THE LAWS OF IDOL-WORSHIP AND ITS REGULATIONS
Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah
Rambam: Sefer HaMada, Mishneh Torah
The Laws of Torah Study come from the first book of this work, known as the Book of Knowledge ("Sefer Ha-mada").
These chapters discuss the following two positive commandments and forty-nine negative commandments:
1) Not to follow idolaters.
2) Not to follow one's inclinations or after what one sees.
3) Not to blaspheme.
4) Not to serve idols in the appropriate manner.
5) Not to bow down to idols.
6) Not to make a graven image for oneself.
7) Not to make a graven image for others.
8) Not to make figures, even for decoration.
9) Not to influence others into idolatry.
10) To burn down an influenced city.
11) Not to rebuild an influenced city.
12) Not to benefit from any of the monies of idols.
13) Not to mislead someone into serving idols.
14) Not to like a misleader.
15) Not to refrain from hating a misleader.
16) Not to save an inciter.
17) Not to credit an inciter with any merits.
18) Not to refrain from doing bad to a misleader.
19) Not to prophecise in the name of an idol.
20) Not to listen to one who does prophecise in the name of an idol.
21) Not to prophecise falsely, even in the name of God.
22) Not to refrain from executing a false prophet.
23) Not to take an oath in the name of an idolater.
24) Not to perform necromancy.
25) Not to perform wizardry.
26) Not to pass someone through a Molech.
27) Not to establish a monument.
28) Not to bow down on a figured stone.
29) Not to plant an asherah.
30) To destroy idolatry and all that is made for it.
31) Not to benefit from idol-worship or any of its accoutrements.
32) Not to benefit from an idol's covering.
33) Not to make a covenant with idol worshippers.
34) Not to favour an idol-worshippers.
35) Not to permit idolaters to live in our land.
36) Not to follow their customs and way of dress.
37) Not to perform soothsaying.
38) Not to use divination.
39) Not to enchant.
40) Not to employ a charmer.
41) Not to consult the dead.
42) Not to consult a necromancer.
43) Not to consult a wizard.
44) Not to perform witchery.
45) Not to shave the corners of one's head with a blade.
46) Not to shave the corners of one's beard with a blade.
47) For a man not to wear a woman's ornaments.
48) For a woman not to wear a man's ornaments.
49) Not to make tattoos.
50) Not to cut oneself as a sign of mourning.
51) Not to make a bald patch on one's forehead as a sign of mourning.
This chapter discusses the evolution of idolatry, until Abraham came and recognised God, and made His oneness made known throughout the world.
1) In the days of Enosh, the people deviated, and the counsel of the wise people degenerated into stupidity. Enosh himself was amongst those who deviated. Their mistaken reasoning was that since God created the skies and spheres as part of nature, and placed them high up [in the skies], and gave them dignity, and that they are servants who serve Him, it would be appropriate to laud, glorify and honour them as well. It is the will of the Almighty to make great and to dignify those who make Him great and honour Him, in the same way that a king wants to honour the servants who serve him - such is the honour of a king. Once this matter was decided upon, they proceeded to build temples to the stars, to bring sacrifices to them, to laud and glorify them verbally and to bow down to them, in order to attain [by these means] the will of the Creator by their opinions, which were evil. This was the core of idolatry, but the knowledgeable worshippers did not deny the existence of God by saying that only such-and-such a star exists. This is what Jeremiah said: "Who would not fear You, King of the nations? For to You it is fitting, for among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms there is none like You. Stupid and senseless are they all - the teaching of their vain idols is but wood!"; that is to say that everyone knows that just God exists, but their mistake and foolishness was to imagine that idolatry was God's will.
2) After some time, prophets of falsehood arose, and said that the Almighty had commanded them to serve such-and-such a star, to bring sacrifices to it, to offer drink sacrifices to it and to build a temple containing its form to it, in order that all people -including women, children and ignoramuses - will be able to bow down to it. Each of these prophets made known a form which he had invented himself, and claimed that it was the form of such-and-such a star which had been made known to him in a prophecy. In this manner, people started to make figures in the temples, under trees and on the tops of mountains and hills, and they congregated and bowed down to them. The prophets said that it was a form which brought good and bad, and that it was fitting to serve and fear it. The prophets said that through this service one will multiply and be successful, and issued instructions concerning what may and may not be done. Other prophets of falsehood began to make themselves known, and said that the star itself, or a sphere or angel, had spoken to them about how to be served, and what may or may not be done. This matter, namely the worship of forms in different manners, the offering of sacrifices to them and the bowing down to them, became propagated throughout the whole world. Owing to the passage of time, the honoured and fear-inducing Name was forgotten by all of nature, and was not recognised. Everybody, women and children included, knew only their forms of wood and stone, and the temples of stone, which, from childhood, they had been educated to bow down to, worship and take the name of for oaths. The wise people amongst them, such as the priests, imagined that there is no God, but only the stars and spheres, because of whom they made representative figures. But as for the Creator, there was not a single person who recognised Him, except for various individuals, such as Hanoch, Methuselah, Noah, Shem and Eber. Things continued in this manner until Abraham the Patriarch, supporter of the world, was born.
3) Once Abraham was weaned, he, as a child, began contemplating and thinking day and night, and wondered how a sphere could follow a fixed path without being directed. If so, who directed it? Surely it would be impossible for it to rotate on its own! Abraham did not have a mentor, but was immersed amongst the stupid idolaters of Ur Casdim, where everyone, including his mother and father, served idols, as did he. In his heart, however, he continued to contemplate, until he realised the way of truth and understood the ways of righteousness from nature, and knew that there is a God who directs the spheres, created the world, and besides whom there is none other. He also knew that the whole world was erring, and knew that what caused the mistake was that they [had] worshipped the stars and figures for so long that the truth had vanished. Abraham was forty years old when he recognised his Creator. Once he achieved this, he began to reason with the inhabitants of Ur Casdim and to argue with them, saying that by serving idols they were not following the way of truth. He broke their images, and began to proclaim that it is not fitting to serve anyone other than God, and to Him it is fitting to bow down and to offer drink sacrifices and sacrifices to, so that all creation will recognise Him. Abraham also proclaimed that it was fitting to break and destroy all the figures, so that nobody will err on account of them, like those who imagined that there is no God except for their idols did. Since people were listening to him, the king, Nimrod, sought to kill him, but a miracle was performed for Abraham, and he went to Haran, where he got up and proclaimed to the whole world that there is just one God in the world, whom it is fitting to worship. He went and gathered people together from cities and kingdoms, until he reached the land of Canaan, where he continued his proclamations, as it is written, "...and called there on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God". Since agnostics were coming to him with questions about this matter, he would answer each person [in a way] so that he would return to the way of truth, until thousands and tens of thousands came to him. These were the people of the house of Abraham. He placed this important principle in their way of thinking, wrote books, and taught it to his son Isaac. Isaac also brought people back [to the way of truth], and taught it to Jacob, instructing him to teach as well, who then taught and brought back those who accompanied him. Jacob the Patriarch taught all his sons, but distinguished Levi, appointing him as head, making him stay in a seminary to teach the way of God and to fulfil the commandments of Abraham. He commanded his [other] sons not to cease supporting the children of Levi, in order that this teaching would not be forgotten. This matter became more and more publicized amongst the children of Jacob and those who accompanied them, and a nation who knew God was established in the world. This was only until Israel was in Egypt, where they learned the ways of the Egyptians, and worshipped idols like they did, with the exception of the tribe of Levi, who remained in the ways according to the commandments of the Patriarchs. The tribe of Levi never served idols. Not a lot of time passed and Israel was almost loathed [by God], and the core principle which Abraham initiated was extirpated. The children of Jacob returned to the mistakes of the nations, and to their straying from the true path. Out of love and out of keeping the covenant made with Abraham, God sent Moses our Teacher, chief of all the Prophets. Since Moses prophecised and God chose Israel as an inheritance, He crowned them with commandments, and made know to them the way to worship Him, and what the law regarding those who serve idols and those who err to pursue them is.
This chapter tells us not to worship any creation, such worship being the core of idolatry, not to read any of the books of idolatry, and also discusses the laws regarding a blasphemer.
1) The core prohibition of idol worship is not to worship any creation, be it an angel, one of the spheres, a star, one of the four elements or something created from one of the elements. Even though a worshippers knows that the Lord is God but nevertheless worships one of the creations in the way that Enosh and those of his generation did before they forgot God, he is still counted as an idolater. This matter is what the Torah warned us against when it said, "And in case you look to the skies, and when you see the sun, the moon, the stars, and all the host of heaven, and you be misled to worship them, et cetera"; that is to say, "In case your judgement wanders and you think that it is they who control the world, and that the Lord allotted the whole world to them to live and exist in, and that they are not spoiled by the ways of the world", and then one will think that it is fitting to bow down to them and to worship them. We have received commandments concerning this matter when it says, "Be careful that your judgement is not deluded, et cetera"; that is to say that one should not be led to deviate by one's thoughts and think of the idols as a go-between between oneself and God.
2) Idolaters wrote many books about their worship, what the main part of their worship is, how it is done and what the related laws are. God commanded us not to read such books at all, and nor to think about them or any connected matter at all. Even to look at a figure is forbidden, as it is written, "Don't turn to idols". Concerning this matter it says, "...and don't inquire about their gods by saying, `How did these nations serve their gods?'", i.e. not to inquire about the method of worship even if one won't worship, because this causes one to worship and to do as they do, for it is written, "Even so I will do the same".
3) All these transgressions [mentioned so far] are in the same category, namely that of not turning to idolatry. Anyone who does turn to idolatry and performs the appropriate acts of worship should be flogged. It is not just turning to idolatry by thoughts that is forbidden, but we are also warned not to consider any thoughts which may lead to [one's own] uprooting of any of the Torah's principles. We are warned not to think in this way or to turn one's attention to it, or allow oneself to become confused by following the [incorrect] impulses of one's heart. This is because a man's reasoning is limited, and not all ways of thinking can attain the truth of the creation [and Creator], and if a man is pulled by his impulsive thoughts he will appear to destroy the world by the limitations of his mind [when spreading such opinions amongst others]. What does this mean? Sometimes he will adopt idolatry, and sometimes he will consider the oneness of the Creator - whether He exists or not, what is in heaven and beneath the ground, what existed before the world was created and what will be after it. Sometimes he will contemplate whether the prophecies are true or not, and sometimes he will contemplate whether the Torah is heavenly [in origin] or not, and he won't know the correct attributes necessary to know the truth, and he will become an heretic. The Torah warned us against this by saying, "...and that you don't follow your impulses and what you see, which lead you astray"; that is to say not to be attracted by the limitations of one's mind, which will prevent one from attaining the truth. The Sages said that the words, `your impulses' refer to heresy, and that the words, `what you see' refer to adultery. Even though this sin [of following incorrect impulses] can cause a person to be cut off from the World To Come, it does not carry a penalty of corporal punishment.
