Sanhedrin 46: I'm Not Mad at You
Man finds it difficult to admit wrongdoing. Doing so creates cognitive dissonance. Being that we are basically good people – there are few who do not think such of themselves – our actions are almost always, if not exemplary, at least justifiable. Our Sages well understood this, noting, “When one sins and repeats the sin, it becomes to him like it is permissible” (Kiddushin 40b). Rather than changing our ways, we justify...Continue Reading »
Sanhedrin 45: Take off Your Clothes!
In an amazing teshuva, Rav Yaakov Ettlinger (Binyan Tzion #172-173), basing himself on the story of Tamar and Yehuda, rules that one must give up one’s life rather than embarrass someone in public. Tamar was willing to die rather than embarrass Yehuda for having had an affair with her. What makes this ruling doubly astounding is the fact that Yehuda had committed a great sin and one would have thought that under such circumstances it...Continue Reading »
Sanhedrin 44: I Didn't Do It!
In recent years, as more forensic tools have become available, we have been able to free many people who languished for years in prison before their wrongful conviction was overturned. It is this fear of accidentally putting to death an innocent person that has led some who would otherwise be in favour of capital punishment to oppose it. Executing the wrong person is a mistake that cannot be rectified. The halachic system...Continue Reading »
Sanhedrin 43: Confess and Die
The fact that the Bible allows – perhaps at times even encourages – the death penalty for violating its most serious transgressions is based on the belief that death is not the end of a human’s existence. While it may mark one’s physical end and the demise of the body, the soul of all, including the executed, can still live on. Only with this notion can we understand the moments leading up to the execution of one...Continue Reading »
Sanhedrin 40:Where Were You on Monday at 3:00pm?
"They would cross-examine him with seven questions: in which year of the jubilee, in which year of the shmitta cycle, in which month, on what day of the month, on what day of the week, at what time and where? Rabbi Yossi says, on what day, at what time and where?” (Sanhedrin 40a). After reading the riot act (see our last post here) to the witnesses, warning them of the dire consequences of false testimony in...Continue Reading »