Make a Fixed Time for Study

עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Mitzvah 48 – No Hitting Mom and Dad

Posted by rabbiart on July 2, 2008

A study of the traditional 613 mitzvot (commandments/obligations) according to their order of appearance in the Torah.

The commandment to not strike your father or mother comes immediately after the commandment detailing methods of execution for violation of certain commandments.  Coincidence?  I think not.  This commandment is of course based on Shemot 21:15.

וּמַכֵּה אָבִיו וְאִמּוֹ, מוֹת יוּמָת.

Whoever hits his mother or father, he will be put to death

Unfortunately, we live in a world where abuse occurs within families.  Therefore we might ask, if my father hits me, does the Torah allow me to defend myself… and hit him back.  According to rabbinic Judaism, the answer is “NO!”. Even if his parents give him a severe beating, he must not respond in kind, unless he thinks they intend to kill him. It is interesting to note that the Torah nowhere gives a command not to strike a parent, but simply prescribes that any child who does so should be put to death.

American Conservative judaism approaches the tradition from a historical perspective.  In that regard, it is undeniable that there are two major epochs in Jewish history; the biblical period, and the rabbinic period.  During the creation of the Talmud, our Rabbis ameliorated much of what seems harsh in the Torah.  Regarding capital punishment, the Rabbis created so many safeguards that we find the statement that a court who executed one person in seventy years is “bloody.”

So too with this commandment. According to Talmud Sanhedrin the death penalty is only merited for striking a parent if blood is drawn.  Furthermore, if there are no witness, the penaly exacted is kareth.  Kareth is “divine severance of existence” also known as mitah b’yedai shamayim or death at the hands of HaShem. Detailed study of the mitzvah reveals that if no blood is drawn, then hitting a parent is considered the same as hitting any other Jewish person, and similar penalties would apply.

The mitzvah applies to all human beings (Jews, that is, because the mitzvot are incumbent only upon Jews) in every place and at every time.

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