1) THE WITNESSES WHO RELATE THE WORDS OF THE BLASPHEMER
QUESTION: The Beraisa teaches that both one who hears a blasphemer curse the name of Hash-m, and one who hears from someone who heard the curse, must rend their garment. The Beraisa continues and teaches that during the trial of a person accused of blaspheming, when the witnesses mention the name of Hash-m they do not tear Keri'ah again, since they already tore Keri'ah when they heard the original curse. The Gemara asks, why should the witnesses not tear Keri'ah a second time? Just because they heard the curse once is no reason to exempt them from Keri'ah when they hear it a second time! The Gemara answers that the witnesses' exemption from a second Keri'ah is derived from the verse (Melachim II 19:1) that relates what Chizkiyahu did when witnesses reported to him the blasphemy of Ravshakei. When Chizkiyahu heard the curst, he tore his clothing. The Gemara infers from the verse that only Chizkiyahu tore his clothing, because he was hearing the curse for the first time, but the people who related the curse to him did not tear their clothing a second time.
TOSFOS (DH ha'Melech) asks, how could the witnesses have told Chizkiyahu what Ravshakei said? The Mishnah states that as long as the Beis Din is judging the case, the name of Hash-m is not used. Only when the final verdict, the Gemar Din, is issued is the curse repeated with the name of Hash-m. How could the witnesses have used the name of Hash-m when they reported the incident to Chizkiyahu?
(a) The TESHUVOS MAHARIK (Shoresh #100) quotes the TOSFOS SHITAH who answers that this incident indeed occurred at the conclusion of Ravshakei's trial. It was only at this point that the curse was repeated with the name of Hash-m, exactly as the Mishnah here teaches.
The ARUCH LA'NER has considerable difficulty with this explanation. He asks that it is obvious from the verses that Ravshakei was not present at the time the witnesses related the curse to Chizkiyahu. If he was not present, how is it possible that this incident occurred at his Gemar Din? The Gemara later (79b) clearly teaches that the defendant must be present at the sentencing. Moreover, Tosfos earlier (19b, DH Aval) writes that even a king from Beis David is not allowed to be a judge in a case of Dinei Nefashos. How, then, could this have been his Gemar Din if Chizkiyahu ha'Melech was involved?
The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM answers the first question. He quotes the Maharik who says that a Megadef differs from all other sinners in that a Megadef does not need to be warned prior to his sin in order to be liable. Since he does not need to be warned, his case also does not have to be tried in his presence.
(b) The MELO HARO'IM answers this question based on the words of the RADAK in Melachim. The Radak explains that the curse uttered by Ravshakei was not an "ordinary" curse (like the Mishnah's "Yakeh Yosi Es Yosi"), but rather he uttered words that expressed the blasphemous idea that Hash-m has no more power than any Avodah Zarah to save the Jewish people. Since he did not say the name of Hash-m in the standard form of "Yakeh Yosi Es Yosi," but rather the curse was in the essence of the idea that he expressed, the witnesses were allowed to repeat his blasphemous remarks even though they were not in Beis Din. (Y. MONTROSE)
2) THE SIN OF ACCEPTING ANOTHER GOD UPON ONESELF
OPINIONS: The Mishnah lists some of the typical ways in which one transgresses the sin of Avodah Zarah. At the end of the list, the Mishnah mentions "one who accepts it as his god and one who says to it, 'You are my god.'" These last two cases seem to be the same case. Why does the Mishnah mention both of them if they are the same? If they are not the same, then what is the difference between them?
Moreover, what is the Mishnah's source that the mere acceptance of a foreign deity constitutes a transgression of the sin of Avodah Zarah?
(a) RASHI (DH veha'Mekablo) writes that these two cases are indeed one. One who accepts an Avodah Zarah as his god is considered to have worshipped Avodah Zarah, even if he merely makes the statement, "You are my god." Rashi says that the source for this is the verse which describes the sin of the Golden Calf, "They have made a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed to it, and said, 'These are your gods, O Yisrael'" (Shemos 32:8). The verse compares verbal acceptance of the Golden Calf as a god ("these are your gods") to the act of sacrificing to it. This teaches that both are forms of idolatry.
(b) Rashi gives a second explanation in which he says that these are indeed two separate cases. "One who accepts it" refers to a person who accepts the god as his god even when he is not in the presence of the Avodah Zarah. "One who says to it, 'You are my god,'" refers to one who is in the presence of the Avodah Zarah. Why does the Mishnah need to mention the second case if it already teaches that one is liable even when he accepts the god *not* in the presence of the idol? Rashi explains that the Mishnah mentions the second case in order to ensure that one has the proper understanding of the first case -- that it refers even to one is not in the presence of the Avodah Zarah.
The YAD RAMAH has difficulty with Rashi's explanation. If the Mishnah mentions both cases to teach the point that one is liable for the sin of Avodah Zarah whether his acceptance of the god was said in the presence of the Avodah Zarah or not, then it should mention simply, "And one who accepts, whether he is in front of the Avodah Zarah or not." Why does the Mishnah use different terminologies of one who "accepts" and one who "says"?
(c) The YAD RAMAH gives a third explanation. He explains that these two statements refer to entirely different cases. If the Mishnah would have said only the case of "one who accepts it as a god," one would have thought that only this statement is a formal acceptance of a god, while one who spontaneously says, "You are my god," perhaps has no intent to accept the deity upon himself but is merely saying meaningless words. The Mishnah therefore says that even saying the words, "You are my god," renders one liable. Similarly, if the Mishnah would have taught only the second case, one would thought that a formal acceptance of a god is not considered a transgression of the sin of Avodah Zarah. Perhaps the person merely intends to recognize it as a god for future worship, in contrast to the now statement, "You *are* my god," which implies that he worships the god at present. The Mishnah therefore teaches both cases. (Y. MONTROSE)