Moed Katan 17a:21מועד קטן י״ז א
The William Davidson Talmudתלמוד מהדורת ויליאם דוידסון
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17aי״ז א

תלמיד שנידה לכבודו נדויו נידוי דתניא מנודה לרב מנודה לתלמיד מנודה לתלמיד אינו מנודה לרב לרב הוא דאינו מנודה הא לכולי עלמא מנודה

If a student ostracized someone else due to an insult to his dignity, and not because the ostracized person was guilty of some transgression, his decree of ostracism is valid, as it is taught in a baraita: One who is ostracized by the teacher is considered ostracized with regard to the student. However, one who is ostracized by the student is not considered ostracized with regard to the teacher. The Gemara attempts to draw an inference from a careful reading of this baraita: He is not considered ostracized with regard to the teacher, which implies that he is considered ostracized with regard to everyone else.

למאי אי במילי דשמיא (משלי כא, ל) אין חכמה ואין תבונה ואין עצה לנגד ה' אלא לאו לכבוד עצמו

The Gemara clarifies the case: For what reason was he ostracized? If it was for a matter relating to Heaven, i.e., because he sinned, then why, if he was ostracized by the student, should he not be considered ostracized with regard to the teacher? Doesn’t the verse state: “There is no wisdom or understanding or counsel against the Lord” (Proverbs 21:30)? This means that when a sin is committed and God’s name is desecrated, all other considerations are ignored, even the eminence and knowledge of the teacher, and therefore he too must treat the offender as ostracized. Rather, is it not that the Gemara is referring to a case where the student ostracized the other person due to an insult to his own dignity? Therefore, it is apparent that his decree of ostracism is valid and binding upon all, with the exception of his teacher.

אמר רב יוסף צורבא מרבנן עביד דינא לנפשיה במילתא דפסיקא ליה

Rav Yosef said: A Torah scholar may execute judgment for himself with regard to a matter about which he is certain, and he is not required to first go to court and have the case decided for him. The same applies when another person behaves in a disrespectful manner toward him; he is permitted to go ahead on his own and ostracize him.

ההוא צורבא מרבנן דהוו סנו שומעניה א"ר יהודה היכי ליעביד לשמתיה צריכי ליה רבנן לא לשמתיה קא מיתחיל שמא דשמיא

There was a certain Torah scholar who gained a bad reputation due to rumors about his conduct. Rav Yehuda said: What should be done? To excommunicate him is not an option. The Sages need him, as he is a great Torah authority. Not to excommunicate him is also not an option, as then the name of Heaven would be desecrated.

א"ל לרבב"ח מידי שמיע לך בהא א"ל הכי א"ר יוחנן מאי דכתיב (מלאכי ב, ז) כי שפתי כהן ישמרו דעת ותורה יבקשו מפיהו כי מלאך ה' צבאות הוא אם דומה הרב למלאך ה' יבקשו תורה מפיו ואם לאו אל יבקשו תורה מפיו

Rav Yehuda said to Rabba bar bar Ḥana: Have you heard anything with regard to this issue? He said to him: Rabbi Yoḥanan said as follows: What is the meaning of that which is written: “For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek Torah at his mouth; for he is a messenger [malakh] of the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 2:7)? This verse teaches: If the teacher is similar to an angel [malakh] of the Lord, then seek Torah from his mouth, but if he is not pure and upright, then do not seek Torah from his mouth; even if he is knowledgeable about Torah, do not learn from him.

שמתיה רב יהודה לסוף איחלש רב יהודה אתו רבנן לשיולי ביה ואתא איהו נמי בהדייהו כד חזייה רב יהודה חייך

Based on this statement, Rav Yehuda ostracized that Torah scholar. In the end, after some time had passed, Rav Yehuda took ill and was on the verge of death. The Sages came to inquire about his well-being, and the ostracized scholar came along with them as well. When Rav Yehuda saw him, that scholar, he laughed.

אמר ליה לא מסתייך דשמתיה לההוא גברא אלא אחוכי נמי חייך בי א"ל לאו בדידך מחייכנא אלא דכי אזלינא לההוא עלמא בדיחא דעתאי דאפילו לגברא כוותך לא חניפי ליה

The ostracized scholar said to him: Was it not enough that you excommunicated that man, i.e., me, but now you even laugh at me? Rav Yehuda said to him: I was not laughing at you; rather, I am happy as I go to that other world that I did not flatter even a great man like you, but instead I treated you fairly in accordance with the halakha.

