Corporal Punishment

Q. Does Judaism still believe that
"He who spares the rod hates his child" (Mishlei 13:24)?

A. In theory, Jewish law does believe in corporal punishment. The sentence you have quoted justifies parental discipline (cf.
Mishlei 19:18, "Chasten
your child, for then there is hope"), though it is a rhetorical exaggeration to say that to avoid physical punishment is to hate the child.

The second half of Mishlei 13:24 says, "He who loves (his child) sometimes chastises him". However, it is better to try other methods, and to use corporal punishment only as a last resort. Otherwise a parent can end up being a hated bully. The same can be said about teachers - today, very rare - who use the strap or the cane on their pupils. The halachah allows a teacher to use a shoe latchet on a refractory child (B.B. 21a), but in modern education, corporal punishment is ill-advised and likely to invite
pupil violence or at least court action.

The Torah refers to flogging with forty lashes (in practice, 39: Makk. 3:10) as a punishment for various offences
(Devarim 25:2). This procedure remains on
the statute book but its applicability has been legislated out of existence, especially since it could be imposed only if there were a Sanhedrin. In certain cases of emergency, a Jewish court sometimes had the power to inflict corporal punishment as a deterrent, but this was
"hora'at sha'ah", a procedure required by the needs of the moment. A modern Beth Din does not flog anyone, and corporal punishment has been banned by Yisraeli law.


Reprinted from Rabbi Raymond Apple's e-mail list