Thursday, 31 August 2017

Sanhedrin 46: Hermeneutical Principals, G-d's Distress, Burials & Eulogies

To better understand the process of putting someone to death via stoning, the rabbi consider different hermeneutic principals when reading Torah text:

  • klalei u'fartai, generalizations and details: when a generalization is followed by a detail, we understand that the generalization is defined by those details
  • ribuyei u'mibutei, amplifications and restrictions: similar to the above but a more inclusive category of principals where a restriction is not an example of the amplification but a specific condition applied to the amplification
  • a restrictive expression followed by a restrictive expression serves to amplify: if a Torah statement is followed by one restriction we assume that the halacha is limited to that restriction.  If there is a second restriction following the first restriction, these are read as examples of the halacha, thus amplifying its application
The Gemara shares a number of cases.  Two of these are instances when people were put to death due to the stringency of those interpreting the halacha.  In both of these cases, it is said that the law would allow for a less severe punishment but it was a time when people had become lax in their practice of halacha (modesty, behaving like Gentiles).  Essentially these people's deaths served as examples to the community about following halacha.

Our next Mishna describes how the corpse of one person is hanged.  Its arms are placed above its head and it hands are crossed and tied to a wooden post that has a branch jutting out of it for this purpose.  Rabbi Yosei suggests that the pole leans against something rather than being secured into the ground.  The corpse is then placed on the wood like meat at a butcher.  We are told that the body should be displayed for a very short time, never overnight, so that people do not think of how the person transgressed.  When G-d is distressed, Rabbi Meir teaches that He says, "I am distressed about my arm; I am distressed about my head".  Finally, the Mishna teaches that these corpses are not buried with their ancestors but in special cemeteries designated for those who have been put to death in different ways.

The Gemara wonders whether a person should be put to death and then hanged, or whether s/he should be put to death by hanging.  They discuss whether a person could be hung from a tree still attached to the ground or whether the hanging should be done only on a tree than has been cut down. The rabbis then consider why a transgressor might be left to hang and why s/he might be taken down immediately.  A story is told of a king with a twin who is a burglar.  When hanged, the people assumed that the king had transgressed and so the twin was taken down immediately.  The Gemara also considers in what ways G-d's distress might be manifested as physical pain in the body.  

Regarding the Mishna's words about burial, the Gemara notes Torah verses that reference what is done with corpses.  The Sages ask whether burial is done to ensure that a person is not disgraced, or whether burial is done as an act of atonement.  

Our daf ends with some questions that are ancient and current.  Knowing that our patriarchs were buried, they ask an obvious question: do the righteous require atonement?  Further, should a person who has done wicked things ever achieve atonement, even after death?  Next, the rabbis wonder about eulogies.  Are they meant to comfort the living or to honour the dead?  Torah verses and stories about eulogies, including that of Sarah by Abraham, are used to help us understand that eulogies honour the living.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Sanhedrin 45: Nakedness, Modesty, Disabilities, Stoning, Hanging & Witchcraft

The Gemara considers whether or not men and women convicted of a crime punishable by stoning should both be stripped naked with just a small cloth covering them.  The use of the male pronoun is used here as inclusive.  Rabbi Yochanan was not concerned about women's modesty?  We are reminded of his description of the sota's trial, where the priest rips her shirt until her heart, or her chest, is revealed.  

The rabbis teach that the evil inclination only controls that which the eyes see.  Women should be chastened by their nakedness, which is considered to be more important that the risk that others will be sexually aroused by them.  At the same time, the rabbis and Rabbi Yehuda agree that degradation should be minimized even if physical comfort is increased.  Thus when naked, people being stoned will not prolong their discomfort before death.

A new Mishna teaches about the actual death of one convicted.  S/he is pushed by the hips over a drop that is twice the height of an ordinary person.  One of the witnesses does the pushing, and the convicted person is to land face up.  If s/he lands face down, s/he is turned by the hips by the witness.  If s/he dies by the force of the fall, the law has been fulfilled.  If s/he does not die in the fall, the second witness casts a stone prepared for this purpose at the person's chest.  If s/he dies, then the punishment is fulfilled.  If not, all of the Jewish people throw stones at the person convicted until he dies.

