Whoever kidnaps another person transgresses a negative commandment, as Exodus 20:13 states: "Do not steal." This verse is stated in the Ten Commandments and serves as a warning against kidnapping.

Similarly, a person who sells a kidnapped person violates a negative commandment, for this is included in the adjuration, Leviticus 25:42: "Do not sell him in the manner a servant is sold."

These two transgressions are not punished by lashing, because they involve capital punishment, as Deuteronomy 24:7 states: "When a person is found stealing one of his brethren... that thief shall die." He is to be executed by strangulation.


כָּל הַגּוֹנֵב נֶפֶשׁ אָדָם עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כ יג) (דברים ה טז) "לֹא תִגְנֹב". פָּסוּק זֶה הָאָמוּר בַּעֲשֶׂרֶת הַדְּבָרִים הִיא אַזְהָרָה לְגוֹנֵב נְפָשׁוֹת. וְכֵן הַמּוֹכְרוֹ עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁזֶּה בִּכְלַל (ויקרא כה מב) "לֹא יִמָּכְרוּ מִמְכֶּרֶת עָבֶד". וְאֵין לוֹקִין עַל שְׁנֵי לָאוִין אֵלּוּ מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא לָאו שֶׁנִּתָּן לְאַזְהָרַת מִיתַת בֵּית דִּין שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כד ז) "כִּי יִמָּצֵא אִישׁ גֹּנֵב נֶפֶשׁ מֵאֶחָיו" וְגוֹ' וּמִיתָתוֹ בְּחֶנֶק:


A kidnapper is not liable for capital punishment unless he kidnaps a Jewish person, brings him into the kidnapper's own domain, makes use of him, and then sells him to others, as Deuteronomy, ibid. states: "And he makes use of him, and sells him."

Even if he makes use of his services for a minor matter, not worth a p'rutah - e.g., he leaned on him or used him as a shield, even if the abducted person was asleep at that time - the kidnapper is considered to have made use of him.


אֵין הַגַּנָּב חַיָּב מִיתַת חֶנֶק עַד שֶׁיִּגְנֹב אֶת הַיִּשְׂרָאֵל וְיַכְנִיסֵנוּ לִרְשׁוּתוֹ וְיִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בּוֹ וְיִמְכְּרֶנּוּ לַאֲחֵרִים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כד ז) "וְהִתְעַמֶּר בּוֹ וּמְכָרוֹ". וַאֲפִלּוּ לֹא נִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בּוֹ אֶלָּא בְּפָחוֹת מִשְּׁוֵה פְּרוּטָה כְּגוֹן שֶׁנִּשְׁעַן עָלָיו אוֹ נִסְמַךְ בּוֹ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהַנִּגְנָב יָשֵׁן הֲרֵי זֶה נִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בּוֹ:


If the kidnapper kidnapped a person, made use of him, and sold him without taking the abducted person from his own domain and bringing him into the kidnapper's domain, he is not liable for capital punishment. Similarly, he is not liable for capital punishment if he kidnapped him, brought him into the kidnapper's domain, made use of him, and did not sell him, or sold him before he made use of him.

Similarly, if the kidnapper made use of the abducted person, but sold him to one of the abducted person's relatives - e.g., he sold him to his father or his brother - he is not liable for capital punishment. For the above verse mentions "stealing... of his brethren." Implied is that the abducted person must be separated from his brothers and relatives through this sale.

Similarly, if the kidnapper kidnapped the abducted person, made use of him, and sold him - all of this while the abducted person was sleeping, the kidnapper is not liable for capital punishment.


