[Question recently posed to me by a friend]

קידושין דף מ עמוד א---------Kidushin 40a

מחשבה רעה אין הקדוש ברוך הוא מצרפה למעשה שנאמר (תהלים סו, יח) און אם ראיתי בלבי לא ישמע ה' ואלא מה אני מקים (ירמיהו ו, יט) הנני מביא אל העם הזה רעה פרי מחשבותם מחשבה שעושה פרי הקב"ה מצרפה למעשה מחשבה שאין בה פרי אין הקב"ה מצרפה למעשה

But the Holy One, Blessed be He, does not link an evil thought to an action, as it is stated: “If I had regarded iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not hear” (Psalms 66:18). But how do I realize the meaning of the verse: “Behold I will bring upon these people evil, even the fruit of their thoughts” (Jeremiah 6:19)? In the case of an evil thought that produces fruit, i.e., that leads to an action, the Holy One, Blessed be He, links it to the action and one is punished for the thought as well. If it is a thought that does not produce fruit, the Holy One, Blessed be He, does not link it to the action.

Does this mean that "attempted murder",(which was unsuccessful), not only carries no punishment in a Jewish court of law, but not even from Hashem, since it did not come to fruition?

Most of us would agree that attempted murder is quite a severe crime, [as it is judged as such in (non-Jewish) criminal courts], How could Jewish Law, and even Hashem Himself let it go-by without any retribution?

I tried to suggest to my friend that the Gemara does not mean that there is no punishment at all, but that it would not receive as severe a punishment as if it did come to fruition. He posited that The gemara says that one is not punished for the thought of doing an Aveira.

Also he was quite bothered by the lack of any punishment whatsoever for attempted murder in a Jewish court of law.

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    How are you defining 'attempted murder'? If it's just a thought about wanting to kill someone, then yes, there is no 'retribution' per the above Gemara. If there is an action tied to the attempt, then it no longer falls under the rubric put forth by the Gemara (which is limited only to thought). – Salmononius2 May 31 '18 at 18:32
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    Bingo, that Gemara is talking about someone who imagines strangling the jerk who cut them off in traffic. Very different than shooting at someone and missing, or ordering a "hit" but the hitman didn't carry through. – Shalom May 31 '18 at 18:33
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    Can you calrify your scope of "attempted murder", here? Thoughts clearly are not punished no matter what he was thinking about. Similarly, even doing preparatory action isn't punishable, though there may have been "incidental damage" which is. E.g., if buy the gun and stand behind my victim, pull the trigger but find that there were no bullets, I'm not punished. So, why do you limit this question to just murder? – DanF May 31 '18 at 18:35
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    @Salmononius2 The Gemara is speaking about "thoughts which did not come to fruition". This seems to mean that the reason for no punishment is not the lack of action but the lack of fruition of his intended plan. – RibbisRabbiAndMore May 31 '18 at 18:42
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    @RibbisRabbiAndMore I think this is where we're understanding the Gemara differently. You're understanding 'Pri' as referrring to the completed action (in this case, the victim is dead), while I'm reading 'Pri' as any action done with evil intention. – Salmononius2 May 31 '18 at 18:51

Obviously, the attacker has to pay the victim for any injuries sustained. Even if, say, the attacker shot and missed; most likely the victim is going to need some counseling to deal with that, and may have to miss some work too. That's basics.

Beyond that, the parallel would be Rambam, Laws of the Murderer and Preservation of Life, 2:5:

הרי שלא הרגם המלך, ולא הייתה השעה צריכה לחזק הדבר--הרי בית דין חייבין מכל מקום להכותם מכה רבה הקרובה למיתה, ולאסור אותן במצור ובמצוק שנים רבות, ולצערן בכל מיני צער: כדי להפחיד ולאיים על שאר הרשעים, שלא יהיה להם הדבר לפוקה ולמכשול לבב, ויאמר הריני מסבב להרוג אויבי כדרך שעשה פלוני, ואיפטר.

[If someone committed murder in a way the Torah doesn't list the death penalty, e.g. ordering a "hit" on someone], if the king did not kill the person, and the courts didn't feel it was necessary at that moment [to execute the criminal] to strengthen the matter -- then the courts are nevertheless obligated to beat such criminals to within an inch of their lives; to lock them up in tight and harsh surroundings, and inflict all sorts of pain upon them -- to frighten and threaten all other evildoers; otherwise this will lead to a massive temptation, as people will say I can kill off my enemies in a tricky way, like that guy did, and I will get away with it!

Short answer -- the courts would determine an appropriate punishment, as a deterrent.

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  • "if, say, the attacker shot and missed; most likely the victim is going to need some counseling to deal with that, and may have to miss some work too." Are these damages grama and therefore patur? – פרי זהב Jun 1 '18 at 20:42
  • @פריזהב judaism.stackexchange.com/q/87705/9682 – DonielF Jul 15 '18 at 23:51
  • This parallel is wrong, as Rambam addresses someone that already killed someone by a גרמא or by hiring a hitman or just got away from punishment by a technicality. It says explicitely "I can kill off my enemies in a tricky way", but it does not speak about someone that didn't kill in fact. – Al Berko Jul 16 '18 at 12:42

Because nobody mentioned that, I will explain how it works with Judaism (in my understanding).

  1. In the Jewish Law, we have very clear limits of the Jewish court authority. The Torah defined very clearly (with the Gemorah) what can and what cannot be judged. For example, eating or doing Melochoh on Yom Kippur is a subject to כרת and not judgeable in court.

  2. Attempted murder is one of those bad things a Jewish court cannot charge, even if he claims before witnesses he's going to kill indirectly, a court can not debate it. Just like today, we can't judge דיני נפשות just because of some technicalities.

  3. About the Heavenly court, I don't have a clear idea what exactly they judge and what not, and how the intentions are taken into considerations.

  4. But don't worry, Hashem already worked this problem out, by ruling that a Bais Din is allowed to judge outside the Halachah (עונשים שלא מן הדין). That's learned in Sanhedrin 46a:

"ומעשה באחד שרכב על סוס בשבת בימי יונים והביאוהו לבית דין וסקלוהו לא מפני שראוי לכך אלא שהשעה צריכה לכך"

Therefore if they get really pissed serious, they can kill that man or beat him to death or put him under a dome and starve him to death or beat him not to death or anything else imaginable (read Sanhedrin for some ideas).

  1. Oh, almost forgot, we do differentiate pure thoughts bad as they can be from bad attempts, i.g. physical actions intended to cause harm. Those are not under מחשבה רעה אין מצרפה למעשהץ
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  • I didn't just ask whether the courts punish it. I brought a source which seemed to say that its not even punishable in the Heavenly court. you say "Hashem already worked this problem out, by ruling that a Bais Din is allowed to judge outside the Halachah" but if the gemara says that Hashem does not consider it as doing anything so Hee wouldnt allow BD to punish for it either. – RibbisRabbiAndMore Jul 16 '18 at 18:47
  • @RibbisRabbiAndMore You asked a couple of questions I addressed one by one: 1. When one actually acts - attempts a murder that's a מעשה, that's not a pure thought. Gemmorah is talking about pure bad thoughts. 2. A Bais Din can punish שלא מן הדין for acts and not for results, as the Torah demands. – Al Berko Jul 17 '18 at 13:57

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