Thursday, December 25, 2014

Mitzvah 49: Vandalism


By the count of Sefer haChinuch, the Torah's 49th mitzvah instructs us to set up courts to fine people who harm others, or who allow their property to harm others. In addition to paying restitution, the aggressors are sometimes required to pay more than the value of the damage they have caused.

Today, Jewish courts do not have independent authority to levy fines. However, earlier courts authorized their successors - down to our own day - to institute extrajudicial penalties for common cases or cases involving prevention of personal or communal loss. (For further insight and application, see Gittin 88b, Bava Kama 84b; Beit Yosef Even haEzer 11 כתבו , Beit Yosef Choshen Mishpat 1 ומסקינן ,ודוקא .)

Sefer haChinuch notes that our courts are not responsible to mete out Divinely perfect justice. Rather, they are commissioned to create laws of punishment so that civilized society will be able to function and flourish, without fear of aggression.

Have a great day,

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