The Gemara discusses what might be the most compassionate road toward death.  Should a convicted person not fall from even higher?  If s/he does not die but is disfigured from this fall, however, s/he will suffer a more painful death.  The rabbis consider the different types of punishments that result in death and some of the limitations of each process.

A question arises regarding those with disabilities.  What about a person who is lame? Deaf? Blind? etc.  The answer notes what the Torah says about a rebellious son.  When it omits any mention of those different features, the rabbis argue that the verse is suggesting that we do not punish these people in the same ways as others. 

Another new Mishna shares that there are two opinions about who should be hung after they are killed in punishment: all people? or only those who have blasphemed or worshipped idols?  Male corpses are said to be hung facing outward while women are hung facing the tree, for reasons of modesty.  Some say that women should not be hung at all.  It is said that Shimon ben Shata hung eighty women convicted of witchcraft in one day.  Most people must be convicted and punished within one day and so only one case is heard each day; this was an unusual circumstance.*

The Gemara considers who entreats G-d and who speaks with impudence.  The poor and the rich are considered, as are Moshe and Joshua.  Other examples of speaking with belligerence, including Pinchas, are shared as well.  The rabbis then look at what was to be done when the people of Israel crossed into the land.  

*I should hope that it was an unusual circumstance for children to lose their mothers, men to lose their wives, parents to lost their daughters all on one day.  

Sanhedrin 44: Achan; Avoiding Litigation & Finding Solutions; Prep for Stoning

A brief outline of the basic ideas presented in today's daf:

  • Achan's crime of having intercourse with a betrothed woman is analyzed at length.  Was his sin also representative of the sins of the Jewish people?  How were the Jewish people able to be led by Joshua into the land of Israel?
  • People should avoid litigation when at all possible.  Instead, we should try to settle issues with our neighbours (Proverbs 25:8-9).
  • The rabbis discuss a possible connection between Achan's transgression and his father.  Are children named based on their behaviours?  Are the sins of sons connected to the sins of their fathers?
Our daf ends with a new Mishna, which continues telling what happens to one who is convicted of a crime punishable by stoning.  Rabbi Yehuda says that at four cubits from the place of stoning, his/her clothes are removed and a man is covered in the front while a woman is covered in the front and the back.  The rabbis disagree, asserting that women leave their clothing on while approaching the place where they will be stoned.  

Monday, 28 August 2017

Sanhedrin 43: Restrictions on Stoning, Atonement, Public vs. Private

Did the community use one stone or stones to punish a convicted transgressor (of a crime punishable by stoning)?  The rabbis again consider whether or not the people of Israel did what the Lord had commanded of them and actually killed a person condemned to death.  They note that in a conviction of death by strangulation, the instruments of death would have to be provided by the community and not by the person convicted.  As well, people are said to have provided the person convicted with a strong drink, like a dilution of water and frankincense, to create confusion in the person convicted.  This would minimize his distress regarding his death.

The rabbis discuss what should be done if a student "becomes mute" regarding an issue; if a court member dies before he has shared his opinion about whether or not a person should be convicted.  Further, they discuss how many times one should be given the benefit of the doubt and brought back to court.  It depends upon whether or not his claim is evaluated as having substance.

A new Mishna teaches that if a condemned man returns to the courthouse and the judge finds reason to acquit, he is released immediately.  If not, he is sent to be stoned immediately.  A crier will call out that this person (name, son of name) is going out to be stoned because he transgressed a sin (which is named).  Then the crier names the witnesses and asks that anyone who knows of a reason to quit should come forward and teach it on his behalf.  

