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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin
MISHNAH. A MESITH IS A [SEDUCING] LAYMAN,2 AND HE WHO SEDUCES AN INDIVIDUAL3 SAYING, 'THERE IS AN IDOL IN SUCH AND SUCH A PLACE; IT EATS THUS, IT DRINKS THUS, IT DOES SO MUCH GOOD AND SO MUCH HARM. FOR ALL WHOM THE TORAH CONDEMNS TO DEATH NO WITNESSES ARE HIDDEN TO ENTRAP THEM, EXCEPTING FOR THIS ONE. IF HE INCITED TWO [TO IDOLATRY], THEY THEMSELVES ARE WITNESSES AGAINST HIM, AND HE IS BROUGHT TO BETH DIN AND STONED. BUT IF HE ENTICED ONE, HE MUST REPLY, I HAVE FRIENDS WHO WISH TO DO SO LIKEWISE [COME AND PROPOSE IT TO THEM TOO].' BUT IF HE WAS CUNNING AND DECLINED TO SPEAK BEFORE THEM, WITNESSES ARE HIDDEN BEHIND A PARTITION, WHILST HE WHO WAS INCITED SAYS TO HIM, MAKE YOUR PROPOSAL TO ME NOW IN PRIVATE. WHEN THE MESITH DOES SO, THE OTHER REPLIES, HOW SHALL WE FORSAKE OUR GOD IN HEAVEN TO GO AND SERVE WOOD AND STONES?' SHOULD HE RETRACT, IT IS WELL. BUT IF HE ANSWERS, 'IT IS OUR DUTY [TO WORSHIP IDOLS], AND IS SEEMLY FOR US, THEN THE WITNESSES STATIONED BEHIND THE PARTITION TAKE HIM TO BETH DIN, AND HAVE HIM STONED. IF HE SAYS, 'I WILL WORSHIP IT', OR, 'I WILL GO AND WORSHIP', OR, 'LET US GO AND WORSHIP'; OR, 'I WILL SACRIFICE [TO IT]', 'I WILL GO AND SACRIFICE', 'LET US GO AND SACRIFICE'; 'I WILL BURN INCENSE, 'I WILL GO AND BURN INCENSE'. 'LET US GO AND BURN INCENSE'; 'I WILL MAKE LIBATIONS TO IT', 'I WILL GO AND MAKE LIBATIONS TO IT, LET US GO AND MAKE LIBATIONS, 'I WILL PROSTRATE MYSELF BEFORE IT', 'I WILL GO AND PROSTRATE MYSELF'. 'LET US GO AND PROSTRATE OURSELVES'. (GUILT IS INCURRED).4
GEMARA. A MESITH IS A LAYMAN. Thus, only because he is a layman [is he stoned]; but if a prophet, he is strangled. WHO SEDUCES AN INDIVIDUAL: thus, only if he seduces an individual; but if a community, he is strangled. Hence, who is [the Tanna of] the Mishnah? — R. Simeon. For it has been taught: A prophet who entices [people to idolatry] is stoned; R. Simeon said: He is strangled.5 Then consider the second clause.6 A maddiah7 is one who says: 'Let us go and serve idols': whereon Rab Judah observed in Rab's name: This Mishnah teaches of those who lead astray a seduced city. Thus it agrees with the Rabbis [who maintain that
these too are stoned, not
strangled]. Hence, the first clause is taught according to R. Simeon; the second according to
the Rabbis! — Rabina said: Both clauses are based on the Rabbis' ruling, but proceed from
the universally admitted to the disputed.8 R. Papa said:
When the Mishnah states A MESITH IS A HEDYOT,9 it is only in respect of hiding witnesses.10 For it has been taught: And for all others for whom the
Torah decrees death, witnesses are not hidden,
excepting for this one. How is it done? — A light is lit in an inner chamber, the
witnesses are hidden in an outer one [which is in darkness], so that they can see and hear
him,11 but he cannot see them. Then the person he
wished to seduce says to him, 'Tell me privately what thou hast proposed to me'; and he does
so. Then he remonstrates; 'But how shall we forsake our God in Heaven, and serve idols'? If he
retracts, it is well. But if he answers: 'It is our duty and seemly for us', the witnesses
who were listening outside bring him to the Beth din, and
have him stoned.12
MISHNAH. A MADDIAH IS ONE WHO SAYS, 'LET US GO AND SERVE IDOLS'. A SORCERER, IF HE ACTUALLY PERFORMS MAGIC, IS LIABLE [TO DEATH]. BUT NOT IF HE MERELY CREATES ILLUSIONS.13 R. AKIBA SAID IN R. JOSHUA'S NAME: OF TWO WHO GATHER CUCUMBERS [BY MAGIC] ONE MAY BE PUNISHED AND THE OTHER EXEMPT: HE WHO REALLY GATHERS THEM IS PUNISHED: WHILST HE WHO PRODUCES AN ILLUSION IS EXEMPT.
