ETHICS OF JUDAISM

Conflict & Suffering, Crime & Punishment

Conflict & Suffering, Crime & Punishment

religious studiesBecause Jews believe that God has brought them great benefits as a people, they believe that they should follow his laws and try to make the world a better place. This means that they have strong beliefs about justice and peace. These beliefs have been reinforced over the centuries by the injustice and oppression that Jews themselves have so often suffered. Anti-Semitism, prejudice against Jews, has been a powerful force in creating firm beliefs among Jews about fairness.

Jewish teachings say that the use of violence and warfare can be justified in the case of self-defence, but only if all attempts at a negotiated settlement have failed. The Book of Genesis includes the following verse: ‘Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed.’ Even attacking an enemy before the enemy launches an assault can be justified if it is believed the enemy is about to launch aggression.

Judaism has laws about the conduct of warfare which include the stipulation that innocent civilians should be allowed to evacuate before a battle commences. Only combatants can justifiably be killed.

——————————————————

Crime and Punishment

Although the Torah lists many crimes that can be punished with the death penalty, in fact the Talmud puts so many conditions on this that in practice the death penalty is rarely used. The State of Israel abolished the death penalty in 1954, except for people convicted of Nazi war crimes. Since then only one man has been executed, the Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann.

religious studiesMuch of Jewish belief about crime is centred on the Ten Commandments which among other things forbid theft and murder. In general, crimes are regarded as sins and these require appropriate punishment.

The Torah does not speak about imprisonment as a punishment for crime. Instead, it concentrates on restitution as a method of punishment. For example, if a man steals money for another, he should work for his victim until he has repaid the sum in full.

——————————————————