Question: What punishments for adultery does Judaism promote?
Dear Rabbi Enkin,
I am wondering about adultery in Judaism. Does Judaism believe the punishments described in Leviticus 20:10 (death to both the adulter and the adulteress) should be enforced in a perfect society? If it does, then why doesn't Israel have these laws? We see many Muslim states executing (by stoning) or giving 100 lashes to people guilty of adultery as this is what many Islam believes is a perfect way of governing the society (laws given by Allah).
Thank you, Asbjørn
Answer: Dear Asbjørn,
The Torah does include a complete civil code for running a Jewish society. Among these regulations is the death penalty when appropriate.
The death penalty was rarely administered. In order for it to apply there must have been two witnesses who had warned the person(s) about to commit a sin that the act they were about to commit was forbidden on penalty of death. Then the person would have to then immediately engage in the act without delay in order for the death penalty to apply.
This unlikely scenario rarely unfolded.
These rules were appropriate and quite acceptable in the society in which they were born. In our day and age we are not permitted to use the death penalty due to the lack of appropriate rabbinical courts as well as the lack of a Temple in Jerusalem.
Hope this helps!
Rabbi Ari Enkin
Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel