Sanhedrin 44a:2סנהדרין מ״ד א
The William Davidson Talmudתלמוד מהדורת ויליאם דוידסון
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44aמ״ד א

עכן מאי טעמא איענוש משום דהוו ידעי ביה אשתו ובניו

what is the reason that in the case of Achan they were punished? The Gemara answers: Achan’s offense was not a hidden matter because his wife and children knew about it, and they did not protest.

(יהושע ז, יא) חטא ישראל אמר רבי אבא בר זבדא אע"פ שחטא ישראל הוא אמר ר' אבא היינו דאמרי אינשי אסא דקאי ביני חילפי אסא שמיה ואסא קרו ליה

§ When God explained to Joshua the reason for the Jewish people’s defeat at the city of Ai, He said: “Israel has sinned” (Joshua 7:11). Rabbi Abba bar Zavda says: From here it may be inferred that even when the Jewish people have sinned, they are still called “Israel.” Rabbi Abba says: This is in accordance with the adage that people say: Even when a myrtle is found among thorns, its name is myrtle and people call it myrtle.

(יהושע ז, יא) וגם עברו את בריתי אשר צויתי אותם גם לקחו מן החרם גם גנבו גם כחשו גם שמו בכליהם אמר ר' אילעא משום ר' יהודה בר מספרתא מלמד שעבר עכן על חמשה חומשי תורה שנאמר חמשה גם

The verse in Joshua continues: “They have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them, and they have also taken of the dedicated property, and also stolen, and also dissembled, and also put it among their own goods.” Rabbi Ile’a says in the name of Rabbi Yehuda bar Masparta: This teaches that Achan also transgressed all five books of the Torah, as the word “also” is stated here five times.

ואמר רבי אילעא משום רבי יהודה בר מספרתא עכן מושך בערלתו היה כתיב הכא וגם עברו את בריתי וכתיב התם (בראשית יז, יד) את בריתי הפר

And Rabbi Ile’a says further in the name of Rabbi Yehuda bar Masparta: Achan, in addition to his other evil actions, would stretch his remaining foreskin in order to conceal the fact that he was circumcised. An allusion to this offense is found in the wording of this verse. Here, with regard to Achan, it is written: “They have also transgressed My covenant,” and there, with regard to circumcision, it is written: “He has violated My covenant” (Genesis 17:14).

פשיטא מהו דתימא במצוה גופיה לא פקר קמ"ל

The Gemara asks: Isn’t it obvious that he concealed his circumcision, as Rabbi Ile’a said that he transgressed all five books of the Torah? The Gemara answers: Lest you say that while Achan transgressed all five books of the Torah, with regard to a mitzva relating to his own body, such as circumcision, he did not act irreverently, Rabbi Ile’a teaches us that he sinned concerning this mitzva as well.

(יהושע ז, טו) וכי עשה נבלה בישראל א"ר אבא בר זבדא מלמד שבעל עכן נערה המאורסה כתיב הכא וכי עשה נבלה וכתיב התם (דברים כב, כא) כי עשתה נבלה בישראל

With regard to Achan, the verse states: “And because he has committed a wanton deed in Israel” (Joshua 7:15). Rabbi Abba bar Zavda says: This teaches that Achan engaged in sexual intercourse with a betrothed young woman. This offense is also alluded to by the wording of the verse. Here, with regard to Achan, it is written: “And because he has committed a wanton deed,” and there, with regard to a betrothed young woman who committed adultery, it is written: “Because she has committed a wanton deed in Israel, to play the harlot in her father’s house” (Deuteronomy 22:21).

פשיטא מהו דתימא כולי האי לא פקר נפשיה קמ"ל רבינא אמר דיניה כנערה המאורסה דבסקילה

The Gemara asks: Isn’t this obvious, as Achan transgressed the entire Torah? The Gemara similarly answers: Lest you say that he did not act irreverently to such an extent, Rabbi Abba bar Zavda teaches us that he paid no heed even to this prohibition. Ravina said: This verbal analogy does not teach what Achan’s offense was; rather, it teaches that his punishment was like that of a betrothed young woman who committed adultery, for which she is executed by stoning.

אמר ליה ריש גלותא לרב הונא כתיב (יהושע ז, כד) ויקח יהושע את עכן בן זרח ואת הכסף ואת האדרת ואת לשון הזהב ואת בניו ואת בנותיו ואת שורו ואת חמורו ואת צאנו ואת אהלו ואת כל אשר לו אם הוא חטא בניו ובנותיו מה חטאו

§ The Exilarch said to Rav Huna: It is written: “And Joshua took Achan, son of Zerah, and the silver, and the mantle, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had, and all Israel with him…and all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire, and stoned them with stones” (Joshua 7:24–25). If Achan sinned, so that he was liable to be stoned, did his sons and daughters also sin, that they too should be stoned?

