The Weekly Daf

For the week ending 3 April 2010 / 18 Nisan 5770

Sanhedrin 51 - 57

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
Become a Supporter Library Library

When Logic Stops

The kal v'chomer is a method used in the Oral Law to interpret the Written Law. It is a logical deduction which states that if a particular rule applies to a situation which is of a less serious nature (kal) then this rule should certainly apply to a situation of a more serious nature (chomer).

An attempt to apply this method to determining a death penalty for an offender is rejected by one school of thought in our Gemara on the grounds that we cannot punish someone on the basis of a kal v'chomer ("din").

The explanation for such limitation is offered by the Maharsha (Sanhedrin 64b):

The death penalty administered by the Sanhedrin is an atonement for the sinner, perfectly matched to the gravity of the crime. If someone commits a crime of a more serious nature we cannot assume that he can achieve atonement for that graver sin through the penalty which is sufficient as an atonement for the lighter one.

  • Sanhedrin 54a

The Price of Impatience

"Many old camels have carried on their backs the skins of younger ones."

This is a folk saying which sums up this background story of the death of Aaron's sons, Nadav and Avihu:

Moshe and Aaron were once walking with Nadav and Avihu behind them, followed by all of Israel.

Said Nadav to Avihu: "When will these two old men die so that you and I will lead the generation!"

At that moment Hashem said to them: "Let us see who will bury whom!"

  • Sanhedrin 42a

© 1995-2024 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved.

Articles may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue or school newsletters. Hardcopy or electronic. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission in advance at and credit for the source as Ohr Somayach Institutions

« Back to The Weekly Daf

Ohr Somayach International is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation (letter on file) EIN 13-3503155 and your donation is tax deductable.