A time to hate

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20 Responses

  1. Steve Brizel says:

    As R M Y Soloveitchik (one of RAS’s grandsons and a profound thinker in his own right) pointed out, Torah Judaism, especially as indicated in Koheles, requires us to recognize the difference between good and evil and that there is a time for love, peace, hate and war that we must utilize in order to make the world a better place. We seriously believe “Yimach Shmo VZicro” when we refer to a perpetrator of evil, as opposed to other faiths that urge mankind to be pacifist or to turn the other cheek.

  2. Ori Pomerantz says:

    If I understand the Vatican’s position correctly, they are not spouting the moral equivalency nonsense of Tim Hames. What they are saying is that by executing a sinner we are taking away his opportunity to do Tshuva, condemning him to an eternity in hell. Since they believe that by right they belong in the same hell for their sins, and salvation is a gift, it is hard for them not to have sympathy.

    I can see their point. Maybe it would have been better to keep Saddam alive. I’m sure that the Baghdad zoo could spare a cage to show a homo sapiens who relinquished his humanity, as well as a bit of the same raw meat they feed other vicious carnivores.

  3. Adamchik says:

    Note R. Ahron Soloveitchik’s words:

    “[I]t is irresponsible and unfair to submit a statement in favor of capital punishment in the name of Orthodox Jewry. In my humble opinion, from a Halachik point of view, every Jew should be opposed to capital punishment. It is true . . . that the Torah recognizes capital punishment. However, the Torah delegates the authority to mete out capital punishment only to Sanhedrin, not to anyone else. Even Sanhedrin are [sic] not able to mete out capital punishment if there is no Beis Hamikdash.

    B’zman she’yesh kohen makriv, yesh nefashot, b’zman she’ayn kohen makriv, ayn nefashot. Even capital punishment among B’nei Noach cannot be meted out when there is no kohen makriv.”

    There is more at

    http://www.ou.org/public_affairs/article/njd_tradition_cp/

    but you get the idea. This is not an easy topic.

  4. Nachum Lamm says:

    Adamchik, it’s kind of dishonest for you to cite one small part of an article dedicated to refuting that small part.

  5. Ahron says:

    The leaders of the European Union have certainly shed more tears over Hussein’s death than they ever did for his victims. The noxious Mr. Zhirinovsky, too, seems far more vexed by Saddam’s execution than he ever was by Saddam’s people-shredders.

    Logic would lead one to assume that such expressions and non-expressions of sympathy also reveal their owners’ true moral leanings.

  6. One Christian's perspective says:

    Many Christians, believing by faith that we stand before G-d at death to answer for our words, thoughts and deeds in this life, prayed earnestly that G-d would soften Saddam’s heart that he would “be able” to confess his sins and seek forgiveness from G-d not unlike David when he prayed the words of Psalm 51. Did I want to pray for Saddam ? I had not been doing so. I had been praying for the families who suffered at his hands. When I heard that his execution was within hours, without hesitation I could not stop praying for him. This year, I learned that it is G-d alone who initiates mercy and then softens our hearts to carry that out. Perhaps, G-d who softened our hearts toward Saddam so we could pray for someone we were not, perhaps, G-d heard our prayers and softened Saddam’s heart so he could chose to say in humility and in sincerity “I am sorry G-d that I killed your image bearers”.

    G-d is not a G-d of disorder and chaos. From the TORAH, I learned just how interested He is in maintaining order and preserving life and delivering justice. Seeking forgiveness from G-d and man is a spiritual act of worship. Carrying out justice within the laws of the land -assuming the laws are just as G-d would see them – is maintaining order and not chaos as G-d desires us to live.

    Forgiveness is spiritual. Carrying out justice for crimes against humanity is also spiritual if our hearts are pure.

  7. Tal Benschar says:

    “Even capital punishment among B’nei Noach cannot be meted out when there is no kohen makriv.”

    This does not appear to be the view of the Rambam in Hil. Melakhim. It certainly was not the view of R. Moshe Feinstein, who wrote a teshuva generally supportive of the death penalty.

