Billy is a violent and angry person and has a desire to kill and injure people to feel good. He has no outlet in polite society.

A Ben Soreh (rebellious son) case actually occurs in his town and as the verse says

"And all the men of his city shall pelt him to death with stones, and he shall die."

On one hand, Billy has an outlet to help kill this victim and he will have a kosher way to exercise his desire to kill.

On the other hand, Billy is indulging his desire. Some may say this makes his middos worse?

Is there a concern that Billy will develop worse middos if he participates in the execution?

  • 2
    Can we exchange Ben Su"M with a Shabbos transgressor, please, so we won't argue on whether it is fictional or real.
    – Al Berko
    Sep 24, 2019 at 19:46
  • sefaria.org.il/Chullin.109b.12?lang=bi
    – Joel K
    Sep 24, 2019 at 19:53
  • 1
    Yibum when it's not lishmah is kind of like this
    – Heshy
    Sep 24, 2019 at 20:22
  • I think shabbos transgressors may be executed by witnesses or agents of the court but I know the laws for Ben Soreh or the Rebellious city are different. Sep 24, 2019 at 20:29
  • @Clint Al’s correct - Ben Sorer u’Moreh may or may not be real, but Chiyuvei Misas Beis Din who escaped can be killed by anyone.
    – DonielF
    Sep 25, 2019 at 2:36

3 Answers 3


Shabbat 156a

האי מאן דבמאדים יהי גבר אשיד דמא אמר רבי אשי אי אומנא אי גנבא אי טבחא אי מוהלא אמר רבה אנא במאדים הורי אמר אביי מר נמי עניש וקטיל

‘He who is born under Mars will be a shedder of blood. R. Ashi observed: Either a surgeon, a thief, a slaughterer, or a circumciser. Rabbah said: I was born under Mars. Abaye retorted: You too inflict punishment and kill.

(Soncino translation)

It sounds like you should channel your natural proclivities towards something permissible.


I asked my Rabbi Z"L a similar question many years ago: assuming one's Middos are the tools that G-d provides, should one make use of it or overcome it, as we saw from Avraham's Akedah example.

The answer was that there are two levels of Avodas Hashem - on a lower level one makes use of the Middos - if he loves violence he could be a Shochet or an executor, as you mentioned. On a higher level, he should overcome "bad" Middos as G-d testifies for Avraham that was Middas Chesed on his last test "אתה ידעתי כי יראה א' אתה". He became "fearful" (or something). But that's much harder work.


This is more of a general philosophy question, I don't think you will find a clear answer in the traditional sources.

Whenever we discuss ideal state or actions, they are limited by our real situation. We can change our situation, and thereby change the ideals we can reach. Consider a very practical application - someone without too much money can invest it well, and then have more money available in the future. So if they ask what is the most intelligent way to budget their money the answer depends a lot on how well they can invest it. If they are confident they can invest it and expect a high return it makes the most sense to plan on spending more in the future, but if they have no idea how to invest they need to plan assuming all they have is what they have at the moment.

The ideal-ideal for Billy is to not engage in the violent behavior, and to learn better ways to handle his personality. The practical-ideal is more likely to be that he should find legitimate outlets for his violence, even if that means being the state executioner (to continue with your example) assuming that he reasonably believes this outlet will free him from unhealthy pressure and open the way him to change in a positive way. The minimal-ideal is to take any legitimate outlet, even if it makes his personality more destructive, as long as he can stay away from illegitimate violence.

The best way to approach this question is not "should I do this or that", but, "what capacities do I have, how can I develop them, and what is the best way for me to accommodate my current personality as I work on developing myself."

What seems like a very negative choice (in the question, being an executioner) may be an excellent choice if it is part of a life-long change and development plan. What seems like the ideal choice - suppressing the violent instincts completely, and not giving them an outlet - is a pretty poor choice if it is not part of a plan.

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