GEMARA. Rab Judah said in Rab's name: This Mishnah teaches of those who lead astray a seduced city.14
A SORCERER, IF HE ACTUALLY PERFORMS MAGIC etc.
Our Rabbis taught: [Thou shalt not suffer] a witch [to live]:15 this applies to both man and woman. If so, why is a [female] witch stated? — Because mostly women engage in witchcraft. How are they executed? — R. Jose the Galilean said: Here it is written, Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live; whilst elsewhere is written, Thou shalt not suffer anything that breatheth to live.16 Just as there, the sword is meant, so here is the sword meant too. R. Akiba said: It is here stated, Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live; whilst elsewhere it is said, [There shall not a hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through;] whether it be beast or man, it shall not live.17 Just as there, death by stoning is meant, so here too. R. Jose said to him, I have drawn an analogy between 'Thou shalt not suffer to live' written in two verses, whilst you have made a comparison between 'Thou shalt not suffer to live', and 'It shall not live'. R. Akiba replied: I have drawn an analogy between two verses referring to Israelites, for whom the Writ hath decreed many modes of execution,18 whilst you have compared Israelites to heathens, in whose case only
out for the
same purpose illumine the proposition as a
There is none else besides Him:11 R. Hanina said: Even by sorcery.12 A woman once attempted to take earth from under R. Hanina's feet.13 He said to her, 'If you succeed in your attempts, go and practise it [sc. sorcery]: it is written, however, There is none else beside him'. But that is not so, for did not R. Johanan say: Why are they called mekashshefim?14 Because they lessen the power of the Divine agencies? — R. Hanina was in a different category, owing to his abundant merit.15
R. Abaye b. Nagri said in the name of R. Hiyya b. Abba: Belatehem refers to magic through the agency of demons, belahatehem to sorcery [without outside help].16 And thus it is also said, And the flame [Heb. lahat] of the sword that turns of itself.17
Abaye said: The sorcerer who insists on exact paraphernalia18 works through demons; he who does not works by pure enchantment.
Abaye said: The laws of sorcerers are like those of the Sabbath: certain actions are punished by stoning, some are exempt from punishment, yet forbidden, whilst others are entirely permitted. Thus: if one actually performs magic, he is stoned; if he merely creates an illusion, he is exempt, yet it is forbidden; whilst what is
entirely permitted? — Such as
was performed by R. Hanina and R. Oshaia, who spent every Sabbath eve in
studying the Laws of Creation, by means of which they created a third-grown
calf and ate it.19
R. Ashi said: I saw Karna's father20 blow his nose violently and streamers of silk issued from his nostrils.
Then the magicians said unto Pharoah, This is the finger of God:21 R. Eleazar, said: This proves that a magician cannot produce a creature less than a barley corn in size. R. Papa said: By God! he cannot produce even something as large as a camel; but these [larger than a barley corn] he can [magically] collect [and so produce the illusion that he has magically created them], the others he cannot.
Rab said to R. Hiyya: 'I myself saw an Arabian traveller take a sword and cut up a camel; then he rang a bell, at which the camel arose.' He replied, 'After that, was there any blood or dung? But that was merely an illusion.'
Ze'iri happened to go to Alexandria in Egypt and bought an ass. When he was about to water it, it dissolved, and there stood before him a landing board.22 The vendors then said to him; 'Were you not Ze'iri, we would not return you [your money]: does anyone buy anything here without first testing it by water?'23
Jannai24 came to an inn. He said to them, 'Give me a drink of
water,' and they offered him
Seeing the lips of the woman
[who brought him this]
he [covertly] spilled a little thereof, which turned to snakes. Then he said,
'As I have drunk of yours, now do you come and drink of mine.' So he gave
her to drink, and she was turned into an ass.
He then rode upon her into the market.
But her friend came and broke the charm [changing her back into a human being],
and so he was seen riding upon a woman in public.
And the frog came up, and covered the land of Egypt.27 R. Eleazar said: It was one frog, which bred prolifically and filled the land. This is a matter disputed by Tannaim. R. Akiba said: There was one frog which filled the whole of Egypt [by breeding]. But R. Eleazar b. Azariah said to him, 'Akiba, What hast thou to do with Haggadah?28 Cease thy words and devote thyself to 'Leprosies' and 'Tents.'29 One frog croaked for the others, and they came'.
R. AKIBA SAID, etc.
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