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Rambam Hilchos Avodas Kochavim Chapter 4 - Q & A

Killing Women and Children in an Ir Hanidachas

51 min

Class Summary:

This is the Q&A segment of class in Rambam, the laws of Avodas Kochavim, chapter four, was presented on Monday, Parshas Shoftim, 27 Av, 5780, August 17, 2020, streaming live from Rabbi Jacobson's home in Monsey, NY

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  • M

    miriam -3 years ago

    Dear Rabbi Jacobson:

    Thank you for presenting questions and answers related to IR HANIDACHAS.

    I understand that metzias, not halacha, is taught from the Sodom events.
    I do not know the word "metzias" and was unable to determine its meaning from the context in which it was used. I also searched a dictionary -- without a result.
    Would you please help me learn what is the meaning of "metzias"?
    Thank you for any assistance you may offer.

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

    • Anonymous -3 years ago

      Metzeus means reality. We can't learn a halacha from before Matan Torah, but we can learn about the reality of something from before Matan Torah. Not laws, but facts. 

      Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • M

    mimi -3 years ago


    a fantastic shiur. a) the delivery  b) the translation of all the text (so everyone can understand (even women)  c) the explanation in all its depth and simplicity d) and as always, your hislahavus in giving it over as the rebbi explained it w/o changing it  (שלא שינה) .

    i would like to add a thought, if i may.
    PERHAPS one can also say that the reason why the women and children are included is because of the posuk "והיו לבשר אחד"  . Is it possible to say that this phrase can apply BOTH to the husband and wife who become one in this process and ALSO the child , as result of this oneness has a din of a new entity called אחד.
    just a thought.

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  • S

    Sarah -3 years ago

    Yocheved Hande

    Rabbi YY has jumped ahead a Chapter in the Rambam.

    According to Chayenu, Av 28, August 18th is chapter 4 In the chapter a day of the Rambam.  I love learning with him!!! 🤣, not chapter 5.  Please explain... Thank You!!

    Mordechai Litzman

    How can you larn out halachos from before Mattan Totah? (Sedom)


    Lehavdil individual Nazi collaborators were

    judged individually 


    The Rebbes explanation that the people of the city were joined b'achdus in a negative destructive way

    also explains the requirement that the plural form of "let US  go serve, etc" is necessary and not the singular form


    Is there a difference ...

     between the Ishmaelites "enjoying" killilng and Jews who collectively worship avoday zorah in their passion?


    Why do we give the lighter punishment if the whole city did it?

    When an individual does something deserving of punishment he gets that punishment.  But if the majority of the city does it, i.e. "everybody is doing it", he has not acted alone but is swept up with the crowd and bears less individual responsibility. 

    Re Two Chachamim

    Correct me if I’m wrong, wasn’t it Yeravam ben Nevat who Hashem offered a chance to do Teshuva and offered him a seat next to His Throne?

    Perhaps that was where the Rabmam got his halacha about two chachamim.

    Re The effects of having to do these horrendous acts to the people of the Ir Hanidachas

    Golde Meir is reported to have said, “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but we can’t forgive them for turning our sons into killers.”

    Kaila STEMPEL

    Question for Rabbi YY

    Does the Ohr HaChaim always go by lifnim meshuras hadin? Do we follow the "lifnim" or the din when they seem opposite?


    Re A Mezuzah in an Ir Hanidachas

    Rabbi Chaim Jachter says: “The Gemara (Sanhedrin 71b) presents an opinion that an Ir HaNidachat would never occur. The Gemara explains that since the Torah requires that everything in an Ir HaNidachat be burned, an Ir HaNidachat cannot be destroyed, so long as it contains even a single Mezuzah. Since a Mezuzah contains Hashem’s name, it cannot be destroyed; its destruction would violate the prohibition of erasing Hashem’s name (Devarim 12:4, with Rashi’s comments)

    “This idea has profound implications. One tiny Mezuzah can spare an entire city from the status of an Ir HaNidachat! This teaches that a drop of positive energy has the power and potential to counter much negativity. The Kabbalah expresses this idea in its statement that a little bit of light can dispel much darkness.”

    He then tells this story. The Lubavitcher Rebbe is reported to have remarked that if he heard that a city was about to be declared an Ir HaNidachat, he would arise at two in the morning and affix a Mezuzah to a home in that city. In other words, were a city to be devoid of any authentic Jewish influence and presence, the Lubavitcher Rebbe would create an authentic center of Jewish life. As is well known, this was not a passing sentiment of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, but rather a life’s mission for himself and his followers. An examination of www.chabad.org leads one to marvel at the hundreds of centers of Jewish life established by followers of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in almost every corner of the globe, especially in areas which had a dearth of Jewish life. These efforts are part of the happy story of the resurgence and revitalization of Orthodox Judaism in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

    The Ben Sorer Umoreh – a distant cousin of the Ir Hanidachas, with one major difference

    The gemara Sanhedrin 71b says that an Ir Hanidachas will never happen.