  8. SM says:

    Capital Punishment is wrong. The proposition that we assist anything by the formalised murder of that man is bizarre – all we do is demonstrate that we will behave as he did (which behaviour, of course, we condemn). It was a grim irony that Cheney said of the late President Ford that “he understood that healing was necessary” whilst ensuring that Hussein hung.

    And, if we are talking about repentance – where is ours? We have taken a human life without any divine sanction for doing so and we are “satisfied”?? Teshuva would seem appropriate.

    As a society we really need to get our heads round the fact that killing someone by way of “execution” (as if renaming it changed the character of the act) is simply giving way to the desire for vengeance. That is not a principle by which civilised societies (and I include the USA in that) should live. Politicians who support capital punishment either lack the moral capacity to govern or are prepared to kill others for the sake of their own advancement – and it’s usually the second.

    And no – I wouldn’t have hung Hitler. And yes, I have been in the position of seeing a much loved young relative murdered.

  9. Dr. E says:

    I think that they should have held off and scheduled the execution on 15th of Adar in the ancient city of Shushan. And any remaining kin would be taken care of as well.

  10. Jewish Observer says:

    “it’s kind of dishonest”

    these are kind of strong words

  11. DMZ says:

    “Capital Punishment is wrong.”

    Unfortunately, it seems G-d disagrees, seeing as he actually prescribes such punishment in His own holy book for some crimes. You can not like it all you want, but it’s pretty clear that this sort of punishment can be “not wrong” in some circumstances. Whether this is one of them is left for the reader.

  12. alfie says:

    you have confused justice with vengeance. justice is based on law and there is significant discussion about the legality of the trial of Saddam. Vengeance is based on deep-seated emotions – and according to the Torah is relegated to G-d.

  13. SM says:

    DMZ: that’s simply not right. The way in which the gemarra restricts the death penalty makes it clear that, absent a Sanhedrin, we can forget it. It’s not left to the reader. And even with a Sanhedrin it was the gemarra’s opinion that executing once every seven (perhaps seventy) years was more than enough. I think that makes my point.

    I am concerned by people who feel that they are able to distinguish between those who should live and those who should die. If that person is a murderer we lock them up out of the way (or execute them alas). But if that person is a politician or a Judge we praise them. I’m a Judge – and I simply don’t share that faith in human beings. My experience is that everyone gets it wrong some of the time. And it isn’t a question of guilt or innocence. It’s about who deserves to die. You can’t answer that question, I can’t and nor can the President or the Prime Minister of Iraq.

    Let’s walk humbly with God.

  14. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “Divine vengeance, then, is the righting of an imbalance in the world, and refers equally to the punishment of the wicked and the reward of the righteous. When we merit witnessing the enactment of justice, our belief that there is both Justice and a Judge is strengthened.”

    In Rabbi Rosenblum’s Yated piece, he quotes from the Sichos Mussar of Rav Chaim Shmulevitz based on Berachos 33a to support the idea that “nekama”(vengeance) is not the same as the very human, cathartic feeling for retaliation, described as “sweeter than honey” by the Mesilas Yesharim. Rav Chaim’s thought is developed as well by Michtav Meliyahu(vol II, Purim) to reconcile the different verses in the battle with Midyan between “revenge of Hashem”, and “revenge of Jewish People”(Bamidbar 31), as well as by Mishnas Rav Aharon(Vol III) to explain why Jews were able to sing praise at the Yom Suf, unlike the angels.

    The Jewish concept of revenge, forgiveness, and happiness over death of the wicked has been a subject of discussion following the recent Amish school tragedy, and after Yassir Arafat’s death. The issue is relevant as well to the response to Nazis following the Holocaust, as well as in the Israeli-Arab conflict. Eli Wisel(The Sunflower) compares the Jewish attitude towards forgiving Nazis with that of a number of other religions; this is discussed as well in Rabbi Meir Solevecihik’s “The Virtue of Hate” quoted by Steve Brizel, above.

