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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin

Folio 42a

Now, both agree with R. Johanan,1  but the one [explains it as meaning]: Until it is like a strung bow;2  the other: Until it is like a sieve.3

R. Aha of Difti4  said to Rabina:5  Yet should not one utter the benediction,6  'Blessed … who art good and dispensest good'!7  — He replied: But when it is waning, do we say, 'Blessed be the true judge.'8  that we should say: 'Blessed … who art good and dispensest good?'9  But why should not both be recited?10  Since it is a regular phenomenon, no benediction at all is required.11

R. Aha b. Hanina also said in the name of R. Assi in R. Johanan's name: Whoever pronounces the benediction over the new moon in its due time welcomes, as it were, the presence of the Shechinah: for one passage states, This month;12  whilst elsewhere it is said, This is my God, and I will giorify Him.13

In the school of Rabbi Ishmael it was taught: Had Israel inherited no other privilege14  than to greet the presence of their Heavenly Father once a month,15  it were sufficient. Abaye said: Therefore16  we must recite it standing. But Meremar and Mar Zutra allowed themselves to be carried on the shoulders17  when they pronounced the blessing.

R. Aha said to R. Ashi: In 'the West,' they pronounce the following benediction: 'Blessed be He who reneweth the moons.' Whereupon he retorted: Such a blessing even our women folk pronounce!18  But [one should rather use the following], in accordance with Rab Judah, who gives it thus: Praised etc.19  who created the Heavens with His word, and all their hosts with the breath of His mouth. He appointed unto them fixed laws and times, that they should not change their ordinance. They rejoice and are glad to do the will of their Creator. They work20  truthfully, for their action is truth. The moon He ordered that she should renew herself as a crown of beauty for those whom He sustains from the womb,21  and who will, like it, be renewed in the future, and magnify their Maker in the name of the glory of His kingdom. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who renewest the moons.

For with wise advice22  thou shalt make thy war.23  R. Aha b. Hanina [further] said in the name of R. Assi in R. Johanan's name: In whom do you find [skill to conquer in] the battle of the Torah?24  — Only in him who possesses bundles of Mishnah [teaching].25

R. Joseph applied to himself [the verse]: Much increase [of grain] is by the strength of the ox.26

SIMILARLY, IF ONE TESTIFIED, 'DURING THE SECOND HOUR' etc. R. Shimi b. Ash said: They taught this only of hours.27  But if one testifies, 'It was before sunrise,' and the other says, 'After sunrise, their evidence is invalid.28  This is obvious29  — But [put it thus:] if one testifies, 'Before sunrise,' and the other, 'During sunrise.'30  But this too is obvious! I might, however, think that he [the witness] was standing in the glow [before sunrise] and what he saw was but a gleam:31  He therefore informs us otherwise.

AFTER THIS, THE SECOND WITNESS IS ADMITTED etc. [AND HE DOES NOT DESCEND FROM THERE ALL THAT DAY.] Only THAT DAY,32  and no longer? But has it not been taught: 'If there is substance in his statement, he does not go down from there at all;33  but if there is no substance therein, he does not descend thence all that day, that his rise be not his fall'?34  — Abaye said: Interpret it [sc. the Mishnah] as applying [to a case] where no substance was found in his statement.

IF THEY FIND HIM NOT GUILTY etc. [AND DRINK NO WINE]. Why drink no wine? — R. Aha b. Hanina said: Scripture states, It is not for princes35  to say, Where is strong drink?36  [i.e.,] those who are engaged in [unravelling] the secrets of the world37  must not become drunk.

THE TWO SIDES DEBATE THE CASE TOGETHER UNTIL ONE OF THOSE WHO CONDEMN AGREES WITH etc. But what if they do not agree? R. Aha ruled: He is discharged. R. Johanan said likewise: He is discharged. R. Papa said to Abaye: Then he should be set free in the first place!38  He answered: Thus did R. Johanan say: It is in order that they may not leave the Court in confusion.39  Some say that R. Papa said to Abaye: Why add, Let him be discharged by the first court?40  To which he replied: R. Jose is in agreement with you. For it has been taught: R. Jose said: Just as a court of seventy-one is not increased, so may a court of twenty-three not be increased.

