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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin

Folio 35a

And it is written, And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sack-cloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest.1

It is written, And the Lord said unto Moses, Take all the chiefs of the people.2  If the people had sinned, wherein had the chiefs sinned?3  — Rab Judah said in Rab's name: The Holy One, blessed be He, said unto Moses: Divide them into [many] courts.4  Why? Shall we say, because two [men] may not be tried [and sentenced] on the same day?5  But R. Hisda said: This was taught only with reference to [charges involving] two different modes of execution;6  whereas [cases that involve only] one mode of execution7  may be tried? — But it was so, that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel.8

CIVIL SUITS MAY BE CONCLUDED ON THE SAME DAY etc. … Whence is this derived? — R. Hanina said: Scripture saith, She that was full of justice, righteousness lodged [yalin] in her,9  but now, murderers.10  Raba derived it from the following: Ashsheru hamoz11  — i.e., bless12  the judge who reserves13  his verdict. And the other?14  — [He interprets it thus:] Relieve the oppressed,15  not the oppressor.16  And the latter [Raba]: how does he utilize the verse: And she that was full of justice? — Even as R. Eleazar said in the name of R. Isaac. Viz.: If on a fast day, the distribution of alms17  is postponed overnight, it is just as though blood were shed,18  as it is written, She that was full of justice, charity19  etc. This, however, applies only to bread and dates;20  but in the case of money, wheat or barley, [postponement] does not matter.

THEREFORE TRIALS ARE NOT HELD [ON THE EVE OF A SABBATH OR FESTIVAL] etc. Why so? — Because it is impossible, for how could it be done? Should they try him [the accused] on the eve of the Sabbath and pronounce judgment on the same day; perhaps they may find cause for condemnation, and judgment will then have to be postponed overnight.21  Or again, if they try him on the eve of the Sabbath, and pronounce judgment on the Sabbath, and execute him on that day,22  but execution cannot supersede the Sabbath.23  Again, should he be executed in the evening; execution must be carried out 'in the face of the sun.'24  One the other hand, if judgment is pronounced on the Sabbath whist he is executed on the first day of the week [Sunday], they might delay the course of justice.25  If he be tried on the eve of the Sabbath, and the matter concluded on the first day of the week, they might have forgotten their reasons by then, for although two judges' clerks stand before them and write down the arguments of those who would acquit and those who would convict,26  they can but record according to the mouth,27  yet once the heart forgets, it remains forgotten.28  Hence this is impossible.

Resh Rakish said to R. Johanan: Why should not the burial of a Meth-Mizwah29  supersede [the laws of] the Sabbath, reasoning a minori: if the Temple service, which sets aside the Sabbath,30  is itself suspended for the burial of a Meth-Mizwah (as is deduced from, And to his sister, even as it has been taught: To his father and to his mother and to his brother and to his sister:31  What does this teach us?32  [Even] if he [the Nazir] were on his way to sacrifice the Paschal lamb or to circumcise his son,33