The Gemara adds more detail to the Mishna's description of crier's announcement.  This turns into a conversation about Jesus the Nazarene, who was sometimes thought to be Jesus of Nazareth.  In fact, our notes teach that stories such as this one, which criticize Jesus of Nazarene and his followers for idol worship.  

This becomes a conversation about misunderstandings when words have two meanings, such as the name Mattai and the word matei, when.  Finally, the rabbis describe those who conquer their evil inclination as honouring G-d, using a prooftext from Psalms (50:23).  Honouring G-d with a broken spirit will be accepted by G-d both in this world and in the World-to-Come.

A second new Mishna teaches that when a condemned man is ten cubits from the place where he will be stoned, they tell him to confess.  One who confesses and regret his transgression will still have  a portion in the World-to-Come.  The prooftext for this is found in Joshua (7:19, 7:25).  One may be troubled when confessing but he will not be troubled in the World-to-Come.  

If the person condemned does not know how to confess because of ignorance or confusion, he should say "Let my death be an atonement for all my sins".  If he knows that he did not commit the sin but he was ruined by conspiring witnesses, he should say "Let my death be atonement for all of my sins except for this sin".   Rabbi Yehuda disagreed, saying that every person will make this last statement when in public.    So if the condemned man did not say this on his own, he was not offered this statement as an alternative.

The Gemara examines the sin of Achan, attempting to understand what his transgression was based on the atonement he requested.  The rabbis discuss the notion of communal responsibility.  After the people crossed the Jordan river, we became accountable for each other's behaviour.  Hidden matters were said to be beyond our responsibility.  But those things that have been revealed, particularly when we are commit sins in public as individuals, are ours to name and correct.  

Achan, for example, did not commit a private but a public transgression because his wife and children knew of the crime.  Further, dots appearing over letters or words in the Torah texture a sign of uncertainty regarding the halachic implications of those letters or words.  

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Sanhedrin 42: Birkat Rosh Chodesh, Leniencies Given to One Accused of a Capital Crime

The rabbis begin today's conversations with answers to a question from the end of yesterday's daf.  Until what point should person continue to bless the new month?  Arguments are presented representing the positions that one can bless the new month:

  • until the "flaw" of the moon is filled 
  • until the seventh day, when the moon looks like the string of a bow
  • until the moon is like a sieve, a full circle
The rabbis offer proofs for these ideas.  Further, they suggest prayers that might be said upon the new moon.

We are reminded that Kings and Princes are not to drink strong wine, which is taken to mean that they should not become drunk.  Why not?  Because the seriousness of their jobs is similar to those of judges, who much be capable of dealing with the secrets of the world, stringent matters.  

If most judges agree but some do not, we are not to add judges to the 71 who have actively judged the person accused.  They do not release him until it is time.  For the same reason, judges do their work in a timely manner.  A judgement should not be said to have become aged.  Even though some might take this to mean that the judgement is well thought out, the people might lose respect for the courts.  From these considerations, we are taught Proverbs (27:2), let others praise you and not your own mouth.

We begin Perek VI with a new Mishna describing when the trail has ended and the person is sent to be stoned.  Taken from the punishment for one who has blasphemed, he is taken just outside the court where those who witnessed him put their hands on his head and then the community stones him.  

The Mishna explains that there are two people present: one with a white cloth and one on a horse.  Should the person with the white cloth learn of any reason to acquit this man, the horse is sent back to inform the court that the stoning should be delayed.  Even if the accused himself states a substantive reason for his own release, four or five times, he is returned to the courtroom each time for further deliberation.

The Sages discuss where 'outside the camp' should be.  A number of arguments suggest that the place of stoning should be far from the court, ensuring that the court be a place of justice and not of death.  Other arguments look to different verses that tell us where one might stone a community member.  The rabbis wish to adhere to the letter of the law, where Moshe's people were to carry out G-d's exact words.   This last point is debated in a number of different places; in the larger picture, the rabbinical tradition was established in contract to other groups who were more interested in that literal understanding of G-d's word.

