Rabbi Zeira raises an objection to Rava’s answer, as it is stated in a baraita that one who unwittingly commits a transgression punishable by death is obligated to bring a sin-offering, excluding conspiring witnesses, who are not obligated to bring a sin-offering, as their transgressions do not involve an action. Rabbi Zeira asks: And why is a false witness’s testimony not considered a transgression that involves an action? The testimony is delivered through speech, which should be considered an action, as this is not a transgression that is committed in the heart; the witnesses are liable for what they said, and not for their intention.
Rava says: Conspiring witnesses are different, since their transgression is committed through their voice. The essence of their transgression is not speech itself but rather making themselves heard by the court. Therefore, since the projection of one’s voice does not involve action, the transgression of conspiring witnesses is considered not be to involving action.
The Gemara asks: And is projecting one’s voice not considered an action according to Rabbi Yoḥanan? But wasn’t it stated that amora’im engaged in a dispute concerning the following case: If one muzzled an animal by projecting his voice, by berating it whenever it tried to eat, has he transgressed the prohibition of: “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the corn” (Deuteronomy 25:4)? And similarly, if one led different species to work together by projecting his voice, without performing any action, has he transgressed the prohibition of: “You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together” (Deuteronomy 22:10)? Rabbi Yoḥanan says he is liable, and Reish Lakish says he is exempt.
The Gemara explains the reasoning behind their opinions: Rabbi Yoḥanan says he is liable, as he maintains that the twisting of one’s mouth to speak is considered an action, whereas Reish Lakish says he is exempt, because he holds that that the twisting of one’s mouth to speak is not considered an action. Evidently, Rabbi Yoḥanan holds that a transgression one commits by projecting his voice is considered to involve an action.
Rather, Rava says there is a different answer to Rabbi Zeira’s objection: Conspiring witnesses are different, since they are rendered liable mainly through sight, i.e., the important part of their testimony is what they saw, which is not considered an action.
§ The Sages taught: A necromancer is one who causes the voice of the dead to be heard speaking from between his joints or from his armpit. A sorcerer [yideoni] is one who places a bone of an animal called a yadua in his mouth, and the bone speaks on its own.
The Gemara raises an objection from the verse: “And your voice shall be as a ghost out of the ground” (Isaiah 29:4). What, does the dead person not speak from the grave on his own? The Gemara answers: No, this is not so, as the dead person rises by sorcery and sits between the joints of the necromancer and speaks.
The Gemara suggests: Come and hear a proof from the statement of the necromancer to King Saul: “And the woman said to Saul, I see a godlike being coming up out of the earth” (I Samuel 28:13). What, does the verse not mean to say that the dead person spoke on his own? The Gemara refutes this proof: No, this is not so, as the dead person sits between the joints of the necromancer and speaks.
The Sages taught: The category of a necromancer includes both one who raises the dead with his zekhur, which is a form of sorcery, and one who inquires about the future from a skull [begulgolet]. What is the difference between this type of necromancer and that type of necromancer? When one raises the dead with his zekhur, the dead does not rise in its usual manner, but appears upside-down, and it does not rise on Shabbat. By contrast, when one inquires about the future from a skull, the dead rises in its usual manner, and it rises [oleh] even on Shabbat.
The Gemara asks with regard to the wording of the last statement: Rises? To where does it rise? Isn’t the skull lying before him? Rather, say as follows: The dead answers in its usual manner, and it answers [ve’oneh] even on Shabbat.
With regard to the statement that the dead do not rise on Shabbat, the Gemara relates: The wicked Turnus Rufus, the Roman governor of Judea, asked this question of Rabbi Akiva as well. Turnus Rufus said to him: And what makes this day, Shabbat, different from other days? Rabbi Akiva said to him: And what makes this man, referring to his interlocutor, more distinguished than other men? Turnus Rufus said to him: I am more distinguished because my master the emperor wants it that way. Rabbi Akiva said to him: Shabbat too is unique because my Master wants it that way, as he has sanctified that day.
Turnus Rufus said to him: This is what I mean to say to you: Who is to say that now is Shabbat? Perhaps a different day of the week is Shabbat. Rabbi Akiva said to him: The Sabbatyon River can prove that today is Shabbat, as it is calm only on Shabbat. A necromancer can also prove this, as the dead do not rise on Shabbat. The grave of his father, referring to Turnus Rufus’s father, can also prove this, as it does not emit smoke on Shabbat, although smoke rises from it all week, as during the week he is being punished in Gehenna. Turnus Rufus said to him: You have demeaned my father, you have publicly shamed him, and you have cursed him by saying that he is being punished in Gehenna.
§ The Gemara asks: Isn’t one who inquires about the future from a necromancer the same as what is described in the verse: “Or directs inquiries to the dead” (Deuteronomy 18:11)? Why are they mentioned separately in the verse?
The Gemara answers: One who directs inquiries to the dead em-ploys a different method to contact the dead, as it is taught in a baraita: “Or directs inquiries to the dead”; this is one who starves himself and goes and sleeps overnight in a graveyard so that a spirit of impurity should settle upon him, and he can listen to what the dead are saying.
And when Rabbi Akiva would arrive at this verse he would weep and say: If one who starves himself so that a spirit of impurity will settle upon him succeeds in doing so, and a spirit of impurity settles upon him, all the more so one who starves himself so that a spirit of purity will settle upon him should be successful, and a spirit of purity should settle upon him. But what can I do, as our iniquities have caused us not to merit the spirit of sanctity and purity, as it is stated: “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2).
Rava says: If the righteous wish to do so, they can create a world, as it is stated: “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God.” In other words, there is no distinction between God and a righteous person who has no sins, and just as God created the world, so can the righteous.
Indeed, Rava created a man, a golem, using forces of sanctity. Rava sent his creation before Rabbi Zeira. Rabbi Zeira would speak to him but he would not reply. Rabbi Zeira said to him: You were created by one of the members of the group, one of the Sages. Return to your dust.
The Gemara relates another fact substantiating the statement that the righteous could create a world if they so desired: Rav Ḥanina and Rav Oshaya would sit every Shabbat eve and engage in the study of Sefer Yetzira, and a third-born calf [igla tilta] would be created for them, and they would eat it in honor of Shabbat.
§ The Sages taught: What is the definition of the soothsayer mentioned in the verse: “There shall not be found among you…a soothsayer” (Deuteronomy 18:10)? Rabbi Shimon says: This is one who applies seven types of semen [zekhur] to one’s eye in order to perform sorcery. And the Rabbis say: This is one who deceives the eyes, as though he is performing sorcery. Rabbi Akiva says: This is one who calculates the fortune of times and hours, and says, for example: Today is a propitious day for going away on a journey; tomorrow is propitious for purchasing property successfully. Or he says that on the eve of the Sabbatical Years, the wheat harvest is generally good; uprooting legumes rather than cutting them from above the ground prevents them from going bad.
The Sages taught: The enchanter mentioned in the verse (Deuteronomy 18:10) is one who relies on superstitious signs, e.g., one who says: If one’s bread fell from his mouth, that is a bad sign for him; or: If one’s staff fell from his hand, it is a bad sign; or: If one’s son calls him from behind, it is a sign that he should return from his journey; or: If a raven calls to him, or if a deer blocks him on the way, or if a snake is to his right, or if a fox is to his left, all of these are bad signs. An enchanter is one who relies on these as bad signs and consequently changes his course of action.