For the week ending 3 April 2010 / 18 Nisan 5770

Sanhedrin 51 - 57

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • Punishment of adulterous daughter of a kohen and how it is implemented
  • The fires that consumed Korach's rebels and the sons of Aharon
  • The punishments of the sword and of strangulation
  • When the Torah does not stipulate the form of capital punishment
  • Which sins are punished with the most severe form of death
  • Why the animal is also executed
  • Forbidden relations with a minor
  • What constitutes blasphemy as a capital sin
  • How witnesses to blasphemy testify
  • The Noachide Laws – seven or more?
  • Justice for an offender of those laws

The Ten Before

  • Sanhedrin 56b

Even before they received the Torah at Sinai our ancestors were commanded with ten mitzvot – the seven Noachide Laws plus the three mitzvot which they received at the scene of the bitter waters of Marah "where there was given statutes and laws." (Shmot 15:25)

Tosefot raises the question as to why there is no mention of the mitzvah of circumcision which had already been commanded to the Patriarch Avraham or the prohibition of eating the gid hanashe (displaced sinew) commanded to the Patriarch Yaakov. (Bereishet 32.33)

The answer given by Rabbi Yaakov Emden in regard to circumcision is that this list includes only prohibitions and not positive commands, as we find in a later gemara (58b). As regards gid hanashe the opinion of the Sages (Mesechta Chullin 100b) who contest the view of Rabbi Yehuda is that although the source of the gid hanashe ban is mentioned early in the Torah, it was not actually prohibited until Sinai. Since there is not a consensus that this was a pre-Sinai mitzvah, it is not mentioned in this list of ten.

What the Sages Say

"Why are those distant relatives prohibited for marriage by rabbinic law called 'mitzvah prohibited'? Because it is a mitzvah to obey the commands of the Sages."

  • Rabbi Oshya - Sanhedrin 53a

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