Subscribe to a Weekly Series

By Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom | Series: | Level:

14.This (qualification that if a teacher put someone in *Nidui*, the students must observe it; but if a student put someone in *Nidui*, the teacher is not obliged to observe it) only applies when someone was placed under *Nidui* (form of ostracization – see archives at TT 6:12-13) because he degraded *Talmidei Hakhamim*. However, if he was placed under *Nidui* for any of the other offenses for which one is ostracized, even if he was ostracized by the most insignificant Jew, [even] the *Nasi* and all Jews are obligated to observe *Nidui* until he repents from the offense for which he was ostracized and [then] they lift the ban.

A person, male or female, is placed under *Nidui* for 24 violations, as follows:

(a) Degrading a *Hakham* – even posthumously;

(b) Degrading an agent of the court;

(c) Calling a fellow a “slave”;

(d) Ignoring a summons of the court (which included a set time);

(e) Scorning even one point of Rabbinic Law – and certainly Torah Law;

(f) Refusing to comply with a court order – (until he complies);

(g) Maintaining a dangerous thing – such as a violent dog or a shaky ladder – (until he removes the danger);

(h) Selling land to a heathen (until he accepts responsibility for any damages which the heathen may cause his Jewish neighbor);

(i) Testifying against a Jew in a non-Jewish court in such a way that caused [the fellow Jew] to pay money that, under Torah law, he would not owe (until he pays the fellow the amount he lost);

(j) A Kohen who is a butcher and does not separate the *Matn’not Kehunah* (gifts given to Kohanim) to give them to another Kohen (until he gives them);

(k) Violating the second day of *Yom-Tov* – even though [observing] it is merely a custom;

(l) Working on the afternoon of *Erev Pesach* (the day before Passover);

(m) Mentioning God’s Name in vain or taking a casual oath;

(n) Causing the masses to desecrate God’s Name;

(o) Causing the masses to eat *Kodashim* (sanctified foods) outside [their prescribed location];

(p) Calculating [leap] years and establishing [new] months outside of the Land;

(q) Causing a blind person to stumble; [RABD: e.g. – striking his older son]

(r) Preventing the masses from fulfilling a Mitzvah;

(s) A butcher who sold non-kosher meat;

(t) A butcher who did not inspect his knife in front of a *Hakham*;

(u) Intentionally causing oneself to have an erection;

(v) Divorcing and then entering a business partnership or dealings with the ex-wife that causes them to come into contact. When they enter the court, they are placed under *Nidui*.

(w) A *Hakham* whose reputation is bad; [RABD: There are many others. (e.g.) A *Hakham* who permitted [a woman to marry if her husband disappeared in] endless waters; Similarly, if someone violates his vow, any court which he approaches for release from the vow ostracizes him – and there are many others];

(x) Placing someone under *Nidui* who is undeserving; [RABD: He [Rambam] inferred this from the story of Resh Laqish [BT Mo’ed Qatan17a] who was watching an orchard (he noticed a thief and, unable to stop him) he said to him: “You are under *Nidui*. For the life of me, there is no sharpness here [in Rambam’s reckoning this last example] – since the cases Rambam reckons here are for the Beit-Din to place under *Nidui* and in such a case [as Resh Laqish], the Beit-Din did not need to place R. Shimon b. Laqish under *Nidui* – rather, the one he ostracized (would place Resh Laqish under *Nidui*) , if he felt his honor offended, then his *NIdui* would be valid. (i.e. this case is not a court-related function, unlike the other 23 cases).

Q1: Why does R need to add “male or female” among those who are liable for *Nidui*?

YE (Yitz Etshalom ): In TT 7:4, R presents the behavior required of the *Menudeh* – and his/her peers. Several of the restrictions are “male-only”, (e.g. non-inclusion in a *Minyan* (prayer quorum)); I might have thought that *Nidui* can only be placed upon someone with whom the entire package can be fulfilled, therefore R states “male _or_ female”.

Q2: Case (a) seems to be the same as what we discussed before – why is it mentioned here?

YE: In the central *sugyot* which discuss reasons for *Nidui* ( BT Berakhot 19a and JT Mo’ed Katan 3:1), we find that disgracing scholars is the archetypical cause for *Nidui*. As is discussed at Q8, below, “disgracing scholars” serves as an appropriate heading, as it includes all three general areas of violation which are causes for *Nidui* – sort of the Nidui crossroads.

Q3: (e) What form of “scorn” must the person express to be liable?

YE: According to Rashi (BT Sotah 4b s.v. HaMezalzel) , it means that he _never_ observes a particular command. (The discussion there revolves around one who “scorns” ritual hand-washing before eating bread; “scorning hand-washing” is one of the three places recorded in the Mishna where the court placed someone in *Nidui*.) According to the discussion below at Q8, R would also be intending transgression, not merely verbal abuse/challenge or disregard. However, see Kessef Mishneh on our Halakha, who distinguishes between “scorning/raising doubts” and “violating” – and feels that if one violates a Rabbinic law he is punished by the court; hence, this “scorn” must refer to verbal abuse/challenge rather than actual violation.