אמר ליה וליטעמיך אם הוא חטא כל ישראל מה חטאו דכתיב (יהושע ז, כד) וכל ישראל עמו אלא לרדותן ה"נ כדי לרדותן

Rav Huna said to the Exilarch: And according to your reasoning that Achan’s family was also punished, if Achan sinned, did all of Israel sin? As it is written: “And all Israel with him.” Rather, Joshua took all of the people to the Valley of Achor not to stone them, but to chastise them and strike fear into their hearts by making them witness the stoning. So too, he took Achan’s household there in order to chastise them.

(יהושע ז, כה) וישרפו אותם באש ויסקלו אותם באבנים בתרתי אמר רבינא הראוי לשריפה לשריפה הראוי לסקילה לסקילה

With regard to Achan’s punishment, the verse states: “And they burned them with fire, and stoned them with stones.” The Gemara asks: Did they punish him with two punishments? Ravina says: That which was fit for burning, e.g., an item of clothing, was taken out for burning, and that which was fit for stoning, e.g., an animal, was taken out for stoning.

(יהושע ז, כא) וארא בשלל אדרת שנער אחת טובה ומאתים שקלים כסף רב אמר איצטלא דמילתא ושמואל אמר סרבלא דצריפא

§ In his confession, Achan states: “And I saw among the spoil a fine mantle of Shinar, and two hundred shekels of silver” (Joshua 7:21). Rav says: A mantle of Shinar is a cloak [itztela] of choice wool [demeilta], and Shmuel says: It is a garment [sarbela] dyed with alum.

(יהושע ז, כג) ויציקום לפני ה' אמר רב נחמן בא וחבטם לפני המקום אמר לפניו רבש"ע על אלו תיהרג רובה של סנהדרין דכתיב (יהושע ז, ה) ויכו מהם אנשי העי כשלשים וששה איש ותניא שלשים וששה ממש דברי ר' יהודה אמר לו ר' נחמיה וכי שלשים וששה היו והלא לא נאמר אלא כשלשים וששה איש אלא זה יאיר בן מנשה ששקול כנגד רובה של סנהדרין

With regard to the spoils that Achan took for himself, the verse states: “And they laid them out before the Lord” (Joshua 7:23). Rav Naḥman says: Joshua came and cast down the spoils before God. Joshua said to Him: Master of the Universe, was it because of these small items that the majority of the Sanhedrin were killed? As it is written: “And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty-six men” (Joshua 7:5), and it is taught in a baraita: Thirty-six men, literally, were killed; this is the statement of Rabbi Yehuda. Rabbi Neḥemya said to Rabbi Yehuda: But were they precisely thirty-six men? Didn’t it state only: “About thirty-six men”? Rather, this is a reference to Yair, son of Manasseh, who was killed, and who was himself equivalent in importance to the majority of the Sanhedrin, i.e., thirty-six men.

אמר רב נחמן אמר רב מאי דכתיב (משלי יח, כג) תחנונים ידבר רש ועשיר יענה עזות תחנונים ידבר רש זה משה ועשיר יענה עזות זה יהושע

Rav Naḥman says that Rav says: What is the meaning of that which is written: “The poor man speaks entreaties, but the rich man answers with impudence” (Proverbs 18:23)? “The poor man speaks entreaties”; this is a reference to Moses, who addressed God in a tone of supplication and appeasement. “But the rich man answers with impudence”; this is a reference to Joshua, who spoke to God in a belligerent manner.

מאי טעמא אילימא משום דכתיב ויציקום לפני ה' ואמר רב נחמן בא וחבטן לפני המקום אטו פנחס לא עביד הכי (דכתיב) (תהלים קו, ל) ויעמד פנחס ויפלל ותעצר המגפה ואמר ר' אלעזר ויתפלל לא נאמר אלא ויפלל מלמד שעשה פלילות עם קונו בא וחבטן לפני המקום אמר לפניו רבונו של עולם על אלו יפלו עשרים וארבעה אלף מישראל דכתיב (במדבר כה, ט) ויהיו המתים במגפה ארבעה ועשרים אלף

The Gemara asks: What is the reason that Joshua is considered to have answered God with impudence? If we say that it is because it is written: “And he laid them out before the Lord,” and Rav Naḥman says that this means that Joshua came and cast the spoils down before God as part of his argument, this is difficult: Is that to say that Pinehas did not act the same way in the incident involving Zimri and Cozbi? As it is written: “Then stood up Pinehas, and executed judgment [vayefallel], and the plague was stayed” (Psalms 106:30), and Rabbi Elazar says: And he prayed [vayitpallel], is not stated; rather, “and he executed judgment [vayefallel]” is stated, which teaches that he entered into a judgment together with his Creator. How so? He came and cast Zimri and Cozbi down before God, and said to Him: Master of the Universe, was it because of these sinners that twenty-four thousand members of the Jewish people fell? As it is written: “And those that died by the plague were twenty-four thousand” (Numbers 25:9).

