ḤEREM (Heb. חֵרֶם), the status of that which is separated from common use or contact either because it is proscribed as an abomination to God or because it is consecrated to Him (cf. Ar., ḥaruma, "be forbidden, become sacred"; ḥaram, "holy precinct"; ḥarim, "women's quarters"). In the second sense it is similar to qodesh, "sanctity," from which it differs only in being irredeemable. To declare or treat as ḥerem is expressed by the verb heḥerim (passive, hoḥoram), henceforth rendered "proscribe." Things in the status of ḥerem are also called ḥerem.
Categories of Ḥerem
The laws of the Torah declare the following to be ḥerem:
1. Israelites who worship other gods, whether individuals or an entire community; idols and their accouterments. These are an abomination to the Lord: Human beings are to be put to the sword; inanimate objects are to be burned. This severest degree of ḥerem is contagious: hence all the property of a proscribed community is condemned – livestock must be put to the sword, the rest burned "as a holocaust to the Lord," and no spoil may be taken of the idols or the proscribed community (Ex. 22:19; Deut. 7:25–26; 13:13–19). An individual, too, who incurs the severest degree of ḥerem contaminates everything that comes into contact with him (cf. Josh. 7:24–25).
2. The seven nations inhabiting the land promised to Israel – the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites (Deut. 7:1–2; cf. 20:17). Not a soul of these is to be left alive "lest they lead you into doing all the abhorrent things that they have done for their gods and you stand guilty before the Lord your God" (20:18). The motive and the context of this law (cf. 20:13–14) indicate that the spoil of these nations was not ḥerem (cf. Deut. 6:11).
3. Whatever one privately devotes to the Lord as ḥerem. Such things are sacred in the highest degree (qodesh qodashim), and their status is irrevocable: they may neither be sold by the sanctuary nor redeemed by the devoter (Lev. 27:28). They belong to the priests (Num. 18:14; Ezek. 44:29). The situation envisaged by the law of Leviticus 27:29, that a human being in ḥerem must be put to death and may not be redeemed, is obscure. Some take it to refer to a person condemned for idolatry (1, above), others, to the victim of a private vow (see above; cf. the case of *Jephthah's daughter (Judg. 11:34ff.); see also d. below).
The cases of ḥerem recorded outside the laws conform only partially to those set forth in the laws:
(a) Having been defeated in an attempt to invade Canaan from the south by the Canaanites of Arad, Israel vowed to proscribe them should God grant a victory over them. Later, victorious Israel did proscribe "them and their towns" (Num. 21:1–3). Thus, the ḥerem of these Canaanites, at any rate, stemmed from a public vow, rather than from the blanket decree (see 2. above). Harmonizers suggest that the vow simply supplemented the law by including the booty ["their towns"] in the ḥerem, in addition to the population.
(b) Several proscriptions of Canaanites, conforming with the law of number 2 (see above) are recorded: The Transjordanian populations subject to Sihon (Deut. 2:34) and Og (3:6), and the Cisjordanian inhabitants of Makkedah, Eglon, Hebron, Debir, and Libnah – in general, the towns of the south (10:28–40) and those of the north (11:10ff.). Livestock and booty were taken, and the towns were left intact.
(c) Exceptionally severe was the ḥerem of Jericho: Animals as well as human beings were put to the sword, the city was burned down, its spoliation banned, and its silver, gold, copper, and iron vessels dedicated to the sanctuary treasury (Josh. 6:17ff.). *Achan's encroachment on this ḥerem was punished by his being stoned and burned, along with his family, livestock, and property (cf. 1. above). The Midrash represents Achan as exculpating himself on the grounds that Joshua's ḥerem decree went beyond the law, which indeed it did (see 2. above; Num. R. 23:6; cf. Sanh. 44a). Exceptional, too, is the burning down of Ai and Hazor, though both were despoiled beforehand (Josh. 8:26; 10:39; 11:13).
(d) The population of Negebite Zephath was slain, and the town proscribed (Judg. 1:17).
(e) Most of the Jabesh-Gilead was proscribed in accordance with a public oath condemning to death any who failed to join the sacred battle against Benjamin (Judg. 21:5–11). Perhaps such a situation underlies the ḥerem law of Leviticus 27:29. This is, at any rate, an antecedent to the coercive ḥerem applied within the community in post-exilic times (see h. below).
(f) God bade Samuel to charge Saul with a war of extermination against *Amalek for its ambush of Israel at the Exodus. Amalek and all its property were proscribed; Saul's failure to execute the order fully resulted in his rejection (i Sam. 15; i Chron. 10:13).
(g) The end of the proscription of enemies is signaled in Solomon's impressment into state service of such elements of the indigenous population as escaped proscription at the time of the Conquest (i Kings 9:21; cf. Josh. 15:63; 17:12; Judg. 1:19–35). Though not put to death, the presence of a class of "Solomon's slaves" down to the Restoration (Ezra 2:55) indicates that this element remained segregated in the Israelite community for generations.
(h) The latest biblical attestation of the ḥerem as a practical measure is its post-exilic use as a penalty to coerce individuals to obey communal authorities. "The property of anyone who does not appear within three days [to answer the summons of the Jewish authorities]… will be proscribed, and he himself separated from the community" (Ezra 10:8). By "proscription," destruction may be meant, though (in light of 3. above) expropriation by the Temple treasury is usually understood.
Whether or not the absence of ḥerem terminology in cases where it would fit is significant is hard to say. The slaughter of the inhabitants of Beth-El and Laish (Judg. 1:25; 18:27) is not called a proscription, though it resembles the case of Zephath (1:17), which is. Was the former not religiously motivated, then, in contrast with the latter? (cf. what is said below on the divergent representations of the wars conducted against Sihon and Og in Num. and Deut.). Moses' condemnation of the calf-worshipers is not called a proscription (Ex. 32:27), though it conforms precisely with the terms of number 1 (above). Nor is "the Lord's vengeance on Midian" (Num. 31:3) so called, though it resembles the war against Amalek, which is. Thus, the suspicion exists that the narrative did not always choose its terms precisely, and that more instances of ḥerem may in fact exist than are so designated expressly.
In the literature of the later monarchy and the Prophets ḥerem terminology is used loosely in the sense of "utter destruction," without its specific, religious context. Thus, for example, Sennacherib can be said to have "utterly destroyed (heherim) all countries" (ii Kings 19:11; in ii Chron. 32:14, "all gods!"), or God-sent destruction may be expressed in ḥerem terms (Isa. 34:2; Jer. 25:9; Zech. 14:11 (hurban, "ruin," see *Kimḥi); Mal. 3:24). Something of the early notion of dedication to God appears in Micah 4:13.
The Evolution of the Term Ḥerem
The evolution of the conception and practice of the ḥerem in Israel may be surmised as follows: The ḥerem as a private irrevocable dedication of property to the sanctuary (3. above) so directly expresses its character of "separation from common use" that, although it is found in a stratum commonly dated to late (even Exilic) times – the priestly code – there is no reason to suppose it is a late practice.
The antiquity of the notion that that which was an abomination to the Lord was ḥerem is vouched for by the early law of Exodus 22:19; proscribing the worshiper of other gods. This punitive application of ḥerem within the community appears in the case of Jabesh-Gilead (e. above) and Ezra (h. above), and eventuated in the later, modified form of Jewish excommunication.
The practice of declaring an enemy to be ḥerem combines both of the foregoing aspects. Ancient warfare, especially the wars fought by the tribal league of Israel in pre-Davidic times, had a religious grounding. The battle was God's (i Sam. 17:47), the enemy was God's (Judg. 5:31), and Israel's forces were God's helpers (Judg. 5:23). It was, therefore, natural to regard the enemy as ḥerem and his destruction as an act of devotion to God. Yet the actual instances of enemy ḥerem are too few and special to warrant the assumption that it was a rule of ancient Israelite warfare. Nor must every destruction of an enemy be counted as a religious proscription – Gideon's slaughter of the Penuelites (Judg. 8:17) and Abimelech's of the Shechemites (9:45) were not. The laws of Deuteronomy (2. above) and narratives in Deuteronomy and Joshua (b) and (c) above) speak of the natives of Israel's land as ḥerem; other cases are very rare – none occurs in the wars of the period of the Judges or from the reign of David on. But even the limited ḥerem of Deuteronomy (and its narrative reflexes), in its present form of a blanket, antecedent proscription, does not seem to have been an early conception. The laws prior to Deuterono my do not mention such a ḥerem. Exodus 23:27–33 indeed speaks of the expulsion of the Canaanites and forbids coming to such terms with them as will allow them to remain in the land, "lest they cause you to sin against me, for you will serve their gods" (so too 33:2–3; Num. 33:50–56). Exodus 34:11–16 adds a ban on intermarriage, "lest [the Canaanite wives] cause your sons to lust after their gods." The injunction is to expel and dispossess, and is given a religious ground; there is no command to slaughter the population. The first case of enemy ḥerem results from a vow taken by Israel to proscribe the Canaanites who defeated them at Hormah ((a) above). In return for a victory, the people dedicate to God all the fruits of battle. By this solemn, awful, and self-denying undertaking the people seek the favor of God after a military reverse. There is no suggestion of a blanket, antecedent proscription of any and all Canaanites on religious grounds. The wars with Sihon and Og, according to Numbers 21:24, 35, ended with an annihilation of the enemy's forces and the seizure of his land; the ḥerem is not mentioned. Only Deuteronomy 2:34 and 3:6 speak of "proscribing every town – men, women, and children" – while retaining the booty (in accordance with 2. above; but note that the Deuteronomic account states that Moses offered peace to Sihon (2:26) in accordance with Deuteronomy 20:10 (see Nahmanides ad. loc., but see also 20: 15ff.). The ḥerem of Jericho is represented as an ad hoc injunction of Joshua (Josh, 6:17–19); it goes well beyond the Deuteronomic law, and makes no reference to it. This ḥerem has the character of a first fruits offering: The first spoils of Canaan are wholly devoted to God. The terms of Ai's ḥerem are likewise represented as an ad hoc instruction of God to Joshua (8:2, 26–27), without reference to the Deuteronomic rule enunciated by Moses (though conforming to it). Samuel's proscription of Amalek diverges too widely from the Deuteronomic law to serve as an attestation of it. Amalek is not one of the nations condemned in the law; the total proscription exceeds that of the law; the ground of the proscription is revenge (i Sam. 15:2) rather than concern over purity of the faith.
