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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin
1 — He employs it in accordance with R. Meir's dictum, as it has been taught: R. Meir used to say: What is meant by the verse,
she profaneth her father? If he [the father] was regarded as holy, he is now regarded as profane;2 if he was treated with respect, he is now treated with contempt; and men say, 'Cursed be he who begot her, cursed be he who brought her up, cursed be he from whose loins she sprung. R. Ashi said: in accordance with whose view is a wicked man called 'the son of a wicked man', even if he is actually the son of a righteous man? — It is in accordance with this Tanna's dictum.3
THAT IS THE MANNER OF STONING.
To what does this refer?4 — To the statement [in a preceding Mishnah]: When the verdict [of guilty] was finally announced, he [the accused] was led out to be stoned …5 Now, the scaffolding [for stoning] was twice a man's height etc.6 And because the Tanna is about to teach the manner of death by fire, he sums up the foregoing with the words: THAT IS THE MANNER OF STONING etc.
MISHNAH. THE MANNER IN WHICH BURNING IS EXECUTED IS AS FOLLOWS: HE WHO HAD BEEN THUS CONDEMNED WAS LOWERED INTO DUNG UP TO HIS ARMPITS, THEN A HARD CLOTH WAS PLACED WITHIN A SOFT ONE,7 WOUND ROUND HIS NECK, AND THE TWO LOOSE ENDS PULLED IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS, FORCING HIM TO OPEN HIS MOUTH. A WICK WAS THEN LIT, AND THROWN INTO HIS MOUTH, SO THAT IT DESCENDED INTO HIS BODY AND BURNT HIS BOWELS. R. JUDAH SAID: SHOULD HE HOWEVER HAVE DIED AT THEIR HANDS [BEING STRANGLED BY THE BANDAGE BEFORE THE WICK WAS THROWN INTO HIS MOUTH, OR BEFORE IT COULD ACT], HE WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN EXECUTED BY FIRE AS PRESCRIBED. HENCE IT WAS DONE THUS: HIS MOUTH WAS FORCED OPEN WITH PINCERS AGAINST HIS WISH, THE WICK LIT AND THROWN INTO HIS MOUTH, SO THAT IT DESCENDED INTO HIS BODY AND BURNT HIS BOWELS. R. ELEAZAR B. ZADOK SAID: IT ONCE HAPPENED THAT A PRIEST'S DAUGHTER COMMITTED ADULTERY, WHEREUPON BUNDLES OF FAGGOTS WERE PLACED ROUND ABOUT HER AND SHE WAS BURNT. THE SAGES REPLIED, THAT WAS BECAUSE THE BETH DIN AT THAT TIME WAS NOT WELL LEARNED IN LAW.
GEMARA. What is meant by a WICK? — R. Mathna said: A lead bar.8
Whence do we know this?9 — It is inferred from the fact that burning is decreed here;10 and was also the fate of the assembly of Korah,11 just as there the reference is to the burning of the soul, the body remaining intact, so here too. R. Eleazar said: It is deduced from the employment of the word 'burning' here and in the case of Aaron's sons;12 just as there the burning of the soul is meant, while the body remained intact, so here too.
Now, he who deduces it from the assembly of Korah, whence does he know [that they were thus burnt]? — Because it is written: [Speak unto Eleazar … that he take up the censers out of the burning … The censers of these sinners against their own souls,13 implying that their souls were burned, but their bodies were unharmed. And the other?14 He maintains that they were literally burnt [i.e., their bodies], and what is the meaning of against their own souls? — That they incurred the punishment of fire because of [the pollution of] their souls; as Resh Lakish [taught]. For R. Simeon b. Lakish said: What is the meaning of the verse, with hypocritical mockers in feasts, they gnashed upon me with their teeth?15 Because they hypocritically [i.e., polluting their own sincerity] flattered Korah in return for the feast he set before them, the Prince of Gehenna16 gnashed his teeth against them [for their destruction].
