BANISHMENT, a form of punishment widely imposed throughout the ancient world. India, the Greek cities, the Roman republic, and the Teutonic peoples all used this practice to rid themselves of undesirables, ranging from criminals
[David L. Lieber]
Second Temple and Talmud Periods
Banishment was resorted to by the Romans as part of their repressive policies. Thus *Archelaus the son of Herod I was banished by the Romans to Vienne in Gaul and probably remained there until he died. It is possibly to these administrative acts that *Avtalyon refers in his statement, "Ye sages, be heedful of your words lest ye incur the penalty of banishment [galut] and be banished to a place of evil waters" (Avot 1:11). Nevertheless the Pharisees seem also to have exercised this power. Josephus (Wars, 1:111) states that when they were in power they banished and brought back whomsoever they chose. The gravity of the punishment was not only that the victims would be exiled "to a place of evil waters and the disciples who come after you will drink thereof and die" (see above) but that they were also banished from the Divine Presence. On the verse, "For they have driven me out this day that I should not cleave to the inheritance of the Lord" (I Sam. 26:19), the Talmud comments that "he who lives outside the Land of Israel is regarded as worshiping idols" (Ket. 110b), and this sentiment is reflected in the words of the Musaf prayer for festivals: "But on account of our sins we were banished from our land and removed far from our country, and we are unable to appear and prostrate ourselves before Thee and to fulfill our obligations."
[Louis Isaac Rabinowitz]
Middle Ages to 18th century
In the Middle Ages banishment continued to be one of the punishments imposed on offenders in communities having a measure of criminal jurisdiction over their members (see Judicial *Autonomy) or able to withhold or withdraw domiciliary rights (ḥezkat ha-yishuv). Hence it was imposed most frequently in Spain and Poland and Lithuania, although also occasionally elsewhere. A distinction was drawn between banishment of the offender from the city and from the realm, as also banishment for a limited period and for life. The Spanish kingdoms, especially at the height of Jewish autonomy in the 13th century, recognized the right of the communal organizations to banish recalcitrants or exclude new members. James I of Aragon (1213–76) gave the communities the right to punish offenders by fine, ban, flagellation, or expulsion. Privileges accorded to the Barcelona community in 1241 and 1272 empowered the communal elders "to eject or expel [recalcitrant members] from the Jewish quarter or the entire city." A similar ordinance for Calatayud Jewry empowered the community in 1229 to expel two individuals of bad repute. In the 1280s the kahal of Alagon banished six butchers from the city for four years and excommunicated all members who ate meat purchased from them. James II of Aragon, on a complaint from the Valencia community in 1294, instructed the local prefect and judge to prevent influential Christians from concealing offenders condemned by the community to deportation. In 1280 Pedro III of Aragon, in a basic privilege granted to all Catalonian communities, empowered their elders to punish with incarceration and exile all crimes of assault and battery, libel, and the like, in accordance with Jewish law and their own judgment. The same privilege, granted by John I of Aragon to the Huesca community in 1390, provided that the elders could summarily sentence offenders to death, mutilation, flogging, or exile, without appeal. Offenses for which banishment was imposed included murder for which there was only one witness (Solomon b. Jehiel Luria, Yam shel Shelomo le-Bava Kamma, 8, no. 7), or for which no witness was available but where hearsay was convincing (Resp. Judah b. Asher, no. 58), and attack on a victim who dies after a lapse of a certain time (Resp. sent to Salamanca by Isaac b. Sheshet, no. 251). In Spain in particular banishment was meted out to delators and informers (communal statutes of the delegates of Castile, 1432). R. Menaḥem of Merseburg (early 14th century) banished a man for two or three years for viciously beating his wife (Nimmukei Maharar Menahem me-Resburk at the end of Resp. Jacob Weill, Venice,
Mak. 2:6; Sif. Num. 60; Jos., Ant., 4:172–3; Philo, Spec., 3:123; F. Rundgren, in: VT, 7 (1957), 400–4; W. Zimmerli, in: ZAW, 66 (1954), 10–19; M. Greenberg, in: JBL, 78 (1959), 125–23. MIDDLE AGES: S. Assaf, Ha-Onashin Aḥarei Ḥatimat ha-Talmud (1922), 35–38; Baron, Community, index; Baer, Spain, 1 (1961), 430.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.