4) The commandment of [not practising] idolatry is above all other commandments, as it written, "And if you have erred and not obeyed all these commandments, et cetera". This is talking about idolatry, and teaches us that anyone who subscribes to idolatry denies all that the Torah and Prophets say and all that is commanded from [the time of] Adam until the end of the world, for it is written, "...from the day that the Lord gave command and forthwith throughout your generations". Anyone who denies idolatry acknowledges all of the Torah and Prophets and all that is commanded from the time of Adam until the end of the world. This is a key part of all the commandments.
5) A Jew who commits idolatry is considered as a gentile in all respects, and not like a Jew who has committed some other sin which carries a penalty of stoning. A convert to [the ways of] idolatry is considered as an apostate. Similarly, a Jewish infidel is not considered as a Jew in all respects, and is never accepted in repentance, for it is written, "None that go to her return, nor do they regain the paths of life". Infidels are those who follow the impulses of their hearts with respect to the aforementioned matters, so much so that they transgress the key commandments of the Torah in contempt and brazenness, and they will say that they are not sinning. It is forbidden to converse with them or make them repent at all, for it is written, "...and don't approach the door of her house". The thoughts of an heretic are keyed to idolatry.
6) Anyone who accepts idolatry as truth is aggravating and blaspheming the honoured and fear-inducing Name, even if he doesn't actually serve idols. Idolatry and blasphemy are equal in severity, for it is written, "But the person that acts brazenly, whether he was born in the land or is a stranger, dishonours the Lord". Therefore, an idolater is hanged [after he is stoned] in the same way that a blasphemer is. Because of this, I have written the laws of blasphemy with the laws of idolatry, for the reason that both of them deny the basic principles.
7) These are the laws of a blasphemer: A blasphemer is not liable to stoning unless he explicitly says the Tetragrammaton, which is spelt Aleph-Daled-Nun-Yud, and curses it with one of the other Names which may not be erased, for it is written, "And he who blasphemes the Lord's name shall surely be put to death". One is liable to stoning if one blasphemes one of the Names, but if one blasphemes one of the Attributes one has merely committed a sin. One authority holds that one is liable to stoning only on account of blaspheming the actual Tetragrammaton, but I say that one is liable to stoning for blaspheming either four-letter Name.
8) The forewarning of a blasphemer is derived from the verse, "Do not revile the judges". In the event of the trial of a blasphemer, the witnesses should only hint at what the blasphemer actually said when they are cross- examined. Once all the questioning has finished and a verdict is about to be passed, everybody is told to go outside, and then the greater (or older) of the witnesses is told to say explicitly what the blasphemer had said, which he does. The judges then genuflect and tear their clothes, and should never repair them. The second witness then says, `I heard the same'. If there were more than two witnesses, then each and every one of them has to say, `I heard the same'.
9) Taking back one's blasphemy immediately after saying it is ineffective, and if one's blasphemy was [said] in the presence of witnesses one is stoned. Someone who blasphemes the Name in the name of an idol will [probably] be killed by zealots, but if they don't kill him and he is brought to court he is not stoned, unless he cursed the Name with one of the other Names that may not be erased.
10) One who hears God's Name being cursed is obliged to tear his clothes, even if it was only an Attribute which he heard being cursed. This is with the proviso that he heard it from a Jew. One who hears it from the one who first heard it [i.e. as reported speech] is under the same law as the one who hears it directly. If one hears it from an idolater one is not obliged to tear one's clothes. Eliakim and Shebna tore their clothes only because Rab-shakeh was a Jewish apostate. After the court-case has been completed, all the witnesses and judges, one by one, place their hands, on the head of the blasphemer, and say to him, `Your blood is accountable to you, for you have caused its spilling!'. Of all the types of people executed by a Court of Law, it is only with a blasphemer that this ceremony is performed, for it is written, "...and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head".
This chapter discusses serving idols willingly or inadvertently, whether correctly or not, the laws concerning someone who makes a god for himself or for others, the prohibition of forms for decoration even if they are not for idolatry, and the difference between protruding and sunken forms.
1) Anyone who willingly and knowingly worships idols is liable to karet. If he did so in the presence of witnesses who forewarned him then he is stoned, but if he did do inadvertently he has to bring a standard sin offering.
2) Many different types of worship were invented by the idolaters for each and every image and form, and no two types of worship are identical. For example, the method of worshiping Pe'or was to defecate before it, and the method of worshiping Markulis was to throw stones at it or to remove stones [which had been thrown at it] from before it. Other similar manners of worship were established for other images. Therefore, if someone defecated in front of Markulis or threw stones at Pe'or he is exempt from punishment, for the reason that he has not worshipped in the appropriate manner. Only those who worship in the appropriate manner are liable, for it is written, "How did these nations serve their gods? Even so I will do likewise". Because of this, the Courts of Law have to make known the ways of worship, for an idolater is not stoned unless he knew he was performing the appropriate acts.
3) When it says, "...nor serve them" it is a warning against such worships and similar things. This is talking about all manners of worship except for bowing, sacrificing, burning incense or offering drink offerings. Anyone who worships any idol in one of these manners is liable, even if it was not the appropriate manner of worship. For example, if one offered a drink offering to Pe'or, or sacrificed to Markulis, one is liable, for it is written, "He who sacrifices to any god except for the Lord shall be utterly destroyed". This makes one who bows liable, even if it was not the appropriate manner of worship. This law also applies to burning incense and offering drink offerings. Someone who sprinkles blood [after a sacrifice] is classified as one who offers a drink offering.
4) If one cuts up excrement [instead of cakes or meat] or pours out a [large] chamber pot of urine in front of an idol, one is liable. If one sacrificed a locust to an idol one is not liable, unless such was the appropriate manner of worship. Similarly, if one sacrificed an animal that had a limb missing to an idol one is not liable, unless such was the appropriate manner of worship. Concerning an idol which is worshipped by breaking sticks before it; if one broke a stick before it one is liable and the stick is forbidden for use, but if one just threw the stick before it one is still liable, but the stick is not forbidden for use. This is because the throwing of a stick is not like the sprinkling of blood, for the reason that the stick does not change in form when thrown, but blood spreads out when sprinkled. Anyone who accepts upon himself an idol as a god is liable to stoning, even if he merely picked upon ordinary brick and declared it his god. Any similar statements also make one liable [to stoning]. Even if on immediately took back what one had said and said that it is not one's god, it is ineffective, and one is still liable to stoning.
5) Anyone who worships an idol in the appropriate manner is liable, even if he did so in a manner of mockery. For example, if someone defecated in front of Pe'or in order to mock it, or threw a stone at Markulis in order to mock it, he is obligated to bring a sin offering on account of his inadvertent transgression [and is not liable to karet because he had the wrong attitude when worshiping]. He has to bring a sin offering for the reason that it was not the appropriate manner of worship.
6) One who worships an idol out of love, for instance he worshipped a particular form on account of its outstanding beauty, or if he worshipped out of fear that it would cause him bad if he didn't, like those who worship them imagine, namely that an idol causes good or bad to befall someone, is liable to stoning if he accepted it upon himself as a god, but if he worshipped it in the appropriate manner, or performed one of the four special acts of worship before it, out of love or fear of the idol [and did not accept it upon himself as a god], he is not liable. Someone who hugs an idol and kisses it, or cleans the area in front of it, or washes it in order to clean it, or washes and anoints himself in its honour, or dresses specially for it, et cetera, is transgressing a negative commandment, for it is written, "...nor serve them". This is because these things are in the category of worship. Nevertheless, one who does one of the above is not liable to flogging, for the reason that these activities are not explicitly forbidden, but if it was the appropriate manner of worship and one performed it for the sake of worship, one is liable.
7) If one was sitting in front of an idol and a thorn entered one's foot, one should not bend down to remove it, because it will look as if one is bowing down [to the idol]. It is also for this reason that one should not bend down to collect money that was spread out in front of the idol, but one should lower oneself in stages so that it will not look like bowing.
8) One should not place one's mouth next to that of a sculptured figure which spouts water in front of an idol in order to drink, because it will look as if one is bowing down to the idol.
9) Someone who makes an idol for himself has transgressed a negative commandment and is liable to flogging, even if he himself did not make it [but had someone else to make it for him] or if he did not worship it, for it written, "You shall not make for yourself any carved idol or semblance, et cetera". Similarly, someone who himself makes an idol for others, even for a gentile, is liable to flogging, for it is written, "..nor make for yourselves molten gods". Therefore, someone who makes an idol himself and for himself is flogged twice, once for transgressing each of these commandments.
10) It is forbidden to make forms of people for decoration, even though they may not be idols, for it is written, "You shall not make with me gods of silver, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold". This refers to gold or silver figures meant for decoration, so that deviants won't mistake them for idols. Therefore, one may not sculpt figures of people out of wood, clay or stone. This applies only if the figure is not protruding, an example of which would be a three-dimensional figure sculpted onto a wall, or some similar thing. One who did make a sculpture of this nature is liable to flogging. However, sculptures which are impressed into the surface, or a form of colours, such as the figures which can be found on tablets and plates/slates, or which are embroidered in cloth, are permitted.
11) Concerning a signet ring which had the image of a man on it; if the image is protruding it is forbidden to wear it but it is permitted to seal with it, but if the image is sunken it is permitted to wear it but forbidden to seal with it, because the image made when sealing with it will be a protruding one. It is similarly forbidden to make images of the sun, moon, stars, zodiac constellations or angels, for it is written, "You shall not make with me"7, which means not making images of those in the firmament who serve God. It is even forbidden to draw them on a board. It is permitted to make images of animals and any other living creatures except for man, and of trees, plants, et cetera, even if the image is a protruding one.
This chapter discusses influenced cities, and states that the laws of such a city do not apply to Jerusalem or any of the refuge cities.