Now he [R. Eleazar] who infers it from the sons of Aaron, whence does he know [that their bodies were not burnt]? — Because it is written, And they died before the Lord,17 teaching that it was like normal death [from within]. And the other? — He maintains that they were actually burnt, whilst the verse, And they died before the Lord, shews that the fire commenced from within, as in normal death. For it has been taught: Abba Jose b. Dosethai said: Two streams of fire issued from the Holy of Holies, branching off into four, and two entered into each of their nostrils and burned them.18 But it is written, And the fire devoured them?19 — This implies them but not their garments.
But why should we not learn [the manner of death by fire] from the bullocks that were burnt,20 just as there they were actually burnt, so here too? — It is logical to learn this from man, because these have the following points in common: — [i] man, [ii] sin, [iii] soul, and [iv] piggul.21 On the contrary, should we not compare it rather to the burnt bullocks, since they have in common [i] the carrying out of God's command, and [ii] permanency?22 — Even so, the others have more in common.
Now, he who deduces it from the assembly of Korah, why did he not learn it from Aaron's sons? — Because they were actually burnt [this being his opinion]. Then why not deduce from them [that this shall be the method of burning]? — R. Nahman answered in the name of Rabbah b. Abbuha: The verse saith, But thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,23 [which implies:] choose an easy death for him.24 Now, since we have R. Nahman's dictum, what need is there of the gezerah shawah? — But for the gezerah shawah — I would think that burning of the soul, the body remaining intact, is not deemed burning at all; whilst as for [the implication of the verse], Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, this can be fulfilled by piling up an abundance of faggots to cause a speedy death. Hence the teaching of the gezerah shawah.
Moses and Aaron once walked along, with Nadab and Abihu behind them, and all Israel following in the rear. Then Nadab said to Abihu, 'Oh that these old men might die, so that you and I should be the leaders of our generation.' But the Holy One, blessed be He, said unto them: 'We shall see who will bury whom.' R. Papa said: Thus men say: Many an old camel is laden with the hides of younger ones.'25
R. Eleazar said:
Imarta the daughter of Tali, a priest, committed adultery. Thereupon R. Hama b. Tobiah had her surrounded by faggots and burnt. R. Joseph2 said: He [R. Hama] was ignorant of two laws. He was ignorant of R. Mathna's dictum3 and of the following Baraitha: And thou shalt come unto the priests, the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days:4 This teaches that when the priesthood is functioning [in the Temple], the judge functions [in respect of capital punishment]; but when the priesthood is not functioning, the judge may not function.5
R. ELEAZAR B. ZADOK SAID, IT ONCE HAPPENED THAT A PRIEST'S DAUGHTER COMMITTED ADULTERY, etc.
R. Joseph said: It was a Sadducee6 Beth din that did this. Now, is this what R. Eleazar b. Zadok said, and did the sages answer him so? Has it not been taught: R. Eleazar b. Zadok said, 'I remember when I was a child riding on my father's shoulder that a priest's adulterous daughter was brought [to the place of execution], surrounded by faggots, and burnt.' The Sages answered him: 'You were then a minor, whose testimony is inadmissible'?7 — There were two such incidents.8 Now which incident did he first relate to them? Shall we say that he first told them of the incident first mentioned here [which happened in his majority]: but if he told them what happened in his majority, and they paid no attention to him, surely he would not proceed to tell them what occurred in his minority? — But he must have related this one [of the Baraitha] first, to which they replied: 'You were a minor.' Then he told them of the case that occurred in his majority, and they replied, 'That was done because the Beth din at that time was not learned in the law.'
MISHNAH. EXECUTION BY THE SWORD WAS PERFORMED THUS: THE CONDEMNED MAN WAS DECAPITATED BY THE SWORD, AS IS DONE BY THE CIVIL AUTHORITIES.9 R. JUDAH SAID: THIS IS A HIDEOUS DISFIGUREMENT; BUT HIS HEAD WAS LAID ON A BLOCK AND SEVERED WITH AN AXE.10 THEY REPLIED, NO DEATH IS MORE DISFIGURING THAN THIS.