Clearly the rabbis are not eager to put any member of the community to death, even if he warrants that punishment according to Torah text.  There are ample opportunities for the accused to offer explanation and/or alternative narratives to that of his guilt.  I have read that there is not one record of an execution taking place within the Jewish community. Perhaps I will learn more as we move toward the end of Masechet Sanhedrin.

Sanhedrin 41: Forewarnings, Hesitancies to Put a Person to Death

More commentary on our last Mishna:
  • ·      Proofs for requiring forewarnings: how to manage intentionality
  • ·      Measuring different types of crimes and their punishments
  • ·      When a person understands the risk, s/he releases him/herself to death
    • o  Conspiring witnesses who testify that a betrothed woman committed adultery should not be put to death (the same punishment as her) for they did not forewarn her; they testified not to execute her but to save her husband from transgressing
  • ·      Significant testimony: valuating incongruent testimony from witnesses
    • oCommenting on the stem of a fig when the crime was picking a fig on Shabbat is significant
    • o   The colour of a sandal is not significant unless the crime was killing another person with that sandal
  • ·      Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai could not have judged a capital crime because he was a leader regarding Torah commemoration, which dates his years as a judge
  • ·      Differences between interrogation and examination: some testimony can be rendered conspiratory testimony and some cannot
  • ·      When there is a discrepancy between witness reports about the day of the month
  • ·      For how many days into a new month are we permitted to say the blessing on the new month?  Up until 7 days?  16 days?

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Sanhedrin 39: Answering a Heretic

A somewhat truncated analysis of today's daf:

How does one argue with a heretic?  The rabbis provide examples in the form of a number of exchanges.  The first argument shared is that of Rabbi Gamliel's daughter, who was strong in her logical defence of G-d's power.  Each of these arguments is focused on the existence of G-d verses the seemingly negative things done by G-d.

It is fascinating to follow the rabbis' arguments about the existence of G-d.  Clearly a heretic was a person who believed in alternative G-ds or higher powers.  The idea of "no higher power" is absent.   There is a supernatural element to many of the proofs used - if one has been good, G-d will provide a reward but if one has transgressed, watch out.  

Most of the heretical challenges are quite simple in nature, which reminds me of the Torah stories about the magicians in Egypt who would counter Moshe's G-d with their own tricks.  In a world where G-d is the master magician, one might try to outsmart G-d, continually, with human magic that sometimes borders on the supernatural.  In today's daf the rabbis are able to outsmart the heretic quite easily with their logical reasoning.

This conversation becomes a tribute to the greatness of G-d.  One rabbi asks what G-d did about a mikvah after burying Moshe.  Rather than being told that this was ridiculous or even a simple metaphor, the rabbis answer seriously.  Did G-d immerse in our waters?  But G-d's hand would not even fit in all of the water on earth, one rabbi replies.  The rabbis continue this argument.  Surely the rabbis understood G-d as a concept larger than what might be held in a corporeal metaphor.  Or was G-d so personal to them; so humanized, that the rabbis liked to understand G-d as one who could understand their thoughts and desires, their words and their prayers?

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Sanhedrin 38: The Creation Of Adam; Proving One G-d

The rabbis discuss a number of issues related to the Nature/ the Oneness of G-d:

