Crime and Punishment in Jewish Law: Essays and Responsa

By Walter Jacob; Moshe Zemer | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
WHAT IS CRIME?
Leonard KravitzWhat is a crime? That originally was not a Jewish question. Jews did not speak of crimes; they spoke of chait, averah. pesha, of sins of various kinds, the kinds of sins for which we will beat our breasts this coming Yom Kippur as we repeat the long confessional: ashamnu, bagadnu, gazalnu, debarnu dofi. "Crime" is a secular term; sin is a religious term. We Jews dealt with sins; crimes were the things that other people dealt with. I should like to speak about the transformation of sin into crime and the transformation of crimes into sins. Perhaps a paradox, but "a most unusual paradox."I will begin with a definition. Crime is
1. the commission of an act that is forbidden or the omission of a duty that is commanded by a public law and that makes the offender liable to punishment by that law...
2. a grave offense especially against morality
3. criminal activity...
4. something reprehensible, foolish, or disgraceful.1
____________________

Notes for this section begin on page 32.

-22-

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