1) Those who influence a Jewish city [into idolatry] are stoned, even if they themselves did not worship but just influenced the city's citizens to worship idols. The people of the influenced city are put to death by the sword if they actually worshipped idols or accepted them upon themselves as gods. The verse, "...nor let it be heard from your mouth" serves as a warning against such an influence.
2) A city does not get the status of an influenced city unless it was influenced by two or more people, for it is written, "Certain wicked persons have gone out". The people who did the influencing have to be from the same town or tribe, for it is written, "...and have drawn away the inhabitants of their city"2, and also have to influence the majority of the town in order to be classified as influencers. The number of influenced people has to be between one hundred and the majority of a tribe. If they influenced more than the majority of a tribe, then those who were influenced are judged separately, for it is written, "...the citizens of that city". A small village or a large city cannot become influenced cities. A small village is any village with fewer than one hundred citizens, whereas a large city is one which contains the majority of a tribe. Therefore, if women, children or an individual influenced a city, or if only a minority was influenced, or if they influenced themselves, or if they were influenced by people from a different city, then they are not judged as [citizens of] an influenced city, but they are classified as individuals who worshipped idols. Those who worship are stoned to death, and their heirs inherit their property in the same way as with any person executed by a Court of Law.
3) The judgement of an influenced city is performed only by the Great Sanhedrin of seventy-one members, for it is written, "You shall bring out the man or woman who has committed that wicked thing to your gates" - individuals are executed by the Small Sanhedrin of twenty-three members, but the many can be executed only by the Great Sanhedrin.
4) A refuge city cannot be condemned as an influenced city, for it is written, "...in one of your cities". Jerusalem also cannot be condemned as an influenced city, because it was not divided up amongst the tribes. A city on the border [of Israel] also can't be condemned as an influenced city, so as not to give gentiles a point of entry to Israel to destroy it. The same Court of Law cannot condemn three cities which are close to each other as influenced cities, but may do so for three cities which are far away from each other.
5) A city can be condemned as an influenced city only if those who influenced the citizens spoke in the plural form and said things like, `Let us go and worship', `Let us go and sacrifice', `Let us go and burn incense', `Let us go and offer a drink offering', `Let us go and bow down' or `Let us accept this idol as a god', [et cetera,] and the citizens listen to them and worship the idols in the appropriate way or in one of the four special ways, or accept the idol as their god. If the city or the influencers did not meet with these conditions, then each and every person of those who worshipped is warned and testified against individually and then stoned, like individuals who worshipped idols, and their heirs inherit their property.
6) What procedure is followed when condemning a city as an influenced city? The Great Sanhedrin sends messengers to it, who inquire and investigate until they know beyond the shadow of a doubt that all, or the majority, of the city has been influenced and has turned to idolatry. Then, they [the Great Sanhedrin] sends two learned Sages to warn them and bring them back [to the way of truth]. If the citizens of the city repent the city cannot be condemned as an influenced city [but the citizens are judged individually]. If, however, they remained in their wicked ways, the Great Sanhedrin commands all of Israel to rise up against them in battle. They then besiege the city, following which they attack it until it has been broken into. Once this has been done, many [small] Courts of Law are immediately set up, and the inhabitants are judged. Anybody who worshipped idols in the presence of witnesses after having been warned by them is put away [in prison]. If the idol-worshippers were found to be in the minority, then they are stoned and the rest of the city goes unpunished. If, however, they were found to be in the majority, then they are taken to the Great Sanhedrin for the completion of the judgement. All those who worshipped are put to death by the sword, as are all other people living in the city, including women and children, if influenced as well. If the worshippers were in the majority, then their wives and children are put to death by the sword [even if they had not worshipped]. The influencers are stoned whether the entire city or just the majority was influenced. All the booty of the city is collected into the [main] square. If the city did not have such a square then one is made for it. If the square was outside the city, then a wall has to be built such that the square becomes incorporated into the city, for it is written, "...into the open place of the city". Then, all living creatures within the city are killed, and the booty is burned along with the city. It is a positive commandment to carry out this burning, for it is written, "...and shall burn with fire both the city and all the booty taken form it"6.
7) The property of those citizens who were not influenced with the majority is burnt along with the rest of the booty - since they were living in that city, their money is forfeit. Anyone who benefits from even a small amount of the booty is flogged once, for it is written, "Nothing of that marked for destruction shall remain in your hands".
8) In a case where the witnesses were found to be plotters then anyone who takes for himself any of the city's booty has the right to keep it [as opposed to destroying or returning it] and may benefit from it, because the witnesses were plotters. He has the right to keep it because all the citizens of the city gave up their money [as lost] when the verdict was delivered. A city which has been condemned as an influenced city may never be rebuilt, for it is written, "...it shall not be built again". Anyone who does rebuild it is flogged. It is permitted to convert the ruins into parks or orchards, because the Torah refers only to rebuilding the city as it was.
9) A small community, such as a nomadic one, which travels from place to place and had been camped in the influenced city at the time of its being influenced is wiped out with the city, and the property of the members of that community is forfeit, provided that they had been camped in the city for more than thirty days. If they had been camped in the city for fewer than thirty days, they are stoned, and their property is inherited by their heirs.
10) Property of another city which had been deposited in an influenced city is not destroyed with the booty of the city, even if the citizens of the influenced city had accepted responsibility for it, but it is returned to its rightful owner. the words, "its booty"8 come to exclude the property of another city. If the property of citizens of an influenced city had been deposited in another city then it is burnt with the rest of the booty of the city if it had ever been inside the influenced city, but if not, it is given to the appropriate heirs.
11) An animal which is owned in part by citizens of an influenced city and in part by citizens of a different city and which had been inside the influenced city is forbidden [for benefit]. Dough owned in partnership is permitted, because it is possible to divide it up.
12) An animal of an influenced city which had been slaughtered [after the verdict had been delivered] is forbidden for benefit, just as a goring ox which had been sentenced to stoning and had then been slaughtered is. The hair of the citizens' heads may be used, whether it is hair of a man or a woman, but hair grown for alien ways of [bodily] decoration is classified as booty, and is forbidden for benefit.
13) Fruit still on the trees in an influenced city is permitted, for it is written, "And you shall gather all its booty...and burn with fire...the entire booty taken in it"8, which refers to things which need gathering only prior to their destruction. This excludes fruit which is still on the trees, because they need both picking and gathering prior to their destruction. This is the same law with respect to human hair. It need not be said that the trees themselves are permitted, and they belong to the heirs. Concerning any sanctified animal within the influenced city; any animal which had been sanctified for sacrifice on the Altar is killed - "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination" - whereas items sanctified for the upkeep of the Temple are redeemed and then destroyed, for the words, "its booty"8 come to exclude sanctified items.
14) The first-born animals and any tithes in an influenced city are counted as animals which have been sanctified for sacrifice on the Altar if they are physically perfect, and are killed. If they were blemished, then they are counted as animals of the city, and are destroyed. Any tithes taken for the priests from an influenced city and which had already been given to a priest may be kept by him, because it is his property, but if it was still in the possession of a citizen of the influenced city then it is given to a priest of a different city, for the reason that such tithes are heavenly property, and have intrinsic holiness.
15) Secondary tithes, its monies, and holy writings of an influenced city are relegated to the archives.
16) Anyone who is involved in the judgement of an influenced city is like one who brings a burnt offering, for it is written, "...entirely for the Lord your God"8. Furthermore, he lessens any [of God's] anger towards Israel, for it is written, "...that the Lord may return from the fierceness of His anger", and he also brings a blessing and mercy upon Israel, for it is written, "..and show you mercy, and have compassion upon you"10.
This chapter discusses inciters, the difference between inciting and influencing, false prophets, and the prohibition to exalt a gentile.
1) Somebody who incites another Jew, whether a man or a woman, into worshiping idols is stoned, even if he or the person he incited did not actually serve idols, in which case he stoned for showing the person the method of worship. The inciter is always stoned, whether he was a prophet or an ordinary person, or whether he incited an individual or many people of either gender.
2) One who incites the majority of the citizens of a town is an influencer, and does not come into the category of an inciter. If the person who influenced the majority of the citizens of a town was a prophet then his death penalty is that of stoning, and those who were influenced are judged as individuals and do not fall into the category of citizens of an influenced city unless there were two [or more] people who did the influencing. Somebody who says, `An idol told me to serve it', or, `God told me to serve this idol' is an influencing prophet, and is stoned if he influenced the majority the a city's citizens. An inciter is always stoned, whether he uses the singular or the plural. Inciting consists os saying to someone, `I will go and worship the stars', or, `Let us go and serve this idol in the appropriate manner', or, `I will offer sacrifices to this idol', or, `Let us go and offer sacrifices to this idol', et cetera.
3) If somebody incited two people, then they, as witnesses, bring him to a Court of Law, where they testify against him and stone him. It is not necessary to forewarn an inciter. If someone tries to incite a [single] person, then that person should tell the inciter that he has friends who [also] want to follow him, in order that there will be two witnesses and that it will be possible to execute the inciter. If the inciter didn't want to incite more than one person [at a time], then it is a commandment to hide two people so that they will be able to overhear the inciter and will then be bale to come as witnesses. This process is not followed by any of the sins of the Torah which carry a death penalty except for inciting. How are people hidden for this purpose? The person whom the inciter is trying to incite should hide two people in a dark place so that they will be able to see and hear the inciter, but he won't be able to see them.. The person then asks the inciter to repeat to him what he had said to him in private, which he does. The person then asks him, `How can you leave our God who is in heaven in order to worship sticks and stones?!'. If the inciter then takes back his attempts at inciting or else shuts up, he is exempt [from being stoned], but if says, `Such is our obligation and such is fitting for us' [or words to that effect], then those people who were hidden bring him to a Court of Law, and stone him.
4) It is a commandment for the incited person to kill the inciter, for it is written, "Your hand shall be the first upon him". It is forbidden for the incited person to like the inciter, for it is written, "You shall not consent to him". With respect to someone whom one hates it is written, "You shall surely unload it with him", so one might have thought that one may help an inciter. The words, "nor listen to him" teach us that we may not help an inciter. From the verse, "...neither shall you stand aside when trouble befalls your fellow man" we might have thought that one should be obligated to save an inciter. The words, "...nor shall you have pity on him"4 teach us that one isn't. It is forbidden for the incited person to spare the inciter, for it is written, "...nor shall you spare him"4. If he knows of a debt which the inciter has he is forbidden from remaining quiet about it, for it is written, "...nor shall you conceal him"4. The forewarning of an ordinary person [as opposed to a prophet] who incites is derived from the verse, "And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall no longer do any such wickedness".