  • a story about Rabbi Chizikiyah and Yehuda got drunk with Rebbi and they stated that Moshiach will come only when the Roshei Galuta (Bavel) and the Nesi'im (Yisrael) are destroyed
  • The Gematria of the words wine and secret are both 70 - when wine enters, secrets come out
  • The rabbis explain that G-d brought evil on people quickly because He is a tzadik, righteous, and his acts are all acts of tzedaka
  • Our Mishna taught that G-d created only one man
  • A baraita teaches that this was to prevent people from saying that there might be another G-d
  • It could be so that tzadikim don't think we descent from a tzadik and so we do not have to keep ourselves far from sin; it could be so that resha'im (bad people) do not believe that we descend from a rasha and thus there is no need to repent
  • It could allow families to have less conflict
  • It could discourage theft and extortion
  • Our Mishna stated that this shows G-d's greatness; each of us looks different although we could have all been made to look the same
  • This was done to minimize wrongful claims of ownership
  • We are different in voice, appearance and thinking to ensure that men do not have intercourse with each others' wives, to better hide valuables and minimize crime
  • We learn that man was created on erev Shabbat to ensure that we did not claim we participated in the creation of people
  • We can remind haughty people that mosquitoes were created before him
  • The rabbis repeat that a woman brought Adam down through her lack of intelligence
  • The rabbis imagine that the dirt that created Adam was taken from all over the world: the dirt for his body - or perhaps his buttocks - was taken from Bavel, his head from Yisrael, his limbs - Rashi says his hands and feet - were from other places
  • Rabbi Yochanan ben Chanina describes how Adam's body and his life were formed and progressed over twelve hours
  • The rabbis continue to discuss the creation of 'man'
    • wild animals only rule over people if they appear to be animals
    • angels consulted on whether or not G-d should create 'man'
    • the angels argued and G-d burned them with His finger, creating more angels who disagreed
  • Perhaps Adam stretched from one end of the world to the other; from the ground to heaven
  • Perhaps Adam spoke Aramaic or thought in Aramaic
  • Perhaps Adam was shown every generation, its scholars, and its Sages
  • He was happy with Rabbi Akiva's Torah but saddened by Rabbi Akiva's death
  • Perhaps Adam was a min, heretic
  • Adam's circumcision or lack thereof is discussed - he may have circumsized himself or been born circumcized and stretched his foreskin
  • Our Mishna taught be diligent to learn Torah and know how to speak to a heretic
  • Rabbi Yochanan teaches that a Yisrael Min, one who knows the truth and denies it, will deny it more when challenged
  • The rabbis provide a number of responses when a heretic says that there is more than one G-d
    • There is a verse that says "our image" but there is also a verse that says "My image"
    • There is a verse that says "let us confuse" but there is also a verse that is singular
    • There is a verse that says "G-ds appeared to him" but there is also a verse that is singular
    • etc.
  • But why were all of these verses written in plural?
  • Rabbi Yochanan taught that G-d always consults with his Heavenly Court before doing anything, thus the use of plural
  • Our daf ends with a discussion of G-d, thrones and footstools

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Sanhedrin 37: Witness Intimidation, Estimation, Obligation

A number of points on today's daf:

  • each Sage has his own place in the front three rows facing the Sanhedrin
  • there is a procedure to replace each Sage so that the front three rows remain full and orderly
  • proofs are provided for these edicts
  • the rabbis consider whether or not Yisraelim should be trusted to understand these proofs/ the halachot
  • Even Yisraelim are said to be filled with mitzvot like the seeds of a pomegranate
A new Mishna teaches about what it means to frighten witnesses in capital cases:
  • Is this intimidation?
  • Judges might say: 
    • Perhaps you are estimating 
    • perhaps you heard from other witnesses
    • In monetary cases, false testimony could lead to payment and atonement 
    • in capital cases, you could be responsible for a wrongful death and for all of his future descendants lost
  • G-d created one person to teach that killing one Yisrael is destroying the entire world; saving one life is saving the entire world
  • This promotes peace
  • this minimizes the idea that we have different amounts of power
  • G-d made all people to be the same but to look different so that we believe that this world was made for us
  • The rabbis discuss whether or not witnesses will involve themselves in such cases
  • The rabbis share examples of G-d's knowledge of our actions when we witness a crime
  • If we witness, we must testify
  • The four death penalties:
    • by stoning: the beit din throw the perpetrator down from a height and drop a boulder on him if he survives.  Others continue to throw stones at him if he still survives, or he could be trampled by a beast
    • by burning, more severe than sword: falls into a fire, or a snake bites and burns him
    • by sword: killed by a guillotine or stabbed by robbers
    • by choking: drowns in a river or dies of 'quincy', a throat disease
  • The Mishna stated that one cannot testify using estimation 
  • The rabbis argue whether this is true for both monetary and capital cases
  • A baraita tells that a dead camel was fount next to a mating or biting camel and the 'estimation'  that the biting camel killed the other is valid
  • Although guessing is invalid for monetary cases, we must tell capital witnesses that guessing is invalid
  • This Mishna noted that blood was on wood and stones and thus it was demei, bloods
  • The rabbis discuss some of the details of murders and the punishment for the murderers
  • The rabbis debate whether or not galut, exile, stands as atonement for any level of crime

