Page:Guideforperplexed.djvu/416

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of God. [Secondly], Changing an animal devoted to the sanctuary for another (Lev. xxvii. 10), because this change leads to contemning sacrifices devoted to the name of God. [Thirdly], Cursing a person by the name of God (ibid. xix. 14); because many dread the effect of a curse more than bodily harm. The transgression of other negative commandments that involve no act causes little harm, and cannot always be avoided, as it consists in mere words: moreover, man's back would be inflicted with stripes an the year round if he were to be punished with stripes for each transgression of this kind. Besides, previous warning is impossible in this case. There is also wisdom in the number of stripes; for although the number of their maximum is given, there is no fixed number how many are to be applied to each person; each man receives only as many stripes as he can bear, but not more than forty (Deut. xxv. 3), even if he be strong enough for a hundred.

The "death by the court of law" is not inflicted for the transgression of any of the dietary laws: because in such a case no great harm is done, and the temptation of man to transgress these laws is not so great as the temptation to the enjoyment of sexual intercourse. In some of the dietary laws the punishment is excision. This is the case with the prohibition of eating blood (Lev. xvii. 26). For in ancient days people were very eager and anxious to eat blood as a kind of idolatrous ceremony, as is explained in the book Tomtom, and therefore the prohibition of eating blood is made very stringent. Excision is also the punishment for eating fat; because people enjoy it, and because it was distinguished and sanctified by its use in the offerings. The eating of leavened bread on Passover (Exod. xii. 15), and breaking the fast on the Day of Atonement (Lev. xxiii. 29), are likewise punished with excision: [first] on account of the great discomfort which the obedience to the law causes in these cases; [secondly] on account of the principles of faith which the laws of Passover and of the Day of Atonement inculcate: they confirm fundamental principles of the Law, viz., the belief in the wonderful departure [of Israel] from Egypt, and in the effect of repentance, according to the words, "For on this day will he forgive you" (Lev. xvi. 3 1). just as in the case of eating fat, so is excision also announced as a punishment when a person eats that which is left [of a sacrifice beyond its limited time], or partakes of a sacrifice which has been made abominable; or when an unclean person eats of holy things (ibid. vii. 16-21). The object of this severity is to increase the estimation of the offering in the eyes of the people, as has been shown.

Death by the court of law is decreed in important cases: when faith is undermined, or a great crime is committed, viz., idolatry, incest, murder, or actions that lead to these crimes. It is further decreed for breaking the Sabbath (Exod. xxxi. 15); because the keeping of Sabbath is a confirmation of our belief in the Creation; a false prophet and a rebellious elder are put to death on account of the mischief which they cause; he who strikes his father or his mother is killed on account of his great audacity, and because he undermines the constitution of the family, which is the foundation of the state. A rebellious and disobedient son is put to death (Deut. xxi. 18 seq.) on account of what he might become, because he will likely be a murderer; he who steals a human being is killed, because he is also prepared to kill him whom