– Q4: (j) Why can’t the Kohen keep the *Mat’not Kehunah* for himself?

YE: The Gemara (Hullin 132b) infers from the verse: “This shall be the priests’ due from the people, from those offering a sacrifice…” (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 18:3) that “from the people” excludes Kohanim, whereas “from those offering a sacrifice” seems to include them. The Gemara explains that it includes a Kohen who is a butcher (for others – see Rashi ad loc. s.v. K’shehu omer).

Q5: (q) Is RABD explicating or disputing R’s approach?

YE: Two possibilities: according to the Kessef Mishneh, RABD is _validating R: In the Gemara (BT Mo’ed Katan 17a), we find that Rebbi’s maidservant ostracized someone for striking his older son, claiming that he was violating “Do not put a stumbling block before a blind person”. Since our tradition maintains that this prohibition includes enticing, encouraging or abetting someone in the commission of a ritual violation (see BT Avodah Zarah 6b – also, see our discussion at TT 6:1, Q2 at the end), by striking his son, he is likely causing his son to rebel against his father and perhaps even to strike him in response -which is a violation of the Torah. According to Kessef Mishneh, RABD is supporting R’s identification of the general rule of “causing a blind person to stumble” – and not _only_ striking one’s older son.

This approach is difficult for several reasons: (a) We are not accustomed to reading this sort of support for R in RABD’s glosses; (b) RABD’s wording does not point to this approach – he should have written: “*m’ha d’makeh b’no…*” – (“inferred from the case of striking the older son”).

An alternative approach is to see RABD as _clarifying_ R’s statement. RABD is of the opinion that the literal read of a verse is never negated by Rabbinic exegesis (see MT Gezela 9:8 and his gloss there – see also our discussion at TT 6:1, Q2). RABD needs, therefore, to explain that since R already included “maintaining a dangerous thing (g)”, and literally tripping a blind person is already included in that category. Therefore, RABD elucidates R’s intent – to the Rabbinic extension/application of the “stumbling block” – causing another to sin.

Q6: (w) What sort of bad reputation makes one liable for *Nidui*?

YE: Rabbenu Chananel (Mo’ed Katan 17a) explicates the statement that “a scholar whose reputation is poor is ostracized” – that he desecrates God’s Names. He then points us to the sugya in Yoma (86a) – where we are told that his friends are embarrassed because of him, they are regularly saying “God will [hopefully?] forgive him”.

Q7: (w) Again, is RABD expanding upon R here (“there are many others..”) or challenging him?

YE: There is a fundamental problem with R’s listing of 24 violations, which is being addressed by RABD. The source for the number 24 is in the Gemara (BT Berakhot 19a) – which reads: “In 24 *mekomot* (places/locations) we intiate *Nidui* due to the honor of the scholar…” the ensuing discussion is an attempt to locate 24 cases in the canonized Mishna. It seems clear, therefore, that we are not referring to 24 types of violation, rather 24 specific instances of dishonoring a scholar (or the court) where we read of the offender being placed under the ban of *Nidui*. Therefore, R’s collection of situations recorded in the Talmuds where individuals were placed under *Nidui* for assorted violations – each one being added to the list – seems to violate the straight read of the text in Berakhot. RABD is essentially challenging the notion of an exhaustive list – since there are other instances recorded in the Gemara which R omitted – or else he is challenging the number 24 as having any relevance here. Indeed, R’s approach is a difficult one to understand and to defend.

Q8: In general – are there groups/categories of offenses here or are they 24 isolated cases?

YE: As indicated above, offending a *Hakham* seems to be the archetypical violation worthy of *Nidui*. Examining this offense, we find several components:

(1) degrading Torah – both the study and the honor of Torah;

(2) challenging the authority of the court;

(3) degrading another person;

(4) challenging the authority of *Mesorah* – tradition;

(5) [indirectly] desecrating God by degrading those who embody Torah.

[Nearly] all of the violations seem to fit one of these categories.

Q9: In particular – why does each of these carry with it the consequence of *Nidui*?

YE: Most of them are fairly straightforward – they involve violations where the court cannot directly punish the person – either because:

(a) his/her actions or not actionable in court (e.g. working on *Erev Pesach*),

(b) because s/he has gone outside of the Beit-Din’s sphere of direct influence (e.g. Testifying against a Jew in a non-Jewish court…),

(c)his/her crime is so impactful that any punishment we would administer would not fit (e.g. causing the masses to sin).

Rambam, Copyright (c) 1999 Project Genesis, Inc.