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Sanhedrin, 45


QUESTION: The Mishnah teaches that, in the procedure of administering Sekilah, when the witness pushes the guilty person down from the Beis ha'Sekilah, he pushes him at his loins. If he falls on his heart (on his front), then he is to be turned onto his loins (either his back or his side, as will be clarified). RASHI writes that we turn him because when he is lying "Perakdon" (on his back) it is more disgraceful to him. Although the Rishonim in a number of places argue whether "Perakdon" refers to lying on one's front or on one's back, Rashi consistently explains that "Perakdon" means lying on one's back (see Rashi to Berachos 13b and Nidah 14a). Rashi here seems to be saying that we turn the person on his back because it will be a *greater* disgrace for him, as part of his punishment. How, though, can that be? We find throughout the Sugya that we make an effort to kill the person in the *least* disgraceful manner, because of "v'Ahavta l'Re'acha Kamocha." (SHEVUS YAKOV 1:4, cited by GILYON HA'SHAS)

In addition, if "Perakdon" means "face down," and Rashi is explaining why we do not want him to lie face down, then why does Rashi say we turn him on his back because it is disgraceful? He should have explained that we turn him on his back so that he dies faster when the stone falls on his heart, as RABEINU YEHONASAN MI'LUNIL explains.


(a) The SHEVUS YAKOV cites the RAMBAM (Hilchos Sanhedrin 15:1) who explains the Mishnah in a different manner than the straightforward understanding. The Rambam explains that the witness pushes the guilty person from behind *in order that* he fall on his front. The Mishnah is not saying that we try to have him fall on his back, but rather that we try to have him fall on his front. The Shevus Yakov suggests that Rashi also learns the Mishnah this way. When the Mishnah says afterwards that we turn him "on his loins" it means that after he falls on his face we turn him back over so that the stone should kill him quicker. When Rashi says that lying "Perakdon" is a greater disgrace, he is not explaining why we turn him over so that his face is up, but rather he is explaining the reason for the first step -- why we push him so that his face will be down if, anyway, we are going to turn him over so that his face is up. Why do we first push him down on his front and then have to turn him over? We should push him down onto his back to begin with! Rashi answers that we want him to fall on his face because it is more disgraceful to lie on his back, and we want to minimize his disgrace. Afterwards, we turn him over either because he is dead and will no longer be disgraced by his position, or because he is alive and we want to kill him with the stone and he will die faster with his face up.

However, this explanation is problematic. First, Rashi's comments are written on the words "we turn him over" ("Hofcho Al Masnav"), implying that Rashi is explaining why we turn him over onto his back, and not why we make him fall onto his front. Second, the Rambam's explanation is based on his Girsa of the Mishnah which does not include the words "Hofcho Al Masnav," and the Rambam does not mention anything about turning him over (see the KAPACH edition of Perush ha'Mishnayos of the Rambam). According to the Girsa of our texts, the Rambam's explanation will not fit well into the words of the Mishnah.

(b) The ARUCH LA'NER suggests a different explanation. While the RAMBAM and RABEINU YEHONASAN MI'LINUL understand "Masnav" to refer to the back of the loins, Rashi seems to understand that it refers to the side (as it normally does). Rashi explains that if the person falls on his front, we turn him over in order that he die faster when the stone is thrown on him. Why, though, do we turn the person on his side? We should turn him on his back! Rashi therefore explains that it would be a greater disgrace for him to lie on his back, and therefore the best solution is to turn him on his side, where it will not be as disgraceful but it also will not take as long to die.


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