Crime and Punishment in Jewish Law: Essays and Responsa

By Walter Jacob; Moshe Zemer | Go to book overview
Save to active project

10.6), This Talmudic line of reasoning made it very difficult to execute anyone. The crime and sentence were publicly announced with a plea for evidence which might prove the accused's innocence. Furthermore, an elaborate communications system was arranged between the courtroom and the place of execution so that any new evidence, even at the last minute, could prevent the execution ( M. San. 6.1 ff). As our case is a capital offense, the statements and the intent of tradition apply. These indicate that in order to save the life, or to prevent an error in judgment in a capital offense, every effort to gain evidence on behalf of the accused must be undertaken.

Now let us turn to exhumation. Disinterment is not undertaken lightly in Jewish tradition. The prohibition rests upon a talmudic incident in which disinterment was suggested in order to establish whether the deceased was a child or an adult, and thereby settle a quarrel over property rights. In that instance, it was disallowed ( B. B.155a), because Akiba felt that the dead should not be disturbed. But that was not a capital case. Disinterment has also been prohibited in almost all instances with the exception of the following: a) in order to re-inter in the land of Israel; b) in order to reinter in a family plot, especially if the deceased died away from the city in which he normally resided; and c) in those instances in which the grave was threatened by hostile individuals or by an unforeseen natural event ( Shulhan Arukh Yoreh Deah 363.1ff).

Whenever burial has taken place in a coffin, rather than merely in shrouds, disinterment has been more readily acceptable as the dead are disturbed less. In our case we are not dealing with the usual cases of disinterment, but with a more serious reason. In view of the intensive search for evidence in all capital cases, disinterment should be permitted in this instance.

Each cemetery has its own regulations, and every effort should be made to abide by them. However, in this instance, as an individual's freedom is at stake, disinterment should be encouraged.

Autopsy has been thoroughly discussed by J. Z. Lauterbach ( W. Jacob, American Reform Responsa, #82) and S. B. Freehof ( Reform Jewish Practice, vol. 1, [ Pittsburgh PA. ], pp. 115ff). As this autopsy will be of immediate benefit in a criminal case, even the more hesitant traditional authorities would permit it.


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Crime and Punishment in Jewish Law: Essays and Responsa


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 142

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?