נח נפשיה דרב יהודה אתא לבי מדרשא אמר להו שרו לי אמרו ליה רבנן גברא דחשיב כרב יהודה ליכא הכא דלישרי לך אלא זיל לגביה דר' יהודה נשיאה דלישרי לך אזל לקמיה א"ל לר' אמי פוק עיין בדיניה אי מיבעי למישרא ליה שרי ליה

Rav Yehuda died. The ostracized scholar came to the study hall and said to the Sages: Release me from the decree of ostracism. The Sages said to him: There is no man here as eminent as Rav Yehuda who can release you from the ostracism. Rather, go to Rabbi Yehuda Nesia in Eretz Yisrael, as only he can release you. That scholar came before Rabbi Yehuda Nesia. Rabbi Yehuda Nesia said to Rabbi Ami: Go and examine his case. If it is necessary to release him from his decree of ostracism, release him on my behalf.

עיין ר' אמי בדיניה סבר למישרא ליה עמד ר' שמואל בר נחמני על רגליו ואמר ומה שפחה של בית רבי לא נהגו חכמים קלות ראש בנידויה שלש שנים יהודה חבירינו על אחת כמה וכמה

Rabbi Ami examined his case and thought at first to release him from his ostracism. But Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani rose up on his feet and said: If the maidservant in the house of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi once ostracized another person, and the Sages did not relate frivolously to her decree of ostracism and did not revoke it until three years had passed, all the more so, with regard to a decree of ostracism placed by Yehuda our colleague, we must take it seriously and not release this scholar.

א"ר זירא מאי דקמן דאתא האידנא האי סבא בבי מדרשא דהא כמה שני לא אתא ש"מ לא מיבעי למישרא ליה לא שרא ליה נפק כי קא בכי ואזיל

Rabbi Zeira said: What caused this Elder, Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani, to come before us in the study hall today though for many years he did not come, and now he comes precisely during this discussion. Learn from this that it is not necessary to release him from his decree of ostracism, as this combination of events is certainly not a coincidence. Rather, it should be viewed as an instructive sign from Heaven. Consequently, Rabbi Ami did not release him from the ostracism, and the ostracized scholar left in tears.

אתא זיבורא וטרקיה אאמתיה ושכיב עיילוהו למערתא דחסידי ולא קיבלוהו עיילוהו למערתא דדייני וקיבלוהו

A wasp came and stung the ostracized scholar on his penis and he died. Because he was a great Torah scholar, they took him into the caves in which the pious are interred in order to bury him there, but the caves did not accept him. A snake stood at the entrance of the caves and did not let them pass. They then took him into the caves of the judges, and they accepted him.

מ"ט דעבד כר' אילעאי דתניא ר' אילעאי אומר אם רואה אדם שיצרו מתגבר עליו ילך למקום שאין מכירין אותו וילבש שחורים ויתעטף שחורים ויעשה מה שלבו חפץ ואל יחלל שם שמים בפרהסיא

The Gemara asks: What is the reason that he was accepted there? The Gemara answers: Even though he sinned, he still acted in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Ilai, as it is taught in a baraita: Rabbi Ilai says: If a person sees that his evil inclination is gaining control over him and he cannot overcome it, then he should go to a place where he is not known. He should wear black, and he should wrap his head in black, as if he were a mourner. Perhaps these changes will influence him, so that he not sin. Even if these actions do not help, he should at least do as his heart desires in private and not desecrate the name of Heaven in public. Although this person had sinned, he did so in private and in a manner that did not publicly desecrate God’s name, and therefore it was fitting that he be given an honorable burial.

שפחה של בית רבי מאי היא דאמתא דבי רבי חזיתיה לההוא גברא דהוה מחי לבנו גדול אמרה ליהוי ההוא גברא בשמתא דקעבר משום (ויקרא יט, יד) ולפני עור לא תתן מכשול דתניא ולפני עור לא תתן מכשול במכה לבנו גדול הכתוב מדבר

The Gemara asks: What is the story mentioned by Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani involving the maidservant in the house of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi? It was related that the maidservant in Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi’s house saw a certain man who was striking his adult son. She said: Let that man be excommunicated, due to the fact that he has transgressed the injunction: “You shall not place a stumbling block before the blind” (Leviticus 19:14), as it is taught in a baraita that the verse states: “You shall not place a stumbling block before the blind,” and the verse speaks here of one who strikes his adult son, as the son is likely to become angry and strike his father back, thereby transgressing the severe prohibition against hitting one’s parent.

