Project Genesis




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The Jewish Legal System

The Sanhedrin and the Rabbis

Death Sentences

I know that there are numerous Jewish Laws which in theory are punishable by death but when was the last recorded instance of a death sentence carried out?

The State of Israel has only ever executed one person – Adolf Eichmann – for Crimes Against Humanity in 1962.

Hi,
Thanks for asking this question. The implication of your comment about Adolf
Eichman is correct. We do not carry out the death penalty anymore. As a
matter of fact, Adolf Eichman had nothing to do with the biblical concept of
death penalty. The biblical concept of the death penalty is one that is very
hard to actually carry out. As a matter of fact, our rabbis teach us that a
court that would implement the death penalty once in 70 years would be a
murderous court. According to some commentators it was never carried out.
The purpose of having these laws was to scare one into not sinning in order
to show the grave consequences of our actions. In order to actually carry
out this penalty many things would have to be in place including two
“kosher” witnesses, a warning given to the criminal, and many other things
that are very difficult to actually happen. We do know of death penalty
cases carried out by G-d in the Torah. The Torah was not written in order to
have cruel punishments carried out on the Jews, but rather to outline what
is moral behavior and the punishments simply identify the severity of the
crimes.
Be Well

1 Follow-up »


  1. Is it possible that crimes that deserve the death penalty get the penalty in the after-life?

    Hi,
    Thanks for this great question. Yes, it is true that what happens in this
    world has repercussions in the next. It is exacting, but sometimes we get
    rewarded or punished here, sometimes in the next world. If we do something
    on purpose, then the heavenly punishment is much worse. There is a concept
    of heavenly death penalty and death from this world can be part of that
    process. I highly recommend “The Way of G-d” by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato.
    He goes through this concept in great detail and if you are interested in
    Jewish philosophy then this is the book for you.
    Be Well,
    Rabbi Litt

    Comment by ATR — January 17, 2006 @ 11:19 am

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