמּוּסָת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג ט) "לֹא תֹאבֶה לוֹ וְלֹא תִשְׁמַע אֵלָיו" הָא אִם שָׁמַע וְאָבָה חַיָּב:

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 meant by [the expression], a prophet who prophesies in the name of false gods? A person who says: "This false deity or this star told me that we are commanded to do such and such or to refrain from doing so." [This applies] even when he stated the law accurately, labeling the impure as impure and the pure as pure.

If a warning was given to him [beforehand], he is executed by strangulation, as [Deuteronomy 18:20] states: "And one who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die." The warning against this [transgression] is included in the statement, [Exodus 23:13:] "And you shall not mention the name of other gods."


נָבִיא הַמִּתְנַבֵּא בְּשֵׁם עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים כֵּיצַד. זֶה הָאוֹמֵר אָמְרָה לִי עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים פְּלוֹנִית אוֹ כּוֹכָב פְּלוֹנִי שֶׁמִּצְוָה לַעֲשׂוֹת כָּךְ וְכָךְ אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא לַעֲשׂוֹת, אֲפִלּוּ כִּוֵּן אֶת הַהֲלָכָה לְטַמֵּא אֶת הַטָּמֵא וּלְטַהֵר אֶת הַטָּהוֹר, אִם הִתְרוּ בּוֹ בִּפְנֵי שְׁנַיִם הֲרֵי זֶה נֶחְנָק שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יח כ) "וַאֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּר בְּשֵׁם אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים וּמֵת הַנָּבִיא הַהוּא". וְאַזְהָרָה שֶׁלּוֹ מִכְּלָל שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כג יג) "וְשֵׁם אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים לֹא תַזְכִּירוּ":


It is forbidden to enter into a discussion or a debate with one who prophesies in the name of a false deity. We may not ask him to perform a sign or wonder, and if he does so on his own accord, we should pay no attention to it nor think about it. Whoever contemplates about the wonders [he performed, thinking], "Perhaps they are true," violates a negative commandment, as [Deuteronomy 13:4] states: "Do not listen to the words of that prophet."

Similarly, a false prophet should be executed by strangulation. [He is to be executed] although he speaks in the name of God and neither adds to nor diminishes [the mitzvot], as [Deuteronomy 18:20] states: "However, the prophet who dares to speak a matter in My name which I did not command - that prophet shall die."


וְאָסוּר לַעֲרֹךְ דִּין וּתְשׁוּבָה עִם הַמִּתְנַבֵּא בְּשֵׁם עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים וְאֵין שׁוֹאֲלִין מִמֶּנּוּ אוֹת וּמוֹפֵת. וְאִם עָשָׂה מֵעַצְמוֹ אֵין מַשְׁגִּיחִין עָלָיו וְאֵין מְהַרְהֲרִין בּוֹ. וְכָל הַמְחַשֵּׁב בְּאוֹתוֹת שֶׁלּוֹ שֶׁמָּא אֱמֶת הֵן עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג ד) "לֹא תִשְׁמַע אֶל דִּבְרֵי הַנָּבִיא הַהוּא". וְכֵן נְבִיא הַשֶּׁקֶר מִיתָתוֹ בְּחֶנֶק אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁנִּתְנַבֵּא בְּשֵׁם ה' וְלֹא הוֹסִיף וְלֹא גָּרַע שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יח כ) "אַךְ הַנָּבִיא אֲשֶׁר יָזִיד לְדַבֵּר דָּבָר בִּשְׁמִי אֵת אֲשֶׁר לֹא צִוִּיתִי" (דברים יח כ) "וּמֵת הַנָּבִיא הַהוּא":


[The category of] a false prophet includes:
a) one who "prophesies" regarding something that was never heard through prophetic vision;
b) one who "prophesies" about a subject which he heard from another prophet, saying that this prophecy was given to him.

[Both of these individuals] are to be executed by strangulation.


