Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Halacha - Ghengis Khan style

For those not familiar with Yassa:

(Interestingly, Mongols were fairly tolerant of religions, so the "First Commandment" seems a bit puzzling)

1. "It is ordered to believe that there is only one God, creator of heaven and earth, who alone gives life and death, riches and poverty as pleases Him-and who has over everything an absolute power

2. Leaders of a religion, preachers, monks, persons who are dedicated to religious practice, the criers of mosques, physicians and those who bathe the bodies of the dead are to be freed from public charges.

3. It is forbidden under penalty of death that any one, whoever he be, shall be proclaimed emperor unless he has been elected previously by the princes, khans, officers, and other Mongol nobles in a general council.

4. It is forbidden chieftains of nations and clans subject to the Mongols to hold honorary tiles.

5. Forbidden to ever make peace with a monarch, a prince or a people who have not submitted.

6. The ruling that divides men of the army into tens, hundreds, thousands, and ten thousands is to be maintained. This arrangement serves to raise an army in a short time, and to form the units of commands.

7. The moment a campaign begins, each soldier must receive his arms from the hand of the officer who has them in charge. The soldier must keep them in good order, and have them inspected by his officer before a battle.

8. Forbidden, under death penalty, to pillage the enemy before the general commanding gives permission; but after this permission is given the soldier must have the same opportunity as the officer, and must be allowed to keep what he has carried off, provided he has paid his share to the receiver for the emperor.

9. To keep the men of the army exercised, a great hunt shall be held every winter. On this account, it is forbidden any man of the empire to kill from the month of March to October, deer, bucks, roe-bucks, hares, wild ass and some birds.

10. Forbidden, to cut the throats of animals slain for food; they must be bound, the chest opened and the heart pulled out by the hand of the hunter.

11. It is permitted to eat the blood and entrails of animals-though this was forbidden before now.

12. (A list of privileges and immunities assured the chieftains and officers of the new empire.)

13. Every man who does not go to war must work for the empire, without reward, for a certain time.

14. Men guilty of the theft of a horse or steer or a thing of equal value will be punished by death and their bodies cut into two parts. For lesser thefts the punishment shall be, according to the value of the thing stolen, a number of blows of a staff-seven, seventeen, twenty-seven, up to seven hundred. But this bodily punishment may be avoided by paying nine times the worth of the thing stolen.

15. No subject of the empire may take a Mongol for servant or slave. Every man, except in rare cases, must join the army.

16. To prevent the flight of alien slaves, it is forbidden to give them asylum, food or clothing, under pain of death. Any man who meets an escaped slave and does not bring him back to his master will be punished in the same manner.

17. The law of marriage orders that every man shall purchase his wife, and that marriage between the first and second degrees of kinship is forbidden. A man may marry two sisters, or have several concubines. The women should attend to the care of property, buying and selling at their pleasure. Men should occupy themselves only with hunting and war. Children born of slaves are legitimate as the children of wives. The offspring of the first woman shall be honored above other children and shall inherit everything.

18. Adultery is to be punished by death, and those guilty of it may be slain out of hand.

19. If two families wish to be united by marriage and have only young children, the marriage of these children is allowed, if one be a boy and the other a girl. If the children are dead, the marriage contract may still be drawn up.

20. It is forbidden to bathe or wash garments in running water during thunder.
21. Spies, false witnesses, all men given to infamous vices, and sorcerers are condemned to death.

22. Officers and chieftains who fail in their duty, or do not come at the summons of the Khan are to be slain, especially in remote districts. If their offense be less grave, they must come in person before the Khan."


Blogger Tobie said...

I love the way they range from oddly ritual-sounding to oddly practical; the bans on laundry during lightning storms and the national service requirement, for example, strike me as pretty solid.

Now if only generations and generations of legal, nitpicking minds had been let loose on that lot..

June 17, 2008 1:44 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

What I find odd is the weird secrecy about the written scrolls for a law that everyone followed"

"The document is thought to be extremely comprehensive and very specific although no copies of it survive, even in part. Used to be written in Uigur Mongolian script. Scribed on scrolls, Yasa preserved in secret archives and were known only to the royal families. Nobody has seen these scrolls to this day.
The word Yassa translates into "order" or "decree". The Yassa was written on scrolls and bound into volumes that could only be seen by the Khan or his closest advisors, but the rules in the content were widely known and were followed."

June 17, 2008 2:43 PM  
Blogger -suitepotato- said...

"Now if only generations and generations of legal, nitpicking minds had been let loose on that lot.."

Hmmmm... Mishneh Yasa... Er... NO.

June 18, 2008 12:13 PM  
Blogger Miri said...

what's with being allowed to marry off your dead children? what does that accomplish, exactly?

June 19, 2008 4:34 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

>what's with being allowed to marry off your dead children? what does that accomplish, exactly?

I am guessing that's because marriages were used as alliances between families. So let's say that two families drew up a contract to have their infant children marry when they reach a certain age, and both children die prior to that. The law says the contract is still valid.

That's my guess.

June 19, 2008 5:21 AM  
Blogger Miri said...

really? it sounded like the contract could be drawn up even if the children were already dead. which...I mean I get the alliance thing, I just don't know how this accomplishes that, practically speaking.

June 19, 2008 10:09 AM  

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