Pisqa’ 205

Pisqa’ 2051


Should you find a murder-victim” (Dt.21:1)—

but not at a time

when abandoned victims are plentiful.

On this basis they taught:

When murderers became common,

they abolished the rite of the Beheaded Calf.2

This was when Elazar b. Dinai showed up,

followed by Tekhinah b. Perishah.

Known also as “the Boy Wonder,”

he became notorious as “the Son of the Murderer.”3

“A murder victim” (Dt.21:1)—stabbed, but not strangled

“A murder victim” (Dt.21:1)—but not still writhing.

“On the ground” (Dt.21:1)—but not buried under debris.

“Fallen” (Dt.21:1)—but not hanging from a tree.

“In a field” (Dt.21:1)—but not floating in the water.4

“Which HASHEM your God is giving you” (Dt.21:1)—

including murder victims found in the Trans-jordan.5


R. Elazar says:

They used to behead the calf

for any abandoned murder victim.

Said R. Yose b. R. Judah to him:

Now, if he was only strangled

and then abandoned in a field,

would they conduct the rite?

No, they would behead the calf

only for stabbing victims.6

“And no one knows who stabbed him” (Dt.21:1).

Thus—if it is known who stabbed him,

and even of one [of the elders ] had only seen him,

they would not conduct the rite.

R. Akiva says:

How do I know that

if the court witnessed the murder,

but could not identify the assailant,

they would not conduct the rite?

The Teaching states:

“Our hands have not spilled this blood!

Neither have our eyes seen it!” (Dt.21:7).7


“Then, your elders shall go out” (Dt.21:2)—

the plural, elders, implies two.

“And your justices” (Dt.21:2)—

here are two more.

Now, a court cannot yield a split decision,

so they add one more justice,

and now there are five:

words of R. Judah.8

R. Shimon says:

“Your elders and your justices” (Dt.21:2)—

one of each, yielding two.

Now, a court cannot yield a split decision,

so they add one more justice,

And now there are three!9


“And they measured to the cities” (Dt.21:2)—

measuring from the victim to the cities,

but not from the cities to the victim.

On this basis they taught:

If his head was found lying in one place,

and his body was found lying in another place,

they bring the head to the body:

words of R. Eliezer.

R. Akiva says:

They bring the body to the head! 10

If the victim is found close to

the border [of a gentile population],

or near a city where there are gentiles,

or near a city in which there is no [Israelite] court,

they would not measure to these cities.

They measure only to one

In which there is an [Israelite] court.11

  1. H:220-221; JN2:98-100.
  2. =M. Sotah 9:9; T. Sotah 14:1.
  3. =M. Sotah 9:9. For details about the traditions of these obscure figures, see Albeck, 3:392-393, and Josephus, Antiquities XX 6.
  4. =M. Sotah 9:2.
  5. //T. Sotah 9:1.
  6. Cf. T. Sotah 9:1.
  7. CF. T.Sotah 9:2.
  8. //M. Sotah 9:1.
  9. Cf. M. Sotah 9:1.
  10. = M. Sotah 9:3.
  11. Cf. T. Sotah 9:1.