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HORAYOT (Heb. הוֹרָיוֹת; "Rulings"), short tractate in three chapters, attached to the order of Nezikin in the Mishnah, Tosefta, and the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds. Its scriptural basis is Leviticus 4 and Numbers 15:22–31. The biblical phrase "sinning through error" is understood here to refer to erroneous rulings by the high priest or the high court (the Sanhedrin), leading to the inadvertent violation of precepts, which, if willfully transgressed, would have been deserving of *karet. The first chapter discusses the various aspects of erroneous decisions issuing from the bet din, especially if the error led to idolatry. The second chapter begins with the problem of erroneous decisions issuing from the high priest, but goes on to discuss the conditions (nature of error, particular types of precepts) which make the rules of erroneous decisions applicable. The particular position of the ruler (nasi) who unwittingly commits a sin is also entered into (cf. Lev. 4:22). At first, the third chapter deals with retiring high priests and rulers who committed a sin before or after retirement, but then digresses on questions of precedence: under what circumstances does a man have precedence over his wife and vice versa; all things being equal, the order of precedence is priest, levite, Israelite, *mamzer, etc., but (and with this the tractate concludes) a learned mamzer takes precedence over an ignorant high priest.

The Babylonian Gemara to Horayot has a considerable amount of aggadah, especially in the third chapter. It includes the incident involving R. Meir and R. Nathan, against whom Rabban *Simeon b. Gamaliel took strict disciplinary measures to enforce patriarchal authority. The Gemara ends with the well-known dispute as to which of the two types of scholars is preferable: one who has a wide and solid knowledge but is of moderate intellect, or one who has a brilliant brain but is not so well read. The Gemara of the Jerusalem Talmud to Horayot was appended to the Babylonian tractate by the early Venetian printers because they found no tosafot to this tractate and the Jerusalem Gemara took its place. From the Frankfurt edition of 1720 the text was tampered with by every printer up to the Romm edition. The first edition (Venice, 1521) is the best as far as the text is concerned, but its text is still in a very corrupt form.


S. Liebermann, in: Sefer ha-Yovel le-Rabbi Ḥ. Albeck (1963), 283–305.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.