כ״ט באלול ה׳תשע״ה (September 13, 2015)

Nazir 23a-b: Rabbinic Lashes

The Mishna on our daf introduces a case where a woman accepts the laws of nezirut on herself, and then proceeds to perform acts that are forbidden to a nazir. According to the Mishna, if her husband is mefer and nullifies her vow – based on his powers as described in Bamidbar (30:9) and throughout Massekhet Nedarim – she will not be punished, although Rabbi Yehuda rules that she will receive makat mardut – Rabbinic lashes.

Just as someone who transgresses a biblical prohibition is liable to receive malkot – lashes – as punishment, instituted malkot for a variety of transgressions, as well. The Talmud Yerushalmi and the Ge’onim list a number of practical differences between these two punishments – Biblical malkot have a prescribed number – 39 – which are given under strict medical supervision. Makat mardut have no limit; they are given until the transgressor offers contrition and commits himself to refrain from the transgression in the future.

While biblical malkot are given only for specific, active transgressions based on the ruling of the courts, makat mardut apply to a wide variety of things, including neglecting mitzvot aseh (positive commandments) and rabbinic prohibitions.

Rav Sa’adia Ga’on argues with this and rules that makat mardut are no more than 13 lashes, and Tosafot suggest that they are modeled on the biblical punishment and are limited to 39 lashes. Some of the rishonim suggest that not all makat mardut are created equal – depending on the severity of the act and the need to discourage its repetition, makat mardut may be either harsher or less severe than biblical malkot.

The simplest interpretation of the term mardut is that it is from the word mered – rebellion or uprising – that this is the punishment given to someone who is rebelling against Jewish law or Jewish practice (see the commentaries to I Shmu’el 20:30).

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