Our Rabbis taught: In civil suits, a declaration is made, The judgement nizdakan;41  but not in capital charges.42  What does (for note 9 see p. 274) nizdakan mean? Shall we say, The case is difficult:43  surely, the reverse should have been taught!44  R. Huna b. Manoah said in the name of R. Aha the son of R. Ika: We should reverse (the instances). R. Ashi said: In truth, you need not reverse it: what is meant by 'The judgment nizdakan'? — The case is wisely [established].45

An objection is raised: The presiding judge declares, 'The judgment nizdakan.' Now, should you agree that it means, 'The case is wisely established,' it is correct, hence the presiding judge makes the declaration. But if you maintain that it means, The case is difficult;' is it not better that the presiding judge should not say it? Surely in doing so he actually disgraces himself! — There is no comparison between declaring one's own disgrace and having another declare it.46  Others state: Should you agree that it means, The case is difficult,' it is correct, for there is no comparison between declaring ones own disgrace and having another declare it. But if you maintain that it means, 'The case is wisely established:' does not the president [of the court] thereby praise himself? Whereas it is written, Let another praise thee and not thine own mouth?47  — It is different in judicial matters, since the president is charged with the duty,48  as we learnt: When a decision has been arrived at, they are admitted, and the presiding judge declares, 'So and so, thou art not liable,' or, 'So and so, thou art liable.'49 

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. That the recital of the benediction is conditioned by the filling up of the moon's concavity.
  2. I.e., semicircular, which shape it assumes after seven days.
  3. I.e., round, at full moon.
  4. [Dibtha on the Tigris. (Obermeyer op. cit. p. 197)].
  5. With reference to Rab Judah's view.
  6. After seven days and until full moon.
  7. This benediction is made on the attainment of a thing over which its due blessing has already been pronounced, but which has now either been improved or been replaced by a thing of the same kind but of a better quality (v. Ber. 59b). And so R. Aba maintained that even if in Rab Judah's opinion the usual benediction for the new moon is not to be uttered after seven days because it is then no longer new, yet since it is still in its growing stage, becoming more luminous as the days pass until full moon is reached, this latter blessing should be uttered.
  8. A benediction recited on hearing bad tidings. Cf. Ber. 54a.
  9. When it is waxing. I.e., since its waning is not regarded as a loss, entailing this benediction, its waxing is not a gain, necessitating the other.
  10. On the respective occasions.
  11. For its waxing is no particular boon from God, nor its waning an infliction, which are the fundamental reasons of these benedictions.
  12. Ex. XII, 2, concerning the New Moon.
  13. Ex. XV, 2, in the Song of Moses. 'This' is taken as connoting something that could, as it were, be pointed at with the finger (v. Mekilta. Ex. XV, 2), and the use of this word in the two verses suggests that he, who praises God at the periodical renewal of the moon, gives witness to the revelation of Divine Glory as manifested in natural phenomena.
  14. [H]; v. p. 153. n. 2.
  15. I.e., if they practised no other observance but this — the benediction over the new moon.
  16. Because it is a greeting of God's Presence.
  17. Probably because of their infirmity through age. Cf. supra 7b, and Rashi's comment
  18. As if to say, 'There is nothing in that.' Such a short benediction is fit only for the uneducated. e.g., women (Maharsha).
  19. The 'etc.' (curr. edd. in brackets) stands for 'art thou, O Lord our God…'
  20. Tosaf.'s reading:' 'He works', referring to God.
  21. I.e., from childhood, viz., Israel, cf. Isa. XLVI, 3.
  22. [H].
  23. Prov. XXIV, 6.
  24. I.e., who is qualified to meet the difficulties of the Torah, and give a true interpretation?
  25. I.e., he who is fully conversant with the law; according to Rashi, the point is that mere dialectic skill and ingenuity are no substitutes for a sound knowledge of the sources. [H], bundle, is a word play on [H].
  26. Prov. XIV, 4. V. Deut. XXXIII, 17, where Joseph is symbolically compared to a bullock; also Hor. 14a: R. Joseph was renowned for his erudition, being known as Sinai. Hence his application of the above verse to himself.
  27. I.e., if the witnesses state a definite time, e.g., three hours, four hours. etc. Only then is there a dispute in the Mishnah as to the margin of possible error.
  28. Even according to R. Judah.
  29. As there could be no error in such a matter.
  30. Their evidence is null.
  31. Mistaking it for the rays of sunrise; thus their statements tally.
  32. Does the disciple remain seated with the Judges.
  33. I.e., he becomes a member of the Court. V. Yad, Sanh. X, 8, although according to Tosafoth Yom Tob on Sanh. V, 4, he is not given a (for note 9 see p. 274) vote. Me'iri, however, maintains that he is seated with them only as long as the trial lasts.
  34. If he had to resume his seat in the presence of the Assembly, he would be disgraced.
  35. [H], here connected with [H], secret. V. Dan. II, 18, 29.
  36. Prov. XXXI, 4.
  37. I.e., seeking to bring to light the secrets hidden in men's hearts, and so endeavouring to establish the truth — in a capital charge.
  38. I.e., after the court was increased to seventy-one and there was yet no clear majority. Why then delay by debating, surely the court as a whole must not seek to convict?
  39. I.e., without a definite decision. It reflects discredit on a court that it should rise in a state of controversy, having been unable to bring the matter to a definite conclusion (Rashi).
  40. Of twenty-three. If there was then no clear majority, both sides should have endeavoured to win one more vote over to their opinion, and in the case of failure, he should have been set free there and then.
  41. [H], from the root [H], may have a twofold meaning; a) old, in that the case has become old in discussion and could not be solved; or b) wise, in that the case has become clear, or wisely established, and is no longer in need of discussion. The following discussion is based on these two alternative meanings.
  42. Cf. Tosef. Sanh. VII.
  43. Lit., 'old', I.e., the case is become old and stale through prolonged discussion, and cannot be solved.
  44. I.e., in capital cases one should all the more say, 'The judgment nizdakan,' so as to acquit the accused.
  45. [H] according to the Rabbis, denotes 'wise' Cf. Kid. 32b.
  46. Which would be the position if the words were pronounced by another member of the court.
  47. Prov. XXVII, 2.
  48. Of declaring the verdict.
  49. Supra 29a.

