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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin
The school of Hezekiah taught: And if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour to slay him with guile;2 — this implies that they warned him, yet he remained with wilful intent.3 The school of R. Ishmael taught: And they that found him gathering sticks:4 that implies that they warned him, yet he continued gathering. The school of Rabbi taught: Because [lit., 'for the word that'] he hath humbled [his neighbour's wife'],5 teaching, [it is] by reason of 'the word' [that he is stoned].6 And [these verses] are all necessary: for had the Divine Law stated [this provision] only in reference to a man's sister, one might have said that it applied only to those liable to flogging, but not to those liable to death,7 therefore the Divine Law wrote, If a man come presumptuously etc.8 Again, had this verse only been written, I might have thought that it [sc. a warning) is necessary only for decapitation, which is a milder form of death; but for stoning, which is severer, one might hold that it is not [required]: thus all are necessary. But why need two [intimations]9 in respect of stoning? — According to R. Simeon,10 to extend [the law of warning] to cases of burning;11 whilst the Rabbis12 [answer]: (Scripture [sometimes] takes the trouble of stating a law13 which can be deduced a minori. But Scripture should have intimated it for stoning [only], and then these other cases14 could have been inferred from it! — Here too [the same answer must be given]: Scripture [sometimes] takes the trouble of stating a law which can be deduced a miniori.
'Did he admit his liability to death?' Whence do we infer this? Raba — others state, Hezekiah — said: Scripture states, Shall he that is to die15 be put to death;16 [He is not put to death] unless he [previously] admitted his liability to death.17
R. Hanan said: Witnesses against a betrothed damsel18 who were proved Zomemim, are not executed,19 since they may plead, We came forward [to testify] only to render her ineligible for her [intended] husband.20 But they must surely have warned her!21 — This treats of a case where they did not warn her. But if so, how could she be put to death at all?22 This refers to an educated woman, and is based on the view of R. Jose son of R. Judah. For it has been taught: R. Jose son of R. Judah said: A scholar needs no warning, for warning was instituted only in order to distinguish between wilfulness and unwilfulness.23 But since they are not executed, how could she be? For this becomes evidence to which the law of Zomem cannot be applied,24 and such is not admissible!25 — He [R. Hanan] actually meant it thus: Since they are not executed, for they can plead, 'We came only to make her ineligible for her [intended] husband,' she too cannot be executed, because it is evidence to which the law of Zomem cannot be applied. Then in the case of an educated woman, who, as we know, is to be executed on the view of R. Jose son of R. Judah, how, is that possible?26 — If she misconducted herself twice.27 But they [the witnesses] can still plead, We came only to render her forbidden to her second paramour!28 — [The case in question is one] where the misconduct was repeated with the first adulterer,29 or one of misconduct with one of her relations.30
But why state this only of a 'betrothed damsel': surely the same applies to a married woman too! — True: but [the purpose here is to teach that] even in such a case, though she has not yet lived with her husband, they can plead, We came forward only to make her ineligible for her [intended] husband.
R. Hisda said: If one testified that he [the accused] slew him with a sword, and another, that he slew him with a dagger, it [the evidence] is inadmissible.31 If one says, His clothes were black, and the other, His clothes were white; the evidence is admissible.32
An objection is raised: 'Certain'33 implies that the evidence must be certain; if one witness says, He slew him with a sword, and the other says, With a dagger; or if one says, His clothes were black, and the other, They were white, the evidence is not 'certain'?34 — R. Hisda interpreted this as referring to the [colour of] the cloth with which he strangled him, which comes under the same category as sword or dagger.
Come and hear! If the one says that his sandals were black, and the other, that they were white, the evidence is not certain'!35 — There too the meaning is, that he kicked him with his sandal and killed him.36
Come and hear! IT ONCE HAPPENED THAT BEN ZAKKAI CROSS-EXAMINED [THE WITNESSES] AS TO THE STALKS OF THE FIGS. — Rami b. Hama replied: The meaning is, that a man cut off a fig on the Sabbath, for which he was to be put to death.37 But has it not been taught: They said to him, 'He killed him beneath a fig-tree'? — But, said Rami b. Hama: It was a case where he [the accused] pierced his victim with the sharp end of a fig branch.
