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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin

Folio 58a

born, but not conceived in sanctity,1  possesses kin on his mother's side but not on his father's side. E.g., if he married his sister by his mother, [born before his mother's conversion, and who subsequently became converted too,] he must divorce her; by his father, he may keep her; his father's sister by his father's mother, he must divorce her; by his father's father, he may keep her; his mother's sister by her mother, he must renounce her; by her father — R. Meir ruled that he must divorce her, but the Sages maintained that he may keep her; for R. Meir held that all forbidden degrees of consanguinity on the mother's side must be divorced; on the father's side may be kept.2  He may marry his brother's wife,3  his paternal uncle's wife, and all other relations by marriage are permitted to him, this including his father's wife. If he married a woman and her daughter4  he retains one and must divorce the other. But in the first place, he must not marry them.5  If his wife died, he may marry his mother-in-law; others say that he may not!6  — Rab Judah said, There is no difficulty: one dictum is by R. Meir according to R. Eliezer, and one is by R. Meir according to R. Akiba.7 For it has been taught: Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother;8  R. Eliezer said: His father means 'his father's sister'; his mother, 'his mother's sister'.9  R. Akiba said: His father means 'his father's wife'; his mother is literally meant. And he shall cleave, but not to a male;10  to his wife, but not to his neighbour's wife;11  and they shall be as one flesh, applying to those that can become one flesh, thus excluding cattle and beasts, which cannot become one flesh with man.12

The Master stated: 'R. Eliezer said: His father means 'his father's sister'. But may it not mean his father literally?13  — This is forbidden by and he shall cleave, but not to a male. But perhaps it means 'his father's wife'? — That is taught by to his wife, but not to his neighbour's wife [which includes his father's]. But perhaps it forbids her even after his father's death? — It must be similar to his mother: just as his mother is not his relation by marriage, so his father must refer to a non-marriage relationship.

'His mother means, his mother's sister'. But may it not be literally meant? — That is taught by to his wife, but not to his neighbour's wife. But perhaps it forbids her even after his father's death? — It must be similar to his father: just as his father is not literally meant, so his mother is not literally meant.

'R. Akiba said: His father, means, his father's wife'. But perhaps it is literally meant? — That is taught by and he shall cleave, but not to a male. If so, is not his father's wife taught by to his wife, but not to his neighbour's wife? — That teaches that she is forbidden even after his father's death.

'His mother is literally meant'. But is this not taught by to his wife, but not to his neighbour's wife'? — This refers to his mother who was violated by his father.14

What are the grounds of their dispute? — R. Eliezer is of the opinion

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. I.e., whose mother was a heathen at his conception, but became a Jewess before his birth.
  2. The guiding principal in all this is: 'a proselyte is as a new born babe', who stands absolutely in no relationship to any pre-conversion relation. Consequently, his brothers and sisters, father, mother, etc. from before his conversion lose his relationship on his conversion. Should they too subsequently become converted, they are regarded as strangers to him, and he might marry, e.g., his mother or sister. This is the Biblical law. But since heathens themselves recognised the law of incest in respect of maternal relations, the Rabbis decreed that this should hold good for a proselyte too, i.e., that he is forbidden to marry his maternal relations who were forbidden to him before his conversion, so that it should not be said that he abandoned a faith with a higher degree of sanctity than the one he has embraced (since he cannot be expected to understand the principle of complete annulment of relationships). In this case, since he was born in sanctity, he is really not a proselyte at all. He is so styled because he too is legally a stranger to all his father's and mother's pre-conversion relations. As for his mother's paternal sister, R. Meir held that since she is partly maternally related, she is forbidden, as otherwise it would be thought that a proselyte is permitted to marry his maternal relations. But the Rabbis held that there was no fear of this, and since the relationship is in its source paternal, it is not forbidden.
  3. By 'his brother's wife' is meant even his brother by his mother. For the heathens do not recognise consanguinity in relations by marriage, and consequently these are permitted to a proselyte.
  4. I.e., who stood in that relationship before they were converted.
  5. This is explained in Yeb. 98b as referring to those relations whom, as stated above, he may retain
  6. Now in this Baraitha a number of relations forbidden to Jews on pain of death e.g., his father's wife and his mother-in-law, are permitted to the proselyte, and hence to heathens in general; whilst a number of relations not forbidden on pain of death, e.g., his sister, his paternal and maternal aunts, are prohibited to him: This, taught in R. Meir's name, contradicts his other ruling that all forbidden degrees of consanguinity punishable by death are forbidden to heathens.
  7. Rashi states that both were his teachers, and cites Bezah 3b as proof. The J.E. (v. Meir) and Weiss, Dor II, 132, do not give R. Eliezer as one of his teachers. Nevertheless he may well have transmitted some of his rulings.
  8. Gen. II, 24.
  9. I.e., that union with these relations are forbidden.
  10. I.e., a prohibition against pederasty. This is deduced from the fact that it is natural only for the opposite sexes to cleave to each other.
  11. This is a prohibition of adultery.
  12. Hence R. Meir's dictum that heathens are forbidden those relations which are prohibited to Jews on pain of death, e.g., the father's wife, reflects R. Akiba's teaching, whilst his ruling in the Baraitha that a proselyte may marry his father's wife is R. Eliezer's view, who does not interpret 'his father' as his father's wife.
  13. Thus prohibiting pederasty.
  14. But not made his wife.

