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Ben Sorer Umoreh


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#1 LeahWine

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Posted 03 September 2012 - 12:46 AM

So I get that a Ben Sorer Umoreh is killed to prevent him from doing something much worse, and that it probably never happened anyway, but why would stoning be the solution the Torah recommends for someone like that? Couldn't we just jail him and then he won't be able to do anything? Or maybe some kind of Yachol Lehatzil Be'echad Mai'eivarav? And even if we did have to kill him for some reason, why not kill him with a sword? Why does he deserve the worst death possible to prevent him from killing to get the food he wants?

#2 taon

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 09:49 PM

This is more than just him doing something wrong. This is a boy who has been so corrupted that even his parents realize there is no other choice. Execution is the final option here, when there is no other possibility. Locking him up for the rest of his life or crippling him wont help anymore. The situation is only one where he is too far gone.

#3 Menorah

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 10:47 PM

I was wondering, the idea is to punish him before he commits a sin that would cause him to deserve a death penalty punishment. Do we ever have a similar idea in halacha where someone is punished before committing an aveira in order to prevent him from committing the aveira?

#4 LeahWine

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 09:49 PM

You didn't explain why "Locking him up for the rest of his life or crippling him wont help anymore". I can't see how that could possibly be true. How could he possibly kill anyone if he's locked up in jail, or crippled to the point he couldn't harm a fly? Does that make any sense to you? In addition do you seriously believe that the Torah would make an empty threat just to scare people? I think that's pretty close to kefira! The Torah is 100% Emes, and if the Torah says something is the Halacha, than that's the Emes, that's really what he should get. Chazal certaintly feel that's what he really should get! And don't get me started on how bad chinuch lying to scare kids into doing Mitzvos is!

#5 taon

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 02:37 PM

You're right, I removed that part. (I did not mean it was an empty threat, but that the purpose is to show what he really deserves). But I have heard the ben soreh umoreh described as one addicted to this type of lifestyle. Injury and imprisoment dont change that, we see that today.

#6 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 09 September 2012 - 11:03 AM

So I get that a Ben Sorer Umoreh is killed to prevent him from doing something much worse, and that it probably never happened anyway, but why would stoning be the solution the Torah recommends for someone like that? Couldn't we just jail him and then he won't be able to do anything? Or maybe some kind of Yachol Lehatzil Be'echad Mai'eivarav? And even if we did have to kill him for some reason, why not kill him with a sword? Why does he deserve the worst death possible to prevent him from killing to get the food he wants?

Torah punishments are not the same as punishments enacted by humans. When society decides to punish someone,it is a two-step process: 1) Someone commits a crime ,and 2) society decides how to react to that crime in order to deter such crimes in the future, and whatever other motives society has for punishing people.

When the Torah enacts a punishment, it is the direct effect of the sin, as opposed to a response thereto. For example, if someone stabs himself, he will be hurt. His suffering is a cause-and-effect result of his action.

Similarly, the punishments in the Torah are cause-and-effect results of the actions committed by the sinner. Just as stabbing oneself results in bleeding, Chilul Shabbos results in being stoned. When a person does a sin - or a Mitzvah - it has a great effect on the universe. Things happen in the spiritual world that have effects on the entire cosmos, including the physical world.

One of the effects of a sin is that the sinner suffers. it's like he stabbed himself or poisoned himself. If not for his physical body which anesthetizes him, he would feel the fire of Gehennom on the spot (and the pleasure of Gan Eden after doing a Mitzvah). But because of his physicality, he will have to wait until his body is disposed, and the anesthesia is gone, until he actually can feel Gehenom or Gan Eden.

And the way the anesthesia of the physical body works is, it does not stop the pain. The soul feels it. It just does not allow you to recognize the pain in your physical mind. It's like those pain killers that block your brain from feeling the pain that your body is experiencing. So too the sinner's soul experiences pain but the physical mind is not aware of it. But whereas when a painkiller stops your mind from recognizing pain, the pain is for all practical purposes non-existent, the body's blocking the pain of the soul does not stop the soul from being in terrible agony. The physical body just remains ignorant of the soul's torment.

But there are this-worldy results of his sin as well. Among them are the punishments Bais Din metes out. If Hashem gave us a Mitzvah to kill a Mechalel Shabbos, it means that the nature of Chilul Shabbos is that it results in death. But the wisdom of Hashem decreed that instead of bringing this death upon the sinner through the Malach HaMaves, He will do so by command to Bais Din. (Should Bais Din violate their Mitzvah and not kill the sinner, that will result in Hashem's plans being disrupted by Baaelei bechirah - see here for details.)

The punishment for a Ben Soreor Unoreh is not merely a preventative measure. Yes, we kill him because in the future he will end up killing others. But it is not that Hashem looks into the future to see what this young man will do and then acts to stop it before it happens. Rather, the Ben Sorer Umoreh has so corrupted his soul and his personality already that, even though he is still young, and even though he was given Bechirah, it is impossible for him to become anything except a murderer. He's like a major addict, but an addict to crime and murder. An addict that will be unable to resist changing his ways.

This "addiction" is spiritual. It comes from a soul so corrupted by גשמיות that he is already a murderer inside - he just hasn't matured enough to have actually murdered anyone. Yet.

But the combination of sins that he has already committed, under the combination of circumstances that they happened (such as his upbringing, which has very specific requirements to qualify him as a Ben Sorer Umoreh) have resulted in his death. It is as if he shot himself. Or stoned himself. Asking why a Ben Sorer Umoreh gets killed a certain way is like asking why if a person jumps off a building he gets killed by trauma and not by poison. The answer is because that is the natural result of his actions.

Killing a Ben Sorer Umoreh is actually a mercy killing. It's like when Rebi's handmaiden prayed for Rebi to pass away because he was suffering. A Ben Sorer Umoreh's soul is suffering. As time goes by, it will only suffer more. It will not recover. His Neshama feels this suffering but his physical nervous system is just not cognizant of it.

Believe me - if the Ben Sorer Umoreh were able to see everything that is going on without the blinders imposed by his anesthetized body, he would scream out in grief: "Please have mercy! Kill me now before it gets worse!"

And the Torah, in its infinite Mercy, accedes.

And if we were able to see everything that is going on without the blinders of the physical world, we would see the results of the actions of the Ben Sorer Umoreh on himself, we would see him, stoned to death, and in peace.

#7 shaya

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Posted 09 September 2012 - 11:21 AM

if i remember correctly, it says in the gemoro that there was never a ben sorer umrah, or even more than that, that its impossible to have a sorere umorah since too many things have to fall into place, do i have this right?

rabbi,in other words, the ben sorer umorah is so corrupt that his bechirah is taken away from him? if not then how can we understand that he wont do teshuvah?
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#8 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 09 September 2012 - 11:22 AM


I was wondering, the idea is to punish him before he commits a sin that would cause him to deserve a death penalty punishment. Do we ever have a similar idea in halacha where someone is punished before committing an aveira in order to prevent him from committing the aveira?

Well only Hashem would be able to know for sure that someone will do an Aveirah in the future, so such an idea would not be possible. And there is of course the idea that a person can always do Teshuva, as well as many. many other reasons why such an idea is not found.

But killing the Ben Sorer Umoreh is analogous in that sense to euthanasia. Of course, the Torah does not allow us to proactively kill people due to physical suffering - יַסֹּר יִסְּרַנִּי יָּהּ וְלַמָּוֶת לֹא נְתָנָנִי - however, Hashem, Who knows what the future holds for the suffering person, and Who decides מי יחה ומי ימות may in fact end his life early in order to alleviate or prevent future suffering (see Kesuvos 104a אמתיה דרבי). And in the case of Ben Sorer Umoreh, Hashem, Who knows the spiritual suffering this young man's soul is going through and will only go through more so in the future, as well as the suffering of his future victims - as well as the value of this spiritually rotten life - determined that it is best for everyone, the Ben Sorer Umoreh included, if his life would end before even more suffering takes place.

#9 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 09 September 2012 - 11:45 AM

if i remember correctly, it says in the gemoro that there was never a ben sorer umrah, or even more than that, that its impossible to have a sorere umorah since too many things have to fall into place, do i have this right?

rabbi,in other words, the ben sorer umorah is so corrupt that his bechirah is taken away from him? if not then how can we understand that he wont do teshuvah?

The Gemora says there will not be a Ben Sorer Umoreh, but it does not say why. There are various explanations, most of which go in the direction you describe - that the circumstances that allow for someone to qualify as a Ben Sorer Umoreh are so narrow that it cannot happen in real life.

It's not that his Bechirah is taken away - he still has Bechirah, but he put himself in such a Nisayon that he would not be able to resist. You can say he doesn't have Bechirah in the sense that an addict may nto have Bechirah any more either, but it's not like Hashem taking away his Bechirah like he did to Paroh as a punishment. It's more like מה יעשה הבן שלא יחטא, but he put himself in that position.