אֶחָד הַמִּתְנַבֵּא מַה שֶּׁלֹּא שָׁמַע בְּמַרְאֵה הַנְּבוּאָה אוֹ מִי שֶׁשָּׁמַע דִּבְרֵי נָבִיא חֲבֵרוֹ וְאָמַר שֶׁדָּבָר זֶה לוֹ נֶאֱמַר וְהוּא נִתְנַבֵּא בּוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה נְבִיא שֶׁקֶר וּמִיתָתוֹ בְּחֶנֶק:


Anyone who refrains from executing a false prophet because of the latter's [spiritual] level, [as expressed by] his adherence to the paths of prophecy, violates a negative commandment, as [Deuteronomy 18:22] states: "Do not fear him." Similarly, included within [the scope of the prohibition:] "Do not fear him" are one who withholds incriminating testimony against [a false prophet] and one who is afraid or in awe of his words.

A false prophet may be tried only by the [supreme] court of 71 judges.


כָּל הַמּוֹנֵעַ עַצְמוֹ מֵהֲרִיגַת נְבִיא הַשֶּׁקֶר מִפְּנֵי מַעֲלָתוֹ שֶׁהֲרֵי הוֹלֵךְ בְּדַרְכֵי הַנְּבוּאָה הֲרֵי זֶה עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יח כב) "לֹא תָגוּר מִמֶּנּוּ". וְכֵן הַמּוֹנֵעַ עַצְמוֹ מִלְּלַמֵּד עָלָיו חוֹבָה אוֹ הַפּוֹחֵד וְיָרֵא מִדְּבָרָיו הֲרֵי הוּא בִּכְלַל לֹא תָגוּר מִמֶּנּוּ. וְאֵין דָּנִין נְבִיא הַשֶּׁקֶר אֶלָּא בְּבֵית דִּין שֶׁל שִׁבְעִים וְאֶחָד:


A person who makes a vow or takes an oath in the name of a false deity is [liable for] lashes, as [Exodus 23:13] states: "And you shall not mention the name of other gods."

[This applies] both to one who takes such an oath for his own reasons and to one who takes such an oath because of a gentile. It is forbidden to have a gentile take an oath on his deity. It is even forbidden to mention the name of a gentile deity without any connection to an oath, as [implied by the expression], "You shall not mention."


הַנּוֹדֵר בְּשֵׁם עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים וְהַנִּשְׁבָּע בָּהּ לוֹקֶה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כג יג) "וְשֵׁם אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים לֹא תַזְכִּירוּ". אֶחָד הַנִּשְׁבָּע בָּהּ לְעַצְמוֹ וְאֶחָד הַנִּשְׁבָּע בָּהּ לַעֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים. וְאָסוּר לְהַשְׁבִּיעַ הָעוֹבֵד כּוֹכָבִים בְּיִרְאָתוֹ. אֲפִלּוּ לְהַזְכִּיר שֵׁם עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים שֶׁלֹּא דֶּרֶךְ שְׁבוּעָה אָסוּר שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר "לֹא תַזְכִּירוּ":


A person should not tell a colleague: "Wait for me near a particular false deity," or the like.

It is permitted to mention the name of any false deity that is mentioned in the Bible - e.g., Peor, Ba'al, Nevo, Gad, and the like. It is forbidden to cause others to take oaths or vows in the name of false deities. [In regard to all these prohibitions,] the only [transgressor] liable for lashes is one who [himself] makes a vow or an oath in the name [of a false deity].


לֹא יֹאמַר אָדָם לַחֲבֵרוֹ שְׁמֹר לִי בַּצַּד עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים פְּלוֹנִית וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהּ. וְכָל עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים הַכְּתוּבָה בְּכִתְבֵי הַקֹּדֶשׁ מֻתָּר לְהַזְכִּיר שְׁמָהּ כְּגוֹן פְּעוֹר וּבֵל וּנְבוֹ וְגָד וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן. וְאָסוּר לִגְרֹם לַאֲחֵרִים שֶׁיִּדְּרוּ וְשֶׁיְּקַיְּמוּ בְּשֵׁם עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים. וְאֵינוֹ לוֹקֶה אֶלָּא הַנּוֹדֵר בִּשְׁמָהּ וְהַמְקַיֵּם בִּשְׁמָהּ וְהוּא הַנִּשְׁבָּע בִּשְׁמָהּ: