Thursday, August 19, 2010

Are the Taliban barbaric for executing the eloping lovers?

Summary: How do we react to a modern-day reenactment of naarah hameorasah, and what that says about us.

Post: In this week's parasha, Ki Seitzei:

23. If there is a virgin girl betrothed to a man, and [another] man finds her in the city, and lies with her,כג. כִּי יִהְיֶה נַעֲרָ בְתוּלָה מְאֹרָשָׂה לְאִישׁ וּמְצָאָהּ אִישׁ בָּעִיר וְשָׁכַב עִמָּהּ:
24. you shall take them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall pelt them with stones, and they shall die: the girl, because she did not cry out [even though she was] in the city, and the man, because he violated his neighbor's wife. So shall you clear away the evil from among you.כד. וְהוֹצֵאתֶם אֶת שְׁנֵיהֶם אֶל שַׁעַר הָעִיר הַהִוא וּסְקַלְתֶּם אֹתָם בָּאֲבָנִים וָמֵתוּ אֶת הַנַּעֲרָ עַל דְּבַר אֲשֶׁר לֹא צָעֲקָה בָעִיר וְאֶת הָאִישׁ עַל דְּבַר אֲשֶׁר עִנָּה אֶת אֵשֶׁת רֵעֵהוּ וּבִעַרְתָּ הָרָע מִקִּרְבֶּךָ:

This is betrothed but not married -- kiddushin but not nisuin. Of course, kiddushin is not merely today's engagement, or today's tenaim, if they do the tenaim months before, but makes her into an eshet ish. For this specific case to really occur nowadays, she would have to run off with the adulterer to the yichud room in the middle of the chuppah, while the rabbi was preoccupied with reading the ketubah. And then these consensual sexual relations brings about the death penalty. Of course, if a betrothed woman and an adulterer received the death penalty, so would a married woman and an adulterer. Except of course that we don't do this nowadays, as bet din does not judge capital cases.

Now, what do you think of the following story, which occurred recently in Afghanistan?
Two young lovers have been publicly stoned to death by the Taliban - for having a secret affair.
The married man, 28, and 20-year-old woman, who was engaged to someone else, were arrested when their families shopped them as they planned to elope.
They died at the hands of a baying mob of around 150 in a market at Mullah Quli in Aghanistan's Kunduz province on Sunday - the first execution of its kind in the normally moderate Muslim area.
One witness said villagers were called to attend the stoning in a loudspeaker announcement from a mosque.
He said: "There was a big crowd, with the women all in black. The Taliban started throwing stones. We were asked to throw too. After a while, the woman was dead but the man was still alive.

"The Taliban shot him three times. They warned villagers if anyone does anything un-Islamic, this will be their fate.'' The deaths follow a call last week by fanatical Afghan clerics for a return to capital punishment under sharia law.

Thus, this was a case of naarah hameurasah -- if we consider engagement to be kiddushin -- and they were stoned to death. Would you consider this backward, and the act of extremists? If not, would you have said otherwise had I not primed you with the Biblical law?

Regardless of what apologetics -- even legitimate ones -- we may use, I doubt that anyone would like to see this law practically put into practice. Yes, three times a day we say in davening השיבה שופטינו כבראשונה ויועצינו כבתחילה, and we hope for the times of mashiach when the laws of the Torah will presumably be the laws of the land. Nowadays we don't have a Sanhedrin, and don't judge capital crimes in this manner. But those who hope to establish a theocracy in Israel -- do you really want this?!

Have we, as a society, moved past this? I would say we have. The difficulty is that this is the word of God. How can you say it is not both just and timeless? There are good answers. but for now I want to leave it as the question.


BrooklynWolf said...

Of course, you also have to account for the fact that it is nearly impossible to put someone to death via bais din under the current* halachic set-up.

Not only would the couple have to run away, but their act would have to be witnessed, with someone telling them "Don't do this or you'll get stoned" and them answering toch k'dei dibur that they acknowledge the warning but are going ahead anyway.

The Wolf

* Whether the laws were always applied this way in the past is a separate issue, but the post at hands deals with nowadays.

BrooklynWolf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
yaak said...

For this specific case to really occur nowadays, she would have to run off with the adulterer to the yichud room in the middle of the chuppah, while the rabbi was preoccupied with reading the ketubah.

This cracked me up. I'd pay money to see the movie version of this.

Regarding your question, this is really based on a fundamental issue - how the American value system conflicts with Torah. Since I put Torah above all else, when Mashiah comes and we have a Sanhedrin, I believe, we will have the law of stoning.

However, I would say that there is a major difference between Torah law and that of the Taliban (besides the obvious). While the Taliban follows sharia law and glorifies death, Torah law attempts to find an out for the death penalty in 99% of cases (the one exception is a מסית). This is why a Sanhedrin that kills once in 7 (some say 70) years is called "bloody".

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

The death penalties prescribed in the Torah are meant to underscore the severity of the law, while in practice almost never being implemented. In the times of Mashiah one would expect society to be so idyllic that capital crimes would not be taking place in Klal Yisrael to begin with. (Also, the procedure for stoning described in the Talmud is not nearly as gruesome as the Taliban version).


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