    Monday, 21 August 2017

    Sanhedrin 36: Sanhedrin Guidelines - Membership

    Some brief points on today's daf:

    • The rabbis discuss the times that a deathbed claim overrides other mitzvot
    • The rabbis discuss which Sages are greatest and when those Sages speak in monetary or ritual impurity cases
    • The rabbis consider whether a student/son or a student/rebbi count as one or two 
    • The rabbis examine differences between capital and monetary cases, including how animals are tried
    • A baraita teaches that those on the Sanhedrin must 
      • be young enough to remember the pain of raising children
      • have had children
      • Rabbi Yehuda adds that a member of the Sanhedrin must not be cruel
    • The rabbis consider who is qualified to judge monetary cases, including mamzerim
    • The rabbis discuss whether or not blemishes disqualify judges - and whether those blemishes are of lineage or physical
    • A new Mishna teaches that both small and large Sanhedrin courts sit in a semi-circle where all people can see each other
    • One scribe stands to the right of the judges and another stands to the left, writing their words
    • Rabbi Yehuda suggests that there is a third scribe as well

    Sunday, 20 August 2017

    Sanhedrin 35: Can the Death Penalty be Delayed? When is Shabbat Overriden?

    Today's daf focuses on death.  Well, not death, exactly, but on the death penalty.  The rabbis want to understand more about what to do with a verdict that requires capital punishment.  The Gemara notes that monetary sins are begun and finished their trials during the day.  Only one capital case can be heard on the same day.

    Some rabbis believe that judges should delay their verdicts and others believe that verdicts should be handed out on the day of the trail.  Is is permitted to hear a case on ere Shabbat?  There are concerns about rabbis changing their minds, and other wives feeling 'weak' with a wait to complete the verdict.

    Does a met mitzvah, a mitzvah done for the sake of improving a person's dying days, justify breaking Shabbat?  For example, wouldn't a nazarite circumsizing his son stop and return home if his sister has a baby?  Doesn't he risk becoming ritually impure?  What overrides Shabbat and what overrides the requirement to work?  The rabbis debate these points.

    Sanhedrin 34: Who is Rasha, More Than One Opinion/Truth, Judging at Night

    A brief outline of today's daf:

    • The rabbis consider the reasoning behind punishments, where the word rasha, wicked, is connected to the word used for receiving lashes, thus connecting intentionality with severe punishment
    • The Gemara wonders whether and when a judge can change his opinion about the guilt or innocence of the accused
    • Many debates ensue: at what time could one change his mind?  Does the direction of the verdict make a difference?  Can only certain rabbis change their minds?  Are we discussing whether or not someone is killed and can we take direction from the altar services?  One does not descend from the altar - does that suggest that a decision cannot be changed?
    • Rabbi Yishmael said that just like a hammer breaks a rock into many pieces, one Torah verse can have many meanings
    • The rabbis ask about cases learned from more than one verse, suggesting that one of the opinions is wrong
    • Examples are taken from what is sacrificed on the altar and how the sacrifice is done
    • The rabbis discuss whether it is necessary to judge at night
    • Judging leprosy, which requires a sighted priest, must be done during the day, but not all other judgements must be done in daylight
    • The rabbis compare these judgements to those regarding children inheriting at night