גְּנָבוֹ וְנִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בּוֹ וּמְכָרוֹ וַעֲדַיִן הַגָּנוּב בִּרְשׁוּת עַצְמוֹ וְלֹא הִכְנִיסוֹ הַגַּנָּב לִרְשׁוּתוֹ פָּטוּר. גְּנָבוֹ וְהוֹצִיאוֹ לִרְשׁוּתוֹ וְנִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בּוֹ וְלֹא מְכָרוֹ אוֹ מְכָרוֹ קֹדֶם שֶׁנִּשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בּוֹ אוֹ נִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בּוֹ וּמְכָרוֹ לְאֶחָד מִקְּרוֹבָיו שֶׁל גָּנוּב כְּגוֹן שֶׁמְּכָרוֹ לְאָבִיו אוֹ לְאָחִיו הֲרֵי זֶה פָּטוּר שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כד ז) "גֹּנֵב נֶפֶשׁ מֵאֶחָיו" עַד שֶׁיַּבְדִּילֶנּוּ מֵאֶחָיו וּמִקְּרוֹבָיו בַּמְּכִירָה. וְכֵן אִם גְּנָבוֹ וְהוּא יָשֵׁן וְנִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בּוֹ כְּשֶׁהוּא יָשֵׁן וּמְכָרוֹ וַעֲדַיִן הוּא יָשֵׁן הֲרֵי זֶה פָּטוּר:


Similarly, if he kidnapped a pregnant woman and sold only her offspring - i.e., he made an agreement with the purchaser that he retained possession of the woman, and the purchaser is entitled only to her offspring, he is not liable.


וְכֵן אִם גָּנַב אִשָּׁה וּמְכָרָהּ לְעֻבָּרֶיהָ בִּלְבַד כְּגוֹן שֶׁהִתְנָה עַל הַלּוֹקֵחַ שֶׁזּוֹ הַשִּׁפְחָה לִי וְאֵין לְךָ אֶלָּא הַוְּלָדוֹת הֲרֵי זֶה פָּטוּר:


The following individuals are not liable for capital punishment: a person who kidnaps his son or a brother who is below majority, a guardian who kidnaps the orphans who are in his trust, a house-owner who kidnaps one of the members of his household, and a teacher who kidnaps one of the students studying under him.

This applies even if the kidnapper makes use of and sells the abducted person. This is derived from the exegesis of Exodus 21:16: "And he is found in his hand." This excludes those who are constantly found in their hand.


הַגּוֹנֵב אֶת בְּנוֹ אוֹ אֶת אָחִיו הַקָּטָן וְכֵן הָאַפּוֹטְרוֹפִּין שֶׁגָּנְבוּ אֶת הַיְתוֹמִים שֶׁהֵן סְמוּכִין אֶצְלָם וּבַעַל הַבַּיִת שֶׁגָּנַב אֶחָד מִבְּנֵי בֵּיתוֹ הַסְּמוּכִין עַל שֻׁלְחָנוֹ וּמְלַמֵּד תִּינוֹקוֹת שֶׁגָּנַב אֶחָד מִן הַקְּטַנִּים הַלּוֹמְדִים אֶצְלוֹ. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁנִּשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בּוֹ וּמְכָרוֹ פָּטוּר שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כא טז) "וְנִמְצָא בְיָדוֹ" פְּרָט לְאֵלּוּ שֶׁהֵן מְצוּיִין בְּיָדָם:

Mishneh Torah (Moznaim)

Featuring a modern English translation and a commentary that presents a digest of the centuries of Torah scholarship which have been devoted to the study of the Mishneh Torah by Maimonides.


A kidnapper - either a male or a female - is liable for capital punishment regardless of whether he kidnaps an adult or a one-day-old infant - provided the pregnancy was full-term - and regardless of whether the abducted person was male or female. This is implied by the above verse, which mentions "kidnapping a soul."

It makes no difference if one kidnaps a native-born Israelite, a convert or a freed Canaanite servant, for the above verse states: "one of his brethren." And the above are "our brothers," related by the bond of the Torah and its mitzvot. One is not, however, liable for capital punishment for kidnapping a Canaanite servant or a servant who has been freed only partially.


אֶחָד הַגּוֹנֵב אֶת הַגָּדוֹל אוֹ הַגּוֹנֵב אֶת הַקָּטָן בֶּן יוֹמוֹ שֶׁכָּלוּ לוֹ חֳדָשָׁיו בֵּין זָכָר בֵּין נְקֵבָה בֵּין שֶׁהָיָה הַגַּנָּב אִישׁ אוֹ אִשָּׁה הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ נֶהֱרָגִין שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כד ז) "גֹּנֵב נֶפֶשׁ" מִכָּל מָקוֹם. וְאֶחָד הַגּוֹנֵב אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל אוֹ שֶׁגָּנַב גֵּר אוֹ עֶבֶד מְשֻׁחְרָר שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כד ז) "נֶפֶשׁ מֵאֶחָיו" וְאֵלּוּ בִּכְלַל אַחֵינוּ הֵן בְּתוֹרָה וּבְמִצְוֹת. אֲבָל הַגּוֹנֵב אֶת הָעֶבֶד אוֹ מִי שֶׁחֶצְיוֹ עֶבֶד וְחֶצְיוֹ בֶּן חוֹרִין פָּטוּר:


When a person breaks into a home - whether at night or during the day - license is granted to kill him. If either the homeowner or another person kills him, they are not liable.

The license to kill him applies both on the Sabbath and during the week; one may kill in any possible manner. This is all implied by Exodus 22:1, which literally reads: "He has no blood."


הַבָּא בַּמַּחְתֶּרֶת בֵּין בַּיּוֹם בֵּין בַּלַּיְלָה אֵין לוֹ דָּמִים אֶלָּא אִם הֲרָגוֹ בַּעַל הַבַּיִת אוֹ שְׁאָר הָאָדָם פְּטוּרִין. וּרְשׁוּת יֵשׁ לַכּל לְהָרְגוֹ בֵּין בְּחל בֵּין בְּשַׁבָּת בְּכָל מִיתָה שֶׁיְּכוֹלִין לַהֲמִיתוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כב א) "אֵין לוֹ דָּמִים":


The license mentioned above applies to a thief caught breaking in or one caught on a person's roof, courtyard or enclosed area, whether during the day or during the night. Why does the Torah mention "breaking in," because it is the general practice for thieves to break in at night.


וְאֶחָד הַבָּא בַּמַּחְתֶּרֶת אוֹ גַּנָּב שֶׁנִּמְצָא בְּתוֹךְ גַּגּוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם אוֹ בְּתוֹךְ חֲצֵרוֹ אוֹ בְּתוֹךְ קַרְפִּיפוֹ בֵּין בַּיּוֹם בֵּין בַּלַּיְלָה. וְלָמָּה נֶאֱמַר (שמות כב א) "מַחְתֶּרֶת" לְפִי שֶׁדֶּרֶךְ רֹב הַגַּנָּבִים לָבוֹא בַּמַּחְתֶּרֶת בַּלַּיְלָה:


Why did the Torah permit the blood of such a thief to be shed, although he is only attempting to steal money? Because it is an accepted presumption that if the house-owner arises and attempts to prevent the thief from stealing, the thief will slay him. And thus the thief entering his colleague's house to steal is in effect a pursuer seeking to kill his colleague. Therefore, he should be killed, whether he is an adult or a minor, or a man or a woman.


וּמִפְּנֵי מָה הִתִּירָה תּוֹרָה דָּמוֹ שֶׁל גַּנָב אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁבָּא עַל עִסְקֵי מָמוֹן. לְפִי שֶׁחֶזְקָתוֹ שֶׁאִם עָמַד בַּעַל הַבַּיִת לְפָנָיו וּמְנָעוֹ יַהַרְגֵנוּ וְנִמְצָא זֶה הַנִּכְנָס לְבֵית חֲבֵרוֹ לִגְנֹב כְּרוֹדֵף אַחַר חֲבֵרוֹ לְהָרְגוֹ. וּלְפִיכָךְ יַהֲרֹג בֵּין שֶׁהָיָה גָּדוֹל בֵּין שֶׁהָיָה קָטָן בֵּין זָכָר בֵּין נְקֵבָה:


If it is clear to the house-owner that the thief who breaks in will not kill him and instead is only seeking financial gain, it is forbidden to kill the thief. If the house-owner kills him, the house-owner is considered to be a murderer.

This is alluded to by Exodus 22:2, which states: "If the sun shines upon him..." - i.e., if it is as clear to you as the sun that he is at peace with you, do not kill him. Therefore, a father who breaks into his son's home should not be killed. But a son who breaks into his father's home may be killed.


הָיָה הַדָּבָר בָּרוּר לְבַעַל הַבַּיִת שֶׁזֶּה הַגַּנָּב הַבָּא עָלָיו אֵינוֹ הוֹרְגוֹ וְלֹא בָּא אֶלָּא עַל עִסְקֵי מָמוֹן אָסוּר לְהָרְגוֹ וְאִם הֲרָגוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה הוֹרֵג נֶפֶשׁ. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כב ב) "אִם זָרְחָה הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ עָלָיו" אִם בָּרוּר לְךָ הַדָּבָר כַּשֶׁמֶשׁ שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ שָׁלוֹם עִמְּךָ אֶל תַּהַרְגֵהוּ. לְפִיכָךְ אָב הַבָּא בַּמַּחְתֶּרֶת עַל בְּנוֹ אֵינוֹ נֶהֱרָג שֶׁוַּדַּאי שֶׁאֵינוֹ הוֹרְגוֹ. אֲבָל הַבֵּן הַבָּא עַל אָבִיו נֶהֱרָג:


Different rules apply with regard to a thief who stole and departed, or one who did not steal, but was caught leaving the tunnel through which he entered the home. Since he turned his back on the house and is no longer intent on killing its owner, he may not be slain.

Similarly, if he is surrounded by other people, or by witnesses, he may not be killed, even if he is still located within the domain which he broke into. Needless to say, if he is brought to the court he may not be killed.


וְכֵן הַגַּנָּב שֶׁגָּנַב וְיָצָא. אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא גָּנַב וּמְצָאוֹ יוֹצֵא מִן הַמַּחְתֶּרֶת הוֹאִיל וּפָנָה עֹרֶף וְאֵינוֹ רוֹדֵף יֵשׁ לוֹ דָּמִים. וְכֵן אִם הִקִּיפוּהוּ בְּנֵי אָדָם אוֹ עֵדִים אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁעֲדַיִן הוּא בִּרְשׁוּת זֶה שֶׁבָּא עָלָיו אֵינוֹ נֶהֱרָג. וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר אִם בָּא לְבֵית דִּין שֶׁאֵינוֹ נֶהֱרָג:


Similarly, a person who breaks into a garden, a field, a pen or a corral may not be killed, for the prevailing presumption is that he came merely to steal money, for generally the owners are not found in such places.


וְכֵן הַבָּא בַּמַּחְתֶּרֶת לְתוֹךְ גִּנָּתוֹ אוֹ לְתוֹךְ שָׂדֵהוּ אוֹ לְתוֹךְ הַדִּיר וְהַסַּהַר יֵשׁ לוֹ דָּמִים. שֶׁחֶזְקָתוֹ שֶׁבָּא עַל הַמָּמוֹן בִּלְבַד לְפִי שֶׁאֵין רֹב הַבְּעָלִים מְצוּיִים בִּמְקוֹמוֹת אֵלּוּ:


Whenever license is not granted to kill a thief, we should remove stones from an avalanche that fell upon him on the Sabbath. If he destroyed utensils while inside the house, he is liable for the damages. When, however, license is granted to kill a person, and he broke utensils while in the home, he is not liable for the damages, as explained above.


כָּל גַּנָּב שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ דָּמִים אִם נָפַל עָלָיו גַּל בְּשַׁבָּת מְפַקְּחִים עָלָיו. וְאִם שָׁבַר כֵּלִים בְּבִיאָתוֹ חַיָּב בְּתַשְׁלוּמִין. אֲבָל מִי שֶׁאֵין לוֹ דָּמִים שֶׁשָּׁבַר כֵּלִים בְּבִיאָתוֹ פָּטוּר כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ:

Blessed be God who grants assistance.

בְּרִיךְ רַחֲמָנָא דְּסַיְּעָן