Talmud Horayoth and Shebuoth


Book Details

Author  Israel W. Slotki
Publisher  Talmudic Books
Publication Date   May 21, 2012
Pages  485


Horayoth — 'rulings' — is one of the smallest Tractates of the Talmud, appearing in different centuries and editions, as the seventh, eighth, or tenth and last in the sequence of the Tractates of the Order of Nezikin. It is concerned mainly with a discussion, exposition and elucidation of the laws relating to erroneous decisions or rulings which, issued by Beth din, the recognized religious court, and acted upon by the people in reliance on the court's authority, involve either the court or the people, or both, in various penalties. The nature of the transgressions and corresponding penalties are defined and, in relation to these, distinctions are drawn between the rights and obligations of the court, the people, the private individual, the ruler or king, and the High Priest.

THE PRINCIPLES OF RULING AND ACTING: If the Beth din gave an erroneous ruling concerning any of the thirty prohibitions all of which relate to religious or ritual matters, and the public acted on the strength of such a ruling, the 'Congregation', when the error is discovered, come under the obligation of bringing a sin-offering of a bullock. There is no difference in this respect whether the Beth din have themselves acted in accordance with their ruling and the public acted together with them or after them, or whether the Beth din only issued the ruling and the public alone acted accordingly, the principle being that ruling depends on the Beth din and acting on the public. If the erroneous ruling in similar circumstances related to a question of idolatry, the Congregational offering must consist of two animals, a bullock for a burnt-offering and a he-goat for a sin offering.

DELIMITATIONS OF THE LAW: The Congregational offering brought where the action was based on the authority of a ruling of the Beth din is Subject to a number of limitations. The Mufla (v. p. 25) as well as the full number of seventy-one members must be present at the time when the erroneous decision is arrived at. Every member must be a fully qualified person worthy of his position. The decision must not be challenged by any of the members, and must not involve the complete unawareness on the part of the court of the Biblical principle of the law under consideration, the error being limited to details of the law only. The public must act in the honest belief that the ruling was in accordance with the accepted law and, furthermore, the number of those so acting must constitute a majority of a 'Congregation', defined differently by different authorities. Should any of these conditions be absent, the 'Congregation', as a body, is exempt, while every individual who transgressed, be he layman or member of the Beth din, must bring his own sin-offering as if no ruling of the Beth din had ever been issued.

THE AGGADIC MATERIAL: Moral lessons and didactic expositions constitute a considerable part of the Aggadic substance of the Tractate, and the relative deserts of the righteous and the wicked in this world and the hereafter are discussed. The ultimate fate of the anointing oil, the jar of manna, the Holy Ark and Aaron's rod is indicated, and Biblical characters such as, for example, Lot, his daughters, Ammon and Moab, are touched upon. Incidents in some of the lives of the last kings of Judah and Israel are mentioned, and the enforcement of Patriarchal authority is illustrated by a remarkable incident that occurred in the days of R. Simeon b. Gamaliel II, in the first half of the second century, C.E. Some curious instances of fortune-telling are recorded, and reference is made to certain foods and practices which assist or retard powers of memory and heighten or lessen the capacity for study. [Adapted from the Introduction.]

SHEBU‘OTH. Deals with the various forms of oaths made privately and also those administered (i) to witnesses, (ii) to litigants, (iii) to wardens.

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