MISPLACED MERCY? Pittsburgh Rabbi Calls On US Attorney General To Forgo Death Penalty For Synagogue Gunman

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Don’t seek the death penalty for the Pittsburgh synagogue gunman. That’s the message from a spiritual leader at one of the three congregations that share the Tree of Life synagogue building to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, JTA reports.

Rabbi Jonathan Perlman, whose New Light Congregation lost three worshippers in the October attack by Robert Bowers that killed 11, has written to Barr “as a victim of the attack,” reminding him that “both our religious traditions, yours Catholic and mine Jewish, vigorously oppose the death penalty.” Although the Bible does condemn those who commit certain sins to death, he continued, the Talmud says that a court that puts a man to death once every 70 years is called a “bloodthirsty court.”

He added, as per the JTA report: “I would like the Pittsburgh killer to be incarcerated for the rest of his life without parole. He should meditate on whether taking action on some white separatist fantasy against the Jewish people was really worth it,” Perlman said. “Let him live with it forever. I am mainly interested in not letting this thug cause my community any further pain.”



  1. Something needs to be made very clear here –

    This so called ‘tree of life congregation’ was/is the opposite. By deviating from Torah tradition they went into a spiritual death zone years before the tragic event a few months ago.

    Their Temple is not a Shul, and the so called Rabbi is not a Rabbi.

      • Where does it say anywhere in Chazal your expression of ahavas chinam? That seems to be a modern invention.

        Does your siddur have ברכת המינים in it? Have you decided to remove it because it goes against your belief in ‘ahavas chinam’?

        We are talking real Yiddishkeit here.

        דוד המלך ע”ה said אוהבי ה’ שנאו רע. You would say that he is a ‘hater’ r”l???

        • Haminim was originally the Notzrim, first of all.

          Rav Kook, TZ”L and the Lubavitcher Rebbe, ZT”L imparted a notion of Avavas Chinam as a logical counteraction to the horrible stories of Sinas Chinam found in the Gemara Gittin.

          There was a tragedy that occurred to Jews in a shul, period. Please listen to R Moshe Weinberger’s strong words on those that belittled the Yiddishe Neshamos that perished. If you and others feel so strongly about this, maybe you should tell other terrorists where they could find local conservative shuls to shoot up. “Mah Hu Rachum, Af Ata Rachum”. Castigating other Jews who went through a tragedy regardless of the way they may fall short (differently than you, of course) is not Rachum. Have they tried to change your way of life? No. So there is no need to belittle them.

          “Sinu Rah” refers to Arab terrorists, not fellow Jews.

          • The original notzrim were Jews.

            You just confirmed what I said, that ‘ahavas chinam’ is a modern invention.

            The Brisker Rav ztvk”l zy”a said that the opposite of sinas chinam is not ahavas chinam. Rather, it is sinah for proper purpose, sinah that is not chinam.

            Ohavei Hashem sinu ra applies to the those in the category of ra. Sometimes there are Jews who do wrong and are in that category. There are some Jews who are to be hated and opposed. The Chofetz Chaim writes about it. And it is seen elsewhere as well.

            We live in a real world, where there exists is evil that needs to be opposed, not in a dreamworld where every person is a great tzadik. We need to distinguish between messianic dreams and current reality. Give me the hard truth of people like the Brisker rav, rather than the fantasies of some smooth-tongued mashpia who is not near his league.

          • Anon 12:02 wrote : Please read”Rabbi Moshe Weinberger’s strong words about those who belittled”. You conviniently left out that it was a serious talmiod chochom that Rabbi Weinberger was speaking against. And this Talmid Chochom held just the opposite of you.

  2. reminding him that “both our religious traditions, yours Catholic and mine Jewish, vigorously oppose the death penalty.” Although the Bible does condemn those who commit certain sins to death, he continued, the Talmud says that a court that puts a man to death once every 70 years is called a “bloodthirsty court.”

    What a silly distortion of Torah.

    Firstly is a Mishna not a Gomorrah.

    Secondly, the Mishna is discussing the efforts made to find a way not to kill someone deserving of the death penalty within the framework of Torah not saying it can’t even be considered beforehand.

    Most importantly the Mishna is not talking about how the NON-Jewish court system should deal with mass murderers to begin with.

    We shouldn’t be forcing Judaism on non-Jews. All the more so not to save the life of a mass murderer.

    • no, but as citizens of a country we are certainly entitled to express our opinion. Would be better if he did not misquote the Torah, but he is obviously ignorant.

