Which rabbis in the Talmud were placed under cherem (excommunication)? We know about Rabbi Eliezer Bava Metzia 59b and Rabbi Akavia ben Mahalal’el [Eduyyot 7b, but see discussion there]. Anybody else?


6 Answers 6


Rabbi Eliezer Baba Metzia 59b (as cited in the question)

ונמנו עליו וברכוהו

Then they took a vote and excommunicated him

The Mishna in Ta'anit 3:8 mentions a Hava Amina of Shim'on ben Shatach to make a Cherem or Choni Hameagel.

שָׁלַח לוֹ שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן שָׁטָח, אִלְמָלֵא חוֹנִי אַתָּה, גּוֹזְרַנִי עָלֶיךָ נִדּוּי.

Simeon, son of Shatach sent him word, "If thou wert not Honee, I would order thee to be anathematised

Akavia Ben Mahalalel or Eleazar Ben Chanoch (machloket tanayim). Eduyot 5:6

.ונדוהו, ומת בנדויו, וסקלו בית דין את ארונו. אמר רבי יהודה, חס ושלום שעקביא נתנדה, שאין עזרה ננעלת בפני כל אדם מישראל בחכמה וביראת חטא כעקביא בן מהללאל. ואת מי נדו, אלעזר בן חנוך שפקפק בטהרת ידים. ..‏

They excommunicated him, and he died in excommunication, and the Court stoned his coffin. Said Rabbi Yehudah: God-forbid [one should say] that Akavya was excommunicated! For the [Temple] courtyard is never locked for any man of Israel who has wisdom and fear of sin like Akavya the son of Mehalelel [had]. So who did [the Court] excommunicate? It was Elazar the son of Khanoch, who mocked the [laws of] purity of hands.

There is a story in Gittin 7a with "gniva", an Amora who was not good who died after a klala from Rabbi Elazar.

  • I see downvote, somewhat is wrong?
    – kouty
    Mar 17, 2019 at 9:27
  • This didn't provide any additional information than the question asked -1
    – Dr. Shmuel
    Mar 17, 2019 at 9:32
  • ..Elazar ben Chanoch
    – kouty
    Mar 17, 2019 at 9:34

Moed Kattan 17a brings several examples of Talmidei Chachamim who were excommunicated.

  • There is a No named rabbi whom Rav Yehuda excommunicated because he wasn't acting properly and this led to that Rabbis eventual death.

  • Reish Lakish also was excommunicated for having excommunicated someone else who took fruit from his field. This is because he should have told the guy to give the fruit back.

  • Rav Pappa said in general not to excommunicate Talmidei Chachamim, so if one has to one should excommunicate oneself until releasing that Talmid Chacham from his excommunication. See here
  • I’m not sure that the first two were necessarily Rabbis
    – DonielF
    May 20, 2019 at 14:45

Here is one more, from a minor tractate of the Talmud, Derech Eretz Rabbah, chapter 1:

-Rabbi Yosei ben Taddai of Tiberias said to Rabbi Gamliel: My daughter is forbidden to me, but her mother [my wife] is permitted to me.
-If the daughter of someone who is permitted to me is NOT permitted to me, then all the more reason why the daughter of someone who is NOT permitted to me should NOT be permitted to me. -Now, most mothers are married and are forbidden to me.
-If they are forbidden to me, then so are their daughters.
-Therefore all marriages are forbidden.

Rabban Gamliel then promptly placed him under cherem (excommunicated him): This sort of kal vachomer (a fortiori) argument is permitted, but you may not use it to abrogate a law of the Torah.


An anonymous Rabbi moved from Pumbedita to Bei Kobi, which was forbidden according to Rav Yosef, and was excommunicated.

