Thoughts on Judaism

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Hilarious Gemora

Bechoros 51

Hanina the evil one punched (possibly in the ear) a certain person, and he was required to pay a sela, equaling a half zuz (the coin of that time). He offered a very worn zuz (which was acceptable according to halacha but) which he could not circulate (thus costing him nothing) and requiring the victim to actually pay him a 1/2 zuz as change. The court ruled that the man whom he struck did not have to give change for the worn zuz, so Hanina struck him again and gave him the coin.

Were the courts that inept and powerless to administer justice, or is this an allegory about injustice? I rather suspect the latter, but I wonder what fundamentalists do with this story. The sages were about as sarcastic and funny in expressing themselves as jurists in any century ever.


  • The story does not sound like an allegory. More likely this is what happened:
    Judge: give your victim the 1/2 zuz.
    Hanina: I only have a full one.
    Judge: No one will make change for it. It's too old.
    Hanina: well then I'll just whack him again and owe him a whole zuz!

    Perhaps it's a lesson about how justice can sometimes be too logical and not flexible enough to make smart decisions.

    By Anonymous Mighty Garnel Ironheart, at 4:39 PM  

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