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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin
Israel hath sinned. R. Abba b. Zabda said: Even though [the people] have sinned, they are still [called] 'Israel'.2 R. Abba said: Thus people say, A myrtle, though it stands among reeds, is still a myrtle, and it is so called.
Yea, they have even transgressed my covenant which I have commanded them, yea, they have even taken of the devoted thing and have also stolen [it], and dissembled also, and they have even put it amongst their own stuff.3 R. Ile'a said on behalf of R. Judah b. Masparta: This teaches that Achan transgressed the five books of the Torah, [for the word 'gam'4 is written there five times].
R. Ile'a also said on behalf of R. Judah b. Masparta; Achan was an epispastic:5 Here it is written, They have even transgressed my covenant;6 and elsewhere7 it is said, He hath broken my covenant.8 But is this not obvious?9 — I might have thought that he would not practise a licence in respect of a precept which concerned his own body; therefore he (R. Ile'a) informs us otherwise.
And because he hath wrought a wanton deed in Israel.10 R. Abba b. Zabda said; This teaches that Achan committed adultery with a betrothed damsel: Here it is written, And because he hath wrought a wanton deed in Israel, and elsewhere, it is said, For she hath wrought a wanton deed in Israel.11 But is this not obvious?12 — I might have thought that Achan was not so extremely licentious;13 therefore he gives us this information.14
Rabina said: He was punished as is a betrothed damsel [who commits adultery], viz., by stoning.15
The Resh Galutha once said to R. Huna; It is written, And Joshua took Achan the son of Zerah and the silver and the mantle and the wedge of gold and his sons and his daughters, and his oxen and his asses, and sheep, and his tent and all that he had.16 If he sinned, wherein did his sons and daughters sin? — He retorted: On your view, [one might ask:] If he sinned, how did all Israel sin, that it is written, And all Israel with him?17 But it was to overawe18 them. So here too, it was to overawe them.19
And they burned them with fire and they stoned them with stones.20 By both [forms of death]?21 — Rabina answered: Those suitable for burning22 were burned, and those suitable for stoning23 were stoned.
And they laid them down27 before the Lord.28 R. Nahman said: He [Joshua] came and cast them down before God, exclaiming, 'Sovereign of the Universe! for these shall a [number equal to a] majority of the Sanhedrin he killed?'29 For it is written, And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty-six men;30 regarding which it was taught, i.e., literally thirty-six: this is R. Judah's view. R. Nehemia said to him; Were there actually thirty-six? Surely, only about thirty-six men is written. But this refers to Jair the son of Manasseh31 who was equal [in importance] to the majority of the Sanhedrin.32
R. Nahman said in Rab's name: What is meant by, The poor useth entreaties, but the rich answereth insolently.?33 — The poor useth entreaties — that refers to Moses;34 the rich answereth insolently, — to Joshua. Why so? Shall we say, because it is written. And they laid them down before the Lord,35 which R. Nahman interpreted, He came and cast them down before God;36 But did not Phinehas do the same? For it is written, Then stood up Phinehas and wrought judgment [wa-yefallel] and so the plague was stayed:37 whereon R. Eleazar said: Not wayithpallel,38 but wa-yefallel is written;39 thus teaching that he had contentions with his Creator: he came and cast them40 before God and cried out, 'Sovereign of the Universe! because of these, shall twenty-four thousand of Israel fall?' As it is written, And those that died by the plague, were twenty and four thousand?41 — Nay it is inferred42 from the following: [And Joshua said, Alas! O Lord,] wherefore hast Thou brought this people over the Jordan.43 Yet Moses too spake thus: Wherefore hast thou dealt ill with this people.?44 — Nay but it is derived from the following: Would that we had been content and dwelt beyond the Jordan.45
And the Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee up.46 R. Shila expounded this: The Holy One blessed be He, said to him: Thy [transgression] is greater47 than theirs,48 for I commanded, And it shall be when ye are passed over the Jordan that ye shall set up [these stones];49 ye advanced sixty mils however, [into the country before setting them up].50 But when he [R. Shila] had gone out, Rab51 set up his interpreter to speak for him, who expounded; As the Lord commanded Moses His servant, so did Moses command Joshua, and so did Joshua; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses.52 What then do the words, Get thee up,53 teach us? — The Lord said to him, Thou hast brought [guilt] upon them:54 and for that reason He said to him with reference to Ai: And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst to Jericho and her king, [only the spoil thereof and the cattle thereof shall ye take for a prey.]55
And it came to pass when Joshua was by Jericho that he lifted up his eyes and looked … And he said, Nay, but I am captain of the host of the Lord, I am now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and bowed down.56 But how could he do so?57 Did not R. Johanan say: One may not greet his fellow at night for fear that he may be a demon?58 There it was different, for he said; I am captain of the host of the Lord, I am now come, etc. But perhaps he lied? — We have a tradition that such do not utter the name of God in vain.