    Thursday, 17 August 2017

    Sanhedrin 32: Monetary vs. Capital Cases - Pursuing Justice

    A very brief outline of today's daf, beginning with a new Mishna:

    • the same laws apply to monetary and capital cases
    • monetary cases - 3 judges
    • capital cases - 23 judges
    • monetary cases have more flexibility in the process of hearing evidence, overturning verdicts, etc.
    • capital cases must be heard within one day
    • monetary and ritual impurity cases may hear first from the greatest Sage
    • capital cases must not hear from the the greatest Sage
    • anyone including a mazer can judge  monetary cases
    • capital cases require a kohen, levite or yisraelite eligible to marry a bat kohen

    The Gemara begins its discussion of a number of issues:

    • what are the actual written requirements of monetary cases?
    • how do we know about when loans can be cancelled?
    • what does it mean to truly pursue justice; tzedek tzedek tirdof?
      • we are told of two ships attempting to cross a narrow river 
      • we are told of two camels who meet at the peak of a mountain
      • in both cases, we must consider who was at a disadvantage (further from their destination, laden with a greater burden) to know who should go first
      • if they are equal they must both compromise
    • why do judges begin monetary cases in this way?
    Certainly this Gemara will be both broad and long in its discussion of our new Mishna!

    Wednesday, 16 August 2017

    Sanhedrin 31: Lowest Denominator, New Proof/Witnesses, Location of Court

    The rabbis complete their ongoing conversation about when and how the testimonies of different witnesses are joined.  One of the sources used is a baraita regarding Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai, who had argued about a claim of owing either 100 or 200 dinars.  Because both agree that the person owed at least 100 dinars, 100 should be paid.  But when one witness says 100 and the other says 200 dinars are owed, Beit Shammai say that this is contradictory evidence.  Beit Hillel still require the payment of 100 dinars.  Similarly, another case orders one to pay back a barrel of wine, worth less than a barrel of oil, when it is disputed whether a barrel of oil or wine is owed.  The wine is 'included' in the oil.

    We are introduced to a New Mishna regarding the timing of proof.  It teaches that new proof will overturn a verdict.  This is the case:

    • when one is told to bring proof within 30 days and he does so
    • when proof is found within 30 days
    • possibly when proof is found later (Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel)
    The rabbis argue about whether or not it is fair to stop someone from presenting proof or witnesses at a later date.  It its discussion of this question, the rabbis speak of a child who was called to testify without proof or witnesses.  He was forced to pay a fine.  The child was left crying.  The rabbis explained that the child knew of his father's nefarious affairs.  But a child does not know of his father's affairs.  Tosafot explain that sometimes minors were called to testify.

    A woman claimed that she held a contract for a lender and borrower where the money had been repaid.  Is she believed because she has acquired and thus owns the document, or is she believed because she could have burned the document and been cleared of any questionable behaviour?  The rabbis clarify that a document is valid if it has no witnesses, the third party holds it, or it is written on the loan document below the signatures.

    The rabbis ask when a proof and/or witnesses can be brought back to the beit din.  Some rabbis believe that once the claim is sealed, no more proofs can be brought forward.  Others, like Rav Shmuel bar Yehuda, citing Rabbi Yochanan, say that proofs and witnesses are permitted until a claimant says that he has no more proofs nor witnesses.  Further, if witnesses arrive from far away or if one's father's documents were left with someone else, the verdict may be overturned.

    The rabbis end today's daf with an argument about which court might be used to oversee the judgement of a case.  One might wish to take the case to the beit ha'vaad to embarrass the man who frivolously charged him.  One might wish to force another to stay in their city to minimize travel costs.  As well, the rabbis argue that 
    • if the local beit din does not know the law, they will consult with the beit ha'vaad
    • if a person wishes to know the reason for their verdict, it will be written out for him
    • this should be similar to the yevamah who herself goes to the yavam to do chalitza
    The rabbis continue to debate over who should come to whom - and how far they should have to travel - in different cases - chalitza, lending and borrowing, violent offender or their and victim.