The evidence suggests that the enemy ḥerem, eventually codified in a very special form in Deuteronomy, originated as a dedicatory proscription designed to win God's favor by totally devoting to Him His (and the nation's) enemy. It was declared in situations of particular stress – after the national army had suffered a defeat (Hormah, Ai), or when a crucial test of arms was imminent (Jericho, Amalek). The persistent tradition that, by and large, the Canaanites were evicted from the land occupied by the invading Israelites (cf. Amos 2:9) indicates that the reported proscription of towns by Joshua, though doubtless over-systematized, reflects a typical feature of the wars of conquest. The land-hunger of the invaders must have made the battles over Canaanite towns bitter. Since the citizenry realized they were to be dispossessed, they resisted desperately; the no less desperate invader thereupon sought to enlist God's help by devoting the enemy as ḥerem to him. Judging from the cases of Ai, the soldiers' behavior in the battle against Amalek, and the Deuteronomic law, the normal ḥerem allowed spoliation but proscribed the enemy population. Its effect was to clear an area for Israelite occupation (and doubtless to panic into flight or surrender the inhabitants of nearby towns; cf. the Gibeonites, Josh. 9).
The sole extra-biblical attestation of ḥerem is of just this kind. *Mesha, king of Moab, reports that when he won back from Israel long-lost territory north of the Arnon, he massacred the Israelite inhabitants of some towns – those of Nebo expressly because he "had proscribed it [hhrmth] to [the god] Ashtar-Chemosh"; he then resettled Moabites in their stead (*Mesha Stele, lines 10–21, in Pritchard, Texts, 320). Classical writers provide analogies from the practice of the Celts (Diodorus, 5:32), Gauls (Caesar, De Bello Gallico, 6: 17), Teutons (Tacitus, Annals, 13:57), and early Romans (Livy, 8:9).
Deuteronomy's Reinterpretation of the Enemy Herem
After the reign of Saul, the enemy ḥerem seems to have fallen into disuse. The national-religious fervor of the wars of settlement declined; the armies of Israel consisted more and more of professional soldiers (cf. i Sam. 14:52); and offensive wars became imperial – so that subject populations were desirable. Solomon's impressment into state service of Canaanites who survived the wars of settlement demonstrates this disuse ((g) above). Subsequently, the concept appears only rarely, and then only in prophetic speech (e.g., the condemnation of Ahab for having released Ben-Hadad, God's "ḥerem-man"; i Kings 20:42; cf. Isa. 34:5; Micah 4:13). It had become archaic, evocative of a bygone enthusiasm, fit for the high-strung, affective idiom of prophecy. As described above, the enemy ḥerem was not a peculiarly Israelite practice. However, another representation, informed by Israelite ideology, is found in Deuteronomy and related literature. This representation exemplifies Deuteronomy's penchant for systematizing and rationalizing traditional conceptions. The religiously motivated injunction against coexistence with the Canaanites is combined with the old enemy ḥerem into a new law: So as not to fall into the debased ways of the Canaanites, Israel must not only expel and dispossess them (Ex. 34:11ff.; Num. 33:51ff.) but also exterminate them as ḥerem (Deut. 7:1–5; 20:16ff.). Thus an ad hoc, quasi-theurgic war measure was converted into a fixed religious duty. At the same time, a status which in practice could be invoked against any enemy was restricted by Deuteronomy to the inhabitants of the promised land, for they alone threatened the purity of the faith. Accounts of past wars were modified accordingly: The realms of Sihon and Og were treated in conformity with the ḥerem law (Deut. 2:32–35; 3:6–7; contrast Num. 21:24, 35); Joshua automatically and every where proscribed the Canaanite towns he took – "as God had commanded Moses" (Josh. 11:12, 15, 20). Only a trace of the primary nature of the enemy ḥerem survives in the summary notice that the proscription resulted from the determined resistance of the enemy (Josh. 11:20).
The severest degree of the old enemy ḥerem inspired Deuteronomy's expansion of the proscription of alien cults in Exodus 22:19. Not only an individual, but a whole community, with all its property, must be proscribed for apostasy (Deut. 13:13ff.; the non-ethnic, purely religious basis of Deuteronomy's ḥerem concept manifests itself in this application of ḥerem to Israelites; later jurists denied that the law was practicable: Tosef., Sanh. 14:1; Sanh. 71a). The notion of contagiousness reached its extreme in this case and in the rule of Deut. 7:25–26 that even the precious metals of idols must be destroyed on penalty of incurring ḥerem. While the metals of Jericho were devoted to the sanctuary, those of idols were a contaminating abomination.
Deuteronomy's revision of the ḥerem, an aspect of its intense concern over keeping Israel free of alien influences, cannot be precisely dated. Its execration of idols contrasts with the Samuel narrative's unruffled reports of David's taking the abandoned idols of the Philistines (ii Sam. 5:21) and the crown of the Ammonite god Malcam (Milcom; ii Sam. 12:30). i Chronicles 14:12 adjusts the first report to conform with the Deuteronomic law (the idols were burned), suggesting, but not proving, that the law came in between. The blanket proscription of the Canaanites seems to be a theory, and the accounts of its systematic application, a tendentious revision of history. Critics have sought to connect it with the religio-military revival of Josiah's time; however, the express restriction of the ḥerem to the seven nations of Canaan, who posed no threat to Judah's religion in Josiah's time, does not speak for that connection. Any time after Solomon, in whose reign the extinction of the old enemy ḥerem is attested, may have seen the birth of the Deuteronomic concept. To assume that it is the reflex of a reformational movement like that of Josiah (or Hezekiah) is unnecessary.
Later jurists drew the final inferences from Deuteronomy's reinterpretation of the enemy ḥerem. They reasoned that since the express intention of the law was to protect Israel against the allure of a debased way of life, if the Canaanites gave up their polluted cult, they were exempt from the ḥerem (Sif. Deut. 202; Tosef. Sot. 8:5). The rule of Deuteronomy 20:10 is therefore universal: even campaigns against the Canaanites must begin with an offer of peace, the difference between far-off towns and theirs being that, to escape destruction, they must agree, upon surrendering, to abandon idolatry and accept the *Noachide Laws. And that is how Joshua dealt with them: Like Moses, who offered peace to Sihon in spite of God's order to start a war with him, Joshua preceded his campaigns with a proclamation published throughout Canaan, inviting the population to choose between leaving, making peace, or fighting. The Gibeonites chose peace, gave up idolatry, and became temple servants (Deut. R. 5:13, 14). Solomon's failure to proscribe the remaining Canaanites in his realm was probably due to their having abandoned idolatry (Kimḥi, to ii Chron. 2:16).
Thus, the ancient, rude notion of enemy ḥerem underwent continued revision long after it had ceased to be applied in practice. Originating as a votive proscription of the enemy – any enemy – and made under the stress of war to propitiate God, it was transformed by Deuteronomy into an ordinance to protect the purity of Israel's faith in Canaan. Against the background of the Jewish institution of conversion, its operation was later qualified again by being made contingent upon a prior offer of peace on condition of conversion. Religious-rational tendencies inherent in biblical thought did away with the application of the ḥerem limitlessly and automatically to populations who had no choice in the matter.
In Later Jewish Law
The ḥerem of Ezra, mentioned above, is the first indication of a ḥerem operating by way of excommunication. Indeed, the criminal jurisdiction vested in Ezra included a power to root out (shoreshu: JPS "banishment": Ezra 7:26) which was interpreted in the Talmud to mean persecution (hardafah) by niddui and ḥerem (mk 16a).
Niddui is the term employed in tannaitic literature for the punishment of an offender by his isolation from, and his being held in enforced contempt by, the community at large. A precedent for such punitive isolation and contempt is found in the Bible (Num. 12:14) and was described as niddui (Sif. Num. 104). Some hold that the tannaitic niddui was the expulsion of a member from the order of the Pharisees: "If he failed to maintain the standards required," he would be expelled from the order and "declared menuddeh" ("defiled"), and his former comrades would withdraw from his company "lest he defile them" (see bibl., Finkelstein, p. 77). This theory is based mainly on the records of infliction of niddui on renowned scholars for non-compliance with the rules of the majority (Eduy. 5:6; bm 59b), but it takes no account of the fact that niddui was, even during the tannaitic period, inflicted or threatened also on laymen (e.g., a hunter: Shab. 130a, Kid. 72a) and for offenses or misconduct unconnected with any rules of the Pharisees (Ta'an. 3:8; Pes. 53a). While niddui may well have implied expulsion from scholarly or holy orders, the sanction as such was a general one, applicable at the discretion of the courts or of the heads of academies. As it was a criminal punishment, a great scholar who was threatened with niddui rightly protested that before he could be so punished it had first to be clearly established on whom might niddui be inflicted, in what measure, and for what offenses (tj, mk 3:1, 81d). Later talmudic law reintroduced the ḥerem as an aggravated form of niddui (mk 16a): First a niddui was pronounced, and when it had not (on the application of the menuddeh: Maim. Yad, Talmud Torah 7:6) been lifted after 30 days, it was extended for another 30 days; after the 60 days had expired, a ḥerem was imposed (mk 16a; Maim. loc. cit.; Sh. Ar., yd 334:1, 13). Another innovation was the nezifah ("reprimand") which was to last for seven days (mk 16a): The commentators were not quite certain about the implications of the nezifah, and surmised that while niddui and ḥerem implied compulsory isolation, the seven days' isolation inherent in the nezifah was rather a voluntary one, dictated by shame and remorse; and while niddui and ḥerem remained in force until lifted by the Bet Din (Rema, Sh. Ar., yd 334, 24), nezifah expired automatically after seven days (Piskei ha-Roshmk 3:7).
Niddui differed from ḥerem mainly in that with the menuddeh social intercourse was allowed for purposes of study and of business, whereas the muhram had to study alone (so as not to forget what he had learned) and find his livelihood from a small shop he was permitted to maintain (mk 15a; Maim. ibid. 7:4–5; Sh. Ar., yd 334:2). Otherwise the restrictions imposed on the muhram were (a fortiori) those imposed on the menuddeh, namely: He had to conduct himself as if he were in a state of mourning, not being allowed to have his hair cut or his laundry washed or to wear shoes (except for out-of-town walks). He was even forbidden to wash, except for his face, hands, and feet; but he was not obliged to rend his clothes (notwithstanding the contrary report in bm 59b) nor to lower his bedstead (mk 15a–b; Sem. 5:10–13; Piskei ha-Roshmk 3:4); and he had to live in confinement with his family only, no outsider being allowed to come near him, eat and drink with him, greet him, or give him any enjoyment (ibid.; Sh. Ar., yd 334:2). He could not be counted as one of the three required for the special *grace after meals formula nor as one of the 10 (*minyan) required for communal prayers (Maim. ibid. 7:4; Sh. Ar. yd loc. cit.); and after his death his coffin would be stoned, if only symbolically by placing a single stone on it (Eduy. 5:6; mk 15a; Maim. loc. cit.).
Both niddui and ḥerem appear in the Talmud at times in the Aramaic form shamta – a term which, by being retransliterated into Hebrew, was interpreted as indicating the civil death (sham mitah) or the utter loneliness (shemamah) involved in this punishment (mk 17a). Notwithstanding its potential severity, however, niddui was apparently regarded as a relatively light penalty, reserved mainly for minor offenses, perhaps because it could so easily be lifted and terminated. Talmudic scholars counted 24 offenses for which niddui was prescribed (Ber. 19a), listed by Maimonides as follows (loc. cit. 6:14):
(1) insulting a scholar, even after his death;
(2) contempt of an officer of the court;
(3) calling any man a slave;
(4) disobedience to a court summons;
(5) disregarding any rabbinic prescription (such as the washing of hands (Eduy. 5:6; see *Ablution));
(6) nonpayment of judgment debts;
(7) keeping dangerous dogs or other dangerous things without properly guarding them;
(8) selling land to a gentile in disregard of a neighbor's right of preemption (see *Maẓranut);
(9) recovering money on the judgment of a gentile court, where the money was not due under Jewish law;
(10) failure by a priest to give other priests their dues;
(11) non-observance of the second festival day customarily observed abroad (see *Festivals);
(12) doing work in the afternoon of Passover Eve;
(13) mentioning God's name in speech or oath in trifling matters;
(14) causing the public to profane God's name (ḥillul ha-Shem);
(15) causing the public to eat sacrificial meals outside the Temple;
(16) establishing the calendar, i.e., fixing the lengths of months and years, outside the Land of Israel;
(17) placing any stumbling-block before the blind (Lev. 19:14);
(18) obstructing the public in the performance of any precept;
(19) negligence in ritual slaughtering; (20); failure to have knives used for ritual slaughter periodically inspected;
(21) willful sexual self-stimulation; (22) such business relations with one's divorced wife as might lead to intimacy;
(23) connections or activities of a scholar which bring him into disrepute;
(24) imposing a niddui without sufficient cause.
