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Rambam - Sefer HaMitzvos
As Divided for The Daily Learning Schedule

Negative Mitzvot 294, 290

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Negative Mitzvah 294: It is forbidden to punish a person who is forced to sin
Deuteronomy 22:26 "But to the girl you shall do nothing"

A person who is forced to disobey one of the commandments of the Torah is not considered guilty of sin. In such a case, we are instructed not to punish the person who sins.


Negative Mitzvah 290: It is forbidden to sentence a person to death based upon non-conclusive evidence
Exodus 23:7 "And the innocent and righteous you shall not slay"

The Torah instructs us never to pass judgment in a case where guilt has not been proven.

Even in a case where it seems obvious that the defendant is guilty, he may not be convicted or punished unless definite proof is brought to the court.

The Talmud describes a situation where one person is seen chasing another with a dangerous weapon.

They disappear into a house and a moment later, one is found attacked and the other holding a knife.

Both the knife and the person holding it have bloodstains.

Obviously, a crime was committed, nevertheless, the person holding the weapon cannot be declared guilty because there are no witnesses to testify that they saw the crime being committed.

This Negative Mitzvah tells us that judgment can be passed only after witnesses testify.

Our Rabbis explain that this Negative Mitzvah protects the innocent even if many criminals are not convicted.

Imagine if serious cases were decided based on probability.

What seems probable to one person may not seem likely to another.

Some cases seem very obvious, others - quite obvious, still others - somewhat obvious.

Who can "measure" how obvious something is?

Court cases must be based on fact only.

Only proper witnesses, acceptable testimony and reliable judgment can settle a case.

The Torah laws of justice help protect an innocent person.

HaShem assures us that when a case cannot be decided because of lack of witnesses, He will bring about justice and make sure the guilty person receives what he deserves.


Abraham, father of us all, questioned G-d's justice. So did Moses. So did Akiva. So did many enlightened souls. You are not the first. Of all those who questioned, there were two approaches: Those who meant it, and those who did not.

Those who wanted understanding gained understanding -- a sense of nothingness encountering a reality far beyond our puny minds. Those who asked but did not want to understand gained nothing.

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When you are doing his work, the Rebbe gives you strength. Much more strength than you could imagine.

In truth, you become one with him. His decisions become your decisions and your decisions become his decisions. There can be no greater unity of two individuals.

From: Bringing Heaven Down to Earth by Tzvi Freeman - tzvif@aol.com


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