GEMARA. It had been taught: R. Judah said to the Sages: I too know that this is a death of repulsive disfigurement, but what can I do, seeing that the Torah hath said, neither shall ye walk in their ordinances?11 But the Rabbis maintain: Since Scripture decreed the sword, we do not imitate them [when using their method]. For if you will not agree to this, then how about that which was taught: Pyres may be lit in honour of deceased kings,12 and this is not forbidden as being of the 'ways of the Amorites': but why so? Is it not written, neither shall ye walk in their ordinances? But because this burning is referred to in the Bible, as it is written, [But thou shalt die in peace:] and with the burnings of thy fathers … [so shall they burn for thee],13 it is not from them [the heathens] that we derive the practice. So here too, since the Torah decreed the sword,14 it is not from them [the Romans] that we derive the practice. Now we have learnt in another chapter, 'The following are decapitated: A murderer, and the inhabitants of a seduced city.'15 We know this to be true of the inhabitants of a seduced city, because it is written, ['Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city] with the edge of the sword.16 But whence do we know it of a murderer? — It has been taught: [And if a man smite his servant … and he die under his hand,'] he shall surely be avenged.17 Now I do not know what form this vengeance is to take; but when the Writ saith, And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute the vengeance of the covenant,18 I learn that vengeance is by the sword. But perhaps it means that he must be pierced through? — The Writ saith, with the edge of the sword. Then perhaps it means that he must be cut in two [lengthwise]? — R. Nahman said in the name of Rabbah b. Abbuha: Scripture teaches, But thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself'19 choose an easy death for him. Now we find this law [of execution by the sword] when one murdered a slave; whence do we know that this law holds good if he murdered a free man? — Surely this can be deduced by reasoning from the minor to the major: if the murderer of a slave is decapitated, shall he who slays a free man be only strangled! Now, this answer agrees with the view that strangulation is an easier death; but what of the view that strangulation is more severe? It is then deduced from the following: It has been taught:
[The verse], So shalt thou put away the guilt of the innocent blood from among you,20 serves to denote that all that shed blood are likened [in treatment] to the atoning heifer:21 just as there, it is done with a sword and at the neck, so here too, execution is with the sword and at the neck [i.e., the throat]. If so, just as there it was done with an axe, and on the nape of the neck, so here too? — R. Nahman answered in the name of Rabbah b. Abbuha: Scripture saith: But thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself:22 choose an easy death for him.
MISHNAH. STRANGULATION WAS THUS PERFORMED: — THE CONDEMNED MAN WAS LOWERED INTO DUNG UP TO HIS ARMPITS, THEN A HARD CLOTH WAS PLACED WITHIN A SOFT ONE, WOUND ROUND HIS NECK, AND THE TWO ENDS PULLED IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS UNTIL HE WAS DEAD.
GEMARA. Our Rabbis taught: [And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death].23 'The man' excludes a minor; 'that committeth adultery with another man's wife' excludes the wife of a minor; 'even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife' excludes the wife of a heathen; 'shall surely be put to death', by strangulation. You say, by strangulation; but perhaps one of the other deaths decreed by the Torah is meant here? — I will answer you: Whenever the Torah decrees an unspecified death penalty, you may not interpret it stringently but leniently:24 this is R. Josiah's view. R. Jonathan said: Not because strangulation is the most lenient death, but because by every unspecified death in the Torah strangulation is meant. Rabbi [proceeding to demonstrate this] said: Death by God is mentioned in Scripture;25 and death by man is also decreed. Just as the death by God26 leaves no mark [of violence on the body], so also death by man must leave no mark [of violence], a condition which only strangling fulfils. But may it not apply to burning?27 Since the Divine Law explicitly decreed burning for a priest's adulterous daughter, it follows that the adulterous married [Israelite] woman is not put to death by burning.
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