    Following the Holocaust, there was a group known as the “Avengers” (DIN, or Dam L’yehudi Nokem), whose goal unlike that of Simon Wisenthal, was to assassinate, rather than bring Nazi murders to trial. On the other hand, Golda Meir is quoted to have said, “I can forgive the Arabs for having killed our soldiers but I can never forgive them for making us kill theirs.” This was criticized by one Jewish militant as being worthy of entry to the “Hall of Fame of Insanity”. I can see why it may be perceived as weakening the right of self defense which every nation exercises to protect the lives of its citizens.

  15. Baruch Horowitz says:

    The meforshim discuss contradictory sources in chazal and tanach regarding rejoicing over the death of the wicked(see link from Kollel Iyun Hadaf below). Even when killing insects, Rav Moshe Feinstein mentions the concern that habitual killing, even when justified and required, may implant cruelty in one’s heart(see Ohr Hachaim regarding Ihr Hanidachas). Jewish happiness upon the elimination of evil is tempered by the concern that one shouldn’t become blood thirsty. As Rabbi Shafran wrote after Arafat’s death “Jews don’t dance in the streets and fire weapons in celebration when their enemies die”.

    In “Go My Son”, Chaim Shapiro, a former yeshiva student of Kamintetz and Baranovich, after personally witnessing the cruelty of the Nazi’s to himself and his family, describes his efforts to join the Russian army to fight against Hitler and his army. He becomes a tank commander, and is commanded to fire on German soldiers. Far from feeling satisfied, he is unable to sleep that night, and “feels ashamed for himself and the human race ” for killing a human being.

    When he remembers low-flying Blitzkrieg pilots who machine-gunned his younger brother and others innocent fleeing civilians, he is then able to maintain the perspective necessary during war. After eliminating an enemy tank in a later battle, he quotes from Devorah’s song “so may all your enemies perish, Hashem”. I can not find any fault in such a reaction, nor with the reaction of President Bush to Saddam Hussein’s execution. As in the title of this post: “la’kol z’man va’eis l’chol cheifetez tachas hashomayim”.

    Rabbi Mordechai Becher has a good discussion of these issues on OU radio(appx. 30 minutes into the tape titled “Can Jews Forgive, Eating a Clone”), and Kollel Iyun Hadaf on Megillah 10b discusses the contradictory sources regarding the issues of b’nfol oyivcha al tismach(see also Megillah 16a).

    http://www.ouradio.org/ouradio/channel/C292/

    http://dafyomi.shemayisrael.co.il/megilah/insites/mg-dt-10.htm

  16. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Halacha gives the authority to execute criminals to two human institutions:

    1. Batey Din, Rabbinical courts, which are tied up in so much procedure according to Mishna and Talmud that it’s almost impossible to execute anybody in practice. A Beit Din draws its authority directly from G-d and the Torah.

    2. Kings, who are allowed to execute criminals for the sake of public order. See Mishneh Torah, laws of Kings and Wars, 3:11 at http://www.mechon-mamre.org/i/e503.htm.

    Mishneh Torah speaks about kings, but that could be because kings were the common form of government at the time. Tanach shows a ruler who is not a king, and does not draw his power from a king, executing people (Gideon in Judges 8:17). In today’s world, an elected government would probably have the same Halachic permission, even though it is run on written rules rather than a king’s decisions.

    Secular courts, especially in a society that is predominately non Jewish (Iraq and the US both apply), do not draw their authority from G-d and the Torah. They draw their authority from the government (or the king when there is one). Therefore, they operate under #2 (rulers executing for the sake of public order), rather than under #1 (Halachic death penalty).

    The discussion in Sanhedrin deals with the Halachic death penalty under #1. It simply does not apply to public order executions by a secular government.

  17. DMZ says:

    “DMZ: that’s simply not right. The way in which the gemarra restricts the death penalty makes it clear that, absent a Sanhedrin, we can forget it. It’s not left to the reader. And even with a Sanhedrin it was the gemarra’s opinion that executing once every seven (perhaps seventy) years was more than enough. I think that makes my point.”

