Imagine such a case: A woman walks into a girls bathroom with a machine gun, killing someone.

Note: This is not the only case where we cannot punish the criminal. This would apply, in my opinion, to almost all murder cases ever prosecuted. According to my understanding of Torah law, every single murder case tried in contemporary courts would result in no punishment whatsoever, which is obviously ridiculous.

Due to the twin requirements of a) two valid witnesses and b) proper warning, both of which are incredibly stringent and nearly impossible to fulfill in most practical situations, I would argue that it is near impossible to prosecute anyone for any crime, ever (with the exception of tort law [Nezikin] for which requirement b is generally not required).

Under Jewish law, she cannot be prosecuted due to the fact that there were no valid witnesses, among other things (e.g. lack of warning.)

Assuming that we know for sure that she did it (e.g. cameras saw her leaving the scene covered in blood & with a machine gun) and if she admitted it (note that according to the principle of Ein Adam Meisim Atzmo Rasha [One cannot declare oneself wicked] we would not accept her confession), how would a court deal with this situation?

Would we let her go free to kill again tomorrow? Or are there any possible courses of action the courts can pursue to punish this woman?

  • 1
    See Choshen Mishpat chapter 2 and judaism.stackexchange.com/a/103370/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Oct 16, 2022 at 21:34
  • I mean there are loopholes like with everything. Obviously if a man walks up in front of the Beis din and spontaneously shoots someone he can’t claim “oh you didn’t give me a warning so I’m exempt from punishment.” It doesn’t work like that Commented Oct 17, 2022 at 16:23
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    Undoubtedly, your question exposes just one of tons of loopholes in Biblical law. But no worry - rabbis had it under control, they allowed a Beis Din to execute without sufficient reason, just because the judges see it fit. "וּמַעֲשֶׂה בְּאָדָם אֶחָד שֶׁרָכַב עַל סוּס בַּשַּׁבָּת בִּימֵי יְוָנִים — וֶהֱבִיאוּהוּ לְבֵית דִּין וּסְקָלוּהוּ, לֹא מִפְּנֵי שֶׁרָאוּי לְכָךְ, אֶלָּא שֶׁהַשָּׁעָה צְרִיכָה לְכָךְ." sefaria.org.il/Yevamot.90b.10
    – Al Berko
    Commented Oct 17, 2022 at 19:37
  • @CuriousYid Do you have a source for that?
    – fartgeek
    Commented Oct 18, 2022 at 23:14
  • @AlBerko hmm interesting
    – fartgeek
    Commented Oct 18, 2022 at 23:14

1 Answer 1


Consider what the Rashba writes in a teshuva:

שו"ת הרשב"א חלק ג סימן שצג

שאם אתם מעמידין הכל על הדינין הקצובים בתורה ושלא לענוש אלא כמו שענשה התורה בחבלות וכיוצא בזה נמצא העולם חרב שהיינו צריכים עדים והתראה.

Because if we were to stand everything upon the strict letter of the law and not to punish except in accordance with the Torah with regard to injuries and the like, the world would we destroyed because we would require witnesses and warning.

See also that which the Rivash writes in a teshuva:

שו"ת הריב"ש סימן רנא

כבר ידעת שכל מה שדנין דיני נפשות בזמן הזה [במקום שהותר מדינא דמלכותא] אינו מן הדין שכבר בטלו דיני נפשות. אבל משום מיגדר מלתא היו ב"ד מכין ועונשין שלא מן התורה אם השעה צריכה ....ואם בשאר העברות היו הורגין שלא כדין לצורך השעה אצ"ל בשפיכות דמים שהחמירו בו חז"ל שכונסין אותו לכיפה כשהורג שלא בעדים כדאיתא בפרק הנשרפין (פ"א:).

You already know that that the fact that we judge cases of life and death nowadays [when is accordance with the country's laws] is not by letter of the law, for we have disestablished the judgement of such cases. Rather, it is to keep things in proper order that beis din would deal lashes and other punishments not in accordance with the Torah if it was called for....And if we deal the death penatly by all other transgressions not in accordance with the law, it goes without saying that we would do so by murder, which Chazal were so strict with, that we lock up one who murdered with no witnesses.

See also Tur with Beis Yosef choshen mishpat siman 2 and the Aruch Hashulchan there.

Both translations are my own. I only quoted excerpts of the teshuvos. Please see them in their entirety for yourselves.

I hope this was helpful.

  • Thank you so much!
    – fartgeek
    Commented Oct 19, 2022 at 19:27
  • @fartgeek Happy I could help. Commented Oct 20, 2022 at 11:23

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