Does anyone suspect that the elders of the town had anything to do with the murder? According to American law, the answer is a resounding No. But in Jewish law, the elders are, indeed, responsible. Not because they spilled the blood—the entire ceremony is intended for occasions when there are no witnesses and no basis for such an accusation— but because the blood was spilled on their watch. And if they don’t wash their hands of this blood, they’ll face dire consequences, namely the ire of God.
In many ways, the proceedings of the court of 23 judges is likewise intended to put away the innocent blood from the community’s midst.
The stain of the spilled blood of the innocent on the spiritual well being of society is the main reason I support the death penalty. I believe we all pay the price of all human suffering in our midst, and worst of all the suffering of the slain. Our entire social contract is in jeopardy every time a murder goes unpunished.
Likewise, our spiritual well being is in jeopardy with every wrongful execution. Moreover, it could be said that the effect of an individual murder on society is marginal compared with a wrongful execution by the state, which receives consent for its actions from you and me.
This is the reason the capital-crime Sanhedrin is so obviously skewed in favor of the accused: we shudder at the thought of society adding the blood of an innocent defendant to that of the victim. Why else would we make it near impossible to execute murder suspects?
Returning to the issue of imposing the death penalty on Arab terrorists, I’ll be the first to admit that if the Netanyahu government had the spiritual depth required to appreciate the consequences of their letting murderers go free en masse – they would have long ago been able to solve many of Israel’s daunting problems.
Nevertheless, I’ve been feeling this spiritual angst ever since the start of Netanyahu’s signaling that he is prepared to show “good will” by abandoning every conceivable aspect of the fundamental contract between government and citizens, namely: you will elect me and I will maintain law and order. I couldn’t help feeling that Prime Minister Netanyahu believes that the value of life in general and my own life in particular is inconsequential.
But the life of the innocent is not inconsequential. It cries out to God from the ground, and God, in God’s time, restores it to its honorable place, and, I pray, avenges the callousness of thoughtless political hacks.