QUESTION: The Mishnah gives two separate cases of Mesis. In one case, the Mesis entices two people to serve Avodah Zarah. Those people may take him directly to Beis Din, where he is put to death. If he attempts to persuade just one person to serve Avodah Zarah, and that person knows that the Mesis will not talk in the presence of two people, that person is allowed to "entrap" the Mesis. He conceals two witnesses behind a fence, and he says to the Mesis, "Tell me again what you told me before." After the Mesis repeats his words urging the person to serve Avodah Zarah, the person says, "How can we leave our G-d in Shamayim and go serve wood and stone?" If the Mesis backs down, it is good (and he is exempt). If he says, "This is our obligation! This is what we must do!" then the witnesses reveal themselves from behind the fence and bring the Mesis to Beis Din, where he is put to death with Sekilah.
The YAD RAMAH asks that these two cases seem contradictory. In the first case, the two people who, in the eyes of the Mesis, are potential worshippers of Avodah Zarah automatically become the witnesses that indict him, without first having to ask the Mesis, "How can we leave our G-d in Shamayim...?" Why, in the second case, must the person ask the Mesis, "How can we leave our G-d in Shamayim..." in order for the Mesis to be liable? What is the difference between the two cases?
(a) The YAD RAMAH answers that when the Mesis talks to two people, he thereby is considered to be in a state of having been warned (Hasra'ah) to some degree. He therefore can be indicted immediately. When he talks to only one person, he has no reason to suspect that his words will be used against him in Beis Din, and thus he is not in a state of being warned at all. Although a Mesis does not need to be warned with Hasra'ah that "you should stop your actions or else you will be put to death," he does need some sort of warning. This is why the single person must first object, and only then can the Mesis be taken away if he insists on persuading the person to serve Avodah Zarah.
(b) In his second answer, the Yad Ramah writes that when the Mesis speaks to two people and they confront him, he certainly will retract his words because he will realize that these two people will take him to Beis Din and testify against him. However, he will stay the same Mesis at heart, and he merely will wait for a better opportunity. Therefore, the two people are instructed not to object to what the Mesis says, so that he will let down his guard, and then the two witnesses can bring him to Beis Din and have him killed. In contrast, when the Mesis speaks to only one person, he has no reason to fear that he will be taken to Beis Din. If he backs down, this shows that he indeed wants to repent. Therefore, the single person is instructed to test the Mesis' resolve by objecting to his attempts of persuasion.
The Yad Ramah points out that a Halachic difference between his two answers exists in a case in which the single person did not ask, "How can we leave our G-d in Shamayim and go serve wood and stone?" According to the first answer, this question is mandatory because it establishes a minimal degree of Hasra'ah, warning. According to the second answer, it is not mandatory; it merely gives the Mesis a chance to repent. Even if the victim does not ask the question, the Mesis is Chayav Misah.
(c) The Yad Ramah gives a third answer which he prefers over the other two. He explains that a primary component of the sin of Mesis is the attempt to persuade others by approaching them with enticements to leave their faith. This is what happens when the Mesis walks over to two people and starts talking to them about his Avodah Zarah. He therefore becomes Chayav Misah right away. In contrast, when he approaches one person, there are no witnesses present when he first confronts his victim. Only after two hidden witnesses are arranged is the Mesis lured back to the spot of the stakeout and asked, "Tell me again what you told me before." When the Mesis responds, he is not really doing an act of a Mesis; rather, he is responding to an inquiry about his campaign for Avodah Zarah. In order to establish his status as a Mesis, he must again play the role of the persuader. Therefore, the person must show opposition to the Mesis' claims. If the Mesis responds that one still must serve Avodah Zarah, this is tantamount to an initiation of the attempt to persuade the person to serve Avodah Zarah, but this time he is Chayav Sekilah because the witnesses see his act. Without the individual's opposition, he would not be liable as a Mesis. (Y. MONTROSE)


OPINIONS: Abaye teaches that there is a difference between acts of Kishuf (witchcraft) and acts done through Shedim (demons, or spiritual forces that inflict harm). A spell or trick which can be activated only through the means of a specific type of vessel is an act of Shedim. A spell or trick which does not need a particular kind of vessel is Kishuf, for which one may be punished with Sekilah.
Does Abaye imply that an act of Shedim is not included in the Torah's prohibition against Kishuf? If it is not included in the prohibition against Kishuf, is one permitted to perform such acts?
(a) The CHIDUSHEI HA'RAN writes that the Torah prohibition indeed includes only the more powerful spells of Kishuf (he calls them more powerful presumably because they do not require any specific type of vessel). It does not include doing tricks with Shedim. He adds that the Chochmei Almania relied on this view to perform acts of Shedim daily.
The Chidushei ha'Ran proves that such acts are not forbidden from the Gemara later (101a). The Gemara quotes a Beraisa in which the Tana Kama says that one is not permitted to ask questions to Shedim on Shabbos. Rebbi Yosi says that one is not allowed to ask questions to Shedim even during the week. Rav Huna comments that Rebbi Yosi maintains that it is prohibited during the week only because doing so poses a danger to one's safety. This implies that it is not inherently prohibited.
(b) The YAD RAMAH maintains that one who performs acts of Shedim has the same status as one who performs acts of Kishuf. He reasons that if acts of Shedim would be permitted, then it should have been mentioned as an example in the Gemara that follows. The Gemara that follows states that the laws of Kishuf are like the laws of Shabbos: sometimes one is "Chayav" (one is punished for doing the act), sometimes one is "Patur Aval Asur" (he is exempt from punishment but the act is prohibited), and sometimes the act is "Mutar" (the act is permitted). The Gemara explains how these three categories apply to Kishuf: one who performs an action is Chayav, one who creates an illusion transgresses but is not punished, and one who creates things by using Sefer Yetzirah has done nothing wrong. The Yad Ramah says that if the permissibility of acts of Shedim would be different from Kishuf, then the Gemara should have mentioned such acts as one of the last two examples of acts that are either Patur or Mutar. It must be that the reason why the Gemara does not mention an act of Shedim as an example is that its law is identical to Kishuf, even though it can be done only using certain vessels.
The Chidushei ha'Ran addresses this proof and rejects it. He explains that the Gemara mentions the example of Sefer Yetzirah (as a permitted form of apparent Kishuf) instead of acts of Shedim because such an act is done without a vessel, and thus it is more similar to Kishuf than acts of Shedim.
How does the Yad Ramah address the proof of the Chidushei ha'Ran from the Gemara later?
1. The BACH (YD 179) explains that the Yad Ramah agrees that acts of Shedim are not inherently forbidden. When he says that the Torah forbids such acts, he means that they are forbidden because one thereby puts himself in danger (as Rav Huna says), and not because such acts constitute an inherent prohibition of Kishuf.
However, the TUR (YD 179) does not interpret the words of the Yad Ramah this way, and the RADVAZ (#848) clearly states otherwise in the name of the Yad Ramah. According to the Tur and Radvaz, how does the Yad Ramah explain the Gemara later?
2. The ROSH (7:8) differentiates between the Gemara here and the Gemara later. Although the Rosh disagrees with the Yad Ramah and maintains that the Gemara here permits acts of Shedim, he explains that the Gemara later discusses asking questions of Shedim (such as where one's stolen item can be found), but not doing actions by way of Shedim. There is no proof from that Gemara that having a Shed do something is permitted, and thus that Gemara poses no contradiction to the opinion of the Yad Ramah.
RAV YECHEZKEL ZILBER (in his footnotes to the Yad Ramah on 101a, note 454) suggests that this difference between the two Gemaras in fact is the position of the Yad Ramah. One is permitted to ask questions of Shedim, but not to make them perform actions. (Y. MONTROSE)