    Tuesday, 15 August 2017

    Sanhedrin 30: Court Process, Joining Witnesses

    The Gemara discusses a number of issues in some detail.  Some of the major points:
    • when one judge disagrees about the verdict, should that difference be discussed?
    • concerns include the perception that the beit din erred and only two judges judged
    • in a monetary case the verdict would stand, though it would be called an 'errant beit din'
    • if a person is told, or dreams, that otherwise forbidden money is hidden and it turns out to be true, who owns the money?
    • dreams hold no value when it comes to ownership
    • the teller is believed if he could have taken the money himself (like a migo)
    • the teller is not believed if he described the money to benefit himself in any way
    • a new mishna teaches about the beit din's process:
    • first the litigants are brought in to speak
    • then the witnesses are brought in to testify
    • both groups are taken out
    • the judges deliberate and write out their verdict
    • the group is brought back to the room where the judges read out the verdict
    • this process is based on the one used in Jerusalem
    • the rabbis share examples of other courtroom process possibilities
    • the rabbis discuss in great length when and how witnesses' testimonies might support or detract from each other
    • did they have to witness the testimony together?
    • do they have to testify at the same time?
    • we are told the story of rabbi Yosei Ben Rabbi Chanina's smicha, given so that he would share information about witnesses' testimonies, and that information is not helpful.  He is permitted to retain his status because he was otherwise deserving
    • the cases of witnesses regarding monetary matters are compared with those of witnesses regarding land
    • witnesses to assess adulthood are compared: if two witnesses claim to each have seen one hair on the youth's body, that testimony is invalid 
    • if two witnesses claim each to have seen two hairs then their testimony is valid, even if they saw different hairs in different places
    • differing or corroborating witness testimonies are debated
    • with much debate, the rabbis agree that 
    • witnesses need not agree about secondary details - colours of dress or of a purse, etc.
    • witnesses do need to agree on primary details, like the weapon used or the colour of the coin in question

    Monday, 14 August 2017

    Sanhedrin 29: Kosher Witnesses, Kosher Admissions

    When is a close friend disqualified from testifying?  For a certain amount of time before or after they have brought gifts?  Does this relate to the three days that enemies are said to not speak with each other?

    A new Mishna teaches about how to interrogate witnesses.  They are brought to a room and threatened, and then everyone leaves except for the most significant witness.  They are asked how they know what they say that they know.  This is done with the second witness.  If the testimonies match, the three judges debate.  If two decide that he is zakai, innocent, he is exempt.  If two decide that he is chayav, guilty, he is guilty.  If one judge is undecided, another judge is called in.  Immediately after their decision, the judges inform of the outcome.

    The Gemara wonders what is said to 'threaten' them.  Rav Yehuda says, "false testimony can cause a famine".  Rava notes that if they have a trade this might not be frightening.  Instead one might say "a club and a sword" (violent death results from false testimony).  Rav Ashi suggests that they might think that they will die only at a predetermined time.  Instead he says that they should be told that "false witnesses are a disgrace in the eyes of those who hire them".  

    The rabbis discuss the exact words that  a witness heard to ensure that testimony is admissible.  They take note of the significant possibility that the accused was joking when he made the statement under debate.  For a witness to report about a proper admission, that admission must be specific.  Could this be the case of a joke that is actually the truth?  Could it be that a person was attempting to seem rich, for example, and thus admitted to something that was not his doing?  The rabbis wish to ensure that false claims are both identified and understood.

    If a person makes an odisa, an admission whether true or false, with witnesses and an agreement, a document can be written as a formalization.  Some rabbis disagree and say that a written admission is not required at all.  The rabbis question whether a beit din has been called; whether or not this writing is similar to that regarding property conflicts.  At the end of our daf, the rabbis share their concern regarding whether or not scribes know the law regarding the odisa - two witnesses and a kinyan are required.  In fact, when asked, the scribes demonstrated that they were knowledgable of the law.