Daf Yomi

For the week ending 10 April 2010 / 25 Nisan 5770

Sanhedrin 58 - 64

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • Women forbidden under Noachide Law
  • The wives of Avraham and Amram
  • The non-Jew observing Shabbat or learning Torah
  • Flesh or blood from a live animal and other things forbidden by Noachide Law
  • Adam's limits regarding eating of meat
  • What constitutes blasphemy punishable by death and how must witnesses behave
  • Various forms of idol worship punishable by death
  • The meisit persuading others to worship him
  • Worshipping an idol out of love or fear
  • Multiple atonement sacrifices for involuntary idol worship and other sins
  • Bowing to an idol or declaring acceptance as a deity
  • Which forms of service to idols are punishable only with lashes
  • Making fun of idolatry and the historic effort to combat the temptations of idolatry and forbidden women
  • What was the worship of "Molech"

Humoring a Self-Made Diety

  • Sanhedrin 61a

A meisit – one who persuades others to worship an idol – is punished by death.

What if this false deity is not some object but rather a human being who is being presented as a divine force to be worshipped?

In a case where the meisit is persuading another to worship him, it depends on the circumstances. All agree that if he ends up actually being worshipped he is punished with death because he has violated the second of the Ten Commandments "You shall not make yourself a carved image" (Shmot 20:4), which includes presenting himself as an image worthy of worship. But if the one whom he is trying to persuade simply agrees to do so but fails to actually perform an act of worship, there is a difference of opinion.

Rabbi Meir's position regarding the guilt of the meisit is that the "yes" which the object of his persuasion says is a genuine acquiescence and therefore renders his persuader a guilty meisit. Rabbi Yehuda, however, contends that no human is prepared to worship another human, and his "yes" is only a way of humoring this self-made deity.

This is the way Rashi understands Rabbi Yehuda's position and he therefore concludes that even if the meisit tries to persuade someone to worship a human other than himself he will still not be guilty. This is in contrast with what Rambam writes (Laws of Idol Worship 5:5). He distinguishes between one consenting to worship the persuader himself or another human, ruling that in the latter case he is guilty.

It seems that Rambam understood that if the meisit is championing the worship of another human it would make sense for him to be challenged, and if instead there is consent, it is interpreted as being genuine. When he is, however, asking that he himself be worshipped, it cannot be expected for anyone to challenge him since he thinks he is a god and the "yes" they say is merely a mockery.

What the Sages Say

"It is forbidden to make fun of anything except in regard to idolatry."

  • Rabbi Nachman - Sanhedrin 63b

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