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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin

Folio 73a


GEMARA. Our Rabbis taught: whence do we know that he who pursues after his neighbour to slay him must be saved [from sin] at the cost of his own life? From the verse, Thou shalt not stand by the blood of thy neighbour.2  But does it come to teach this? Is it not employed for the following [Baraitha] that has been taught: Whence do we know that if a man sees his fellow drowning, mauled by beasts, or attacked by robbers, he is bound to save him? From the verse, Thou shalt not stand by the blood of thy neighbor! — That in truth is so. Then whence do we know that [the pursuer] must be saved at the cost of his own life? — It is inferred by an ad majus reasoning from a betrothed maiden. If a betrothed maiden, whom he wishes merely to dishonour, yet the Torah decreed that she may be saved by the life of her ravisher, how much more so does this hold good for one who pursues his neighbour to slay him. But can punishment be inflicted as a result of an ad majus conclusion?3  — The School of Rabbi taught, It is derived by analogy:4  For as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so in this matter.5  But what do we learn from this analogy of a murderer?6  Thus, this comes to throw light, and is itself illumined.7  The murderer is compared to a betrothed maiden; just as a betrothed maiden must be saved [from dishonour] at the cost of his [her violater's] life, so in the case of a murderer, he [the victim] must be saved at the cost of his [the attacker's] life. And whence do we know this of betrothed maiden? — As was taught by the School of R. Ishmael. For the School of R. Ishmael taught; [The betrothed damsel cried]; and there was none to save her,8  but, if there was a rescuer, he must save her by all possible means [including the death of her ravisher].

[To revert to] the above text: 'Whence do we know that if a man sees his neighbour drowning, mauled by beasts, or attacked by robbers, he is bound to save him? From the verse, Thou shalt not stand by the blood of thy neighbour.' But is it derived from this verse? Is it not rather from elsewhere? Viz., Whence do we know [that one must save his neighbour from] the loss of himself? From the verse, And thou shalt restore him to himself!9  — From that verse I might think that it is only a personal obligation,10  but that he is not bound to take the trouble of hiring men [if he cannot deliver him himself]: therefore, this verse teaches that he must.

Our Rabbis taught: He who pursues after his neighbour to slay him, he who pursues a male [for sexual abuse], or a betrothed maiden, a woman forbidden to him on pain of death at the hands of Beth din, or one forbidden on pain of extinction11  — these are saved [from sin] at the cost of their own lives. But a High Priest in pursuit of a widow, and an ordinary priest in pursuit of a divorcee or a haluzah, may not be saved at the cost of their lives. If [the betrothed maiden] has been ravished previously, she may not be saved by her pursuer's death, likewise, if she can be otherwise rescued. R. Judah said: This applies also if she said [to her rescuers]. 'Let him be,' lest he slay her.12

Whence do we know all this? — But unto the damsel na'ar[ah] thou shalt do nothing: there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death.13  Na'ar refers to a male, na'arah to a betrothed maiden;14  sin — to women forbidden on pain of extinction; death — to those forbidden on pain of death at the hands of Beth din.15  Why are all these needed?16  — They are necessary. For had the Divine Law written na'ar [a youth], I would have thought that he must thus be saved because it is unnatural lust; but since connection with a maiden is natural, I would think that she may not be saved thus. Whilst if na'arah [damsel] were written, I would think that the law applies only to her, because he destroys her virginity; but not to a youth, who is not thus injured. And had these [only] been stated,

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. These must be slain, rather than be allowed to carry out their intention.
  2. Lev. XIX, 16. Stand not idly by, but save him from committing such a great sin.
  3. v. supra 54a.
  4. A hekkesh, v. Glos.,
  5. Deut. XXII, 26. This refers to the ravishing of a betrothed maiden.
  6. For the simile itself is superfluous, since the Torah explicitly states that the maiden is not punished. Hence it implies that a certain feature of the law of a murderer holds good here too, and vice versa.
  7. I.e., the verse shows that the case of a murderer throws light upon that of a betrothed maiden (v. infra 74a), but is it itself also illumined thereby.
  8. Ibid. 27.
  9. Ibid. 2. The passage refers to restoring a neighbour's lost property. This interpretation extends it to his own person. e.g if he has lost himself, he must be helped to find his way again. Hence it also applies to the rescuing of one from danger.
  10. Because, 'thou shalt restore' … implies thou in person.
  11. To commit incest or adultery.
  12. Before they reach her.
  13. Ibid. 26.
  14. The second half of the verse is superfluous, since the first half states, 'but unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing'. Hence each part thereof is separately interpreted. Though the verse as read (Kre) is na'arah, ([H] damsel). the written text (Kethib) is na'ar, ([H] a youth). Hence both the written and the read word are interpreted.
  15. And those deduced from the verse must be saved at the cost of their pursuer's life.
  16. Could not the Torah have taught it of one, from which the others might be deduced?

