In Sefer Hamitzvos, negative commandment 52 about marrying non-Jews, the Rambam says

There are variations regarding the punishment for one who transgresses this prohibition. If he has relations with her in public, the punishment is carried out by one who kills him while he is in the act — as Pinchas did to Zimri.


If, however, nobody knows of the act, or he separated from her before the zealous could kill him, his punishment is kares.

From here it seems the Rambam holds that marrying a non-Jew punishable by kares. But in the Mishneh Torah, Issurei Biah 12 he says

When a Jew engages in relations with a woman from other nations, [taking her] as his wife or a Jewess engages in relations with a non-Jew as his wife, they are punished by lashes, according to Scriptural Law.

This seems to clearly say it's punishable by lashes.

How can these two statements be reconciled?

1 Answer 1


Notice that the sentence that you have bolded

If, however, nobody knows of the act, or he separated from her before the zealous could kill him, his punishment is kares.

speaks of a situation in which there are no witnesses that can convict him. The halacha requires that he have been warned by witnesses who can testify in bais din so that he can be convicted.

Rambam Issurei Biah - Chapter Twelve Halacha 6 explicitly says

6 If the zealous did not strike him, nor did he receive stripes from the court,18 his punishment is explicitly stated in the words of the prophetic tradition. He is liable for karet,19 as [Malachi 2:11-12] states: "Judah desecrated that which is sacred to God, [by] loving and engaging in relations with the daughter of a foreign god. May God cut off from a man who does this any progeny and descendant." [Implied is]20 that if he is an Israelite, he will not have progeny among the wise who will raise issues, nor a descendant among the scholars who will respond. If he is a priest, he will not have [a descendant] who "presents an offering to the Lord of Hosts." Thus you have learned that a person who shares intimacy with a gentile woman is considered as if he married a false deity, as the verse states: "engaging in relations with the daughter of a foreign god." And he is called one who "desecrated that which is sacred to God."

18. The Maggid Mishneh writes that if he was given "stripes for rebellious conduct" by the court, he is no longer liable for kereit. Our Sages (Makkot 23b) state a similar concept with regard to a person who receives lashes for the violation of a Scriptural prohibition. The Rambam extends the idea to include a person who is punished on the basis of Rabbinic decree.

19. This applies even if relations are conducted in private.

20. As interpreted by Yevamot 22b, 23a.

As pointed out in the BACKGROUND TO THE DAILY DAF Yevamos 49

[line 3]כרתKARES (KARES AND MISAH B'YEDEI SHAMAYIM: Heavenly Punishment of Untimely Death)

(a)Some sins are so severe that they are punished with untimely death. There are two types of untimely death that are used as heavenly punishments: Kares, and Misah b'Yedei Shamayim. Kares means "being severed" from the world and dying before one's time. Misah b'Yedei Shamayim means "death at the hands of heaven." These punishments are not administered by the courts, but through divinely administered justice.

(b)One who deliberately transgresses a commandment that is punishable with either Kares or Misah b'Yedei Shamayim is punished even if there are no witnesses to his act, and even if he was not warned at that time of his transgression that his violation will result in his untimely death.

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    In court it gets lashed but without court is gets Karet? Is there any other example of that phenomenon?
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 0:41
  • Yes I picked up references to other punishments including misa when I googled "bais din punishments kares lashes" however that would have made the posting to long to be easily readable. I also remember it from the daf yomi earlier. @DoubleAA Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 0:48
  • Ok, but usually the presence of witnesses produces a more severe punishment (eg execution by court for which teshuvah doesn’t help vs kares for which it does, etc). Yet here you’re saying it’s inverted and the presence of witnesses makes the punishment less severe - which seems strange. It is almost to the benefit of the perpetrator to make sure witnesses are watching, so he will only be lashed instead of dying. Something just doesn’t sound right about that.
    – user9806
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 3:29
  • @user9806 No it is not a matter of severity, but a matter of whether the jurisdiction is in bais din shel ma'aleh (heavenly court) or bais din shel matah (earthly court). In any case kares occurs only when the heavenly court is the one that decrees the sentence. Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 3:35
  • But it is about severity, as I’ve explained. The presence/absence of witnesses might dictate which jurisdiction is involved (earth court or heavenly) but the punishment should be equivalent. Getting lashed certainly seems (and is portrayed throughout halacha) as being a lesser punishment than dying (kares).
    – user9806
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 3:46

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