462. Oh, Yeah – Don’t Do That: The prohibition against being a meisis

Over the past few mitzvos, we’ve discussed a lot about the meisis, who tries to lure other Jews to serve an idol. We’re not to pay him any heed, we’re not to befriend him, we’re not to testify on his behalf or save him from mortal danger. The Torah has quite a lot to say about a meisis.

Let’s define what being a meisis entails. A meisis is a Jew who says to another Jew, “Hey! Let’s go serve an idol!” Even if the actual act of serving the idol never ended up happening, it is the invitation that makes one a meisis. If a meisis invites two people, they are the ones who will act as witnesses against him in his trial. (Capital cases require a minimum of two witnesses to convict.) If one of the people whom the meisis is trying to entice manages to talk him out of it, the meisis is not liable, but if he persists, he’s subject to capital punishment.

In our current mitzvah, the Torah tells us not to BE a meisis. After Mitzvos #457-461, do we really have any doubts as to why? Idolatry is the largest possible personal affront to God a person can do. It’s bad enough to be an idolator oneself, but to be a recruiter for idolatry is simply beyond the pale.

This mitzvah applies in all times and places. It is discussed in the Talmud in tractate Sanhedrin on pages 29a, 33b, 67a and 85b. It is codified the Mishneh Torah in the fifth chapter of Hilchos Avodas Kochavim. This mitzvah is #16 of the 365 negative mitzvos in the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvos and #23 of the 194 negative mitzvos that can be observed today as listed in the Sefer HaMitzvos HaKatzar of the Chofetz Chaim.