I've heard from the Talmud in Nidah and the Rambam that male masturbation is "tantamount to killing a soul." But the question is, does it have the same legal consequences as murder, like in the times of the Bayis? Would it be subject to the death penalty if there were two witnesses etc., or would someone be exiled to the cities of refuge for it, or is it slightly different?

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    Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/16069
    – Fred
    Jun 4, 2020 at 23:35
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  • See Niddah 13a, from the story of Er and Onan. See also: Rabeinu Yonah (Shaar 3, 112), Maharal (Gur Aryeh, Bereishis 5:32), Igros Moshe (EH III, 14, s. v. ומש"כ כתר"ה). Jun 5, 2020 at 0:53
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    @Israel I don't have time for a source-off on this topic now (and Im rather hesitant of having one on this topic in public, as should you, frankly) but if you haven't seen the other side you really should.
    – Double AA
    Jun 5, 2020 at 0:54

1 Answer 1


No, goodness no. Rambam finishes Ch. 15 of Laws of High Courts and their Punishments with the complete list of sins that theoretically warrant the death penalty, and it's not on there.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Igros Moshe OC4:117 (addressing "Mr. ABC"), says its punishment is less than kares, which itself is less than court-conducted capital punishment. "As for the sources calling it the greatest of all sins ... that wasn't literal."

Image of Rabbi Feinstein's quote from OC4:117

Rabbi Yehuda Herzl Henkin has a piece in Bnei Banim explaining that any talk of excommunication is also not literal. A strong proof of that is that Kitzur Shulchan Aruch talks about repenting by trying to get more involved in synagogue life, e.g. go read the Torah, rather than less.

  • 'As for the sources calling it the greatest of all sins ... that wasn't literal."--couldnt find that quote anywhere???
    – wow ow
    Jun 5, 2020 at 8:10
  • Rav Moshe writes: The Bais Shmuel concludes that according to this, what was written in the Zohar and Shulchan Aruch that this sin is more grave than all others, was "lav davka."
    – Shalom
    Jun 5, 2020 at 9:00
  • but the look at what he says right after aval be'etem ze ayno raya
    – wow ow
    Jun 5, 2020 at 10:06
  • also the punishment of something doesnt determine the sevireity of the prohibition itself, all sins are equally bad
    – wow ow
    Jun 5, 2020 at 10:07
  • If you're quoting Igros Moshe, on the topic, then you should also quote him (EH III, 14, s. v. ומש"כ כתר"ה) where he posits that this sin carries the punishment of "Misa Be'dei Shamayim". Jun 5, 2020 at 15:32

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