Killing Versus Murder

The sixth of the 10 commandments states quite clearly in the Hebrew “lo tirtzach”…… thou shalt not MURDER. By translator’s error, the English reads “thou shalt not KILL”… “lo taharog”… a very big distinction.

God has forbidden us to commit wanton murder, premeditated or not. One man may intend only to rob another man of his money and possessions. But in the course of the argument, he strikes his intended victim who falls to the ground dead. That is not regarded as killing. It is definitely murder. His actions cost the life of another individual.

On the other hand, we are permitted to kill in self-protection, to kill rather than to be killed. Killing in war is acceptable. If a thief breaks into a home in the dark of night, he may be killed.

Our Torah is perfectly clear on the rules of permitted killing.

The recent terrorist attack at the Lion’s Gate of the Old City in Jerusalem in which two young Israeli policemen were wantonly shot and died of their wounds is clearly a case of murder.

The attack by a 19-year-old Palestinian Arab who entered illegally into the Jewish settlement of Halamish and  walked into a home where a family sat gathered at the table observing erev Shabbat dinner and the birth of a new grandson, took out his knife and stabbed to death four members of the family. Their blood flowed like water and covered the floors and carpets of their home.

That was not an accidental killing. This was pure meditated murder by a crazed Arab youth who was determined to murder Jews. Plunging his knife into the bodies of four people seated at a table, singing and rejoicing for the oneg of shabbat, he destroyed an entire family.

Wounded by a passing soldier who heard the cries and shouting, he was shot and arrested. He expressed no remorse stating only that it was in revenge for al-Aqsa,

The Chief Rabbi, Yitzchak Yosef, has issued an order that we must kill on sight anyone seen bearing a weapon or anyone bent on causing harm or death to Jews. That is a law of the Torah.

Since these killings, cries have been heard from respectable members of our Knesset and political party leaders to use the death penalty against terrorists which is already established in our law and legal system.

To date, no one has been executed in Israel since the Nazi criminal, Adolph Eichmann. But since the law is on our books, it is obvious that the death penalty can be carried out against terrorists in an effort to deter future killings.

Demolition of parental homes is not true punishment. Homes can be relocated and rebuilt. Life-term prison sentences for the accused are not a punishment. It merely separates the terrorist murderers from their families while providing them with our prison comforts…television, good meals, freedom to pray, freedom to utilize books in which to learn law, freedom to take online classes at universities which will ultimately provide them, if successful, with an academic degree.

We have no hard labor punishment. Perhaps we should establish it, shackling prisoners by heavy chains while forcing them to dig or to break rocks. By the sweat of their brow will they feel the pain of their prison life.

I am in favor of Chief Rabbi Yosef’s position…. Kill first or be killed, God forbid.  Lo midrash ha ikkar elah ha maaseh. It is time to refrain from discussion and deliberation and instead, to act.. But although many clear minds approve of the death penalty, our Prime Minister lacks the courage of supporting it.

In our Torah, God commanded Abraham to listen to his wife Sarah and to follow her wishes. Bibi Netanyahu is surely no Abraham, but he definitely follows the advice of his wife…the other Sara. If she opposes a death penalty for terrorists it will not come to be while her husband leads the country and the coalition.

Stronger and more forceful voices are needed to convince our Prime Minister to support this law. Nothing has to be discussed or created. It is already established on our law codes. It only needs to be implemented.

Lo tirtzach and Lo taharog have similar but different meanings. It is Lo tirtzach which requires us to take action.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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