Come and hear! He questioned [the witnesses]: Were the stalks of this fig tree thin or thick? And were the figs [themselves] black or white?38 But, answered R. Joseph: Would one raise an objection from Ben Zakkai! Ben Zakkai had a different view, since he assimilated bedikoth to hakiroth.39
Now, who was this Ben Zakkai? Shall we say, R. Johanan b. Zakkai? Was he then [a member] of the Sanhedrin?40 Has it not been taught:41 The whole lifetime of R. Johanan b. Zakkai was a hundred and twenty years. Forty years he engaged in business; forty years he studied, and forty years he taught. And it has also been taught: Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the Sanhedrin were exiled42 and took up residence in Hanuth.43 Whereon R. Isaac b. Abudimi said: This is to teach that they did not try cases of Kenas.44 'Cases of Kenas!' Can you really think so!45 Say rather, They did not try capitol charges.46 Again we learnt:47 When the Temple was destroyed, R. Johanan enacted [so and so].48 But the reference is to some other Ben Zakkai. Reason too supports this: for were R. Johanan b. Zakkai meant, would Rabbi49 have called him merely Ben Zakkai!50 Yet has it not been taught: It once happened that R. Johanan b. Zakkai examined [witnesses] as to the stalks on the figs?51 — He must therefore have been a disciple sitting before his Master,52 when he made this statement the reasoning of which was so acceptable to them [the Rabbis]
1 he was called Rabban Johanan b. Zakkai. Hence, when he is referred to as Ben Zakkai,2 it is in accordance with his earlier status;3 while when he is called R. Johanan b. Zakkai, it is in accordance with his status at the time [that the Baraitha was taught].
IT ONCE HAPPENED THAT ETC. … WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HAKIROTH AND BEDIKOTH.? etc. What does 'EVEN4 IF BOTH SAY etc. mean? It is surely obvious that if when one of the two witnesses says, 'I do not know,' their evidence is valid, if two say so, their testimony is likewise valid?5 — R. Shesheth said: This refers to the first clause [of the Mishnah]6 and its meaning is as follows: In hakiroth, even if two say, 'We know,' and one is in doubt, their evidence is invalid. With whom does this agree? — With R. Akiba, who treated three [witnesses] as equal to two.7 Raba demurred: Surely the Mishnah states: THEIR EVIDENCE IS VALID!8 — But, said Raba, it means this: Even in hakiroth, if two say, 'We know,' and the third says, 'I do not know,' their evidence is valid. With whom does this agree? — Not with R. Akiba.
R. Kahana and R. Safra were studying [the Tractate] Sanhedrin in the school of Rabbah. When Rami b. Hama met them, he asked them: What have ye to say on the Tractate Sanhedrin as taught in the school of Rabbah?9 They retorted: And what in particular are we to say of the Tractate itself?10 What is your special difficulty? — He answered: [The difficulty arises] from what is stated: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HAKIROTH AND BEDIKOTH? IN HAKIROTH, IF ONE [OF THE WITNESSES] ANSWERS, 'I DO NOT KNOW,' THEIR EVIDENCE IS VOID. WITH RESPECT TO BEDIKOTH, HOWEVER, IF ONE ANSWERS, I DO NOT KNOW,' OR EVEN IF BOTH SAY, 'WE DO NOT KNOW THEIR EVIDENCE IS VALID. Now consider: both are Biblically [required]:11 why then should hakiroth differ from bedikoth? — They said to him: How compare them?12 As for hakiroth, if one of the witnesses say, 'I do not know', the evidence is invalid because it cannot be refuted;13 but with respect to bedikoth, if one of them answers, 'I do not know', the evidence remains valid, since it is still subject to refutation. Thereupon he said to them: If that is what you have to say, you have much to say thereon. But they replied: only because of your great forbearance have we said so much; had you criticized us, we should not have said anything.14
IF ONE TESTIFIES … [FOR ONE MAY HAVE BEEN AWARE OF THE INTERCALATION OF THE MONTH etc.] Till what date?15 — R. Aha b.Hanina said in the name of R. Assi in the name of R. Johanan: Until the greater part of the month [has passed].16 Raba said: We too learnt likewise' IF HOWEVER, ONE SAID, 'ON THE THIRD, AND THE OTHER, 'ON THE FIFTH, THEIR EVIDENCE IS INVALID. But why so? Why not assume that the one may have known of two intercalations,17 whilst the other was ignorant of both! Hence it must surely be so because, when the greater part of the month has passed, one knows thereof [sc. intercalation]! — [No.] In truth I might argue that even after the passing of the greater part of the month, one does not necessarily know [of the intercalation],18 yet he must have known of the Shofar-signal:19 we may then say that he may have erred regarding one signal,20 but not regarding two.21
R. Hanina also said in the name of R. Assi in R. Johanan's name: Until what day of the month may the benediction over the new moon be recited?22 — Until its concavity is filled up. And how long is that? — R. Jacob b. Idi said In Rab Judah's name: Seven days. The Nehardeans said: Sixteen [days].
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