(Prisoner Exchange in Jewish Law (Part 1 of 4

1. “For the Sake of the General Welfare”

“For the sake of the general welfare”
The Sages of the Mishna teach: “Captives should not be ransomed for
more than their value, for the sake of the general welfare.” The
enactment of such a law was necessary, lest kidnapping become a
lucrative trade. The Rif (Rabbi Yitzhak Alfasi), the Rambam (Rabbi
Moshe ben Maimon), the Rosh (Rabbi Asher ben Yechiel), and the Tur
(Rabbi Jacob ben Asher) all rule accordingly, as does Rabbi Yosef Karo
in his authoritative Shulchan Arukh (see Yoreh Deah 252:4).
Yet, regarding a situation in which the life of the prisoner is at
stake – i.e., his captors threaten to murder him if they do not
receive the ransom they desire – Torah authorities are divided: Some
say that it is permissible under such circumstances to pay more than
the captive’s value, because a Jewish life is at stake; others,
though, maintain that such a deal is forbidden out of consideration
for the general good, for if an agreement is reached, the terrorists
will simply step up their efforts to take additional captives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *