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Thought for the Day: Judge the Person's Actions, Not the Person

The Torah prescribes four kinds of capital punishment for various crimes.  On the other hand, to actually convict someone of a capital crime, there needs to be two kosher witnesses who tell the would be perpetrator that they if he proceeds with his intent that he is liable for the appropriate punishment and he has to respond within three seconds or so, "I know and I am proceeding anyway."  On the other hand, the Sanhedrin can mete out capital punishment if it feels that it is warranted.  To make things more confusing, Chazal tell us that R' Yose heard about a gang of Jewish highwaymen who treated their Jewish victims more humanely -- only rob them but not murder them.  On this R' Yose exclaimed that those highwaymen were definitely headed for Olam Haba!

 So what gives?  Are we pro-life, liberal, conservative, tough on crime, or what?  We are, of course, "what"; we are Torah Jews.  The Torah doesn't follow any isms; rather is is the Torah which defines Truth.  Truth is neither right nor wrong, it just is.  The Torah exhorts us to judge actions and to not judge the perpetrator.  If people are being robbed, the victims need to be compensated.  Society needs to be protected from sociopaths.  When it comes to the perpetrator, however, there is only the One True Judge.  Only HaShem knows what jobs and tests each neshama needs for its perfection.  R' Yose was noting that the highwaymen were acting far out of character for their environment and rearing; they had certainly achieved greatness in this world.

Interestingly enough, this idea is expressed even in the most mundane of halachos.  Siman 20 (which contains only two s'ifim/subparagraphs) of the Orach Chaim section of the Shulcan Arush deals with buying tzitzis.  Tzitzis are only kosher if they were made lishma -- for the express purpose of fulfilling the mitzvah of tzitzis. Si'if aleph says that you are allowed to buy tzitzis from a non-Jewish merchant.  Si'if beis says that you are not allowed to sell tzitzis to a non-Jew.  The Mishna Brura notes that if a non-Jewish merchant has tzitzis, some Jew transgressed by selling it to him.  That doesn't change his chezkas kashrus (presumption of innocence) regarding tying the tzitzis lishma.

From the most egregious sins to the most mundane, our job is to judge the actions and apply the Torah mandated response.  HaShem's job is to judge the person.  I am thinking He doesn't need our help on that.


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