Chapter Thirty-four

About certain Jewish Punishments

Since the Jews no longer have a Scepter [symbol of sovereign authority] and a Government, and they have lost all power over life and limb, they lay certain penances on those who have transgressed, which they must perform. The adulterer must perform certain penances according to the character of the adulterous act. In wintertime he is required for a number of days extending over a certain period to sit in cold water in a brook or other running water. If the water is frozen, they make a hole in it, and he must enter the water naked, and sit there immersed up to his chin for the time it takes to cook an egg. In summer he is required to sit on an anthill naked without any clothing whatsoever. They just plug his nostrils and ears [to keep out the ants from those parts.] Afterwards he must wash in cold water. If the weather is neither hot nor cold, he must fast daily for a certain length of time, eating only late in the day a little bread and water until such time as he can go in cold water, or sit on an anthill. In the Medrasch they write that the first Adam had to sit in water up to his nostrils for one hundred and thirty years, until he fathered Seth, on account of the sin that he had eaten the fruit of the tree. If this punishment appears to be too light, in the summer, the evildoer must run naked through a dense swarm of bees or wasps, and allow himself to be stung, until his body is completely swollen. When he has recovered, he must again undergo the same punishment, and repeat it as many times as is required by his transgression. If he has fornicated or committed adultery many times, he must suffer this punishment for some years. Sometimes a fast is decreed so that the evildoer must fast daily for three whole years, eating only some bread and drinking some water in the evenings. If he prefers, he may engage in a total fast in each of three years, for three days, fasting day and night without any food or drink, just as Queen Esther did in a case of extreme need, and she also enjoined such a fast on all the Jews.

If someone lay with a woman at an improper time [i.e. during menstruation] he has to fast for forty days, and allow himself to be beaten Malkus [stripes] that is to say, he must be beaten on his bare back thirty nine times with a leather strap or belt. He may eat no meat or warm food, drink no wine except for the Sabbath. If someone kisses his own wife, or takes her arm, while she is unclean, he must also fast for forty days.

A murderer must be in a state of penury for three years, and in all the places where Jews live must be whipped, and cry aloud Rotzeach ani, I am a murderer. He must eat no meat and drink no wine, and allow the hair of his head and beard to grow. He may not wash his shirts or other clothing, he may not bathe. Once every month he must cover his head, and carry an iron chain on the arm which committed the murder. He must go around in sight of the Jews, and publicly bewail the death blow which he inflicted. Some are punished in the following manner, namely, that if they sleep one night they must not sleep at all the following night, and therefore must wander around the world like Cain [presumably to avoid this severe punishment.] Some have to wear an iron band on their bare skin. Others must lie down on the threshold of the shul, so that everybody will tread on them with his feet. If one Jew summons another before a Christian magistrate, or reveals his villainy or [illegal] business transactions to the magistrate, he is called a Moser, an informer. They imposes a severe punishment upon him, and consider him despicable and shameful.

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Alan D. Corré