    The impossible, minute details, conditions and requirements of the Ir Hanidachas make it virtually impossible to ever happen.

    This is similar, but on a smaller scale, to the Ben Sorer Umoreh, because the minute details are virtually impossible to happen.

    But there is one major difference.

    In the case of the BenSorer Umoreh, the Torah is actually telling us how to create a Ben Sorer Umoreh, and therefore, how to avoid creating such a son.

    The Torah says, “Aynenu shomeah b’kol aviv u’v’kol immo – there is a separate kol aviv and kol immo. The parents are not united, and they argue in front of the child. The father tells the child one thing and the mother tells the child something else.

    The only time they get to get together is when they take the child to the ziknei ha’ir and they say, “B’neinu zeh sorer umoreh, aynaynu shomeah b’koleinu – They finally have one voice, when they accuse their child, when it’s too late.

    The lesson is that parents must not argue in front of their children, and always have one voice in front of their children, or they will create a Ben Sorer Umoreh.



    Are Sifrei Torah also burnt





    You said in the beginning...

    The logistics of carrying out what needs to be done to Eer Hanidochos would be incredibly challenging. 

    You said in the beginning of the class that this never happened, but that know these things and how they may be resolved, helps in our growth. Weould have to listen again to see what you mean, but maybe you can elaborate? How does all of this help in our everyday lives today?


    Don't go to.an ashram



    If the Sanhedrin burns all the houses in the city

    why bother gathering all the movable property into the town square for a  separate fire. 


    What if many run away after the court begins to investigates?

    If there is  a rumor and the Sanhedrin begins to investigate and it appears that all conditions to destroy the  city are met, smart people will run away.  Is the majority factor determined as of the date of  the allegation, the investigation or the trial? 

    If enough people run away to save themselves this might affect whether a majority was reached or  not. 


    If all conditions were met ...

    Were there ever investigations that were conducted  that led to the decision that it really wasn't such a city? 


    What is the psychology/is there a psychology behind having it be in the "plural" as opposed to talking to each individual separately


    Are the Rambam classes on Zoom also?


    Avraham Avinu tried to save Sedom if there were 10 righteous people

    But chapter 4 here seems to say that a minority of 10 people will NOT save the city from destruction.  Why the difference? 


    Wa there ever such a city that was obliterated by the court for avoda zora?

    or like the "ben sorer u'morer" it never actually happened in reality?

     Reading the punishment to a young man going OTD would scare him back on the detech; similarly reading the fate of a whole city going OTD should have scared them back on also.  Assuming it got bad enough for the court lo send shluchim to warn them.

      If neither case actually ever happened,  what was the purpose here? To scare people? To highlight the right path? 


    Query whether this chapter applies to a city of jews or nonjews?

    The "M'yisroel" could mean OF jews or IN Israel. 

    If the chapter applies to nonjews it would mean the application of jewish law to nonjews exercising their first amendment right to worship as they please, assuming no harm to others.

    But, assuming the chapter apllies to a city of  yidden, the majority or all of whom have gone bad, the question arises: Before the majority or all of the inhabitants of a city have gone bad it logically must have begun with one or a few "super spresders" who infected everyone else with avoda zora.  . 

    Where was the court  case and/or conviction and punishment of those initial perps? Why was it allowed to spread unchecked?

    Even Guiliani recognized that to stop the spread of  crime in the city,, and avoid it going bad, he had to rein the windshield washers and graffiti, the precursors to more widespread lawlessness. 


    If there's time, the questions from previous shiur

    never gotten to.

    Further to that shiur: its easy to say that idolators who serve little man made figurines made by Terach types is avoda zora and when a yid serves one in the way its normally served he's in trouble (assuming witness and timely warnings and responses) but...

      What if the pagans worshipped the moon by raising themselves on their toes daily? Or worshipped the sun by making a blessing with Hashem's name every 28 years or even daily? What if they worshipped the stars by waving a Lulav and esrog? What if they worshipped by eating matzo? By waving a chicken around their head?  Etc. Etc

    To use a figurine is obviously avoda zora but to worship the sun, the moon or the stars, or nature like a  tree (query tree hugging environmentalists?);  is less obvious. Other monotheists might say kiddush levans, Kaporos,  birchat hachama, etc is avoda zora according to  them! 

     Also to defecate, offer up a urine sample etc is obviously avoda zora to us but what if their specific worship rituals were more similar to, or exactly like, our own rituals? 

    The strange case of the Ben sorer u'morer never actually happened.  Considering the requirements for witnesses to the very act, warnings just before and a response from the would be perp, make conviction and punishment very unlikely, the  question is: did conviction and/or punishment ever actually happen that we know of? Or, again, is this listed for us to know the standards expected of  us? 

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Rambam Mishneh Torah Q & A

Rabbi YY Jacobson

  • August 17, 2020
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  • 27 Av 5780
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Dedicated by Fariborz Sani, in loving memory and soul-elevation of Rachamin ben Aziz Sani Halevi; and in honor of the Sani family and relatives

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