For the week ending 17 April 2010 / 2 Iyyar 5770

Sanhedrin 65 - 71

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • Sorcerers – their methods and their punishment
  • Rabbi Akiva's debate with Turnus Rufus regarding Shabbat
  • When is there a death penalty for Shabbat violation or cursing a parent
  • The special penalty for violation of a betrothed, twelve-year-old virgin
  • Who is considered a meisit to be executed by stoning
  • The false prophet who incites to idol worship and the inciters of an entire city
  • Black magic, demons and the Egyptian sorcerers
  • Rabbi Eliezer's encounter with his disciples
  • The age limitation on preemptive death for the rebellious son
  • Can a minor father a child
  • The ages of Biblical figures
  • What sort of gluttonous consumption creates the status of a rebellious son
  • The dangers of intoxication
  • Conditions required for condemning a rebellious son

The Unlearned Lesson

  • Sanhedrin 71a

A rebellious youngster who showed a strong tendency towards crime by repeatedly stealing money from his father in order to gluttonously consume meat and wine is put to death as a preemptive measure to ensure that he will not end up as a murderer.

Rabbi Shimon's position is that the implementation of this Torah law never took place. This thirteen-year-old must be brought to the court by his father and mother for first disciplining him with lashes, and upon his subsequent regression bring him once again for execution. It is therefore unlikely that parents will initiate his execution for the crime of stealing from them to indulge himself. Then why did the Torah provide us with a purely theoretical chapter such as this?

The cryptic answer given is "in order to learn from this and be rewarded."

Maharsha explains that the boy's parents are not capable of appreciating a preemptive death for their son and will delude themselves that he will change his ways. The Torah therefore teaches them that he will inevitably degenerate into a murderer and is deserving of death. This will motivate the parents to discipline this errant child and they will be rewarded for properly training him.

"In our day," added Maharsha centuries ago, "parents pay no attention to this lesson and cover up for their child even when he deserves severe punishment, with the result that delinquent youngsters spend most of their days devoid of Torah."

What the Sages Say

"The tree from which Adam sinfully ate was a grapevine because nothing brings so much weeping to the world as does the consumption of wine."

  • Rabbi Meir - Sanhedrin 70a

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