ואלא מהכא (יהושע ז, ז) למה העברת העביר את העם הזה את הירדן משה נמי מימר אמר (שמות ה, כב) למה הרעתה לעם הזה אלא מהכא (יהושע ז, ז) ולו הואלנו ונשב בעבר הירדן

Rather, Joshua’s belligerence is seen from this verse: “Why have You brought this people over the Jordan” (Joshua 7:7), as if he were complaining about God’s treatment of Israel. This too is difficult, as Moses also said a similar statement: “Why have You dealt ill with this people? Why is it that You have sent me?” (Exodus 5:22). Rather, Joshua’s belligerence is seen from here, from the continuation of the previously cited verse in Joshua: “Would that we had been content and had remained in the Transjordan” (Joshua 7:7).

(יהושע ז, י) ויאמר ה' אל יהושע קום לך דריש ר' שילא א"ל הקב"ה שלך קשה משלהם אני אמרתי (דברים כז, ד) והיה בעברכם את הירדן תקימו ואתם ריחקתם ס' מיל

§ With regard to the verse that states: “And the Lord said to Joshua: Get you up; why do you lie this way on your face?” (Joshua 7:10), Rabbi Sheila taught in a public lecture: The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Joshua: Your own sin is even worse than that of the other Jews who sinned, as I said to the Jewish people: “And it shall be when you have gone over the Jordan, that you shall set up these stones” (Deuteronomy 27:4), and you have already distanced yourselves sixty mil from the Jordan River, and you have yet to fulfill the mitzva.

בתר דנפק אוקים רב אמורא עליה ודרש (יהושע יא, טו) כאשר צוה ה' את משה עבדו כן צוה משה את יהושע וכן עשה יהושע לא הסיר דבר מכל אשר צוה ה' את משה

After Rav Sheila finished his lecture and went out, Rav, who had been present but remained silent, placed an interpreter alongside him, who would repeat his lecture in a loud voice so that the public could hear it, and he taught: The verse states: “As the Lord commanded Moses His servant, so did Moses command Joshua, and so did Joshua; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses” (Joshua 11:15). This indicates that Joshua could not have been guilty of a grave offense such as delaying in setting up the stones.

א"כ מה ת"ל קום לך א"ל אתה גרמת להם והיינו דקאמר ליה בעי (יהושע ח, ב) ועשית לעי ולמלכה כאשר עשית ליריחו ולמלכה וגו'

If so, what is the meaning when the verse states: “Get you up,” hinting that Joshua was in fact responsible for some transgression? The matter should be understood as follows: God said to Joshua: You caused the Jewish people to sin, as had you not dedicated all the spoils of Jericho to the Tabernacle treasury, the entire incident of Achan taking the spoils improperly would not have occurred. And this is what God said to him at Ai: “And you shall do to Ai and her king as you did to Jericho and her king; only its spoil and its cattle shall you take for a prey to yourselves” (Joshua 8:2), instructing Joshua that the Jewish people should keep the spoils.

(יהושע ה, יג) ויהי בהיות יהושע ביריחו וישא עיניו וירא וגו' ויאמר לא כי אני שר צבא ה' עתה באתי [ויפול יהושע אל פניו ארצה וישתחו] היכי עביד הכי והאמר רבי יוחנן אסור לו לאדם שיתן שלום לחבירו בלילה חיישינן שמא שד הוא

The verse states: “And it came to pass when Joshua was by Jericho that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, a man stood over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: And Joshua went to him and said to him, Are you for us or for our adversaries? And he said: No, but I am captain of the host of the Lord; I have now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down” (Joshua 5:13–14). The Gemara asks: How could Joshua do so, bowing down to a stranger at night? But doesn’t Rabbi Yoḥanan say: It is prohibited for a person to greet another whom he does not recognize at night, as we are concerned that perhaps the one he doesn’t recognize is a demon? Why was Joshua not concerned about this possibility?

שאני התם דקאמר ליה (יהושע ה, יד) אני שר צבא ה' עתה באתי וגו' ודילמא משקרי גמירי דלא מפקי שם שמים לבטלה

The Gemara answers: It is different there, as the stranger said to Joshua: “I am captain of the host of the Lord; I have now come.” The Gemara asks: But perhaps he was in fact a demon and he was lying? The Gemara answers: It is learned as a tradition that demons do not utter the name of Heaven in vain, and since this figure mentioned the name of Heaven, he must have been speaking the truth.