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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin

Folio 61a

the animal is forbidden for any use;1  but Resh Lakish ruled that it is permitted.2  Now this difficulty is disposed of on R. Johanan's view;3  but on the view of Resh Lakish,4  [why not say that] the verse is required [for this purpose]?

R. Papa demurred: Would the verse singling out sacrificing be superfluous on R. Johanan's view? Surely he merely rules that the animal is forbidden [as a result of the analogy from piggul], but the person may not be liable to death. Hence the verse teaches [by singling out sacrificing] that he is so liable!

R. Aha the son of R. Ika demurred: Would the verse singling out sacrificing not be superfluous on the view of Resh Lakish? Surely he merely rules that the animal is permitted, yet the person may be punishable by death, just as in the case of one who prostrates himself before a mountain, the mountain remaining free for use though the person thereby renders himself liable to decapitation!5

R. Aha of Difti said to Rabina: According to Raba son of R. Hanan's question to Abaye, vi., 'let us say that prostration was singled out in order to throw light upon the general law,' what is excluded by the verse, [Take heed to thyself … that thou enquire not after their gods, saying,] How did these nations serve their gods3  even so will I do likewise]?6  Should you say, it excludes the act of uncovering oneself before deities whose normal mode of worship is sacrifice — but that is derived from prostration: just as prostration is an act of honour, so every act [to be punishable] must be one of honour! — But it excludes the act of uncovering oneself before merculis: for I would think, since its normal mode of worship is a contemptuous act [viz. — casting stones thereon], therefore any other degrading action [incurs guilt]; hence the verse excludes it. But what of R. Eleazar's dictum: Whence do we know that, if one sacrificed an animal to merculis, he is liable to punishment? — From the verse, And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto demons.7  Since this is redundant in respect of normal worship, being derived from, How did these nations serve their gods,8  apply it to abnormal worship [as being punishable].9  Now, [on Raba son of R. Hanan's hypothesis that prostration throws light on the general statement] is not abnormal worship derived from prostration? — That verse teaches that even if he sacrificed to merculis merely as an act of provocation10  [but without thereby accepting it as a divinity], he is punished.

R. Hamnuna lost his oxen. [On going to seek them] he was met by Rabbah, Who showed a contradiction in two Mishnahs. We have learnt: He WHO ENGAGES IN IDOL-WORSHIP [ IS EXECUTED]; implying, only if he actually worshipped it, but if he merely said that he would serve it, he is not punished. But we have learnt: If he [the seduced person] says — 'I will worship.' or 'I will go and worship'. or we will go and worship' [the seducer is executed].11  — He replied, The first Mishnah refers to one who said, 'I will not accept it as a god before I serve it.' R. Joseph said: You have chosen Tannaim at random!12  This is a conflict of Tannaim. For it has been taught: If a man said, 'Come and worship me,' R. Meir declared him liable to death [as any other seducer], but R. Judah ruled that he is not. Now if they [his listeners] did actually worship him, all agree that he is executed, for it is written, Thou shalt not make unto thee any idol.13  Their dispute is only if they merely affirmed that they would worship him: R. Meir maintaining that a mere affirmation is of consequence,14  whilst R. Judah holds that a mere affirmation is of no consequence.15  Subsequently R. Joseph said: My answer is groundless for even R. Judah maintains that guilt is incurred for a mere assertion, as it has been taught: R. Judah said: He [the seducer] is not liable to execution unless the seduced person declares, 'I will worship it,' or 'I will go and worship,' or 'Let us go and worship.'16  But the dispute of R. Meir and R. Judah applies to a case where he incited others to worship him, and they replied. 'Yes!', R. Meir maintaining that when a man incites others to worship him, he is paid heed to, and the 'yes' was said in earnest; whilst R. Judah holds that no heed is paid to him, for they say,

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Although it was not slaughtered with idolatrous intent, and even if subsequently the blood was not sprinkled idolatrously, the unlawful intention at the time of slaughtering, though in respect of a different service, renders the animal unfit for use. R. Johanan deduces this by drawing an analogy from piggul (v. Glos.).
  2. Resh Lakish does not accept the analogy of piggul.
  3. Since R. Johanan draws an analogy in respect of the animal itself, he can apply the same analogy to the offender-viz., that an idolatrous intention in respect of one service is punishable, even though made in another act. Consequently, if prostration was singled out in order to illumine the entire law, the special statement of sacrificing is superfluous. Hence we are forced to the conclusion that prostration was singled out only for itself.
  4. For since he does not accept the analogy, we can argue thus. Prostration was singled out to illumine the whole, and sacrificing was singled out to teach that though an unlawful intention in respect of one act of service made in the course of another does not affect the animal's fitness for use, it is nevertheless punishable.
  5. I.e., though Resh Lakish rejects the analogy of piggul, he might accept that of mountain worship. For he rejects the former because piggul is in the course of service within the Temple, whilst ordinary slaughter is without. But mountain service, being also without, may provide the basis of an analogy.
  6. Deut. XII, 30. This implies that only the normal mode of serving the deities is forbidden. But, as shewn above, the light thrown upon the general statement of Deut. XVII, 3, whether by prostration or by sacrificing, is in respect of abnormal acts of worship. Now, if prostration teaches that even extra-Temple acts are punished, what is excluded by this verse?
  7. Lev. XVII, 7.
  8. Deut. XII, 30.
  9. Hence sacrificing to merculis, though not its normal mode of worship, incurs guilt.
  10. I.e., to God.
  11. Infra 67a.
  12. I.e.. there is no warrant for assuming both Mishnahs to be of the same Tanna.
  13. Ex. XX, 4. Hence, since they worshipped him, he is guilty as a seducer.
  14. And renders the seducer liable.
  15. Hence the first Mishnah is taught in accordance with R. Judah; the second agrees with R. Meir.
  16. Thus though he did not actually worship it, even R. Judah maintains that he is executed.
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Sanhedrin 61b