Sanhedrin 42b




GEMARA. And was the place of stoning only just outside the court and no further? Has it not been taught: The place of stoning was outside the three encampments?8  — True, it is even as you say, yet he teaches it thus, so that one may infer from it that if the Beth din went forth9  and stationed itself outside the three encampments,10  even so the place of stoning had to be without the court, in order that it [the court] should not appear murderously inclined, or that there might be a possibility of deliverance.11

Whence is this inferred?12  From what our Rabbis taught: Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp:13  i.e., without the three camps. You say, 'without the three camps:' but may it not mean simply outside one camp? — It is here stated, Without the camp; and in reference to the bulls that were [wholly] burned,14  it is also said, without the camp:15  Just as there, [it means] without the three camps, so here too. And whence is that derived there? — From what our Rabbis taught: The whole bullock shall he carry away without the camp16  — i.e., without the three camps. You say, 'without the three camps;' but perhaps it simply means 'without one camp'?17  — But when Scripture states further, with reference to the bull offered for the Community,18  without the camp, which is unnecessary, for it has already been stated, And he shall burn it as he hath burned the first bullock,19  its purpose is to add a second camp.20  And when Scripture states further, with reference to the ashes,21  without the camp,22  which is also superfluous, since it has already been said, Where the ashes are poured out shall it be burned,23  its purpose must be to add a third camp.24

But why not derive it25  from the sacrifices slaughtered without [the legitimate precincts]?26  Just as there, [the meaning is] without one camp,27  so here too, without one camp is meant! — It is logical to make the deduction from the bullocks that were [wholly] burned, since they have the following points in common: [i] Bring forth … without the camp; [ii] [the bringing forth] is a necessary preliminary [to the act]; [iii] atonement.28  On the contrary, it should rather be deduced from the sacrifices slaughtered without, since they have the following in common; [i] human being; [ii] sinners; [iii] life is taken; and [iv] piggul?29  — It is preferable to deduce one necessary preliminary from another.30

R. Papa said:31  Where did Moses reside? In the camp of the Levites.32  And God said to him: Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp33  — which therefore means, without the camp of the Levites. Hence, when it states, And they brought forth him that had cursed outside the camp, the camp of the Israelites [must be meant].34  But surely, that is necessary to intimate the fulfilment [of the command]? — This fulfilment is expressly stated:

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. And the accused is found guilty.
  2. If he be so sentenced. Stoning is given here as an example, it being enumerated first in the list of the four modes of execution in Jewish law. Cf. infra 49b.
  3. 'Bring forth' implies 'without,' as is also shewn by the end of the sentence: without the camp. Lev. XXIV, 14.
  4. Sudarium, a cloth or kerchief.
  5. The signal man.
  6. Of the judges (Rashi).
  7. From carrying out the sentence until the court has gone into the details to see whether there is any substance in the new statement offered.
  8. That of the Divine Presence and the Priests, that of the Levites, and that of the rest of the Israelites. In Jerusalem they were situated as follows: The first was confined to the space of the Temple court, the second to the Temple Mount and the third occupied the rest of the city.
  9. From its usual locale, as stated in the previous note.
  10. I.e., one of the minor Sanhedrins.
  11. Between sentence and execution. The further the place of execution was from the court, therefore, the better for the condemned.
  12. That the execution must take place outside the three camps.
  13. Lev. XXIV, 14, with reference to the blasphemer.
  14. I.e., the sin offering of the anointed priest (Lev. IV, 3, seq.), and of the whole community (ibid. 13 seq.).
  15. Ibid. 12, 21.
  16. Ibid. 12.
  17. I.e., only outside the precincts of the Temple.
  18. In case the whole community committed an unwitting transgression.
  19. Ibid. i.e., the sin offering of the anointed priest, ibid. 3 seq.
  20. Beyond, which the burning is to take place.
  21. Which were heaped up and had to be removed.
  22. Lev. VI, 4.
  23. Lev. IV, 12; this explicitly states that the place for burning the ashes was without the camp. Hence the same statement in the verse first quoted is redundant.
  24. V. n. 12.
  25. Sc. the meaning of 'without the camp', Lev. XXIV, 14.
  26. Cf. Lev. XVII, 3ff. What ever man etc. … that offereth a burnt offering or sacrifice and bringeth it not unto the entrance of the appointed tent … that man shall be cut off from among his people.
  27. As is deduced from the words, bringeth it not unto the entrance of the appointed tent, i.e., the priestly camp, but outside it.
  28. In both these cases there is a positive command, Bring forth, etc. Whereas with references to sacrifices slaughtered outside the forecourt it is only stated, He that slaugthtered it outside the camp. Again, the bringing forth without the camp is a prerequisite for the fitting performance of the act; whereas in the case of sacrifices slaughtered outside the Temple court it is a transgression. Moreover, the burning of the bullock is an atonement for the High Priest and the whole Congregation (cf. Lev. IV, 20), and stoning likewise is an atonement for the malefactor; but that feature is absent in the case of sacrifices slaughtered without.
  29. 'Without the camp' in both these places refers to a human being; the blasphemer was to be taken 'without the camp', whilst it was a human being who slaughtered 'without the camp'; whereas, in connection with the burnt bullocks, this phrase relates to animals; they were to be taken 'without the camp'. Again, the blasphemer and the slaughterer without the camp are both sinners, whereas the bullock, in direct relation to which the phrase is stated, is not a sinner. Further, in both these cases, the leading 'without the camp' was in order to take life — that of the blasphemer and the sacrifice yet to be slaughtered; but the burnt bullocks were already slaughtered; and 'without the camp' is mentioned in connection with burning their carcases. And finally, the law of piggul is inapplicable to these two. [H], unfitness caused by an intention in the mind of the officiating priest to dispose of a sacrifice outside the legal limits of space or time. In both these cases the performance of the act outside does not involve this sin. In stoning it is, of course, not applicable, and sacrificing outside the prescribed area is not piggul, which implies instead a sacrificing outside the precincts but unlawful intentions about the sacrifice's subsequent disposal. Nor is piggul possible in the case of sacrifices slaughtered without. In the case of the bullocks to be wholly burned, an intention to burn them beyond their proper place makes the sacrifice in a sense piggul (v. Rashi).
  30. V. n. 3.
  31. In proof that the third camp is meant.
  32. Since he was a Levite.
  33. Lev. XXIV, 14.
  34. It was not necessary to repeat the words, out of the camp; therefore the words here mean something different from their use earlier.