5) One who incites others to worship him by saying, `Worship me!' is stoned if they worshipped him, but not if they didn't, even if they accepted him upon themselves [as a god]. If, however, he incited them to worship another man, or some type of idol, then he is stoned, even if they didn't perform any actual worship but just accepted that man or idol upon themselves [as a god]. The incited people are also stoned, for it is written, "You shall not consent to him, or listen to him"4. If one did listen to him one is culpable.
6) If someone says, `Such-and-such an idol (or star) said to me that it is a commandment to do, or not to do, this and that', then he is a prophet who is prophecising in the name of an idol, even if he described commandments as they really are. If he was warned by two witnesses he is put to death by strangulation, for it is written, "...or who speaks in the name of other gods, then that prophet shall die". The forewarning for this is derived from the verse, "...and make no mention of the name of other gods".
7) It is forbidden to protract the judgement of one who prophecises in the name of an idol, and he is not asked for any signs. If he gave signs of his own accord, we don't investigate or [even] think about them. Anyone who thinks that the signs may be true is transgressing a negative commandment, for it is written, "You shall not listen to the words of that prophet". the punishment of a false prophet is death by strangulation, even if he prophecised in God's Name and did not try to add to or take away from any of the commandments of the Torah, for it is written, "And that prophet, who presumes to speak in My Name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that speaks in the name of other gods, shall die"7.
8) One who states as a prophet something which he didn't hear in a prophetic vision, and one who heard somebody else's prophecy and claimed it as his own, stating it as such, are classed as false prophets, and are put to death by strangulation.
9) Anyone who refrains from executing a false prophet because of his high ways of walking in the ways of prophecy is transgressing a negative commandment, for it is written, "You shall not be afraid of him". Similarly, one who refrains from publicising a debt of a false prophet, or who fears his words, is also transgressing this negative commandment. A false prophet is judged only by the Great Sanhedrin of seventy-one members.
10) One who takes a vow in the name of, or who swear by, an idol is culpable to flogging, for it is written, "...and make no mention of the name of other gods". This includes both vows one makes to oneself and those made to an idolater. It is forbidden to swear in the name of an idol out of fear [of that idol]. Even to make mention of the name of an idol not by way of an oath is forbidden, for it is written, "...and make no mention of the name of other gods"11.
11) One should never arrange to meet one's friend by an idol, or similarly [to] use an idol. Any idol mentioned in Scripture, such as Pe'or, Ba'al, Nebo, Gad, et cetera, may be mentioned by name. It is also forbidden to cause others to act in the name of an idol. Only those who take a vow or act in the name of an idol, or swear by it, are culpable to flogging.
This chapter discusses necromancy, wizardry, Molech, monuments, figured stones, and the prohibition to plant a tree in the Temple.
1) One who willingly and knowingly practices necromancy or wizardry is liable to karet, but if he did so in the presence of witnesses who warned him, he is liable to stoning. If he did so inadvertently, he has to bring a standard sin offering. What is are the acts of necromancy? A necromancer stands and burns specific incenses, waves a myrtle twig around in the air and speaks slowly in matters known to necromancers until the person consulting him gets the impression that there is someone speaking to him, answering his question about lowly matters in a quiet voice but that it is almost as if he isn't hearing him with his ears but telepathically. Similarly, taking the skull of a dead person, burning incense to it and divining with it until one hears a low voice emanating from one's armpit and answering one is also necromancy. anybody who carries out any of these rituals is liable to stoning.
2) Wizardry consists of placing a bone of the jerboa in one's mouth, burning incense and performing other [strange] acts until one collapses like an epileptic, whereupon one starts to speak to the future. All of these are types of idol-worship, and the warning against them is derived from the verse, "You shall not employ necromancers or wizards".
3) One who willingly and knowingly gives of his offspring to Molech is liable to karet, but if he did so inadvertently he has to bring a standard sin offering, and if he did so in the presence of witnesses who warned him he is stoned, for it is written, "...who gives of any of his offspring to Molech shall surely be put to death - the people of the land shall stone him with stones". The warning against this [practice] is derived from the verse, "And you shall not let any of your offspring pass through (the fire) to Molech", and also from the verse, "There must not be found among you anyone that makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire". What the ritual [of giving someone to Molech] consists of is lighting a big fire and giving of one's children to the priests who attend the fire. After giving the father permission to pass the children through the fire, the priests return the child to him, and he passes them through the fire by holding them on his shoulders and jumping from one side of the fire to the other. Children are not offered to Molech by burning in the way that they are to other idols, but they are offered by this process of passing through, which is known as `Molech'. Therefore, one who follows this procedure for an idol other than Molech is exempt [from stoning or karet].
4) One is not liable to karet or stoning [depending upon witnesses being present or not] unless one gives one's child to Molech and passes it through the fire in the described way. If one gave but did not pass it through, or if one passed it through without having given, or if one gave but passed it through in the incorrect manner, one is exempt. One is not liable unless one passes through just some of one's children, for it is written, "...because he has given of his offspring to Molech". This refers to giving just some of one's children, and not all of them.
5) One is liable only if one passes through any of one's children, whether they are legitimate or not. One is also liable if one passes through any of one's grandchildren, but if one passes through any of one's siblings, parents or even oneself, one is exempt. If one passed through any of one's children while one is asleep or blind, one is exempt.
6) The types of monuments forbidden by the Torah are those buildings in which people congregate, even to worship God, because this was the way of idol worshippers, as it is written, "Nor shall you set up any pillar, which the Lord your God hates". Anyone who does construct such a monument is liable to flogging. Similarly, one who bows down, even to God, on a figured stone is also liable to flogging, for it is written, "...nor shall you install a figured stone in your land for bowing down on". It was the way of idol worship to place a stone in front of the idol and to bow down on it. Therefore, one does not do the same when worshiping God. One is not liable to flogging unless one spreads out one's arms and legs completely so that one is spreadeagled on the stone, which is the method of bowing as meant by the Torah.
7) This is talking about any place outside the Temple, but it is permitted to bow down to God on stones inside the Temple, for it is written, "...nor shall you install...in your land"8, which refers to ordinary stones, but in the Temple on is bowing down on specially dedicated stones. Therefore, in synagogues with stone floors, Jews are accustomed to spreading out matting or bits of straw on the floor, in order for there to be some [sort of] barrier between their faces and the floor. If one could not find something to act as a barrier between one's face and the [stone] floor, one should go to a place where the floor is not stone to bow down, or else one bows down on one's side so that one's face doesn't touch the stone.
8) Anyone who bows down to God on specially dedicated stones without spreading out his arms and legs is liable to flogging because of a Rabbinical decree, but with respect to idols one is liable to stoning the moment one's face touches the ground, even if one didn't spread out one's arms and legs.
9) Anyone who plants a tree, whether a fruit-bearing one or not, next to the Altar or any other place in the Temple Courtyard is liable to flogging, even if he did so for the decoration, for it is written, "You shall not plant for yourself an asherah of any tree near the Altar of the Lord your God". It is the way of idolaters to plant trees next to altars so that people will congregate [there].
10) It is forbidden to build any wooden porch in the Temple in the way that one does in ordinary courtyards, even if the porch is fabricated and not made of [still-] living trees, for it is written, "...any tree"9. All the porches and lobbies protruding from the walls of the Temple were made of stone, and not wood.
This chapter discusses the prohibition to benefit from idols or their accoutrements, and also discusses the difference between the idols of Jews and those of gentiles.
1) It is a positive commandment to destroy idolatry, associated accoutrements and all that is made for idolatry, for it is written, "You shall completely destroy all the places, et cetera", and it is further written, "But you shall deal with them in this way: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their asherim, and burn their carved idols with fire". It is a commandment to pursue idolaters and idolatry in Israel until they are totally eradicated from our land, but we are not commanded to pursue them outside Israel, but from any place which is conquered [by us] we have to eradicate idolatry, for it is written, "...and obliterate their name from that place". This shows us that we have to pursue them in Israel, but not outside Israel.
2) It is forbidden to derive any benefit from any idol, its accoutrements and anything sanctified to or made for it, for it is written, "Nor shall you bring an abhorrence into your house". Anybody who does derive benefit from any of the above is liable to two sets of flogging; one for transgressing this negative commandment, and one for transgressing that of, "And nothing of that which was devoted to destruction shall remain in your possession".
3) It is forbidden to derive any benefit from an animal which has been offered to an idol, even from its excrement, bones, horn, hooves or skin - everything is forbidden for benefit. Therefore, if there was a mark on a skin identifying it as the skin of an animal which had been offered to an idol, then it is forbidden to derive any benefit from that skin. Such a mark could be a hole that had been cut in the skin in order to remove the heart [during sacrifice]. The law is the same in similar circumstances.
4) What differences are there between the idols of gentiles and those of Jews? Those of gentiles become forbidden for benefit immediately [upon consecration], as it is written, "You shall burn with fire the carvings of their gods", for the reason that they become their gods as soon as they are carved. The idols of Jews do not become forbidden for benefit before they are actually used, for it is written, "...and sets it up in secret". This is because the moment a Jew sets up an idol in secret [doing so out of fear of getting caught] it is as if he has all ready worshipped it. Accoutrements of idolatry do not become forbidden for benefit until they are actually used, whether they belong to gentiles or Jews.
5) Someone who makes an idol for someone else may use the payment he receives for so doing, even though he is liable to flogging. Even if he makes the idol for a gentile, whereupon it becomes forbidden for benefit immediately, he may keep the payment, because the idol does not become forbidden for benefit until the moment it is completed, and the part of the payment for the finishing act is less than a perutah. If one buys frippery from a gentile and finds amongst it some idols, then the following laws apply: if one had paid for the frippery but had not yet picked it up then one returns the idols to the gentiles. Similarly, if one had picked it up but had not yet paid for it then one returns the idols to the gentiles, even though that taking from a gentile is an act of acquisition, for in this case it is a case of mistaken purchase. If one had paid for and taken them then one has to irretrievably dispose of the idols, e.g. by throwing them into the Dead Sea. Similarly, if a convert and his [gentile] idolatrous brother inherited their father who was also an idol-worshippers, the convert may say to his brother, `You take the idols and I will take the money; you take the libated wine and I will take the fruit', et cetera. If the convert acquires the idols, though, they become forbidden for benefit.