'Wherein does he differ from us'? and in saying 'yes' they were but mocking him.1  The two Mishnahs however are to be reconciled thus: The first Mishnah refers to a multitude who were seduced; the second to an individual. For an individual will not reconsider his resolve, hence he will surely go astray after the seducer; but a multitude do reconsider [because they discuss it with each other], and will therefore not go astray after the seducer.2

R. Joseph said: Whence do I know it [that the seducer is liable in the case of an individual]? — From the verse, [If thy brother … entice thee …] Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him.3  Hence, if he consented and hearkened unto him [declaring that he would do as the seducer urged], guilt is incurred. Abaye demurred to this: Is there any difference whether the one or the many are seduced? Surely it has been taught: If thy brother, the son of thy mother, entice thee;4  it is all one whether the one or the many are seduced. Scripture however excludes an individual from the law pertaining to a multitude, and a multitude from the provisions of an individual; [viz..] an individual is excluded from the law pertaining to a multitude, in that his person is punished with greater severity, whilst his property is treated with greater leniency, whilst a multitude are excluded from the law of an individual, being personally punished with greater leniency, but their property is treated with greater severity.5  Hence the distinction is only in this respect, but in all other matters they are alike.6  Abaye therefore answered thus:7  The first Mishnah refers to one who is self-persuaded, the second to enticement by others; if he is self-persuaded, he may reconsider the matter [therefore he is punished only if he actually engages in worship]; but if he is enticed by others, he will be dragged after them [therefore for his mere assertion the penalty is merited]. Abaye said: Whence do I know this? From the verse, Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him: hence if he consented and hearkened [unto the seducer by affirmation] he is liable.

Raba said: Both Mishnahs deal with one who was seduced by others; the second Mishnah refers to a seducer who [described the idol's might] saying. 'it eats thus,' 'it drinks thus,' 'it does so much good and so much harm;' but the first Mishnah treats of a seducer who did not thus descant upon the idol's greatness.8  Raba said, Whence do I learn this? — From the verse, [If thy brother … entice thee … saying let us go and serve other gods; …] Namely, of the gods of


Dilling Exhibit 62
    the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee or far from thee.9  Now, what does it matter whether they are far or near? — But the Writ means this: from the character of the near idols you can learn the nature of the distant ones.10  Surely then it means that the seducer had said to the seduced; 'It eats thus, it drinks thus, it does so much good and so much harm.' This proof is conclusive.

R. Ashi said; The second Mishnah refers to a non-conforming Israelite.11  Rabina said: The two Mishnahs teach 'not-only-this. but-even-that.'12

It has been taught; If one engages in idolatry through love or fear [of man, but does not actually accept the divinity of the idol], Abaye said, he is liable to punishment; but Raba said, he is free from a penalty. Abaye ruled that he is liable, since he worshipped it; but Raba said that he is free: only if he accepts it as a god is he liable, but not otherwise.

Mnemonic; 'ebed yishtahaveh lemoshiah.)13 Abaye said, how do I know it? Because we have learnt, HE WHO ENGAGES IN IDOL WORSHIP, IT IS ALL ONE WHETHER HE SERVE IT etc. Surely it means: whether he serve it through love or fear, [or whether he sacrifice to it as a god].14  But Raba answers you: That is not so, but as R. Jeremiah resolved the difficulty.15


Dilling Exhibit 63
    Abaye [further] said, Whence do I know it? For it has been taught: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them:16  thou mayest not bow down to them, but thou mayest bow down to a human being like thyself. I might think that this applies even to one who is worshipped, like Haman; but the Writ adds, nor serve them.17  But Haman was thus served through fear.18  Raba, however, explains it thus: 'like Haman, but not altogether so. [To bow down to one] 'like Haman' [is forbidden], since he set himself up as a divinity; 'but not altogether so,' for Haman was worshipped through fear, whilst the prohibition of this verse applies only to a voluntary action.

