Jewish Law

Sparing an Attacker

“You shall cut off her hand; you shall not pity her” – Deuteronomy 25:12.

We are forbidden to have pity on one who is pursuing another to kill him. Instead we are commanded to try to stop the pursuer at all costs, and if the effort to stop him is unsuccessful, and the pursuer persists in acting upon his intentions, we must fight him. If possible, we try to prevent him from killing by amputating one of his limbs, blinding him [etc.], and if the only way to stop him is by killing him, then he must be killed. The same rule applies to a man pursuing a woman (or man) to rape her (or him). This only applies while the attacker is pursuing the victim. Once the crime has been perpetrated, the criminal may not be summarily executed, but must be brought to court and tried.

Saving a Victim from an Attacker

“You shall cut off her hand; you shall not pity her” – Deuteronomy 25:12.

We are commanded to save a potential victim from the hands of one who is “chasing” him to kill him—even if this means killing the attacker. If it is possible to save the victim without killing the pursuer – through injuring the attacker, then that must be done. But if that is not possible, we are commanded to kill the pursuer rather than allow him to execute his dastardly intention.

Saving a Person in Mortal Peril

“You shall not place a stumbling block before a blind person” – Leviticus 19:14

The word “blind” is interpreted metaphorically to represent any person or group that is unaware, unsuspecting, ignorant, or morally blind, and individuals are prohibited from taking advantage of them or tempting them to do wrong.

“You shall not stand [idly] by the blood of your neighbor” – Leviticus 19:16.

It is forbidden to abstain from offering assistance when perceiving one’s fellow in mortal danger, or his property in danger of destruction. Examples: One who knows how to swim who sees his fellow drowning, must jump into the water to save him; if one becomes aware of a plot against another’s life, it is his responsibility to attempt to thwart it; one who has evidence that could support his fellow’s monetary claim in court, must come forward and testify.

Punishment of an attacker

“If a man finds a betrothed girl in the field, and the man overpowers her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die” – Deuteronomy 22:25

“Whereas to the girl, you shall do nothing the girl did not commit a sin deserving of death, for just as a man

rises up against his fellow and murders him, so is this case” -Deuteronomy 22:26

According to the simple meaning, this is the explanation: For she was coerced, and the man overpowered her, just like the case of someone who overpowers another person to kill him. However, with further examination, we learn something new from the case of this girl, which can be applied to the case of the murderer. And that is: just as in the case of the girl, we may save her from sin by killing her assailant, so it is, in the case of a murderer overpowering someone with the intent of murder, anyone is permitted to kill his assailant in order to save the life of the intended victim.- [Sifrei 22:106]

Adapted from

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