Kenneth Cohen


The Torah warns us to take great care in dealing with a deviant, known as, the מסית. It is interesting that the modern Hebrew word for “incitement,” is “Hasata,” which is a form of the word, “Meiseet.”

This evil individual incites other Jews to go astray, and worship false religions. He is a kind of missionary. He begins by trying to convince his family and close friends, of his great awakening, and tries to tempt them to “drink from the forbidden waters.”
It sounds very much like someone starting a cult, or new religion. Years ago I learned that successful cults are great at two things. They prey on lonely people, and profess to them how much they are loved, and they are generous with feeding their innocent souls. The combination of food and love, is often enough to win over large numbers of people.

The Torah tells us to be extremely tough in prosecuting these people. Mean judges should be appointed to handle their case. “Mean” is defined as older judges (grumpy old men) and childless judges. Their station in life, makes them intolerant of such a transgression. We are even taught that in other cases of capital punishment, if new evidence is found that could save the accused from execution, we go back to court, to hear this evidence. The exception to this rule is the מסית. Once he is convicted, the decision is final. The Torah specifically tells us not to have pity on them.
This is certainly a lesson for us. We must not tolerate missionaries and cults, in the holy land of Israel.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at