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Ibid. verse 10, as a protection from the birds of prey. They must have been hanged on trees.
  2. Num. XXV, 4.
  3. Only the people are mentioned as sinning (vv. 2, 3), but not particularly the chiefs.
  4. To try the sinners. The verse is accordingly translated: Take the chiefs of the people (and appoint them as judges,) and hang up them (whom they shall condemn) etc.
  5. By one court; therefore many courts had to be set up, since the culprits were many'.
  6. Since the members of the court would find it difficult to find a plea in favour of the accused in each case.
  7. When the crime committed is the same, as in this case.
  8. When it was seen that all the chiefs were concerned in punishing the sinners.
  9. Isa. I, 21. I.e., judgment was held over lest points for acquittal might be found. ihkh means, 'to stay over night'.
  10. I.e., but now they do not postpone the verdict until the next day, and thus are (judicial) murderers.
  11. Ibid, 17. [H] (E.V. 'relieve the oppressed').
  12. [H] is rendered, 'declare happy'.
  13. Lit., 'makes sour,' (H] from [H], 'sour') in the sense of preserving (e.g., pickle vegetables), and hence metaphorically 'to postpone', 'to keep in reserve.'
  14. R. Hanina, who derives it from the other verse. How does he interpret the verse?
  15. I.e., attend to the plaintiff.
  16. The defendant. He is hinting at the general rule in legal procedure that the plaintiff must be heard first. Cf. B K. 46b. The application of this law is particularly noticeable in the case of a counter claim, designed to nullify the original, when priority must be given to the first claim.
  17. It was customary to distribute the value of the food saved during the fast to the poor. Cf. Ber. 6b the merit of a fast consists in dispensing charity.
  18. For the needy who relied on it might have died of starvation.
  19. [H] means also 'charity', as in fact, in Hebrew there is only one word for 'righteousness' and 'charity': charity is righteousness. The verse is accordingly translated: She was full of justice; but now that charity is made to lodge therein, i.e., postponed overnight, they ate as murderers.
  20. I.e., only when these articles of food were distributed, on which the poor depend for breaking their fast.
  21. And pronounced on the Sabbath, which is not permissible, v. nn 6 and 7.
  22. Execution must be carried out on the same day as the pronouncement of the verdict.
  23. Killing is one of the labours forbidden on the Sabbath, even when it takes the form of judicial execution.
  24. I.e., in the day time. Num XXV, 4.
  25. Since execution must be carried out on the same day as the verdict. [H] 'to afflict', when used in connection with a court verdict, means to afflict the condemned man by postponing his execution, the wait being an additional mental torment.
  26. Supra 34a.
  27. I.e., the actual words.
  28. I.e., the spirit of the argument may not be recalled through the written word.
  29. [H] Lit., 'A corpse which it is a religious obligation (to bury). 'The burial of a dead person has no relatives to attend to him devolves upon anyone, even a High Priest. This query is raised here only because of a subsequent question whether execution on a Sabbath day is permissible.
  30. E.g., by the offering of the Tamid or daily burnt offering. Cf. Num. XXVIII, 2; Pes 77a.
  31. Num. VI, 7. For these the Nazarite may not render himself unclean. A similar restriction is imposed on the High Priest.
  32. I.e., why is it necessary to detail all these relations, seeing that it has already been stated in the previous verse: He shall not come near to a dead body, which includes all relations? The Sifre on the verse comments on the reason for each: He may not defile himself for his father, but he must for a Meth-Mizwah; nor for his mother, but he must for a Meth-Mizwah, even if he be a priest as well as a Nazarite, nor for his brother, but he must for a Meth-Mizwah even if he be a High Priest as well as a Nazarite; nor for his sister, but he must defile himself for a Meth-Mizwah, even if he be a High Priest as well as a Nazarite and engaged in such duties as are stated in the Gemara.
  33. Both of which acts must he performed at a prescribed time.
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Sanhedrin 35b

and he heard that one of his relatives had died, it might be thought that he should defile himself, but in fact the law1  provides that he should not. Now, it might be thought that just as he may not defile himself for his sister, so may he not defile himself for a Meth-Mizwah: therefore Scripture states, And to his sister, i.e., [only] for his sister may he not defile himself, but he must do so for a Meth-Mizwah). Then the Sabbath, which is abrogated in favour of the Temple service, should surely be set aside for the burial of a Meth-Mizwah! — He answered: Execution2  can prove it [sc. the contrary]: it supersedes the Temple service,3  and yet does not set aside the Sabbath.4  But let execution itself supersede the Sabbath, arguing [likewise] a minori: If the Temple service, which supersedes the Sabbath, is itself set aside for execution, as it is written, Thou shalt take him5  from mine altar that he may die:6  then the Sabbath, which the Temple service sets aside, should surely be set aside by execution! — Said Raba: A Tanna of R. Ishmael's School has already decided this, for a Tanna of the school of R. Ishmael taught: Ye shall not kindle a fire:7  What does this teach?8  'What does this teach?' [askest thou]! According to R. Jose, [it is particularized] in order to constitute it merely a prohibitory command;9  according to R. Nathan in order to teach separation,10  as has been taught: The [singling out of] kindling is to shew that it is subject merely to a negative command: this is the view of R. Jose. R. Nathan said: It is to teach separation. But, said Raba, the Tanna's difficulty is [the word] 'habitations'.11  Why is the word 'habitations'12  stated? For consider: [the observance of the] Sabbath is a personal duty,13  and a personal duty is obligatory both within and without the Land [sc. Palestine]; what then is the purpose of 'habitations', which the Divine Law wrote? — A disciple said on R. Ishmael's authority: Since it is written, And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death and he be put to death,14  I [might] understand it to mean both on week-days and on the Sabbath.15  How then should I interpret, He that profaneth it shall surely be put to death?16  — As referring to other forms of work, but not judicial execution. Or perhaps that is not so, and it does indeed include execution by the Beth din; and how an I to interpret, And he be put to death? — as applying only to week-days, but not to the Sabbath!17  Or perhaps, on the contrary, even the Sabbath is meant?18  — Therefore19  Scripture states: Ye shall not kindle a fire throughout your habitations,20  and elsewhere it says And these things shall be for a statute of judgment for you throughout your generations in all your habitations:21  Just as the word 'habitations' found there,22  refers to [matters concerning] a Beth din, so the word 'habitations' found here refers to [work entailed by a] Beth din.23  And regarding it the Divine Law states: Ye shall not kindle a fire in all your habitations.24

