Daf Yomi

For the week ending 17 April 2010 / 2 Iyyar 5770

Sanhedrin 65 - 71

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Entrapment of a Missionary

Even if a Jew is suspected of being a sinner of so serious a nature that he is liable for capital punishment, the authorities did not employ entrapment as a means of luring him into committing this sin in the presence of witnesses and thus insure his prosecution. The only exception was the meisis, the Jewish missionary who attempted to persuade other Jews to worship idols. He was considered such a menace that entrapment was employed to eliminate him.

How was it done?

A meisis preaches his missionary message to a Jew who feigns interest as a means of bringing him to justice and preventing him from tempting others. Aware that his testimony alone is insufficient for prosecution, he strings the meisis along by saying that he has friends who might also be interested in hearing his sales pitch. If the meisis is too clever for such a ruse and insists on the utmost secrecy the would-be victim invites him for a secret meeting in a home to further discuss his conversion. Agents of the court light a candle in an inner room of this house and place two witnesses in the outer room who will be able to see and hear the meisis while he will be totally unaware of their presence.

"We're all alone," says the intended victim to the meisis. "Please repeat the proposition you made during out last meeting." When the pitch is repeated by the meisis a protest is offered: "How can we abandon our G-d in Heaven and worship idols?" This is a last ditch effort to save the meisis, and if he retracts he is acquitted. But if he insists that idol worship is the best course for all Jews the witnesses who heard him bring him to court where he is tried and executed.

  • Sanhedrin 67a

The Tenth Man

Can a man created by man through the supernatural forces unlocked by utilizing the Sefer Yetzirah be counted as the tenth man for a minyan?

This question was put to Rabbi Zvi Ashkenazi, the great seventeenth century rabbi of Amsterdam known as the "Chacham Zvi." In his response (Response 93) he notes that his grandfather, Rabbi Eliyahu of Chelm, is reputed to have created a man (but makes no mention of the so-called "golem" which legend connects with the Maharal of Prague!) and then proceeds to offer a halachic ruling based on this week's section of the Daf Hayomi.

The Sage Rava created a man through the Sefer Yetzirah and sent him to Rabbi Zeira. The latter tried speaking to him and when there was no response (because the power of speech, a function of the soul, is limited to G-d's creation) he declared: "You are a product of our colleague. Return to your dust!"

If such a creation could serve the purpose of completing a minyan, concluded the Chacham Zvi, Rabbi Zeira would not have thus condemned him to oblivion and denied the world this benefit.

  • Sanhedrin 65b

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