Abaye said: Whence do I know it? — For it has been taught: [As for an anointed High priest's19  [liability to a sacrifice] for [unwitting] idol-worship — Rabbi said: It holds good even if his inadvertency was in respect of the action only. But the Sages say, There must have been forgetfulness of the [principal] law itself.20  They agree, however, that his sacrifice is a she-goat, as that of a private individual [who committed idolatry inadvertently].21  They also agree that he is not bound to bring the guilt offering of doubt.22  Now, how can the act of idol-worship be committed unwittingly? If he [saw an idolatrous shrine,] thought it to be a synagogue, and bowed down to it. — surely his heart was to heaven!23  But it must mean that he saw a royal statue and bowed down to it;24  now, if he accepted it as a god, he is a deliberate sinner;

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Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. And therefore he is not treated as a seducer, the likelihood of his obtaining a hearing being so remote
  2. Therefore in their case guilt is incurred only for actual worship; but in the case of a single individual the mere declaration is punishable.
  3. Deut XIII, 9, referring to an individual.
  4. Ibid. 7.
  5. Deut. XIII, 13-17 treats of a multitude that are seduced; they are to be decapitated (an easier death than stoning), and their properly destroyed. Deut. XVII, 2-5 deals with an individual (or individuals) who engage in idol worship; he is to be stoned, but nothing is said about his property, whence it may be concluded that it is left intact. Thus the individual is excluded from the law pertaining to the multitude, and vice versa, there being an aspect of greater severity and leniency in each.
  6. This refutes R. Joseph's distinction between an individual and a multitude.
  7. The difficulty presented by the two Mishnahs.
  8. Consequently his listener is likely to reconsider his resolve, and therefore punishment is not imposed until actual worship.
  9. Ibid. 8.
  10. A seducer generally seeks to entice one to worship distant idols by describing their great power, but avoids mention of the near ones, which his victims would themselves know to be powerless; therefore Scripture warns one against such enticement, by pointing out that the near (and known) idols are an object lesson for the distant ones. Scripture thus assumes that such blandishments were used.
  11. Therefore his mere assertion is sufficient to condemn him, as it is certain that he will keep it. But an observant Israelite may reconsider his desire.
  12. The first Mishnah states that the death penalty is imposed for engaging in idol worship, the second adds that this is so not only for actually worshipping idols but also for the mere statement of intention. Both Mishnahs will then refer to the same kind of Jew.
  13. [H] Lit. 'The servant shall bow down to the anointed one.' Three passages are adduced, whose catchwords are respectively Service, Prostration, The Anointed One. S. Funk (Die Juden in Babylonien, P. 94. n. 2) sees in this mnemonic an allusion to the Christians' acceptance of Jesus, 'the servant' being the title claimed by those who worship him as the Messiah.
  14. For, as in supra 60b the difficulty arises, what is meant by 'whether he serve it', Seeing that all other actions mentioned are forms of service. Abaye therefore proposes this solution.
  15. Supra 60b.
  16. Ex, XX, 5.
  17. Ibid. This phrase is superfluous, and is therefore so interpreted.
  18. This proves that idolatry (which includes worshipping a human as a divinity) is forbidden even when done through fear.
  19. Until the destruction of the First Temple, High Priests were consecrated by anointing (Ex. XXVIII, 41; XXX, 30; Lev, VII, 36. X, 7); and one thus consecrated was called Kohen ha-mashiah (the anointed priest). But during the second Temple, when no anointing took place (Sifra Zaw, Par. 3 ch, v.). they were consecrated by investiture in the official garments of the High Priesthood. Such a high priest was called merubeh begadim, i.e., distinguished by a larger number of garments (eight as against the ordinary priest's four).
  20. Lit., 'the thing (in itself)'. This is in reference to Lev. IV, 2f: If soul shall sin through ignorance… If the priest that is anointed do sin … then let him bring for his sin … etc. In Hor. 7b it is deduced that by ignorance in the case of the anointed priest is meant an inadvertence; viz., the action involving a complete forgetfulness of the prohibition on his part, as against an ordinary individual who has to bring an offering even if his inadvertency was only in regard to the action, but not to the prohibition itself. Now the Sages maintain that this applies to all sins, including idolatry. But Rabbi rules that if idolatry be committed inadvertently by the anointed Priest, though without forgetting that it is forbidden, he is still obliged to offer a sacrifice like an ordinary individual.
  21. I.e., though in Lev. IV, 3, a young bullock is prescribed as the sacrifice for an anointed Priest's inadvertent sin, yet in the ease of idolatry, even the Sages agree that he is treated as an ordinary individual, who offers a she-goat: Num. XV, 27. And if any soul sin through ignorance, then he shall bring a she-goat of the first year for a sin offering. By 'any soul' one understands even a High Priest; and 'sin' is interpreted as referring to idol-worship.
  22. If one is in doubt whether he has committed a sin, for the certain (unwitting) transgression of which a sin-offering must be brought, he is bound to bring a guilt offering of doubt (Lev. V, 17-19). This, however, does not apply to a High Priest. Now, even if the doubt is in respect of idolatry, though Rabbi assimilates the High Priest in this case to the common people as to the measure of inadvertency required, he nevertheless concurs with the Sages that the High Priest differs from others, in that he need not bring a guilt-offering of doubt. All this is deduced from Scripture in Hor. 7b.
  23. Hence, he has not even inadvertently committed idolatry.
  24. It was customary to set up royal statutes to which homage was paid. This was quite permissible. But occasionally a royal statue was actually worshipped; thereafter it was forbidden to make obeisance to it.

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