Abaye said: Now that you have concluded that execution does not supersede the Sabbath, it [necessarily] follows that execution does not suspend the Temple service, a minori: If the Sabbath, which is abrogated in favour of the Temple service, is not set aside for execution; then the Temple service, which supersedes the Sabbath, is surely not suspended by execution! And as to the Scriptural verse, Thou shalt take him from mine altar that he may die?25  — this refers only to a private sacrifice,26  which does not suspend the Sabbath.27  Raba said:28  But execution should not suspend [attendance even upon] a private sacrifice, a minori:

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Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. In the verse under discussion; v. n. 6.
  2. Lit., 'Murder'.
  3. If a priest is convicted of murder; he must be executed, even if he wishes to perform the Temple service.
  4. As was stated above.
  5. The murderer.
  6. Ex. XXI, 14.
  7. Ex. XXXV, 3.
  8. I.e., why was the kindling of fire specially mentioned; surely it was already included in: Ye shall not do any work! (Ex. XX, 10.)
  9. I.e., its infringement is punishable only by lashes and not by stoning, as is the performance of other work on the Sabbath.
  10. I.e., to teach that each transgression of the Sabbath laws is to be atoned for separately. This interpretation is based on the eighth of the thirteen exegetical principles expounded by R. Ishmael, namely: If anything is included in a general proposition and is then made the subject of a special statement, that which is predicated of it is not to be understood as limited to itself alone, but applies to the whole of the general proposition.
  11. Ex. XXXV, 3.
  12. Which word, as a rule, indicates that the law is confined to Palestine alone.
  13. As opposed to laws dependent on the soil, such as those of the Sabbatical year, or the fruits of the soil, such as tithes etc.
  14. Deut. XXI, 22.
  15. Since, by reason of the a minori argument propounded above, execution might supersede the Sabbath.
  16. Ex. XXXI, 14.
  17. Since the argument a minori can be refuted by the fact that the burial of a Meth-Mizwah does not suspend the Sabbath laws even thought it sets aside the Temple service.
  18. I.e., execution might nevertheless supersede the Sabbath, a minori, as above. Nor is the refutation stated in the last note a valid one, since the same reasoning may be used to show that the burial of a Meth-Mizwah too should be permissible on the Sabbath.
  19. I.e., in order to clarify the position.
  20. Ex. XXXV, 3.
  21. Num. XXXV, 29.
  22. With reference to the manslayer and court executions.
  23. I.e., execution.
  24. Even such fire as is involved in execution by burning, ordered by a Beth din. This execution cannot suspend the Sabbath laws, in spite of the argument a minori. This fact too refutes the argument by which it was sought to prove that the burial of a Meth-Mizwah should abrogate the Sabbath.
  25. Ex. XXI, 14, which conflicts with this conclusion.
  26. I.e., when a priest accused of murder officiates at an offering brought by an individual.
  27. Execution therefore supersedes it. But if he is engaged in offering a public sacrifice, execution may not set it aside, by the preceding argument.
  28. Raba disagrees with Abaye, and proceeds to demonstrate the incorrectness of Abaye's view by an argument somewhat similar to a reductio ad absurdum.
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