Sanhedrin 73b

I would think that it is because the one is unnatural, and the other is deprived of her virginity; but other consanguineous relations, cohabitation with whom is both natural and does not inflict a great loss,1  might not be thus saved: therefore the Divine Law writes 'sin'.2  Now, had the Divine Law written 'sin' [only], I would have thought it applies even to those who are forbidden merely by a negative precept: therefore the Divine Law wrote 'death'. And had the the Divine Law written 'death' [only], I would have thought the law applies only to those forbidden on pain of death by Beth din, but not on pain of extinction: therefore the Divine Law writes 'sin'. Then why did the Divine Law not write merely there is no sin worthy of death, na'ar [youth] and na'arah [a damsel] being superfluous?3  — That is so. But as for na'ar and na'arah, one teaches the exclusion of an idolater, and the other, the exclusion of bestiality and the [desecration of the] Sabbath.4  But on the view of R. Simeon b. Yohai that an idolater must be saved [from sin] at the cost of his life, why are these verses necessary? — One excludes bestiality, and the other excludes the [desecration of the] Sabbath; for I would [otherwise] think, that the Sabbath is included through an analogy with idolatry, since 'profanation' is written in both.5  But on the view of R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon, that he who desecrates the Sabbath must be saved [from sin] by death, because an analogy is drawn with idolatry, on account of profanation being written in both, what can you say? — One excludes bestiality; and as for the other, since the Divine Law wrote na'ar, it also wrote na'arah.6

'R. Judah said: The same applies if she said [to her rescuer] "Let him be", lest he slay her.'7

In which case do they8  differ? — Raba said: when she objects to dishonour, yet permits him, so that he should not slay her. The Rabbis maintain, The Divine Law was insistent for her honour, and since she too is particular about it. [her pursuer may be slain]. But R. Judah maintains that the reason that the Divine Law decreed that he should be slain is because she is prepared to give her own life [rather than be violated]; but this one is not prepared to do so.

R. Papa said to Abaye: But does not a High Priest dishonour a widow?9  — He replied, The Divine Law sought to protect her from great dishonour, but not from little dishonour.10

'Sin — refers to women forbidden on pain of extinction.

The Scholars objected: [We learnt,] Fine is imposed for the violation of the following maidens:11  he who outrages his sister.12  — The Rabbis explained this before R. Hisda: Once he has committed the first stage, thereby dishonouring her, he may no longer be slain;13  whereas monetary liability is not contracted until the completion of cohabitation.14  Now, this agrees with the view that the first stage [which dishonours her] is contact with her sexual organ; but on the view that the first stage is the insertion of the membrum, what can you say?15  But R. Hisda answered thus: This refers to unnatural followed by natural cohabitation.16  Raba said: This applies where she allows him [to have his will] so that he shall not slay her, and is based on the ruling of R. Judah.17

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. For if they are unbetrothed, there is no arus (a betrothed husband) in whom the loss of virginity will rankle deeply; whilst if they are married, her virginity has already gone.
  2. Teaching that it applies to those who are forbidden on pain of execution.
  3. Since the violation of a betrothed maiden and the abuse of a male are punishable by death, they are included in the exegesis of 'death'.
  4. That one must not he prevented from sinning in respect of these by killing him.
  5. v. Infra 74b.
  6. In fact, it is not a double redundancy, for though na'ar is written, the context demands that na'arah be read, since the entire passage refers to a maiden.
  7. In the Baraitha quoted above,
  8. R. Judah and the Rabbis.
  9. By violating her he disqualifies her from marrying a priest; why then should she not be saved at the cost of his life?
  10. I.e., the Torah authorised the extreme measure of slaying the ravisher only when he would inflict great dishonour, e.g.. in the case of incest forbidden on pain of extinction, as a result of which she becomes a harlot (zonah) and the child a bastard. But here (a widow, violated by a High Priest), she is merely profaned (halalah).
  11. The reference is to Deut. XXII, 28f. The fifty shekels are regarded as a fine.
  12. Keth. 29a. I.e., even his sister, though and she shall be his wife is inapplicable. But if she might be saved by his life, he should not be fined, in accordance with the principle stated on p, 490, n. 1. In the case of the death penalty, this principle holds good even if the offender is not actually executed, or, as in this case, slain by the rescuers,
  13. By her rescuers in order to save her, for the extreme measure is permitted only if she is as yet untarnished,
  14. Consequently, the two penalties are not incurred simultaneously, and the principle is inoperative. By 'completion' the destruction of her virginity is meant,
  15. Since then dishonour and destruction of virginity are simultaneous.
  16. Since she has been unnaturally violated before, whether by her brother or another, she may not be saved now by his life. Therefore he is fined for destroying her virginity.
  17. V. supra 73a.