  3. Fortunately, whether the government seeks the death penalty is not up to him. Also, if he is interested in Jewish law and tradition, there is no such thing as sentencing someone to life in prison.

  4. why open his mouth if a Rabbi cannot offer Torah true values you offer nothing to the world Qualifier i am not a Rabbi but his quoting the Talmud behooves me to voice an opinion
    in Judaism the events fit with a Classical case of a murderer and if we had a Jewish court today he would imo only be found guilty and executed by the court thus if America already has the death penalty of what value to anyone to Forgo Death Penalty

  5. That whole congregation (as are most Reform Synagouges) is nothing more than a hotbed of radical liberalsm in the name of Judaism. The choshuve Talmid Chochom who said these people did not die Al Kiddush Hahem was right. (Notwithstanding some other Rabbi who was offended at his remarks)

    • ‘VilnaGaon’ is on the money.

      We need to hear the Emes rather than not grandstanding for PR purposes by members of some new sect.

    • I guess you aren’t either if we were to take a fine-tooth comb to examine your failings and shortcomings in Avodas Hashem.

  6. He should be referred to as a clergyman, not a rabbi – to call someone who is a self avowed apikores a title of respect, is itself assur because of chanufa….how much more so to call him a rabbi?

    • Matis:

      I am a non Jew, pro death penalty expert.

      Are you saying he is not a rabbi?

      I agree with some comments, herein, that we are not looking at Jewish law, here, so it is not applicable to the case

  7. Also, according to halacha as it relates to non-jews, he is most certainly chayav misah. When the mishnah says that Jews were almost never killed, it’s because you need things like hasraah and impeccable eidus. The gemara says that all of the 7 mitzvos bnei noach carry a chiyuv misah, and you only need one judge and one witness to carry it out; hasraah is also not necessary. Check rambam melachim perek 9, halacha 14 and kesed mishnah there for the mareh mekomos from gemara.

    He is quoting one source and ignoring everything else, just like the mezayfei torah do with hillel and the ger…the whole torah becomes “tikun olam”

  8. Please note CORRECTION on the reference to my above quote from “Chazal”!
    It should read: Sanhedrin; 72a.
    My apologies; I was a little tired when I posted my comment. “Shegeos Me Yovin…”; Psalms; 19:13.

  9. Talmudic sage, Rabbi Simon ben Gamliel: “Such an attitude (allowing murderers to live) would increase bloodshed in Israel.”  

    “Judaism’s Pro-Death Penalty Tradition”, Steven Plaut, PhD, Haifa University, Apr. 23, 2004 article for JewishPress.com     


    “Only especially vile murderers – such as false witness whose lies are discovered after the person who was framed has been executed, or a man who sacrifices both his son and his daughter to the pagan god Molokh – are denied execution because they are regarded as beyond redemption through capital punishment.”

    “Again, execution preserves human dignity, it does not defile it.”

    “…[T]he preservation of human dignity requires capital punishment of convicted murderers. The position of Judaism is opposite of the position espoused by liberals.”

    “It is precisely because of man’s creation in God’s image that capital punishment is declared justified and necessary. Human dignity requires execution of murderers, not compassion for their souls.”


    Rabbi Azriel Rosenfeld at [email protected]

    68. Murderer and Protection of Life – Rotze’ach u-Shemiras NefeshIt is forbidden to murder, as it says “You shall not murder”.1 

    A murderer must be put to death, as it says “He shall be avenged”2; It is forbidden to accept compensation from him instead, as it says “You shall not take redemption for the life of a murderer…; and there shall be no atonement for the blood that was spilled… except the blood of him that spilled it”.3 

    It is forbidden to execute a murderer before he has stood trial, as it says “And the murderer shall not die until he stands before the congregation for judgment”.4 

    However, we are commanded to prevent an attempted murder by killing the would-be murderer if necessary, and it is forbidden to refrain from doing so, as it says “And you shall cut off her hand; you shall not be merciful”5;  (my emphasis)and similarly for attempted fornication, as it says “[If the man seizes her and lies with her…] just as a man rises up against his friend and murders him, so is this thing.”6 

    It is forbidden to refrain from saving life when it is in one’s power to do so, as it says “You shall not stand on your friend’s blood.”7, a 

    1. Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:17 
    2. Ex. 21:20; see Lev. 24:17,21 
    3. Num. 35:31,33 
    4. Num. 35:12 d. 
    5. Deut. 25:12 
    6. Deut. 22:26 
    7. Lev. 19:16 a. 1:1,4-11,14 

    From Halacha Overview,


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