ריש לקיש הוה מנטר פרדיסא אתא ההוא גברא וקאכיל תאיני רמא ביה קלא ולא אשגח ביה אמר ליהוי ההוא גברא בשמתא א"ל אדרבה ליהוי ההוא גברא בשמתא אם ממון נתחייבתי לך נידוי מי נתחייבתי לך

Similarly, it was related that Reish Lakish was guarding an orchard for payment when a certain man came and ate some figs that were growing there. Reish Lakish raised his voice and yelled at him, but this man paid no attention to him and kept eating. Reish Lakish said: Let that man be in a state of excommunication. The man eating the figs said to him: On the contrary, let that man, i.e., Reish Lakish, be in a state of excommunication, for even if I have become liable to you for payment, as I have eaten of the figs without permission, have I become liable to you for excommuncation? With that statement, the man left.

אתא לבי מדרשא א"ל שלו נידוי שלך אינו נידוי

Reish Lakish went to the study hall to inquire about the halakha with regard to this man. The other Sages said to him: His decree of ostracism is valid, but your decree of ostracism is not. In other words, that man was correct and Reish Lakish should not have ostracized him in response to his actions.

ומאי תקנתיה זיל לגביה דלישרי לך לא ידענא ליה אמרו ליה זיל לגבי נשיאה דלישרי לך דתניא נידוהו ואינו יודע מי נידהו ילך אצל נשיא ויתיר לו נדויו

Reish Lakish then asked: If so, what is the remedy for this decree of ostracism? The Sages answered him: Go to him so that he may release you from it. Reish Lakish replied: I do not know him. They said to him: Go then to the Nasi, so that he may release you from the ban, as it is taught in a baraita: If one was ostracized, but he does not know who ostracized him, he should go to the Nasi, and the Nasi may release him from his decree of ostracism.

אמר רב הונא באושא התקינו אב בית דין שסרח אין מנדין אותו אלא אומר לו (מלכים ב יד, י) הכבד ושב בביתך חזר וסרח מנדין אותו מפני חילול השם

The Gemara continues: Rav Huna said that in Usha it was enacted: If the president of the court sinned, he is not ostracized. Although this would be the appropriate punishment, he is not ostracized, so as not to cause a desecration of God’s name. Rather, they say to him the words of the verse: “Keep your honor and stay at home” (II Kings 14:10). That is to say, to preserve your dignity, it would be best if you were to stay at home, resign your position, and refrain from further public appearances. If he sins again, he is ostracized, due to the desecration of God’s name that would ensue were people to think that he was spared his rightful punishment due to his high position.

ופליגא דריש לקיש דאמר ריש לקיש תלמיד חכם שסרח אין מנדין אותו בפרהסיא שנאמר (הושע ד, ה) וכשלת היום וכשל גם נביא עמך לילה כסהו כלילה

The Gemara comments: This opinion disagrees with that of Reish Lakish, for Reish Lakish said: If a Torah scholar sins, he is not ostracized at all in public, as it is stated: “Therefore, shall you fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with you in the night” (Hosea 4:5). This is explained to mean: If a prophet or any other important person sins, his offense should be concealed like the night and not punished in public.

מר זוטרא חסידא כי מיחייב צורבא מרבנן שמתא ברישא משמית נפשיה והדר משמית לדידיה כי הוה עייל באושפיזיה שרי ליה לנפשיה והדר שרי ליה לדידיה

With regard to this issue, it was related that when a Torah scholar would become liable to be punished with excommunication before Mar Zutra the Pious, Mar Zutra would first excommunicate himself as a mark of respect for the Torah scholar, and afterward he would ostracize the Torah scholar. This self-imposed excommunication was meant only as a show of honor to the other Torah scholar, and therefore when Mar Zutra would enter his house of lodging, he would release his own excommunication, and afterward he would release the other’s excommunication.

