י״ט בתשרי ה׳תשע״ח (October 9, 2017)

Sanhedrin 85a-b: Striking One’s Parents

Among the transgressions for which a person may be liable to receive ḥenek – the punishment of death by choking – is someone who hits his mother or his father (see 21:15) or curses them (see 21:17). According to the Mishna on today’s daf such a punishment will only be given if the child actually injures one of his parents and not if he simply makes physical contact with them.

If the parent is to receive a punishment of lashes, can that punishment be carried out by the child? That is to say, if the child works for the beit din and as part of his job he fulfills the court’s rulings and gives malkot to people who are found guilty of actions that would bring upon them a penalty of lashes, could the child perform his job in the face of the prohibition against hitting one’s parents?

This question was presented to Rav Sheshet, and the Gemara tries to respond to it in a number of different ways. The Gemara’s conclusion is that a child would never be permitted to hit his father or his mother – even under instructions from beit din – except for the unique case of a meisit – someone who convinces others to commit idolatry. In the case of meisit the Torah clearly instructs the court that the meisit must be killed and that no mercy can be shown to him (see 13:9). This includes even one’s father, as is understood from the term o rei’akhah asher ke-nefshekhah (see verse 7) – that one’s friend who is likened to one’s own soul refers to his father.

The Ge’onim dealt with a case where there is a business dispute between a parent and a child. Can the child force his father to take an oath, which includes a curse of sorts? Here, too, the recommendation is that the child should pass his claim to a third party so that he is not forced into a situation of cursing his father.