רב יהודה אמר שמואל כשם שאסור לצאת מארץ ישראל לבבל כך אסור לצאת מבבל לשאר ארצות רבה ורב יוסף דאמרי תרוייהו אפילו מפומבדיתא לבי כובי ההוא דנפק מפומבדיתא לבי כובי שמתיה רב יוסף ההוא דנפק מפומבדיתא לאסתוניא שכיב אמר אביי אי בעי האי צורבא מרבנן הוה חיי

Rav Yehuda said in the name of Shmuel: just as it is forbidden to leave Israel to Babylon, so is it forbidden to leave Babylon to other lands. Raba and Rav Yosef both said that this applies even to moving from Pumbedita to Bei Kobi. There was a case of someone who left Pumbedita for Bei Kobi, and Rav Yosef excommunicated him. Another person left Pumbedita for Astonia, and died. Abaye said, if this scholar had wanted, he could have lived. (Ketubot 111a)

(I left the last lines in the quote to show that the context suggests that this is a discussion specifically about scholars who leave their place of learning.)


In Menachos 37a, Rebbi offered to excommunicate Pelimo:

בעא מיניה פלימו מרבי מי שיש לו שני ראשים באיזה מהן מניח תפילין א"ל או קום גלי או קבל עלך שמתא אדהכי אתא ההוא גברא א"ל איתיליד לי ינוקא דאית ליה תרי רישי כמה בעינן למיתב לכהן

Pelimo asked of Rebbe, “Someone who has two heads - on which of them does he place tefillin?” He said to him, “Either go into exile or accept upon yourself excommunication [because you’re mocking me with your question - Rashi].” At the same time a man came and said to him, “A child was born to me with two heads. How much do I need to give to the Kohen [for Pidyon Haben]?”

Moed Katan 17a and Nedarim 7b say that Mar Zutra Chasida would excommunicate himself whenever he had to excommunicate another scholar:

מר זוטרא חסידא כי מיחייב צורבא מרבנן שמתא ברישא משמית נפשיה והדר משמית לדידיה כי הוה עייל באושפיזיה שרי ליה לנפשיה והדר שרי ליה לדידיה

When a scholar was obligated to be excommunicated, Mar Zutra Chasida would first excommunicate himself, and afterwards he would excommunicate [the scholar]. When he reached his lodgings, he would remove his own [excommunication], and then would remove [the scholar’s].

Kesuvos 69a says that Rav Huna threatened to excommunicate Rav Sheishes if the latter didn’t relay the former’s message properly:

יתיב רב ששת קמיה אמר ליה זיל אימא ליה ובשמתא יהא מאן דלא אמר ליה

Rav Sheishes was sitting before [Rav Huna]. He said to him, “Go, say this to him, and he who doesn’t say this will be in excommunication.”

Bava Metzi’a 86a relates that anyone who would remove himself from eulogizing Rabbah would be excommunicated:

ספדוהו תלתא יומי ותלתא לילותא נפל פתקא כל הפורש יהא בנידוי ספדוהו שבעה יומי נפל פתקא לכו לביתכם לשלום

They eulogized him for three days and three nights. A letter fell: “Whoever separates will be excommunicated.” They eulogized him for seven days. A letter fell: “Go to your homes in peace.”

I’m not sure whether these count or not:

Eruvin 18b describes Adam HaRishon as having been in Nidui for the Eitz HaDa’as:

אמר רבי ירמיה בן אלעזר כל אותן השנים שהיה אדם הראשון בנידוי הוליד רוחין ושידין ולילין שנאמר ויחי אדם שלשים ומאת שנה ויולד בדמותו כצלמו מכלל דעד האידנא לאו כצלמו אוליד

R’ Yirmiya son of Elazar said, “All those years in which Adam HaRishon was excommunicated, he bore spirits, demons, and liliths, as it says, “And Adam lived for 130 years and bore in his image,” implying that until then he did not bear in his image.

Makkos 11b says that Yehudah son of Yaakov was excommunicated:

אמר רב יהודה אמר רב נידוי על תנאי צריך הפרה מנלן מיהודה דכתיב (בראשית מג, ט) אם לא הביאותיו אליך וגו' וא"ר שמואל בר נחמני א"ר יונתן מאי דכתיב (דברים לג, ו) יחי ראובן ואל ימות וגו' וזאת ליהודה כל אותן מ' שנה שהיו ישראל במדבר עצמותיו של יהודה היו מגולגלין בארון עד שעמד משה ובקש עליו רחמים

Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav, “Excommunication on condition requires annulment. From where do we know this? From Yehudah, as it says, ‘If I don’t bring [Binyamin] back to you, etc.’” And R’ Shmuel bar Nachmani said in the name of R’ Yochanan, “What is that which is written, ‘Reuven should live and not die, and this is for Yehudah’? All those 40 years that the Jews were in the desert, the bones of Yehudah were rolling in the coffin until Moshe stood up and begged for mercy for him.”

