But what about other kinds of punishments, which are not capable of being so symmetrically applied? Tractate Makkot begins by inquiring about a case in which witnesses falsely testify that a priest is ineligible for the priesthood because he is the son of a divorced woman. If their lie is exposed, does that mean that the witnesses should be declared ineligible for the priesthood? This is what a plain reading of the biblical verse might suggest, but in practice, this would make no sense—what if the witnesses were Israelites, not Kohanim, and therefore ineligible for the priesthood to begin with? To ensure that such conspiring witnesses don’t get off scot-free, the Mishna imposes a punishment of 40 lashes.Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.
Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.