The list is not exhaustive (Rabad ad loc.), and was supplemented in the Shulḥan Arukh by additional offenses among which are the following:
(1) breaking a vow;
(2) doing work while a corpse lies unburied in town;
(3) disobedience to Torah precepts on the strength of spurious analogies or arguments;
(4) demanding the performance of the impossible;
(5) insisting on minority views overruled by the majority;
(6) usurpation by a disciple of his teacher's functions;
(7) applying to the king or a leader with a view to evading or circumventing the authority of the competent court (yd 334:43). (The niddui for disobedience to law on spurious analogies or arguments might be identical with the ban referred to in John 9:22, 12:42.)
The existence of an offense of imposing a niddui without sufficient cause indicates that, under talmudic law, the niddui could be imposed not only by the court but also by individual scholars and even by laymen: for instance, creditors used to impose a niddui on delinquent debtors (mk 16a), and in later periods we find debtors agreeing in writing beforehand to be placed under niddui by the creditor in the event of non-payment (e.g., Maḥzor Vitry 567). Individual scholars used to impose a niddui for their own vindication from insults (mk 16a), a practice which persisted throughout the ages (cf. e.g., Resp. Joseph Colon 168–9; Resp. Maharyu 163), although deprecated in no uncertain terms (Maim. ibid. 7:13; Tur, yd 334; Sh. Ar., yd 243:9; and cf. Kid. 32a; Meg. 28a). There is a strong opinion to the effect that this power of individual scholars is now obsolete (Rema, Sh. Ar., yd 243:8); it was never recognized for any purpose other than as a punishment for insults, and the scholar was forbidden to use it for his business purposes (tj, mk 3:1, 84d; yd 334:19).
Normally, niddui would be pronounced by the court; it is only by order of a court that a man is regarded as a menuddeh; non-judicial niddui renders him only "half-menuddeh"(menuddeh la-ḥaẓa'in) from whom the public at large need not dissociate itself (Sh. Ar., yd 334:12). Where the offense charged was civil disobedience or nonpayment of debts, the court would first warn the delinquent that unless he obeyed or paid a niddui would be pronounced against him, but no warning was required where the offense was of a religious nature (mk 16a and Rashi ad loc.). The niddui and its causes had to be publicly announced (ibid. interpreting Judg. 5:23), but could be pronounced in the absence of the accused (Maim. loc. cit. 7:2, 13; Sh. Ar., yd 334:29). No formal procedure nor any adduction of evidence was required: The court could act on its own knowledge or on evidence that would be otherwise inadmissible (Rema yd 334:43). The formulae used for the pronouncement as well as for lifting of the niddui could be very short (Maim. loc. cit. 7:2–3; Sh. Ar., yd 334:23); but it would be enlarged and embellished with curses and imprecations when a ḥerem was imposed (ibid.; Shev. 36a). The ban could be lifted by any court, not necessarily the court which had imposed it (Maim. loc. cit. 7:9), but a niddui imposed by an individual had to be lifted by that same person or – where he was unknown or unavailable – by the nasi or leader of the community (mk 17a; tj, mk 3:1, 81d; Maim. loc. cit. 7:10). The delinquent had a claim as of right to have the ban against him lifted as soon as he had done the act or rectified the omissionof which he had been accused, or ceased to do that which he had been accused of doing (Maim. loc. cit. 9) – hence niddui was a coercive as well as a punitive measure.
Courts were urged not to pronounce niddui against judges (Takkanat Usha, mk 17a), scholars (Resh Lakish, ibid.), or notables (zaken; tj, mk 3:1, 81d), but rather to ask them to stay at home; only if they persisted in and repeated their offenses was niddui pronounced against them to prevent hillul ha-Shem (by insinuations of discriminations and privileges; ibid.). *Flogging is considered a more suitable punishment for judges and scholars than niddui (mk 17a and Rashi ibid); but where a scholar's misconduct is due to a failure of his memory by reason of old age or sickness, he should rather be treated as if he were "the Holy Ark holding fragments of the broken tablets" (tj, mk 3:1, 81d and Korban ha-Edah, ibid.).