Sanhedrin 58b

that only by referring to collateral relations1  can his father and his mother bear similar interpretations.2  But R. Akiba prefers to interpret his father as his father's wife, who is designated as the nakedness of his father, rather than his father's sister, who, is designated as his father's kin, not his father's nakedness.3

Come and hear: And Amram took him Jochebed his father's sister to wife.4  Does it not [presumably] mean his father's sister on her mother's side [too]?5  — No. It means his father's paternal sister.6

Come and hear: And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not of my mother.7  Does not this prove that his mother's daughter is forbidden?8  — Now, is this logical: was she then his sister? She was his brother's daughter, and therefore, whether by his father or mother,9  permitted to him. But Abram declared to him [i.e., Abimelech] thus: I am fraternally related to her, [i.e., she is my brother's daughter] on my father's side [i.e., my brother by my father] but not on my mother's side.10

Come and hear! Why did not Adam marry his daughter?11  So that Cain should marry his sister, as it is written, For I said, the world shall be built up by grace.12  But otherwise, she would have been forbidden [to Cain]?13  — Once however that it was permitted, it remained so.

R. Huna said: A heathen may marry his daughter. But should you ask, If so, why did not Adam marry his daughter? — In order that Cain might marry his sister, that the world might be built up by grace. Others give this version: R. Huna said: A heathen may not marry his daughter; the proof being that Adam did not marry his daughter. But that proof is fallacious: The reason was that Cain should marry his sister, so that the world should be built up by [Adam's] grace.

R. Hisda said: A heathen slave [owned by a Jew] may marry his daughter and his mother, for he has lost the status of a heathen, but has not yet attained that of a Jew.14  When R. Dimi came,15  he said in the name of R. Eleazar in the name of R. Hanina: A heathen who allotted a bondwoman to his slave [for concubinage] and then took her for himself is executed on her account. From when [is she regarded as the particular concubine of that slave]? — R. Nahman said: When she is referred to as so and so's mistress.16  When is she


Dilling Exhibit 59
    free again [to others]? — R. Huna said: From the time that she goes bareheaded in the streets.17

R. Eleazar said in R. Hanina's name: If a heathen had an unnatural connection with his wife, he incurs guilt; for it is written, and he shall cleave, which excludes unnatural intercourse.18 Raba objected: Is there anything for which a Jew is not punishable and a heathen is?19  But Raba said thus: A heathen who violates his neighbour's wife unnaturally is free from punishment — Why so? — [Scripture saith:] To his wife, but not to his neighbour's; and he shall cleave, which excludes unnatural intercourse.20

R. Hanina said: If a heathen smites a Jew, he is worthy of death,21  for it is written, And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian.22  R. Hanina also said: He who smites an Israelite on the jaw, is as though he had thus assaulted the Divine Presence; for it is written, one who smiteth23  man [i.e. an Israelite] attacketh24  the Holy One.25


Dilling discussion of highlighted text
    (Mnemonic: lifts, his servant, Sabbath.)26 Resh Lakish said: He who lifts his hand against his neighbour, even if he did not smite him, is called a wicked man as it is written, And he said unto the wicked man, Wherefore wouldst thou smite thy fellow?27  'Wherefore hast thou smiteth is not said, but wherefore wouldst thou smite, shewing that though he had not smitten him yet, he was termed a wicked man. Ze'iri said in R. Hanina's name: He is called a sinner, for it is written, But if not, I will take it by force;28  and it is further written, Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord.29  R. Huna said: His hand should be cut off, as it is written, Let the uplifted arm be broken.30  R. Huna had the hand cut off [of one who was accustomed to strike other people].31  R. Eleazar said: The only thing to be done with him is to bury him, as it is written, And a man of [uplifted] arm, for him is the earth.32  R. Eleazar also said: The earth was given only to the strong.33  as it is said, But as for the mighty man, for him is the earth.34  Resh Lakish said also: What is the meaning of the verse, He that serveth his land shall be satisfied with bread?35  If one enslaves himself to his land [continually toiling thereon] he shall be satisfied with bread: if not, he shall not be satisfied with bread. Resh Lakish also said: A heathen who keeps a day of rest, deserves death, for it is written, And a day and a night they shall not rest,36  and a master has said: Their prohibition is their death sentence.37  Rabina said: Even if he rested on a Monday. Now why is this not included in the seven Noachian laws? — Only negative injunctions are enumerated, not positive ones.38