  • 1
    Interesting. Does not add to the list of those on the receiving end, but contains useful information: Your "When a scholar was obligated to be excommunicated..." implies it was not an uncommon occurrence, and your "he would remove..." implies it was reversible. May 21, 2019 at 2:03
  • @Maurice That page in MK is in the middle of the main places in Shas where excommunication is discussed. You’ll find there that excommunication is always reversible, it just need to be done in a particular manner.
    – DonielF
    May 21, 2019 at 2:05

There is a censored Gemora about a certain Rabbi named Yeshu -Jesus which until recently was excluded by the church (as deemed unscrupulous behaviour of their religion's founder whom was supposedly flawless) and reinstated in recent editions of tractate Sanhedrin 107b:

כדקטלינהו ינאי מלכא לרבנן אזל רבי יהושע בן פרחיה וישו לאלכסנדריא של מצרים כי הוה שלמא שלח לי' שמעון בן שטח מני ירושלים עיר הקודש ליכי אלכסנדרי' של מצרים אחותי בעלי שרוי בתוכך ואנכי יושבת שוממה קם אתא ואתרמי ליה ההוא אושפיזא עבדו ליה יקרא טובא אמר כמה יפה אכסניא זו אמר ליה רבי עיניה טרוטות אמר ליה רשע בכך אתה עוסק אפיק ארבע מאה שיפורי ושמתיה
When Yanai the King of Israel was killing all the Rabbis, Rabbi Yehoshua the son of Perachia and Yeshu his Pupil fled to Alexandria in Egypt. When there was peace again Rabbi Shimon the son of Shetach sent: "From me Yerushalayim the Holy city to you Alexandria of Egypt my sister: My husband Dwells among you and i am bereft, come back now!"
So Rabbi Yehoshua and Yeshu (after receving this coded message that it was safe to return) made his way back. On the way they came across an inn host that accorded them a lot of honour, Rabbi Yehoshua said: "What a Lovely Host!"
To which Yeshu replied: "My master did you not see? Her eyes are narrow (i.e she's ugly)."
At which point Rabbi Yehoshua was angered and retorted; "wicked man is that all you are thinking about Physical beauty?" The matter led to Yeshu being excommunicated with 400 Shofar horns.

  • Yeshu isn’t necessarily Jesus
    – DonielF
    Apr 7, 2019 at 18:24
  • 1
    I don't see any evidence this is about a rabbi. -1.
    – msh210
    Apr 8, 2019 at 7:28
  • 2
    @msh210 Akavya ben Mehalal'el who is mentioned in the question isn't a rabbi either (and other answers mention cases of a צורבא מרבנן or of Choni). I don't think "rabbi" of the question was meant so narrowly as to exclude a student of a scholar
    – b a
    Apr 8, 2019 at 10:08
  • @msh210 Rambam introduction Mishna:שכל מי שיהיה בעיניו נכבד מאד במעלתו על כל המעלות קראו בשמו כגון שאמר הלל ושמאי ושמעיה ואבטליון וזה לגדולתם וכבוד מעלתם בשביל שאי אפשר למצוא כנוי ראוי להם לכבד את שמם כמו שאין כנוי לנביאים. As anyone who would be very honored in his level – above all the other levels – in [the redactor's] eyes, he called by his name; for example, Hillel and Shammai and Shemaya and Avtalyon. And that is [an indication of] their greatness, as it is impossible to find a title that is fitting for them [with which] to honor their names, just as there is no title for the prophets
    – user15464
    Apr 8, 2019 at 18:06
  • @msh210 obviously this title would be apropriate about Yeshu before he sinned whom as the story above indicates was a void to fill and Yerushalayim was "Desolate" whithout Yehoshua Ben Chananya and Yeshu
    – user15464
    Apr 8, 2019 at 18:10

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