Sanhedrin, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Seven

 

Introduction

The first half of mishnah seven deals with one who gives of his seed to Molech.  The second half of mishnah seven deals with the “Ba’al Ob” and the “Yidde’oni”.  We will explain all of these terms below.

 

Mishnah Seven

1)                     He who gives of his seed to Molech is not liable unless he delivers it to Molech and causes it to pass through the fire.

a)                                           If he gave it to Molech but did not cause it to pass through the fire, or he caused it to pass through fire but did not give it to Molech, he incurs no penalty, unless he does both.

2)                     A Ba’al Ob  is the pithom  who speaks from his armpit.

a)                                           The Yidde’oni is one who speaks from his mouth.

b)                                          These two are stoned; while he who inquires of them transgresses a formal prohibition.

 

Explanation

Section one: “Molech” was the name given by a god worshipped by some of Israel’s neighbors.  It is mentioned in Leviticus 20:2, where it specifically states that one who gives of his seed to Molech shall be stoned.  It is also mentioned in Leviticus 18:21 and II Kings 23:10.  According to the Rabbis “giving one’s seed to Molech” involved giving one’s child to the priests of Molech and their passing him from one side of a fire to another.  The child was not consumed by the fire.  (Although some commentators hold that this was a form of child sacrifice.  For an interesting article on Biblical scholarship with regards to the cult of Molech, see the JPS Commentary on Leviticus).  Our mishnah teaches that in order for the father to be obligated for the death penalty he must both give the child to the priests of Molech and cause the child to be passed through the fire.  If he does only one of these he is not to be stoned.

Section two:  Leviticus 19:31 specifically warns that Israelites are not to make inquiry of the “Ovoth” or the “Yidde’onim”.  These were different types of sorcerers or oracles who would conjure up spirits in order to tell the future.  According to our mishnah a “Ba’al Ob”, or Master of the Ob” was a “pithom”, which in Greek means a conjurer.  According to Rashi he would place a skull underneath his armpit and use it to predict the future.  A “Yidde’oni” would also conjure up spirits but he would speak from his mouth.  If an Israelite were to act as a conjurer of this sort he would be obligated for stoning. If an Israelite were to inquire of a “Ba’al Ob” or “Yidde’oni” he would transgress a negative commandment, but he would not be obligated for the death penalty.

 

 

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