אמר רב גידל אמר רב ת"ח מנדה לעצמו ומיפר לעצמו אמר רב פפא תיתי לי דלא שמיתי צורבא מרבנן מעולם אלא כי קא מיחייב צורבא מרבנן שמתא היכי עביד כי הא דבמערבא מימנו אנגידא דצורבא מרבנן ולא מימנו אשמתא

Rav Giddel said that Rav said: A Torah scholar may ostracize himself, and he may similarly release himself from self-imposed ostracism. Rav Pappa said: I have good coming to me, for I am praiseworthy, as I have never ostracized a Torah scholar. The Gemara asks about this: If so, when a Torah scholar was liable to be ostracized, what would he do? The Gemara answers: He did as they do in the West, Eretz Yisrael, where they appoint a court to give a Torah scholar lashes, but they do not appoint a court to ostracize him. That is to say, lashes were preferred over ostracism.

מאי שמתא אמר רב שם מיתה ושמואל אמר שממה יהיה ומהניא ביה כי טיחיא בתנורא

The Gemara proceeds with a discussion that explains the severity of the punishment of excommunication: What is the meaning of the word excommunication [shamta]? Rav said: This word is a contraction of the expression there is death [sham mita], alluding to the deathly aspect of excommunication. And Shmuel said: Shamta means that he will be a desolation [shemama yiheyeh], and it is effective upon him like fat smeared on an oven. Just as some of the fat will always remain absorbed in the walls of the oven, so too some aspect of the curse contained in the excommunication will continue to adhere to him even after the excommunication has been nullified.

ופליגא דריש לקיש דאמר ריש לקיש כשם שנכנסת במאתים וארבעים ושמונה איברים כך כשהיא יוצאה יוצאה ממאתים וארבעים ושמונה איברים

The Gemara comments: And this opinion disagrees with the opinion of Reish Lakish, for Reish Lakish said: Just as ostracism enters the two hundred and forty-eight organs of one’s body when it is first pronounced, so too when it leaves, it leaves from his two hundred and forty-eight organs.

כשהיא נכנסת דכתיב (יהושע ו, יז) והיתה העיר חרם חרם בגימטריא מאתים וארבעים ושמונה הוו כשהיא יוצאה דכתיב (חבקוק ג, ב) ברוגז רחם תזכור רחם בגימטריא הכי הוו

The following allusion is offered in support of the opinion of Reish Lakish: When it enters, it enters all the organs, as it is written: “And the city shall be a curse [ḥerem]” (Joshua 6:17), and the numerical value [gimatriyya] of the word ḥerem, a concept similar to ostracism, is two hundred and forty-eight. Therefore, the verse alludes to the fact that a decree of ostracism penetrates one’s two hundred and forty-eight organs. When it leaves, it leaves all the organs, as it is written: “In wrath remember mercy [raḥem]” (Habakkuk 3:2), and the numerical value of the word raḥem is also two hundred and forty-eight, thereby teaching that when the decree of ostracism is revoked, it disappears entirely.

אמר רב יוסף שדי שמתא אגנובתא דכלבא ואיהי דידה עבדה דההוא כלבא דהוה אכיל מסאני דרבנן ולא הוו קא ידעי מנו ושמתו ליה איתלי ביה נורא בגנובתיה ואכלתיה

The Gemara continues discussing the power of a ban. Rav Yosef said: Cast an excommunication on the tail of a dog and it, the excommunication, will do its work and harm the dog. It was related that there was a certain dog that would eat the shoes of the Sages, and they did not know who it was causing this damage. They thought that it was a person, and so they excommunicated whoever was doing it. Soon thereafter, the dog’s tail caught fire and got burnt. This shows that excommunication can have a harmful effect even on a dog.

ההוא אלמא דהוה קא מצער ליה לההוא צורבא מרבנן אתא לקמיה דרב יוסף א"ל זיל שמתיה א"ל מסתפינא מיניה

It was further related that there was a violent person who caused suffering to a certain Torah scholar. This Torah scholar came before Rav Yosef to ask what he should do. Rav Yosef said to him: Go and ostracize him. This Torah scholar said to him: I am afraid of him, that he will harass me even more.

אמר ליה שקילי פתיחא עליה כל שכן דמסתפינא מיניה א"ל שקליה אחתיה בכדא

Rav Yosef said to him: Take out, i.e., publish a written ostracism against him. The Torah scholar said to him: All the more so I am fearful of him, for if I publicize the matter he will certainly come after me. Rav Yosef said to him to do as follows: Take the written ostracism and place it in a jug,