    I’m not wrong, and you’re “proving” that using bad arguments. You’re applying Jewish standards to gentile courts, which they aren’t halahically required to follow. You misrepresent one opinion in the gemara (an irrelevant opinion, as I’ve just said) as the only opinion, too.

    I understand your extreme revulsion to capital punishment, even though I don’t share it. But, as Ori has already pointed out, gentile governments have the halahic authority to carry it out. Please, please do not paint being “anti-death-penalty” as “the only Jewish position”. You didn’t explicitly say it, but I felt as if that’s written between the lines.

  18. One Christian's perspective says:

    Ori: “secular courts…do not draw their authority from G-d or Torah.” DMZ: “Gentile governments have the halahic authority to carry it out”.

    I believe everyone (Jew and gentile) is under G-d’s authority whether or not they believe He exists or even agree with His statutes

    I don’t like capital punishment because one can argue that it prevents one the opportunity to turn to G-d and repent even though a lengthy trial can do the same. On the other hand, I think history has shown that there are some people who so evil that their hearts will never be softened toward G-d and that this form of punishment, approved by the people of the land – not for vengeance but justice – may be necessary to bring order out of chaos and an end to a reign of terror and facilitate closure and healing. Those in power in our times who have authorized and done wholesale murder of others for no apparent reason than they can, may further bring terrible pain to the survivors just by staying alive in prison.

  19. SM says:

    DMZ: I didn’t mean that being anti-capital punichment is the only Jewish position. And I accept the argument about secular society having to preserve public order.

    But two points are starkly clear. Firstly, the preservation of public order is almost exactly the LAST purpose this execution has served. So, applying that test the decision was wrong.

    Secondly and more importantly, the issue of who is to judge a person’s right to live remains a valid issue. The gemarra’s position is not irrelevant when used as an aid to discern what the ammoraim felt about that issue. And I remain troubled by the rush to exercise that judgement by virtually everyone. To judge someone’s right to life is about as serious as it gets. Yet people who wouldn’t buy a new oven without asking their rav whether it would suit for Shabbat don’t feel bothered by this.

    It seems to me that some of that willingness to judge is driven by a wish for vengeance. I don’t believe that vengeance is ever anything a court should give expression to (which is why it’s “the State against X” or “The People against X”). If I can quote a non-talmudic source, Winston Churchill once said “Don’t speak when you’re angry. You’ll make the best speech you ever regret.”

  20. DMZ says:

    I guess I should point out that in Judaism, there are times when we can apply the death penalty for things which aren’t vengeance-related, at least not in the sense you’re thinking of. For example, chillul Shabbos – under some (limited) circumstances, someone being mechallel Shabbos can be executed by beis din. Ditto for avodah zarah – you’re not taking vengeance for any horrible atrocity done on your family. That’s why I take issue to what appears to be your basic premise: that capital punishment is always vengeance-related.

    In this specific case, was it about vengeance? Probably at least partially. But we’re also dealing with a part of the world where vengeance is often considered justice. That’s where I think the argument also goes awry. You are very much approaching this from a Western ideal, and the Torah doesn’t say “and if you live in the West, your opinions are more valid than those elsewhere”. If Iraq has a functioning, government-approved court system that’s uncorrupt, and this one seemed to make the grade, their judgement is halachically approved.

    G-d gave us the authority to judge others. That much is clear from the entire establishment of beis din (Tannaic source, if you prefer: Moshe’s appointment of the judges and teachers). Are some matters more serious than others? Absolutely. But it is absolutely clear that in some circumstances, men are given the choice of deciding whether other men live, and that G-d approves (elsewise, why would He have written it?).

    Again, I’m no huge fan of capital punishment. I know the subject well enough to know there are abuses, biases, and screw-ups. But at the same time, I feel there ARE situations where things are clear-cut enough to merit it. Mr. Hussein was one of those situations, in my mind.

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