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. I.e., to the father's sister or mother's sister.
  2. For they cannot both be literal, since his father is prohibited by 'and he shall cleave'; nor can they both refer to relationship by marriage, since his mother is a blood relation.
  3. Lev. XVIII, 8: The nakedness of thy father's wife thou shalt not uncover it is thy father's nakedness; Lev. XVIII, 12: Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of my father's sister: she is thy father's near kinswoman. Since his father's wife is designated his father's nakedness she forms part and parcel of himself, as it were, in contradistinction to his father's sister, who by being described as his father's kin, is recognised as a separate entity. Consequently, in the interests of literalness 'his father's wife' is a more preferable interpretation.
  4. Ex. VI, 20.
  5. This refutes R. Eliezer's ruling. [Belonging to the pre-Sinaitic era, the Patriarchs were accounted Noachians.]
  6. Only this relation was permitted in the pre-Sinaitic era. But his father's maternal sister would have been forbidden.
  7. Gen. XX, 12. Spoken by Abraham about Sarah.
  8. This contradicts R. Akiba's ruling. For since he interprets the verse as referring us his father's wife and his mother, who are forbidden on pain of death, he evidently regards those who are forbidden under penalty of extinction as permissible, and his mother's daughter is only thus forbidden, but not on pain of death.
  9. This refers to his brother.
  10. Not that she would have been forbidden in that case, but this was stated merely for the sake of exactness.
  11. [Or why could not Adam have married his daughter? Eve's offence should have been followed by her death, and as to Adam, he could have found a help-meet in his daughter (Tosaf.)]
  12. Ps. LXXXIX, 2. It was an act of grace on Adam's part to deny himself his sister; or, as Rashi states, God commanded Adam to deal graciously with Cain, so that Cain, by marrying her, should build up the world.
  13. This proves that one's paternal sister was forbidden to the sons of Noah.
  14. Heathen slaves owned by Jews occupied an intermediate position in respect to Judaism. The males were circumcised, and permitted to eat of the Passover sacrifice. Like women, they were bound to observe all negative commandments and all positive ones not limited to certain times. We see here that this applied to marriage too. Their status was neither that of a heathen nor of an Israelite proper. As they were no longer heathens, they stood in no relationship to their former relations. But as they were not Jews either, there was no need to forbid them their former maternal relations through fear that it would be said that they had left a higher sanctity for a lower one.
  15. V. supra p. 390, n. 1.
  16. Lit., 'girl'.
  17. Even non-Jewish married women did not walk bareheaded in the streets, and this bondwoman, though not legally married, would do likewise. If she appeared bareheaded, it was a sign that her connection with the slave to whom she had been allotted was now broken.
  18. His wife derives no pleasure from this, and hence there is no cleaving.
  19. A variant reading of this passage is: Is there anything permitted to a Jew which is forbidden to a heathen. Unnatural connection is permitted to a Jew.
  20. By taking the two in conjunction, the latter as illustrating the former, we learn that the guilt of violating the injunction 'to his wife but not to his neighbour's wife' is incurred only for natural, but not unnatural intercourse.
  21. [By the Hand of God, V. Yad, Melakim. I, 6].
  22. Ex. II, 12. Thus Moses slew the Egyptian for striking an Israelite, proving that he had merited it.
  23. Deriving mokesh from, nakosh.
  24. Yala' [H] is here derived from loa' [H] the jaw: lit., 'smiteth the jaw'.
  25. Prov. XX, 25.
  26. V. 387 n. 8.
  27. Ex. II, 13.
  28. I Sam. II, 16. This refers to the sons of Eli, who demanded their portion of the sacrifices before it was due, threatening physical violence if their demands were not satisfied.
  29. Ibid. 16.
  30. Job XXXVIII, 15. The editions give the reference as Job XXXI, but this is an error caused by a slightly similar passage in XXXI, 22.
  31. This is not actually permitted in the Torah. Weiss (Dor, II. 14) holds that R. Huna was influenced by Persian practice in this.
  32. I.e., he is to be buried, homiletical rendering of Job XXII, 8.
  33. I.e., only a strong man should wish to possess land, as there are always quarrels in connection therewith.
  34. Ibid.
  35. Prov. XII, 11
  36. Gen. VIII, 22. 'They' is here made to apply to men, and 'shall not' is taken to mean 'may not'.
  37. Eisenstein, J. E., V. p. 623. suggests that this may have been directed against the Christian Jews, who disregarded the Mosaic law yet observed the Sabbath, and quotes Maimonides who advances the following reason: 'The principle is, one is not permitted to make innovations in religion or to create new commandments. He has the privilege to become a true proselyte by accepting the whole law.' (Yad. Melakim, X, 9.) He also points out that 'Deserves death' expresses strong indignation, and is not to be taken literally; [cf. the recurring phrase. 'He who transgresses the words of the Sages deserves death.' Ber. 6b.]
  38. The seven Noachian laws deal with things which a heathen must abstain from doing. But when we say that a heathen must not observe a day of rest, we bid him to do a positive action, viz., work.