K'ritot 2a says there are 36 transgressions for which the punishment is karet and provides a list (including idol-worship, various sexual transgressions, eating chametz on Pesach, desecrating Shabbat, and a bunch more). At least some of these would be punished by a beit din with death (if you had witnesses, warning, etc); the torah provides an example with the Shabbat wood-gatherer. Is that true of everything on this list? For example, could someone in principle be sentenced to death for eating chametz on Pesach?

Noticably absent from the list in the mishna is murder. The torah provides for that with the cities of refuge and the possibility of death at the hand of heaven, which seems to be different from karet because it's not on this list. Are there any other death-penalty transgressions that are not punishable by karet?

My question is: with the exception of murder, are karet offenses and capital offenses the same list?


2 Answers 2


Rambam, Sanhedrin chapter 19 lists "every thou-shalt-not that has kares and has no death by court and for which one gets lashes" (twenty-one of them, including eating chametz on Pesach).

He then lists eighteen sins for which people are "liable to death at the hands of God", implication being that they don't have kares, such as a non-kohen who ate t'ruma.



The most severe sins warrant the death penalty at the hands of a Sanhedrin if properly warned etc., such as murder and violating shabbos. I believe a subset of those can warrant Karet if done intentionally but unwitnessed.

The next category warrant Karet as a maximum, such as violating Yom Kippur or relations with one's sister. A Sanhedrin could give lashes -- but never the death penalty -- if such a sin was done with warning and witnesses.

One level down from that is the "generic" "thou shalt not" which warrants lashes if warned & witnessed, but never Karet, such as eating pork.

Note that the al chet confession on Yom Kippur lists sins in order of increasing severity:

  • And for the sins for which we deserve forty lashes
  • And for the sins for which we deserve Heavenly death (mostly these involve infractions with regards to the Temple or sacrificial matters)
  • And for the sins for which we deserve Karet & Ariri
  • And for the sins for which we deserve the four types of death penalty by court
  • 1
    If it is in increasing order, why do we say skila sereifa hereg vechenek and not chenek hereg sereifa and skila?
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 22, 2012 at 17:19
  • How do you account for murder not being on the mishna's list? (It is of course possible that the mishna's list is incomplete.) Commented Mar 22, 2012 at 17:21
  • I'm afraid I have to -1 here. The mishnah's list is indeed exhaustive (to be precise, Rambam, Hil. Shegagos 1:4, splits some of them into their individual component mitzvos and so gets 43), and so it is simply incorrect that "any death-penalty offense is also a Karet offense" - there is no kares for murder, cursing one's parents or striking them, convincing others to worship idols, delivering a false prophecy, etc. True that in the absence of a Sanhedrin that can give the death penalty Hashem will deal with them (Sanhedrin 37b et al), but that's not the same as kares.
    – Alex
    Commented Mar 22, 2012 at 19:07
  • @Alex, thank you; was I confusing this with something else?
    – Shalom
    Commented Mar 22, 2012 at 19:24
  • 2
    @Shalom All 36 kereitot are listed in the mishna kereitot 1:1. The things that get court imposed death penalty are in the mishna sanhedrin 7:4 9:1 and 11:1. Shabbat is found on both lists.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 22, 2012 at 19:30

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