6) It is permitted to benefit from figures made by gentiles for decoration, but those made for idol-worship are forbidden. Any figures found in a gentile village are forbidden for benefit, because it is assumed that they were made for idol-worship, as figures in the villages usually are. Concerning figures found in cities, if they were standing at the entrance to the city and next to them was a figure of a stick, bird, ball or sword, or if they were wearing wreaths or rings, then they are assumed to have been made for idolatry, as such figures usually are, and are forbidden for benefit. If the figures were otherwise it is assumed that they were made for decoration, and are permitted for benefit.
7) Images found discarded in a market-place or amongst frippery are permitted for benefit, and how much more so are pieces of idols [found in this way]. If one finds a hand, foot or some other limb of an idol image and it can be seen that it had not broken off something [and that it had been made separately], then one may not use it, for the reason that it definitely comes from an idol that had been worshipped. Such pieces are forbidden for benefit unless it is known that the idol-worshippers have annulled the idol's status [as their god].
8) If one comes across vessels on which there are figures of the sun, moon or a dragon, and these vessels were made of gold or silver, or were silk clothes, nose-rings or ordinary rings, then one may not benefit from them. If such images were found on other vessels, then those vessels may be used, because it is assumed that they have been put there for decoration. Similarly, all other types of figures found on any type of vessel are assumed to have been put there for decoration.
9) Idols, associated accoutrements and sacrifices made to them make mixtures forbidden even singly. What does this mean? If, for example, an idol got mixed up with some decorative figures, then the whole lot has to be disposed of, even if there were a thousand decorative figures [to the one idol]. In a similar manner, if a goblet of idolaters got mixed up with some other goblets, or a piece of meat from an idolatrous sacrifice got mixed up with some other pieces of meat, then the whole lot has to be disposed of. Similarly, if a skin which had a hole in it from where the heart had been removed during sacrifice got mixed up with some other skins, then the whole lot is forbidden for benefit. If one sinned and sold an idol, or an item from the associated accoutrements, or an animal which had been offered to an idol, then the money received is forbidden for benefit and makes mixtures forbidden even singly, just as an idol does, for it is written, "...in case you become accursed like it" - anything derived from an idol, its accoutrements or sacrifices has the same status as the idol itself.
10) The ashes of an idol or asherah which was burnt are forbidden for benefit. Burning coals of idolatry may not be used, but a fire may, for the reason that it is intangible. If there is a doubt as to whether something belongs to idolatry, it may not be used, but if there is a doubt as to whether there is a doubt, it may be used. What does this mean? If, for example, a goblet of idolatry fell amongst other goblets, then the whole lot is forbidden for benefit, for the reason that idols and their accoutrements make mixtures forbidden even singly. If one of those goblets fell amongst [at least] two other goblets, then all of them may be used. As a further example, if an idolater's ring fell amongst a hundred other rings and then [at least] two of those rings fell into the sea, then the rest may used, for I hold that the forbidden ring was one of the ones that fell into the sea. If, however, the hundred rings got split it into two groups, one of forty rings and the other of sixty rings, and the entire group of forty rings fell amongst other rings, then all of the second mixture may be used, for I hold that the forbidden ring was in the larger group. If the group of sixty rings fell amongst other rings, they may not be used.
11) It is forbidden to sit in the shade of the trunk of an asherah, whether it had been worshipped or whether there was an idol under it, but it is permitted to sit in the shade of its boughs and leaves. It is forbidden to walk under an asherah if there was another [equidistant or shorter] route one could follow instead, but if there wasn't another such route one could follow, one should pass through it while running.
12) It is permitted to make use of chicks which are no longer dependant upon their mothers and which had nested in an asherah, but eggs and chicks which are dependant upon their mothers may not be used, because the asherah is their base. The nest itself at the top of the asherah may be used, because the birds bring the sticks [to build it with] from other trees.
13) Sticks and twigs taken from an asherah may not be benefitted from. If they were used to start the fire in an oven, one has to wait until the fire has gone out and the oven has cooled down before using permitted sticks to restart the fire. Bread baked on a fire made with (those) forbidden sticks may not be used, and if it got mixed up with other bread, then [something] of the same value as that bread must be disposed of [irretrievably] in order that the bread may be used.
14) If one took a stick from an asherah and used it as a shuttle on a loom on which one wove a garment, then that garment is forbidden for benefit. If that garment got mixed up with other garments, then [something] the value of that garment must be disposed of [irretrievably], and then the whole lot may be used. It is permitted to plant vegetables under an asherah [and then use them], whether in the summer, when they need the shade, or in the winter. In the summer, the shade of the asherah, which is forbidden [for benefit], combines with the ground, which is permitted [for benefit], to make the vegetables grow, and in any situation where something that is forbidden combines with something that is permitted to cause the formation of something else, the resultant something may be used. Therefore, it is permitted to sow [crops] in a field which has been fertilized with fertilizer of idolatry, and a cow which has been fattened with horse-beans of idolatry may be eaten. The law is the same in similar situations.
15) Meat, wine or fruit which had been set aside specially as offerings to idols are not forbidden for benefit, even if they were brought into the temple of the idol. Once they have been offered, though, they have the status of a sacrifice, and even if the gentiles then removed them from the temple, they are forbidden for benefit. Anything, even water or salt, found in the temple of idolaters is forbidden by the Torah for benefit, and anyone who eats [of] anything found in a temple of idolaters is liable to flogging.
16) Clothes, vessels or money found discarded in an irreverent manner on the top of an idol are permitted for benefit, but if they had been placed there in a reverent manner, they are forbidden for benefit. What does this mean? If, for example, one found a pouch suspended by a rope hanging from the idol, or a folded garment on its head, or a vessel which had been forced onto its head, then one may use them, for they have been placed there in an irreverent manner. The law is the same in similar situations. On the other hand, if one found on the head of the idol something of the type of animal [or item] offered on the Altar in the Temple, it is forbidden for benefit. All this is talking about a situation when one finds something outside a temple of idolatry, but anything found inside a temple, whether it is arranged in an irreverent manner or not and whether it is something that could have been used on the Altar or not, is forbidden for use. This even includes water and salt. Anything found inside or [just] outside a temple of Pe'or or Markulis is forbidden for benefit. Any stone found near Markulis is forbidden for benefit.
17) If an idol had a pool or garden associated with it, one may benefit from it only if one doesn't pay the idolaters for it, but one may not benefit from it if one has to pay them [an `entrance' fee]. If it was owned in part by idolaters and in part by others, one may benefit from it with or without paying.
18) It is permitted to wash in a wash-house which contains forms or figures, because they are there for decoration and not for worship. It is permitted to wash there because it says, "...their gods", from which we learn that these restrictions apply only to forms and figures which the gentiles regard as gods, and not to figures they dishonours by, for example, urinating on one which stands next to a gutter. If such was the way of worship, namely to wash in front of it, then it is forbidden to [use or] enter that wash-house.
19) If one slaughtered an animal with a knife that belongs to idolatry, one may eat the animal because its value has been decreased by its being slaughtered, but if the animal had a terminal disease it may not be eaten, for had it been allowed to die of its own accord it would have been forbidden to eat it, and so one is benefitting [by being able to eat the animal] from an accoutrement of idolatry. Similarly, one may not cut up meat with a knife which belongs to idolatry, because this is a an act of `repair', but if one cut up the meat badly or in an incorrect manner, one may eat it.
This chapter discusses those things which are forbidden for benefit because of idolatry, and also discusses the difference between the idols of Jews and those of gentiles.
1) Any natural object which cannot be picked up does not become forbidden for benefit, even if worshipped. Therefore, if idolaters worshipped mountains, hills, trees which were originally planted for their fruit, a spring used by the general public, or an animal, then they are [still] permitted for benefit, and it is permitted to eat such an animal or the fruit of such trees. It need not be said that an animal which had been set aside for idolatry, whether for being worshipped or as a sacrifice, is permitted for benefit so long as no act connected with idolatry has been committed with it. If such an act had been committed, then the animal is forbidden for use. Such an act could be branding the animal in such a way as to show that it has been dedicated to idolatry. If an object had been substituted for an idol it becomes forbidden for benefit, as does any object which is substituted for the first object, because it [or they] acquire the status of an idol. This is talking about a situation involving one's own animal, but if one sacrificed someone else's animal to an idol, or substituted it, it does not become forbidden for benefit, because one cannot make forbidden for benefit something that isn't one's own. Holes, pits and caves dug for idolatry may not be used.
2) Water brought on a wave and which was bowed down to is not forbidden for benefit, but if the water had been used for washing and had then been bowed down to, it is forbidden for benefit. Boulders which had been moved by natural causes, such as a tempest, and which had been worshipped in the place where they had come to rest are permitted for benefit, because they are [natural] objects which cannot be picked up.
3) If a Jew stood a brick up in order to bow down to it but in the end did not do so and a gentile came along and bowed to it, it becomes forbidden for benefit, for its being stood up was an act of dedication. Similarly, if an egg was stood up in this manner and a gentile bowed down to it, it is forbidden for benefit, even though that its being stood up is not as apparent as a brick's being stood up. If one bowed down to half a pumpkin, then the other half which it is connected to is [also] forbidden for benefit, out of doubt that it may have been the half which one had bowed down to. A tree which had been planted for the purpose of being worshipped may not be used - this is what the Torah means by an `asherah'. If a tree had been planted and had then become cut in such a way as to make it unfit for the idolaters, then even if one of its branches had been bent down and been forced into the ground in order to grow [into] another tree, or a branch of another tree had been grafted to it, and tendrils had grown, then those tendrils have to be cut off and are forbidden for benefit, but the rest of the tree may be used. Similarly, the trunk of a tree which had been worshipped does not become forbidden for benefit, but all the tendrils, leaves, branches and fruit which grew while the tree was still being worshipped are forbidden for benefit. If an idolater grew a tree in order to make wine for an idol from the fruit, which he then did and drank an a day of festival, then the [entire] tree is forbidden for benefit, because it is clearly obvious that it is an asherah, because which the wine was made from its fruit - this is the procedure followed with an asherah.
