There is already a question on this site asking about saving a person from being executed (fairly) by a beis din, as well as a question regarding the criminal himself, if he may/must attempt to save his own life instead of being killed.

IMHO, the answers to these two questions are definitely not, as a penal system cannot possibly work that way (and because everyone is obligated in ובערת הרע מקרבך to some extent), but one would be hard pressed to find an explicit source addressing the issue because of its obvious answer.

However, I wonder if any sources specifically address the case of an innocent person1. If I know with absolute certainty that Reuvian is not guilty of a crime (punishable by death) for which he was convicted by a Beis Din, and this Beis Din is on their way to executing him, can I intervene? Let's say that I cannot convince the Beis Din otherwise, such as a case where there was already a psak din that Reuvain was guilty of being a meisis. Can I help Reuvain run away and provide him with sanctuary?

1. This is in bold to indicate that I'm looking specifically for sources that address this issue, and not for anyone's 'diyuk', though you're welcome to share it in the comments section

3 Answers 3


See Ramban Parshas Shoftim 17 11 on the passuk לא תסור מן הדבר אשר יגידו לך ימין ושמאל. Even if they tell you about the right that it is left or the left that it is right, these are the words of Rashi. The point is that even when you think they are mistaken, and it is clear in your eyes like your knowledge of right and left,do as they say. And do not say how can I eat this forbidden fat, OR HOW CAN I KILL THIS INNOCENT MAN, but rather say this is what the Master who had commanded his commandments, that I should do in accordance with the ones standing before him in the place He chose and according to their knowledge He gave me the Torah AND EVEN WHEN THEY ARE MISTAKEN, this is the same idea as found with Rabi Yehoshua with Raban Gamliel on Yom Kippur And its reckoning, Rosh Hashana 25a.

Please excuse the loose translation.

  • 2
    well done... this explanation of the Ramban is far from simple (as he himself notes in his commentary to the Rambam's Sefer Hamitzvos), but he does seem to address this case. L'halacha, I could still imagine that the Ramban might be only referring to the judges themselves (a judge who himself is convinced of the man's innocence but is outvoted), but an outsider might still be required to save the man's life (just like if you know that beis din is mistaken about a forbidden fat, you may not eat it, see first perek of Horayos) Dec 30, 2014 at 18:12
  • but +1 for the (at least possibly) relevant source Dec 30, 2014 at 18:13
  • @Matt I was going to put in about his Shoresh in seffer Hamitzvos but didn't have time now. It's true that part of his wording implies dealing with the beis din or the executioner but the admonition is clearly for anyone. Another point to concider is the fact that no Beis din ever convicted and executed unanimously so by default there Ita always the minority witnessing a travesty.
    – user6591
    Dec 30, 2014 at 18:20
  • @Matt from the Ramban in shoresh 1 7b it seems there is a stipulation for one to be stringent in the face of Beis Din's lenient ruling that he attempts to persuade them to change their ruling. It seems almost contingent on this, and that if he plans on not making this attempt, he may not in fact be stringent. But that is an aside. I don't think there is a parallel to saving a life.
    – user6591
    Dec 30, 2014 at 20:20
  • I assumed that such a requirement wasn't absolute (what if he's far away and can't communicate with them?) but perhaps you're right Dec 30, 2014 at 20:22

I asked R. Tsvi Berkowitz this question, and he replied that the general consensus of acharonim is that the victim may save himself even by killing the beit din, and the same is likely true for a bystander saving him as well. (he didn't tell me which acharonim discuss it).

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    I appreciate your taking interest and efforts in asking a posek (though if you thought that this was lemaaseh we have bigger problems), but please note that the question was specifically looking for sources Jan 28, 2015 at 1:49
  • The posek was R. Tzvi Berkowitz (I asked him previously having thought of the question independently). Many of his students consider him to be a source in and of himself.
    – mevaqesh
    Jan 29, 2015 at 3:42
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    as do I! I hope he doesn't mind you publicizing that info; if you edit that into the answer it's worth an upvote in my opinion. Though it would have been better to see it in a Sefer, just to be able to see their reasoning/proofs and if they deal with other comments of the rishonim (like the ramban quoted by user6591) Jan 29, 2015 at 5:25
  • @Matt Done. [char].
    – mevaqesh
    Jan 5, 2017 at 2:37

I've viewed the answers and comments in the linked items in your question. Based on them as well as what I glean from the requirements of both Bet Din as well as the witnesses as summarized here, I dismiss the premise of your question, itself.

Regarding the possibility of false witnesses, this would need to be proven during the trial itself. In your question, you imply that you are the only one that knows about the person's innocence. You don't have a co-witness. If, in fact, you can bring a co-witness to prove that the other witnesses are false, this should be done during the trial, itself, not afterwards.

Finally, I am citing Rashi on Devarim 11:17 commenting on the words "Do not stray from what (Bet Din) has said right or left" meaning even if Bet Din says that left is right and right is left. I.e. - once Bet Din has made their decision, even if you know that it is wrong, you must follow their decision.

So, Rashi is stating that, yes, it is possible that Bet Din may have erred, but you still must follow their decision once it has been made. Thus, your attempt to intervene would seem to be a violation of "Do not stray...". One of the answers in the linked question has already addressed the concept of intervention. In short, if the Bet Din has already decided the person is guilty, even if you can prove otherwise, you must accept its "wrong" decision. And next time, perhaps someone else could join you to defend your "friend" DURING the trial :-)

  • This answer seems to depend on the chances of B"D falsely convicting someone of a capital crime being zero rather than minuscule. Given that they're humans, that's impossible.
    – Isaac Moses
    Dec 30, 2014 at 17:00
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    I'm not going to downvote until you respond, but (1) it's still possible that Beis Din executes someone wrongly, despite all of the precautions, as evidenced by the rule of Eidim Zomemim (and particularly that if "hargu, ein neheragin"), and (2) there are many cases where your testimony wouldn't be believed (let's say you're a woman, or the guy's brother) Dec 30, 2014 at 17:06
  • @Matt see my edited answer, I addressed, mainly #1. As for #2, I'm confused. These people can't be witnesses in the 1st place, no?
    – DanF
    Dec 31, 2014 at 3:09
  • @DanF For some reason I missed the version of your answer that included Rashi, sorry. I'm confused too... if you alone know of the defendant's innocence, but there are two false witnesses, there's nothing you can do about it within the court system, you can't defend your "friend" DURING the trial. The only thing that answers the question are the last two paragraphs Dec 31, 2014 at 3:31
  • But Rashi on Devarim 11:17 isn't referring to the outcome of a criminal trial, he's referring to the psak of a Sanhedrin that they're telling you to do. The actual Sifrei, quoted in the Ramban, does address this issue though Dec 31, 2014 at 3:34

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