Reb Moshe Feinstein Said, “Let Him Sit in Jail”

Reb_Moshe_Feinstein-Wikimedia commons edited no captionAs reported by Rabbi Yair Hoffman in a review, and set of excerpts, of Rishumei Aharon by Rabbi Aharon Felder published by Machon Daas Z’keinim, Lakewood, NJ).

One time, a religious Jew entered the Beis Midrash to speak with Rav Moshe [Feinstein].  He began to relate how his son is sitting in jail on account of dealing drugs.  This father requested that Rav Moshe write a letter to the judge on behalf of his son to have mercy upon him.  Rav Moshe turned to him and said, “Your son makes people ill and damages them; Let him sit in jail.”  Even though the father pleaded and persisted, he refused to budge.  He added that his actions were against the laws of the state and he cannot simply do whatever he wants.

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6 thoughts on “Reb Moshe Feinstein Said, “Let Him Sit in Jail”

  1. Telsner, “Dayan” of Yeshivah Centre Melbourne, once gave a very emotional Shabbas drosha urging giving money for pidyon shvuim for Israeli drug runners caught in some South East Asian country. Yes, they all know the possible penalties, so what would Reb Moshe have said, based on the above?

    • I understand why you put the word dayan (rabbinical judge) in quotes. But you should added a question mark or formatted it with a strike-through. He is the man who said, “It would be acceptable for a rabbi to sit in din torah zabala (rabbinical arbitration court) even if the rabbi is a little bit biased.”

      He is a scoundrel and an am haaretz (rabbinical ignoramous).

  2. This is a very interesting and important discussion!

    Did R’ Moshe display this attitude more then once? Does anybody know?

    I personally was once sitting by Reb Dovid (Feinstein, his son that now heads R’ Moshe’s yeshiva- MTJ) and the name of a known embezzler came up. The guy is on the “frum team”, but has ruined many many people. As soon as his name was mentioned R’ Dovid said “with Hashem’s help he won’t go to jail”. Shocked and taken off guard, I spoke up and asked “HIM why not. The other people there were older and much more chashuv than me, so I was a real קטן קופץ בראש. With all the states piercing right thru me, I regretted having asked.

    R’ Dovid responded “ye, we don’t want any yid to sit in jail”.

    I was inclined to write it off as something he brought with him from Russia.

    With this story from R’ Moshe in really confused.

  3. Yerachmiel,

    In would be noteworthy to mention here the Gemora in Bava Metsia 83B.

    The Gemora there tells a story about R’ Eliezar ben R’ Shimon, (R’ Shimon Bar Yochoi), who gave advice to a roman officer how to nab Jewish thieves. He advised him as follows: Get up in the fourth hour in the morning and head off to the local bar. If you see an individual drinking wine with a cup in his hand while dosing off, ask about him. If he’s a Rabbi, then he’s dosing off because he was up early learning Torah. If he’s a daytime worker, then he’s dosing off because he’s tired from just completing work. If he’s a nighttime worker, then he’s dosing off because of his nighttime job. If he’s not one of the above-mentioned three, then he’s a thief, arrest him (to be executed).

    The Gemora continues: The king heard about R’ Eliezar ben Shimon’s advice and assigned him the officer’s task to capture the (Jewish) thieves. R’ Yeshoua Ben Korcha got wind of this, so he sent R’ Eliezar ben Shimon a message, stating, “’vinegar the son of wine’, until when will you inform on the nation of Hashem for execution”. Rashi explains: ‘vinegar the son of wine’ – you’re a Rasha the son of a Tsadik. R’ Eliezar ben Shimon replied, “I’m destroying the thorns from the vineyard”. R’ Yeshoua Ben Korcha replied back, “Let the owner of the vineyard (Hashem) come and destroy the thorns.”

    The Gemora continues further: One day R’ Eliezar ben Shimon encountered an individual who, in a derogatory manner piggybacking on R’ Yeshoua Ben Korcha’s analogy, addressed him as, “vinegar the son of wine”. R’ Eliezar ben Shimon instructed his men to arrest the individual. Afterwards, when he calmed down, he went to redeem him, but he found him to be already hung by the Romans. He stood under his hanging body and he cried. The passerby’s said to him, “Rebbi don’t let this trouble you, for he and his son raped an Orusa (a technically married women) on Yom Kippur”. He then placed his hand on his belly and stated, “Rejoice my belly, rejoice, for if you’re doubts turned out this way, then surely the others that you were certain about”.

    The Rashba, quoted by the Bait Yosef (Yosef Karo) in Choshen Mishpat 386, uses this case, amongst many other cases, to prove that the law of the land (Dina D’malchusa) takes precedence over the Torah’s criteria for Hilchas Eidas.

    What is fascinating to note, is that the circumstantial evidence R’ Shimon used was paper-thin and far less telling than that of real testimony and evidence. Moreover, the individuals arrested by R’ Shimon were executed, not just jailed, in accordance with the Roman law of the land.

    Practically speaking, it’s time we get rid of the thorns in our own vineyard – by making sure that all sexual perpetrators get life in jail without a parole. They put every single child and adolescent among us in great danger.

    • Nice rendition of a classic source. I don’t know about life imprisonment for every molester. Their danger to others depends on age, nature of crime, whether the criminal is already a frequent repeater, and other factors. Therapy and supervision by law can make some folks safe bets for supervised released. However, under no circumstances do I want some rav who promises to “keep an eye out” substitute for reporting an offender to the civil authorities.

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