He [this stranger] said to him: 'Yesterday evening, ye omitted the evening Tamid,1 and to-day2 ye have neglected the study of the Torah.'3 'For which of these [offences] hast thou come?' 'I have now come,'4 he replied. Straightway [we read], And Joshua lodged that night in the midst of the vale'.5 Whereon R. Johanan observed: It teaches that he spent the night in the profundities6 of the law.
R. Samuel b. Unia said in the name of Rab: The study of the Torah is more important than the offering of the Tamid, since it is written, I have now come.7
Abaye asked R. Dimi:8 To what do ye in 'the West' relate the following verse: Go not forth hastily to strife, for what wilt thou do in the end thereof when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame. Debate thy cause with thy neighbour, but reveal not the secrets of another?9 — [He answered]: When the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Ezekiel, Go and say unto Israel, An Amorite was thy father, and thy mother was a Hittite,10 the intercessory11 spirit said before the Holy One, blessed be He, 'Sovereign of the Universe! if Abraham and Sarah came and stood before Thee, wouldst Thou say [this] to them and put them to shame?' Debate thy cause with thy neighbour,12 but reveal not the secret of another!13 But has he so much license?14 — Yes, For R. Jose son of R. Hanina said: He has three names: Pisakon, Itamon, and Sigaron.15 Pisakon, because he argues against the Most High;16 Itamon, because he hides the sins of Israel, Sigaron, because when he concludes17 a matter, none can reopen it.18
Hadst thou prepared thy prayer before thy trouble came?19 R. Eleazar said: One should always offer up prayer before misfortune comes; for had not Abraham anticipated trouble by prayer between Beth-el and Ai,20 there would not have remained of Israel's sinners a remnant or a survivor.21 Resh Lakish said: He who devotes his strength to prayer22 below,23 has no enemies [to overcome] above.24 R. Johanan said: One should ever implore mercy that all [sc. Heavenly beings] may support his effort [in prayer] so that he may have no enemies on high.25
AND WHENCE DO WE KNOW THAT HIS CONFESSIONS MADE ATONEMENT FOR HIM etc. Our Rabbis taught: Whence do we know that his confessions made atonement for him? — From the verse, And Joshua said unto him, Why hast thou troubled us, the Lord shall trouble thee this day: [implying] this day art thou troubled, but thou shalt not be troubled in the next world. And again it is written, And the sons of Zerah: Zimri,26 and Ethan and Heman and Calcol and Darda,27 five of them in all.28 Why the phrase: five of them in all?29 — Because all five were equally destined for the world to come. Here he is called Zimri, but elsewhere, Achan.30 Rab and Samuel [differ thereon]: One maintains his real name was Achan; and why was he called Zimri? — Because he acted like Zimri.31 The other maintains, His real name was Zimri; and why was he called Achan? — Because he wound the sins of Israel about them like a serpent.32
AND IF HE KNOWS NOT WHAT TO CONFESS … R. JUDAH SAID … TO CLEAR HIMSELF. Why not let them clear themselves? — In order that they may not bring discredit upon the Court and the witnesses.
Our Rabbis taught: It happened once that a man who was being taken to be executed said: 'If I am guilty of this sin, may my death not atone for any of my sins; but if I am innocent thereof, may my death expiate all my sins. The court and all Israel are guiltless, but may the witnesses never be forgiven.' Now, when the Sages heard of the matter they said: It is impossible to reverse the decision, since the sentence has been promulgated. He must therefore be executed, and may the chain [of responsibility] ever hang on the neck of the witnesses. But is he to be relied on?33 — This holds good only where the witnesses have retracted.34 But even so, of what consequence is it? Once a witness testified — he cannot testify again!35 It is necessary [to state this] even where they [the witnesses] give a reason for their action,36 as happened in the case of Ba'ya37 the tax-collector.
MISHNAH. WHEN HE IS ABOUT FOUR CUBITS DISTANT FROM THE PLACE OF STONING, HE IS STRIPPED OF HIS GARMENTS.38 A MAN IS COVERED IN FRONT AND A WOMAN BOTH IN FRONT AND BEHIND: THIS IS R. JUDAH'S VIEW. BUT THE SAGES SAY: A MAN IS TO BE STONED NAKED BUT A WOMAN IS NOT TO BE STONED NAKED.
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