Sanhedrin, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Four



Mishnah four discusses the execution of the rebellious elder.


Mishnah Four

1)                     He [the rebellious elder] was executed neither by his local court nor by the court at Yavneh, but rather was taken to the great court in Jerusalem and kept there until the [next] festival  and executed on the festival, for it says, “And all the people shall hear and fear, and do no more presumptuously” (Deut. 17:13), according to the words of Rabbi Akiba.

a)                                           Rabbi Judah says:  “His judgment must not be delayed, but he is executed immediately, and proclamations are written and sent by messengers to all places, “So and so has been sentenced to death at the court.”



The execution of the rebellious elder has a deterrent quality to it, demonstrating to all who see or hear the execution that rebellion against the high court is punishable by death.  There are two opinions in our mishnah with regards to how the execution is to be carried out.  According to Rabbi Akiva, the execution must take place at the high court, where it will receive the most exposure.   Furthermore, it must take place during the festival when Jews would gather at the Temple to celebrate.  Only by bringing the person to the Temple and executing him on the holiday will the execution achieve the maximum deterrence.  Rabbi Judah seems to be disturbed by the long wait between the sentence and execution which would result from Rabbi Akiva’s suggestion. Rabbi Judah therefore states that the rebellious elder is to be executed immediately, and the deterrent will be achieved by sending letters with messengers stating that so and so had been executed.


Questions for Further Thought:

·                      Why is Rabbi Judah so concerned that the execution take place immediately?