Sanhedrin, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Six



The first section of mishnah six defines what it means to prophesy in the name of an idol. The remainder of the mishnah discusses the adulterer.


Mishnah Six

1)                     “He who prophesies in the name of an idol”:  this is one who says, “Thus has the idol declared” even if he directed the teaching to declare the unclean, unclean, or the clean, clean.

2)                     “One who has sexual relations with a married woman” after her entry into her husband’s home for marriage, though she did not have sexual relations with her husband, the one who has relations with her is strangled.

3)                     “Witnesses who testified falsely [to the adultery of] a priest’s daughter, and the one who has had sexual relations with her”, for all false witnesses are led forth to meet the same death [which they sought to impose,] save witnesses who testified falsely [to the adultery of] a priest’s daughter, and the one who has had sexual relations with her.



Section one:  One who prophesies in the name of an idol is liable for the death penalty even if his teaching agreed with the accepted halacha.  The very act of attributing a teaching to an idol is punishable by death regardless of the content of the teaching itself (see Deuteronomy 18:20).

Section two:  Adultery with a married woman is punishable by strangling whereas adultery with a betrothed woman is punishable by stoning (see chapter 7, mishnah four).  Our mishnah defines the moment that a woman is transformed from being a betrothed woman to being a married woman.  That moment is defined as her entering her husband’s house, after having left her father’s house, regardless of whether or not she has yet had sexual relations with her husband.  Henceforth anyone who has adultery with her will be punished by strangling and not stoning.

Section three:  Generally, when a witness is found to have testified falsely, he is punished with the same punishment that he tried to impose on the accused (see Deuteronomy 19:16-21).  We will learn about this law in greater length in the next tractate, Makkot.  Witnesses who testify falsely with regards to a priest’s daughter who committed adultery, punishable by burning, (see chapter nine, mishnah one) and the one who had relations with her, punishable by strangling, are not burned as they tried to impose on her but rather strangled as they tried to impose on him.  Since with one act of false testimony they testify that she is to be burned and he is to be strangled, they (the false witnesses) are punished by the lesser of the two, which is strangling.   


Congratulations!  We have finished Sanhedrin. 

It is a tradition at this point to thank God for helping us to finish learning the tractate and to commit ourselves to going back and relearning it, so that we may not forget it and so that its lessons will stay with us for all of our lives. 

For those of you who have learned with us the entire tractate, a hearty Yasher Koach (congratulations).  You have accomplished a great deal and you should be proud of yourselves.  Indeed we have now finished together four tractates of Mishnah, and are more than halfway through the entire order of Nezikin.  Of course, we have much more to learn.  We will begin Makkot tomorrow!