web analytics
January 30, 2015 / 10 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Torture

I suspect the survival of torture for so long owes as much to the Church as to human nature.
torture

We think we have become more civilized, but Abu Ghraib proved that, given free reign, many are not. In the West those who still argue for torture say that it is necessary to prevent innocent people getting killed. But the overwhelming evidence is that torture is a blunt ineffective tool. There are far more effective ways of extracting information. Besides, someone in pain will say anything he thinks you want to hear to get it to stop. How many Jews were murdered over the millennia for supposedly killing Christian or Muslim children to drink their blood because under torture people said whatever nonsense they thought would help? Even the hidden bomb argument that philosophers love playing with is a myth. There have been no cases where torture has revealed a hidden bomb before it could go off saving vast numbers of innocents, only in the cinema or television.

I find it instructive that for all the violence described in the Torah in regard to displacing the Canaanite tribes and for its sanction of corporal and capital punishment, there is no Biblical word for and no legal reference to torture. Killing was the swift and merciful consequence of war in those days. Corporal punishment was strictly controlled, and if there were any danger of serious injury or death it would have been suspended. Two thousand years ago Rebbi Akivah excoriated a Jewish court for putting one person to death in 70 years. How many has Texas put to death this year alone?! Limbs were not hacked off under Jewish law. Nowhere is causing prolonged pain legislated for, in war or peace, certainly not judicially. Even those condemned to death (and there is a lot of support for the idea that it was very rarely used) were drugged beforehand to minimize suffering. The only cases that might contradict this that I can think of are David’s treatment of conquered cities, which seem to be in the same exceptional extralegal category as his adultery.

Modern Hebrew uses “LeAnot” for “torture”, but that simply means to suffer, the same word we use for fasting on Yom Kippur and for rape. The other word “LeSaGef” is used post biblically to describe self-inflicted religious penance such as flagellation, something some overzealous Jews borrowed from their non-Jewish neighbors.

We have always had those who have betrayed our values. Brutality is regrettable and must be condemned, even if where one faces an existential threat it may be understandable. Judaism can point to a unique feature that unlike other monotheist religions, no major source has ever approved of torture nor can we point to its being institutionally sanctioned. And it’s a shame that those societies that came after us and who claimed to be morally more advanced and enlightened have failed to take our lead.

About the Author: Jeremy Rosen is an Orthodox rabbi, author, and lecturer, and the congregational rabbi of the Persian Jewish Center of New York. He is best known for advocating an approach to Jewish life that is open to the benefits of modernity and tolerant of individual variations while remaining committed to halacha (Jewish law). His articles and weekly column appear in publications in several countries, including the Jewish Telegraph and the London Jewish News, and he often comments on religious issues on the BBC.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Torture”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
You are looking at an "armed insurgent" and not a terrorist, according to the White House.
Obama Wins War on Terror By Saying It Doesn’t Exist [video]
Latest Indepth Stories
IRAN-US-POLITICS-MILITARY

An Israeli strike could theoretically damage Iran’s nuclear program; only US can terminate program

Israeli-flag

At some point we need to stop simply defending and promoting Israel and start living in Israel

Rabbi Berel Wein

“We Jews are the only people who when we drop a book on the floor pick it up and kiss it.”

Rabbi Sholom Klass

Though Zaide was the publisher of The Jewish Press, a big newspaper,I always remember him learning

Speaker Silver has been an extraordinary public servant since his election to the Assembly in 1975 and has been an exemplary leader of that body since 1994.

He spent the first leg of his daylong visit to the French capital at Hyper Cacher.

Drawing Congress into the Iran nuclear debate is the last thing the White House wants.

Great leaders like Miriam and like Sarah Schenirer possess the capacity to challenge the status quo that confronts them.

Obama’s foreign policy is viewed by both liberals and conservatives as deeply flawed

Many journalists are covertly blaming the Charlie Hebdo writers themselves through self-censorship.

Why does the Times relay different motivations and narratives for jihadists in Europe and Israel?

To defeat parasites-the hosts of terrorists-we need to deny them new people, potential terrorists

Combating Amalek doesn’t mean all who disagree with you is evil-rather whom to follow and to oppose

Desperate people take what they can, seizing opportunity to advance their main goal; the Arabs don’t

More Articles from Jeremy Rosen
putin napoleon

Obama’s incompetence, the way his naive worldview and credulity have made a fool of him, are equally frightening

Rashid Khalidi

The Ramaz School was wrong to refuse to allow Rashid Khalidi, the Palestinian apologist, to speak to its senior students.

Imagine you take your family somewhere where there is no such thing as a day off.

Pascal’s famous wager was that it makes sense to bet on God.

The Talmud (Eiruvin 96a) mentions that Michal, the daughter of King Saul, wore Tefilin and no one objected.

We’ve known that you can define neither Jews nor Judaism in a way that will satisfy all its various elements.

The religious world needs to fight back constructively.

There is a dichotomy between personal, private prayer and public communal prayer.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/torture/2013/08/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: