In the end of this week’s Torah reading, we are taught some of the laws to do with capital punishment. In extremely rare circumstances, it is the Torah’s view is that there is a place for the death penalty. The purpose of this article is not to explain the Jewish perspective on this, but rather to derive an important lesson that emerges from one of its laws.

The Torah teaches that if someone is sentenced to death, the exact location of the execution must be outside the city boundaries, very far from the courthouse. We must explore all possible arguments of defense, spending sufficient time and not rushing to conclusionsOne of the reasons is that there is a law that if any of the judges can think of an argument in defense of the accused, he/she must be returned to the court for a retrial, even if it is after the final verdict. Having the execution take place outside the city far away from the court room creates a little more time for this possibility.

In our own lives, there are instances that we must be the judge, taking a firm stance. We may not have to mete out capital punishment, but as parents we do discipline our children, as teachers we punish our students, and as good citizens we take a strong stand against those that are wrong or immoral.

But even when we need to take a disciplinary or punitive approach, it needs to be with caution and compassion. Objectively, we must explore all possible arguments of defense, spending sufficient time and not rushing to conclusions. When it is absolutely clear that there is no other option, then and only then we can and should rebuke, condemn or punish.

Sometimes, we might be obligated to be tough, but don’t rush.