In Post-Talmudic Law
The distinction between the punitive and coercive functions of niddui and ḥerem became more clearly marked: On the one hand they grew into the most deterrent, and often very cruel, punishment for past misdeed or past misconduct; on the other they were invoked for purposes of future law enforcement, either by warning potential individual offenders of imminent excommunication, or by attaching the threat of excommunication to secure general acceptance of and obedience to a newly created law: Several such laws have thus become known by the name of ḥerem (e.g., ḥerem de-Rabbenu Gershom; see *Bigamy).
From the geonic period and throughout the Middle Ages until recent times, courts added further and greater hardships to the living conditions of the menuddeh as laid down in the Talmud – the talmudic provisions being regarded as a minimum which the court could increase according to the severity of the individual case (Sh. Ar., yd 334:10; Rema yd 334:6). Among such additional hardships were prohibitions against performing circumcision of the menuddeh's children or theirmarriages; expulsions of his children from school and of his wife from synagogue; and prohibitions against burial of the menuddeh and according him any honor due to the dead (Rema, ibid.). He was to be treated as a non-Jew, his bread and wine were forbidden like those of a heathen, his books were regarded as magicians' trash, his ẓiẓit were to be cut off and the mezuzah removed from his door (e.g., Sha'arei Ẓedek 4:5, 14). Treating a Jew as if he were a non-Jew amounted, within the closed Jewish community, to civil death; and indeed it is said that a man on whom a ḥerem lies can be regarded as dead (cf. also the precept in the Karaite "Book of Precepts" by Anan b. David, after describing the ban to be imposed for capital offenses: "In short, we must treat him as if he were dead": L. Nemoy, Karaite Anthology (1952), 13).
The constant growth and increasing frequency of the ḥerem as punishment was in no small degree due to the predominant role excommunication played as a punishment in the Church: Some features of the later penances inflicted on excommunicated Jews were even borrowed from practices of the Church (see bibliography, Abrahams p. 66f.). It happened also that the ecclesiastical or secular gentile authorities enjoined Jewish courts from imposing or enforcing a ḥerem, as for instance where it had been imposed for having recourse to non-Jewish courts: In such cases the law was laid down that in monetary matters the Jewish court would have to give in, whereas in religious matters the Jewish court had to insist on its authority even at the risk of incurring punishment for disobedience (Israel Isserlin, Terumat ha-Deshen 276; and cf. yd 334:44, 48). Visiting the guilt of the menuddeh on his innocent wife and children and making life in general unbearable for him, shocked the conscience of many a great rabbi (cf., e.g., Resp. Ribash 173, 185; Yam Shel Shelomobk 10:13). Not only did they and many others try to mitigate the hardships of the ḥerem when they had to impose it, but they endeavored to abstain from imposing it at all. Thus, Asher b. Jehiel says that he never imposed a ḥerem without the previous consent of the congregation (Resp. Rosh 43:9); Jacob Levi Moellin imposed only one single ḥerem during his lifetime (Minhagei Maharil, quoted by Assaf, Onshin (see bibliography), p. 34); and Israel *Bruna relates his father's last will enjoining him from ever imposing a ḥerem (Resp. 189).
The severity and cruelty of total niddui or ḥerem led to the creation of lighter punishments, involving only partial excommunication and not inhibiting the offender in his daily life – such as permanent or temporary expulsion from town or province, expulsion from the synagogue, change of the synagogue seat for an inferior one, and public denunciations and reprimands. Application of graver or lighter punishments was left entirely to the discretion of the courts (cf. Resp. Rashba, vol. 5 no. 238; Zikhron Yehudah 63; et al.); and the same or similar offenses are found punished at one place or time with niddui and another place or time with floggings, expulsions, or reprimands. Among the many and varied offenses for which niddui was imposed, mention may be made of a husband's refusal to divorce his wife though ordered to do so (Or Zaru'a bk 161; Resp. Maharam of Rothenburg, ed. Prague, 927, and see *Divorce), and of a bridegroom's refusal to marry his bride (Resp. Maharam of Rothenburg, ed. Prague, 250) – as well as property offenses ranging from theft and receiving stolen property to bankruptcy, fraud, and forgery (cf. e.g., Takkanot Medinat Mehrin, ed. I. Halpern, p. 161). On the other hand, assaults (including wife-beating) and offenses against morality were more often visited with the lighter expulsions (many illustrations in Assaf, Onshin (see bibliography), passim). So it was laid down that the straying disciple who is found in possession of profane books and frequents theatrical and musical entertainment should be flogged rather than excommunicated (Tur, yd 334).
The Procedure of Pronouncing a Herem
The minor forms of the ḥerem, nezifah, and niddui, were pronounced by the head of the rabbinic court. A severe ḥerem was pronounced in the synagogue either before the open Ark or while holding a Torah scroll. The proclamation was made with the sounding of the shofar, while those present held wax candles which were symbolically extinguished after the excommunication was declared. The person was anathematized, excommunicated, and several biblical curses were evoked upon him. The proclamation contained a public warning not to associate with the anathematized and concluded with a plea for the welfare of the congregation of the faithful.
In Later Centuries
Ḥerem and niddui became so common in later centuries that they no longer made any impression and lost their force. They became the standard rabbinic reaction to all forms of deviation or non-conformity considered incompatible with or dangerous to Orthodoxy. As such, they are sometimes imposed by extreme Orthodox authorities in the present day, but as neither the persons afflicted nor the public at large regard themselves as bound by them, they have ceased to be a terror or have much effect. (It is arguable that the imposition of niddui or ḥerem by persons acting in unison – e.g., a court of three – amounts to a criminal conspiracy to cause injury to a person or the reputation of a person and to injure him in his trade or profession, which in Israel is punishable with two years' imprisonment: Section 36, Criminal Code Ordinance, 1936.)
[Haim Hermann Cohn]
Fernandez, in: Biblica, 5 (1924), 3ff. (Sp.); Kaufmann, Toledot, 1 (1960), 624–58; 2 (1960), 132–34; Kaufmann, Religion, 247–54; Loewenstamm, in: em, 3 (1965), 290–2 (incl. bibl.); G. von Rad, Der heilige Krieg im alten Israel (1951); C.H.W. Brekelmann, De herem in het Oude Testament (1959); Malamat, in: Biblical Essays (1966), 40–49 (includes bibl.); Weinfeld, in: bm, 12 (1967), 121–7; On the Jewish interpretation of the enemy ḥerem, see Naḥmanides to Deut. 20:10, and Maim. Yad, Melakhim, 6:1ff. in later jewish law: Nahmanides, Mishpetei ha-Ḥerem (1515), also printed as annex to Sefer Kol Bo; J. Wiesner, Der Bann in seiner geschichtlichen Entwicklungen… (1864); D. Friedmann, Emek Berakhah (1881); M. Aron, Histoire de l'excommunication juive (1882); S. Mandl, Der Bann (1898); E. Schulmann, in: Ha-Goren, 3 (1902), 90–97; Gulak, Yesodei, 2 (1922), 16f., 35, 52–56, 64, 216ff.; 3 (1922), 17ff.; 4 (1922), 60, 83–85, 89–91, 112, 129, 132ff.; S. Assaf, Ha-Onshin Aḥarei Ḥatimat ha-Talmud (1922), 146 (index); s.v.; idem, Battei Din ve-Sidreihem… (1924), 32–34; L. Finkelstein, Middle Ages, 387 (index), s.v.; I. Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages (19322); Gulak, Oẓar xlf., 160, 195, 298ff., 333f., 360; M. Frank, Kehillot Ashkenaz u-Vattei Dineihen (1937), 163 (index) s.v.; Baron, Community, 3 (1942), 429 (index), s.v.; J. Katz, Tradition and Crisis (1961), index, s.v.Excommunication; I. Agus, Urban Civilization in Pre-Crusade Europe, 2 (1965), index. add. bibliography: M. Elon, Ha-Mishpat ha-Ivri (1988), 1:12ff., 106, 194, 198, 318, 371, 375, 379–380, 399, 416, 417, 537, 538ff., 548, 550, 551, 553, 554, 558, 564–67, 574, 579, 583, 589, 590, 591ff., 594–96, 612, 613, 616, 617, 623, 633, 634, 638, 641–42, 644ff., 647, 651, 655, 657ff., 665, 683, 697, 705, 708, 2:1069, 1288; 3:1319; idem, Jewish Law (1994), 1:11ff., 119–20, 219, 223, 381, 449, 454, 459–60, 708; 2:487,508, 510, 653, 655ff., 667, 669–71, 673–74, 679, 685–90, 714, 717, 728, 729, 731ff., 734, 736–738, 757, 758, 761–62, 763, 770, 785, 790, 794–96, 798ff., 801, 806, 810, 812ff., 822, 842, 860, 871, 875; 3:1289, 1537; 4:1576; M. Elon and B. Lifshitz, Mafte'aḥ ha-She'elot ve-ha-Teshuvot shel Ḥakhmei Sefarad u-Ẓefon Afrikah (legal digest) (1986), 1:144–153; 2:549–52, 556, 585; B. Lifshitz and E. Shochetman, Mafte'aḥ ha-She'elot ve-ha-Teshuvot shel Ḥakhmei Ashkenaz, Ẓarefatve-Italyah (legal digest) (1997), 95–99, 367–72, 389.
"Ḥerem." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 14, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/herem
"Ḥerem." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved December 14, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/herem
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