4) A tree beneath which an idol stands is forbidden for benefit all the time that the idol is standing there, but if one planted something underneath the tree, then that something may be used for the reason that it is not the tree itself that is being worshipped. A house built by idolaters for the purpose of being bowed down to is forbidden for benefit, as is a house built for other purposes but which was bowed down to. If it had been built [for purposes other than idolatry] and was then plastered and figures were built into it for the purpose of idolatry, then what was added is forbidden for benefit because it was made for idolatry and must be removed, but the rest of the house is permitted. A house into which an idol has been brought is forbidden for use so long as the idol is inside the house, but once it has been taken out the house may be used. Similarly, a stone which had been hewn for idolatrous purposes is forbidden for benefit. If, after having been hewn, it was sculpted or tiled and then worshipped, then even if the sculpted part or tiles were in the very body of the stone they should be removed in order for the rest of the stone to be permitted for benefit. These parts are forbidden for benefit for the reason that they were made for idolatry.
5) A stone on which an idolater has [temporarily] placed an idol may not be used so long as the idol is standing on it, but once it has been removed the stone maybe used. If one had a house which shared a wall with a temple of idolaters and the house collapsed, then it is forbidden to rebuild it [in the same place], but one should rebuild the house with that wall four cubits into one's property and away from its original position, and one should fill the resultant space with thorns or excrement so as not to give extra space to a temple of idolatry. If the wall was half one's own and half the idolaters', then one's own half is permitted for benefit, but everything - woods, stones, dust, et cetera - of the idolaters' half is forbidden for benefit.
6) Idols, associated accoutrements, offerings and anything else connected to idolatry and which is forbidden for benefit has to be destroyed, either by grinding it up and throwing it to the wind, or by burning it, or by throwing it into the Dead Sea.
7) An object which cannot be picked up, such as a mountain, animal or tree, remains permitted for benefit even if worshipped, but anything used to cover it is forbidden for benefit. Anyone who benefits from such a covering is liable to flogging, for it is written, "You shall not desire the silver or gold that is on them". The coverings of idols are classed as associated accoutrements.
8) An idol belonging to a gentile and whose status [as an idol] has been revoked by an idolater before coming into the possession of a Jew is permitted for benefit, as it is written, "The carvings of their gods you shall burn with fire"1. This is referring to a situation where the idolaters [still] regard their idols as their gods, but if they have revoked their idols' status they become permitted for benefit.
9) The status of a Jew's idol can never be revoked. Even if he owned the idol in partnership with an idolater [who revoked the status of his share], his revoking is meaningless; the idol is for ever forbidden for benefit, and has to be buried. Similarly, if an idol belonging to a gentile came into the possession of a Jew following which the gentile revoked its status, then the revoking is meaningless and the idol is for ever forbidden for benefit. A Jew cannot revoke the status of an idol, even with its [idolatrous] owner's permission. A gentile child or idiot also can't revoke an idol's status. The revoking performed by a gentile is always valid, even if he revoked the status of other people's idols or if a Jew forced him to perform the revoking, but only on the condition that the gentile is an idolater, for the revoking performed by a non-idolatrous gentile is meaningless. The revoking of an idol automatically includes any associated accoutrements, but if the status of the associated accoutrements is revoked the idol itself remains forbidden for benefit until it itself has its status revoked. The status of offerings to an idol can never be revoked.
10) How is revoking performed? Cutting off the tip of the nose, ear or finger of the idol, or smashing its face [with a hammer] even without removing anything, or selling it to a Jewish smelter are all acts of revoking, but pledging or selling it to a gentile or a Jew who isn't a smelter, having a building collapse on it without its actually falling over, or its being stolen by bandits without being recovered afterwards are not acts of revoking. Spitting at an idol, urinating in front of it or smearing it with clay or excrement are not acts of revoking.
11) An idol which has been deserted by its worshippers at a time of peace may be used, for such a desertion is an act of revoking. At a time of war it may not be used [if it is deserted], because they have deserted it only on account of the war. Bits which have broken off an idol are forbidden for benefit until their status has been revoked. Therefore, if one finds bits of an idol one may not use them, in case they have not had their status revoked. If the bits were of a design such that any non-skilled person could easily reassemble them then each and every part requires separate revoking, but if they were of a design such that any non-skilled person could not easily reassemble them, then even if [even just] one limb of the idol had its status revoked, the status of the [rest of the] pieces is automatically revoked as well.
12) An altar of idolaters which became spoiled remains forbidden for benefit, unless the majority of the altar has been broken by the idolaters. A pedestal of idolatrous statuary and which became spoiled may be used. What is the difference between a pedestal and an altar? A pedestal consists of one stone, whereas an altar consists of many stones. How is the status of stones of Markulis revoked? If they have been used for building purposes, or in laying a road, or for some similar purpose, they become permitted for benefit [for it is as if their status has been revoked]. How is the status of an asherah revoked? Removal of a leaf, twig, stick or branch of the asherah and unnecessary pruning are acts of revoking. If it was pruned necessarily, the asherah remains forbidden for benefit, but the clippings may be used. If, however, the asherah belonged to a Jew, then whether its being pruned was unnecessary or not, the asherah and the clippings are forbidden for benefit for ever, because the status of a Jew's idol can never be revoked.
This chapter discusses the prohibition to trade with idolaters before and during their festivals.
1) It is forbidden in the three days before a festival of idolaters to buy from, or sell to, idolaters any non-perishable goods, to lend to or borrow from them, or to collect or pay and debt which was with them, whether that debt is a documented one or dependant on a pledge, but a verbal debt with them may be settled in order to prevent trouble. It is, however, permitted to sell to them perishable goods, such as vegetables and cooked foods, but only until the day before their festival. These restrictions apply [for the three days before the festival] only in Israel, and they apply only on the day of the festival itself outside Israel. If one transgressed and dealt with them during these three days one may use what [payment] one gets, but if one did so on the day of the festival itself one may not.
2) It is also forbidden to send a gift to a gentile on a festival, unless one knows that he does not believe in or practice idolatry. Similarly, if a Jew was sent a gift by an idolater on the day of a festival he should not accept it, but if he was afraid that refusal would create enmity he should accept it, but he should not benefit from it. If, however, he knew that the gentile giving the gift does not believe in or practice idolatry, he may accept it straight away.
3) If the idolaters' festival lasted many days, then all the days are like the first one, and the above restrictions apply on all the days of the festival as well as on the three days before the start of the festival.
4) Edomites are idolaters, and for them every Sunday is a festival. Therefore, in Israel, it is forbidden to have any commercial [or financial] dealings with them on any Thursday and Friday and, of course, Sunday. [Dealings on Sabbath are forbidden anyway.] Such restrictions apply to all festivals of idolaters - see above.
5) A day on which idolaters assemble in order to appoint for themselves a king is like one of their festivals, and the same restrictions that apply to other festivals apply to this one as well. This is because on such a day they praise and offer sacrifices to their gods. Concerning an individual who makes for himself [only] a festival and praises his idol, these restrictions apply only on that day and only in connection with that man. Such a festival could be made, for example, to celebrate a birthday, the day on which hair was ritually cut and styled, the completion of a sea voyage, release from prison, marriage of a child, et cetera. Similarly, on a day when someone has died and there is a [commemorative] festival, these restrictions apply only on that day itself and only in connection with those participating in the festival. At any death [or funeral] of idolaters where artifacts or incenses are burned, it is obviously [being done] for the purpose of idolatry. The restrictions mentioned above apply only in connection with those who serve the idols during the festival, but not in connection with those who, out of a desire to keep the peace or out of honouring the king, participate in the feasting, so long as they do not acknowledge the idols [as gods].
6) It is always forbidden to sell items which are directly connected to a type of idolatry to an idolater who practices that type of idolatry, and/or in a place where that type of idolatry is practised. Items which are not directly connected [to idolatry] may be sold to idolaters, but if an idolater explains that he wants such an item for use in his idolatrous practices it is forbidden to sell it to him, unless it was unfit to be offered to an idol, for the reason that idolaters never offer defective items to their idols.
7) If items connected to idolatry got mixed up with items that are not, e.g. pure frankincense got mixed up with black frankincense, then one may sell the whole lot [as one unit] to idolaters without specifying a use for them, and one does not have to worry that they will separate the pure frankincense from the black and use it for idolatry. The law is the same in similar circumstances.
8) Just as one may not sell to idolaters items which they could use in their idolatrous practices, so also may one not sell to them things which can cause damage to the public, such as bears, lions, weapons, dogs, man-traps, et cetera, and nor may one sharpen their sword for them. It is forbidden to sell to a Jew who is suspected of dealing with idolaters any item which one may not sell [directly] to an idolater, and nor may one sell to Jewish bandits items that can cause damage.
9) If Jews living amongst idolaters made a covenant with them, it is permitted for them to sell weapons to the king's subjects and soldiers, because they will fight the enemies of the country, and will [as a result] be protecting the Jews who live amongst them.
10) It is permitted to walk around a town in which there are idols, but it is forbidden to enter it. If, however, the idols were on the outside of the town, then it is permitted to enter it. If one was travelling, it is forbidden to pass through any town that contains idols. This is talking about a situation when there was another route one could follow, but if there was no other route, one may enter the town.
11) It is forbidden to build with idolaters a straw hut in which they will place their idols, but if one transgressed and did build such a hut, one may nevertheless use one's payment. One may, however, from the outset, build the granary or courtyard that will contain the straw hut.
12) Concerning a town in which there were idols and of whose shops some were decorated [with roses, myrtle, fruit, et cetera] and some were not; it is forbidden to benefit from anything at all from the decorated shops, for the reason that it is assumed that they have been decorated in honour of the idols, whereas one may benefit from the undecorated shops. It is forbidden to rent a shop from idolaters, for the reason that so doing will give them benefit.
13) If one sells something to an idolater, then the money one receives is forbidden for benefit and has to be disposed of. If, however, an idolater forced a Jew to sell him his house and then erected an idol in it, then the Jew may make use of the payment received, and he may [for the sake of self-preservation] draw up a sales document and present it in one of their courts for validation.
14) It is forbidden to eulogize with flutes which belong to idolaters. If one goes to a market which is organized by idolaters, one may, in order to save them from the idolaters, buy animals, non-Jewish slaves and maid- servants, houses, fields and vineyards, and [one may even] document the transaction in one of their courts. This applies only to a vendor who does not take a commission, but it is forbidden to buy from a vendor who does take a commission for the reason that he will give the commission to the idolaters and so one will, in effect, be giving them benefit. If one transgressed and did buy from a vendor who takes a commission, then the following rules apply: If one had bought an animal then one lacerates its legs from the knees downwards. If one had bought clothing or vessels then one leaves them to rot. If one had accepted money or bought metal objects which won't corrode, then one has to dispose of it/them. If one had bought a slave, then one does not do actively do anything to [save or kill] him.
15) It is forbidden to benefit from a wedding banquet made by an idolater for one of his children. Even to eat at it from one's own food and drink is forbidden, because one is still eating at an idolater's party. Furthermore, it is forbidden to eat from any of the idolater's food from the moment he starts preparing for the banquet until thirty days after it, and if he made [yet] another banquet on account of the marriage, then it is forbidden to eat any of his food for twelve months [subsequently]. These restrictions have been made as a precaution against being tempted into idolatry, for it is written, "...and call you, and you eat of their sacrifice; and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters act as harlots before their gods and make your sons act as harlots before their gods".
16) A Jewish woman should not give her baby to an idolatrous woman to nurse it [even for payment], because she will bring the child up as an idolater. One should not act as a midwife for an idolater except for payment, in which case one is doing so to prevent enmity. A Jewish woman may allow an idolatrous woman to nurse her child only in her presence in order to prevent the nurse from murdering the child [when her back is turned].
17) It is forbidden to have any dealings with those who are on their way to debauchery at idolatrous festivals, but one may with those who are returning, provided that they are not as a group, for if they are as a group it is possible that they will return. It is permitted to have dealings with a Jew who is on his way to debauchery at idolatrous festivals, in case he will change his mind and not go, but dealings with him on his return are forbidden. Dealings with an apostate are forbidden at all times, whether he is going to a festival or coming back.
18) It is forbidden to have dealings with a Jew who is returning from a market organized by idolaters, in case he sold idols to them there. Payment in the hands of a Jew received for idols is forbidden for benefit, but in the hands of an idolater is permitted. Therefore, one may have dealings with an idolater who is returning from such a market, but not with a Jew who is returning from such a market. Dealings with an apostate are forbidden at all times, whether he is going to the market or coming back.
This chapter discusses selling houses and fields to idolaters inside and outside Israel, and tells us to be charitable to poor gentiles as well as to poor Jews.
1) One may not make a covenant with any of the seven nations, making peace with them and leaving them to serve their idols, for it is written, "You shall make no covenant with them", but one should make them leave their idolatrous practices, or else kill them. It is forbidden to show mercy to them, for it is written, "...nor show mercy to them"1. Therefore, if one sees one of them lost, drowning or in any other situation perilous to his life one does not save him, but purposely to put him in a situation perilous to his life is forbidden, for the reason that they are not at war with us. This is talking about the seven nations, but it is a commandment to put purposely Jewish informers, infidels and heretics in situations perilous to their lives, because they persecute the Jews and [try to] take them away from the ways of God, in the way that Zaddok, Baysos and their followers did. May the names of wicked people rot.
2) From this it follows that it is forbidden to doctor an idolater, even for payment. If, however, one was afraid that they will harm one if one refuses, or that refusal will be a source of enmity, then one may doctor them for payment, but to doctor them for free is always forbidden. One may doctor a settling stranger for free, for there is a commandment to sustain him.
3) One may not sell houses of fields in Israel to idolaters, but in Surah [and other places conquered by David] one may sell houses to them, but not fields. One may rent houses to them in Israel, provided that they do not make for themselves a neighbourhood. A neighbourhood cannot consist of fewer than three people. One may not rent to them fields in Israel, but in Surah one may. The reason why the law with fields is more strict is two- fold. Firstly, selling or leasing to them fields leads to tithes not being given, and secondly, it gives them a foothold in Israel. In countries other than Israel, it is permitted to sell houses and fields to them, because such countries are not ours.
4) In any situation where it is permitted to rent houses to them, it is referring to houses other than those meant for dwelling purposes, because an idolater will bring idols into such a house, and it is written, "Nor shall you bring an abomination into your house". One may, however, rent them houses for storage purposes. One may not sell to them unharvested fruit or produce, but may do so after they have been harvested, or else on the condition that they will harvest it. Why don't we sell to them? It is written, "...nor show mercy to them"1, from which we learn not to sell them land, for without land, their residence is temporary. It is also forbidden to make reference to their glory by saying things like, `How beautiful is this idol in form!', so how much more so is it forbidden to praise idolaters' actions or hold dear one of their concepts, for it is written, "...nor show mercy to them"1 - they should not be liked, because liking them will cause on to associate with them and learn from their evil ways. It is forbidden to give anything to an idolater for free, but to a settling stranger one may, for it is written, "You shall give it to the settling stranger who is within your gates, or you may sell it to an alien" - sell, but not give for free.
5) One may provide for the poor of idolaters as one does for the Jewish poor so as not to create enmity, and nor do we prevent them from taking any of the gifts of harvest for the poor, for the same reason, and one may enquire after their health, even on one of their festivals, for the same reason. One should not enter an idolater's house on one of their festivals in order to exchange civilities, but if, on one of their festivals, one met an idolater in the market [or street], one should exchange civilities with him in a quiet voice and with a bowed head.
6) The laws concerning the sale of property and support of the poor, et cetera, mentioned in this chapter apply only when the Jews are exiled amongst the nations, or when they are attacking the Jews, but when we are attacking them it is forbidden to have them in our midst. Concerning temporary residence or moving from one rented house to another; we may not allow a gentile into our land unless he has accepted upon himself the Seven Commandments of the Sons of Noah, for it is written, "They shall not dwell in your land", even for a single hour. If a gentile accepted upon himself the Seven Commandments then he is classed as a settling stranger. Settling strangers are accepted only at a time when the Jubilee is observed, but a righteous stranger, i.e. a convert, is accepted at all times.
This chapter discusses not following the practices of idolaters, and discusses soothsaying, divination, enchantment and witchery.
1) One may not follow the practices of idolaters [in matters other than idolatry as well], and one may not dress like them, or style one's hair like them, et cetera, for it is written, "And you shall not follow the practices of the nations", and it is further written, "...neither shall you follow their practices", and it is also written, "Guard yourself that you not ensnared into following them". All these verses come to warn us not to copy idolaters, but a Jew should be [distinct and] different from them in his manner of dress and other actions, in the same way that he is different from them in his knowledge and characteristics. It is also written,"...and have segregated you from the peoples " - do not dress in their style of clothing; do not grow the forelocks of your heads in the same style that they do; do not shave the sides of your heads leaving the hair in the middle plaited like they do; do not shave your head from ear to ear leaving a pony-tail at the back like they do; do not build temples like the temples of idolaters, which they build in order to accommodate many people. Anybody who commits any of these actions is liable to flogging.
2) When a Jew gives an idolater a haircut, he should not cut in the space three fingers around the plaiting [if there is any plaited hair].
3) It is permitted for a Jew who is close to the monarch and who has to sit before him to dress and shave in the way that they do, so as not to be the odd one out.
4) It is forbidden to use soothsaying like they do, for it is written, "...nor shall you use soothsaying". Soothsaying involves making statements like one of the following: `Since my bread has fallen from my mouth, or my stick has fallen from my hand, I will not go to such-and-such a place, for if I go, I will not be successful', or, `Since a fox passed me on the right-hand side I will not leave my house today, for if I do I will meet a Roman', et cetera. Similarly, those who listen to the singing of the birds and say things like, `Such-and-such will happen and such-and-such will not', or, `It is good to do this, but bad to do that', et cetera, are also soothsaying. Similarly, someone who tells one to slaughter a cock that made a sound like a raven, or a hen that had made a sound like cock, is also soothsaying. Similarly, one who makes signs for himself by saying that he will act according to what he sees, like Eliezer the servant of Abraham did, is also soothsaying. All things similar to these are forbidden, and anyone who does any of them is liable to flogging.
5) It is permitted to make statements like, `This house that I built is a good sign for me', or, `This woman that I married (or animal that I bought) is blessed, for once I obtained her (or it) I became rich', or to ask a child [who is still learning] to read one a verse [of his choice] and to declare the child's reading of a verse from the blessings as a good sign. These statements are permitted because by making them one has not decided upon a course of action or refrained from doing something - one has just accepted whatever it is as a good sign for what has all ready happened.
6) Divination consists of performing particular actions in order to elevate oneself and clear one's mind of all [thoughts and] matters until one starts predicting the future by saying, `Such-and-such will, or will not, happen', or, `It is fitting to do such-and-such, but because of such-and-such a reason'. Some diviners make use of stones or sand, some crouch on the ground while moving and shouting, some stare into an iron mirror or lantern before speaking, and others hold a stick in their hands, leaning on it and hitting themselves with it until their minds have cleared, and then they start speaking. This what [one of] the Prophets said: "My people ask counsel of a piece of wood, and their staff declares to them!".
7) It is forbidden to practice divination or to consult a diviner. One who consults a diviner is flogged because of a Rabbinical decree, but the diviner himself is liable to flogging [according to the Torah], for it is written, "There must not be found amongst you...anyone who uses divination".
8) Enchantment consists of arranging things astrologically, and saying things like, `Day X is a good day', `Day Y is a bad day', `Day Z is a bad day on which to do such-and-such a job', `This year (or month) is bad for this thing', et cetera.
9) It is forbidden to enchant, even though one doesn't perform any action, but merely makes known that nonsense which the stupid people imagine is true and wise. Anyone who does something because of what an enchanter said, and adjusts his work or travel accordingly, is liable to flogging, for it is written, "...nor observe times". Similarly, one who rubs his eyes [to make out that he is doing something unnatural] so that those watching him will imagine that he is doing something peculiar is classed as an enchanter, and is liable to flogging.
10) Charming consists of speaking on unearthly matters which are in disarray. Charmers do this, thinking, in their stupidity, that this helps, and they keep this up until they say that whoever says such-and-such about the snake or scorpion will not cause any damage, and that whoever says such- and-such about Man will not be harmed. While charming, they hold in their hands a key, rock or similar object. All of these practices are forbidden. One who charms without holding anything in his hands, or accompanies his speaking with an action such as the raising of his finger or head, is flogged because of a Rabbinical decree, as is one who sits in front of a charmer and listens to what he is saying, thinking that there is benefit to be derived from it. These two types of people are flogged because they associate themselves with the stupidity of charming. All of these ugly statements are not evil, but there is no good in them.
