Translation:Shulchan Aruch/Choshen Mishpat/27

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1. One who curses an Israelite [1], and even [if] he curses himself [2],— by the [Divine] Name or by a substitute [3], or by one of the names that the heathens call the Holy One, Blessed be He[4], — if this took place in the presence of witnesses[5] and [was preceded by] warning[6], he receives lashes[7] on account of [the negative precept] 'Thou shalt not curse the deaf,'[8] and if [the cursed person] was a Judge, he receives additional lashes on account of [the negative precept] 'Thou shalt not curse the Judges.'[9] And [if one cursed by] Arur it is considered a form of curse[10]

2. If there was no warning, he did not use a name or surname of God or the curse was via inference, such as where he said so-and-so should not be blessed by God, he will not receive lashes. (In the same vein, one who curses a deceased person is exempt.) It is still prohibited, however. If he degrades a scholar, we put a nidui on him. If the court wants to give him mardus lashes, they can whip him and punish him as much as they see fit. If he degraded an ignoramus, we punish him as much as the circumstances require. (We punish him even if the victim forgave him because he already committed the sin and was liable.) If one deserves a nidui because he treated the court with disrespect, but the court wants to waive their honor and not put a nidui on him, they may do so, so long as it will not cause a loss in the honor of Hashem, such as a case where the people would treat the honor of Torah and judges lightly, in which case we would need to punish as is appropriate since the people were lax in this matter.

  1. Mishna Sheb. 35a and Gemara ibid. 36a.
  2. Tur — G. Mishna and Gemara ibid.: ‘For it is written, Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul (life) diligently (Deut. IV, 9. In Ber. 32a this verse is taken to mean that one should take good care of the body and its needs and not subject himself to dangers whence it is implied that it is forbidden to curse oneself) and … wherever it is said, take heed, lest, or not, it is nothing but a negative precept (Hence, in this verse take heed to thyself also means ‘do not invoke any curse upon thyself’).’
  3. Mishna ibid.: ‘(If one said to witnesses, I adjure you) by Alef-Daleth (the first two letters of Adonai, the Lord) or by Yod-He (the Tetragrammaton) or by Shaddai (the Almighty) or by Ẓebaoth ([Lord] of Hosts) or by the Merciful and Gracious One, or by Him that is long-suffering and of great kindness, or by any of the substitutes of the Name, they are liable … If a man cursed himself or his fellow by any of them, he transgresses a negative precept.’ Gemara ibid. 36a: ‘R. Jannai said: This is the view of both (i.e., R. Meir and the Sages both agree that one who curses himself or his neighbour not merely by the Name, but even by any of the substitutes, transgresses a negative precept).’
  4. San. 60a whence it is derived that substitutes for the Divine Name employed by heathens are considered valid substitutes. Cf. also Ned. 3a, 10a where substitutes regarding vows are considered the foreign equivalents of the Hebrew. Thus Yad, Sanhedrin XXVI, 3 and Tur a.l.
  5. Deut. 19:15
  6. Ket. 33a.
  7. Thus was the procedure in Temple days. Derived from Tem. 3a-b, 4a: ‘R. Iddi b. Abin stated on the authority of R. Amram, R. Isaac and R. Joḥanan: R. Jose the Galilean reported: With regards to every negative precept laid down in the Torah, if one performs an act (in violating it) he is punished with lashes, but if he does not perform an act (in violating it) he is exempt, save in the case of one who takes an oath, exchanges (an unconsecrated animal for one that is consecrated), and curses his fellow with the Name, in which cases, although he performed no act, he is punished (with lashes) … And he who curses his neighbour with the Name: Whence is this derived? — R. Eleazar stated on the authority of R. Oshaia: The text reads, If thou wilt not observe to do etc. (Deut. XXVIII, 58. The verse continues: That thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, the Lord thy God, which intimates that one should not utter the Divine Name in vain and likewise one who curses his neighbour with the Divine Name is included in the same category). And it is written, Then the Lord will make thy plagues wonderful (v. 59). Now I do not know what is the nature of this wonder (peculiarity of punishment). But when it says (ibid. XXV, 2): That the judge cause him to lie down to be beaten (והפילו which is similar to the expression והפלא He will make … wonderful), this indicates that the wonderful (punishment) refers to punishment with lashes … Why not say … since he transgresses two things, first in uttering the Lord’s Name in vain and then in irritating his fellow, consequently, punishment with lashes should not suffice? — You cannot say thus, for it is written, Thou shalt not curse the deaf (Lev. XIX, 14 whether with or without the Divine Name).’ Thus also in Y. Sheb. IV, 10(35d) in accord with R. Jose contra the Colleagues. , however, RaBaD to Yad ibid. who on the basis of Y. ibid. deduces that if one cursed with a substitute he is not punished by lashes. It is only when he curses with the Tetragrammaton, although no act is performed, yet lashes are administered. , Kes. Mish. to Yad ibid. who defends Maim. against RaBaD’s stricture.
  8. Lev. 19:14. Actually the negative precept Thou shalt not curse the deaf includes all persons. The deaf was singled out, although he does not hear and is not subjected to any suffering, so that people should not take advantage of his infirmity. Thus Yad, Sanhedrin XXVI, 1 and Tur a.l. — Cf. also Sifra to Lev. ibid.
  9. Ex. 22:27. Thus San. 66a. This, however, refers to a permanent Judge
  10. Sheb. 36a. It must, however, contain the Name or its substitutes.