11) It is permitted to whisper [in the manner of charming] over the bite of a snake or scorpion, even on the Sabbath, in order to give the bitten person peace of mind and assurance. Even though this doesn't help in the slightest, it is permitted for its psychological benefits because the bite is dangerous.
12) Concerning the recital of Torah verses in order to cure an illness, reciting Torah verses over a baby so that it won't be agitated, and placing a Torah Scroll or phylacteries on a small child so that he will sleep; it is not enough that such activities are in the categories of soothsaying and charming, but they also deny the Torah, for they are using the Torah to help bodily health, and the Torah provides only for spiritual health, as it is written, "So shall they be life for your soul". It is permitted, though, for a healthy person to recite verses and songs from the book of Psalms in order to receive the merit for such a recital and [thereby] be saved from troubles and harm.
13) How are the dead consulted? They are consulted by fasting and then sleeping in a graveyard, so that a dead person will appear to one in a dream and answer one's questions. There are others who [when consulting the dead] put on specific clothes, burn incense and sleep [in a graveyard] alone, so that a dead person will appear to them in a dream and speak to them. The general rule is that anyone who does anything to make a dead person appear to him and answer his questions is liable to flogging, for it is written, "There must not be found among you...one who consults the dead".
14) It is forbidden to consult a necromancer or wizard, for it written, "There must not be found among you...that uses...necromancy or wizardry"10. This shows us that a necromancer or wizard himself is liable to stoning, whereas those who consult them are flogged because of a Rabbinical decree, but are liable to flogging [according to the Torah] if they followed their advice.
15) One who performs witchery is liable to stoning, provided that he performed an act of witchery, but if he rubbed his eye and appeared to do something but didn't he is flogged because of a Rabbinical decree and not because the Torah says so, for the sin of witchery mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:10-11 is punishable by stoning and not by flogging, for it is written, "You shall not allow a witch to live".
16) All these matters [i.e. necromancy, enchantment, et cetera] are all matters of falsehood and deceit, and it was with these that the early idolaters made the other [non-idolatrous] gentiles deviate and follow them. It is not fitting for Jews, who are the cleverest of the clever, to use such nonsense, or even to think that they are of any use, for it is written, "Surely there is no enchantment in Jacob, or divination in Israel", and it is also written, "For these nations, whom you shall dispossess, listen to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so". Anyone who believes in these or similar things and privately thinks that they are true and wise, but that [we don't practice them because] the Torah forbade them, is an idiot and lacks knowledge, and is in the category of women and children, who are of an deficient mentality. But those people who are wise and of a perfect mentality know very clearly that all these things that the Torah forbade are not wise, but are merely stuff and nonsense which those lacking in knowledge follow and because of which abandon the ways of truth. Because of this, when warning us against these nonsenses, the Torah says, "You shall be perfect with the Lord your God".
This chapter discusses shaving one's head or beard, the positive commandments from which women are exempt, and also discusses tattooing.
1) One may not shave [with a knife] the corner's of one's head, in the way that idolaters and their priests do, for it is written, "You shall not round the corners of your head". One is liable separately for each corner. Therefore, if one shaves both sides one is flogged twice, even if one shaved both sides at once, and/or was warned by witnesses just once. Whether one shaved just the corners and left the rest of one's head alone, or whether one shaved the rest of one's head as well makes no difference - since one has shaved the corners of one's head one is liable to flogging. The punishment of flogging is imposed only on a man who shaved himself, but if he was shaved by someone else he is exempt, unless he consented to it. One who shaves the corners of a child's head is liable to flogging.
2) A woman who shaved the corners of a man's head, or those of her own, is not liable to flogging, for it is written, "You shall not round the corners of your heads, nor shall you mar the corners of your beard"1 - only those people to whom the second clause of this verse applies are liable to flogging if they transgress the first clause. Since the second clause is not applicable to women, for the reason that they don't have beards, they are not liable [to flogging] if they transgress the first clause. Therefore, Canaanite slaves are subject to both parts of this law, because they have beards.
3) Both men and women are obligated to observe all the negative commandments of the Torah, with the exceptions of not shaving the corners of one's head and a priest not defiling himself for the dead, in which only men are obligated. Women are exempt from observing all time-dependant positive commandments, with the exceptions of the sanctification of the Sabbath, eating unleavened bread on the first night of Passover, slaughtering and eating the Pascal Lamb, attending the Assembly and being joyous on Festivals, which they are obligated to observe.
4) In the cases of persons of undetermined sex and hermaphrodites, there is a doubt. They are subject to the strict measures of men and women in all circumstances and are obligated to observe all commandments, but are not liable to flogging if they transgress [a commandment from which women are exempt].
5) Even though a woman may shave the corners of her head, she is prohibited from shaving those of a male's head, even if he is a child.
6) The size of the corner of the temple of the head was not defined by the Sages, but it has been handed down to us that the width of these corners should not be less than forty hairs' breadths. It is permitted to cut [the hair on] these corners with scissors, for the prohibition is only on the use of a blade.
7) The way of the priests of idolatry was to mar their beards. Therefore, the Torah forbade it. The beard has five corners: the upper jaw, the lower jaw, both sideburns and the chin. If one shaved all five at once one is liable to five sets of flogging. One is not liable unless one uses a blade, for it is written, "...nor shall you mar the corners of your beard" - namely, by using a method that involves marring. Therefore, if one cut one's beard with scissors one is not liable. One is not liable if someone else marred the corners of one's beard, unless one consented to it. A woman who has a beard may mar it, and is not liable if she marred a man's beard.
8) It is permitted to cut one's moustache with a blade, the moustache being the hair above the upper lip. Any hair which is hanging loosely from the lower lip may be cut with a blade. Even though cutting in these places is permitted, Jews have the custom not to cut there, but they merely trim the hair in these places so that it won't interfere with eating and drinking.
9) The removal of other bodily hair, such as pubic hair or hair under the armpits, is not prohibited by the Torah, but is by the Sages. Anybody who does remove other bodily hair is flogged because of a Rabbinical decree. This is talking only about hair in places from which [only] women remove the hair for the sake of beauty, but if one removed hair from a place where both men and women remove hair, one is not liable to flogging. It is permitted to remove with scissors hair from the limbs, even in places where men usually don't.
10) A woman may not adorn herself with the ornaments of a man, for example, by wearing a turban, a [man's] hat or armor, et cetera, or to cut her hair in a man's style. A man may not adorn himself with the ornaments of a woman, for example, by wearing colour ed clothing or items of gold jewelry in a town where such items are worn only by women. Everything [in this respect] depends upon the country's customs. A man who adorns himself with the ornaments of a woman, or vice versa, is liable is flogging. One who plucks white hairs from amongst the black ones of his head or beard is liable to flogging, even if he plucked just one hair, for this is a woman's practice. Similarly, if he dyed the white hairs black, he is liable to flogging, even if he dyed just one hair, for this is a woman's practice. Those of undetermined sex and hermaphrodites may not dress like a woman or shave their heads in men's style, but are not liable to flogging if they did.
11) Tattooing as mentioned by the Torah involves making an incision in one's skin and filling that incision with blue [eye-shade], ink or some other colour ed substance. This is a practice of idolaters, who brand themselves for an idol in order to show that they are dedicated to its worship. Liability to flogging commences from the moment one fills any incision on any part of the body with a colour ed substance, for it is written, "...nor print marks upon you". If one applied a colour ed substance to one's skin without having made an incision one is exempt, unless one made a proper tattoo. This is talking only about tattooing oneself, but if one was tattooed by someone else one is only liable if one consented to it.
12) One who cuts himself as a sign of mourning for a deceased person is liable to flogging, for it is written, "You shall not make any cutting in your flesh for the dead"5. Priests and non-priests are commanded separately in this respect. If one cut oneself a number of times, each time for a different deceased person, or if one cut oneself a number of times for the same deceased person, one is flogged for each cut about which one was warned [by witnesses].
13) Cutting with an implement is equivalent to scratching with one's nails in this respect. Just as idolaters used to scratch their flesh on account of the dead and out of anguish, so they used to wound themselves for idolatrous purposes, as it is written, "..and cut themselves in their manner". This practice is also forbidden by the Torah, for it is written, "You shall not gash yourselves". Any scratching on account of a dead person, whether that scratching is on one's flesh or on a vessel, makes one liable to flogging, but with respect to scratches made for idolatrous purposes, one is only liable to flogging if one made them on a vessel.
14) On account of this statement in Deuteronomy 14:1, we learn that there should not be two [or more] Courts of Law with different customs in the same town, because this can cause arguments. The Hebrew for, "You shall not gash yourselves"7 can be interpreted to mean, "You shall not set up separate factions".
15) Anyone who makes any bald patch on account of a deceased person is liable to flogging, for it is written, "...nor make any bald patch on your forehead for the dead"7. Even though Priests have been commanded separately [and again] in this respect, they are flogged only once for transgressing this commandment, as are non-priests. One who makes more than one bald patch on account of the same deceased person is flogged for each and every patch about which witnesses warned him. Whether one made the bald patch by hand or whether one made it with some hair- removing compound makes no difference - one is still liable, and if one applied a hair-removing compound to several places on one's head at the same time one is flogged for each patch thus made, even if one was warned [by witnesses] just once, for they were made simultaneously. This prohibition applies to the entire head as well as between the eyes, for it is written, "They shall not make baldness on their heads". The minimum size bald patch [which one has to make] to make one liable is one the size of a groat.
16) One who makes a bald patch on his head, or scratches his flesh, because his house collapsed, or because he lost a ship at sea, or because of some other calamity, is not liable to flogging - one is only liable if one did one of these things on account of a deceased person , or if one scratched oneself for idolatrous purposes. If one scratched someone else's skin, or made a bald patch on someone else's head, or tattooed someone else, and the other person consented, then of the two, only he who [willingly and] knowingly participated is liable to flogging, but he who did so inadvertently is exempt.
This translation is copyright (c) Immanuel M. O'Lvey, 1993. This translation my be distributed in any form (on disk, printed, etc.) provided that it is done so on a non-profit basis and that this copyright and conditions message is left attached. The text used for this translation was the Rambam Le'Am, published by Mossad Ha'Rav Kook, Jerusalem. Words in the text that are in square brackets do not appear in the Rambam's wirtings. British spelling has been used, and Sephardic pronunciation has been used for words and phrases that have been transliterated.
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