Ransoming Captive Jews

An important commandment calls for the redemption of Jewish prisoners, but how far should this mitzvah be taken?

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Summary and Conclusions

We have seen that pidyon shvuyim is a major value in our tradition and that Jews have exerted great efforts to redeem captives. However, we do not pay excessive ransom "mipney tikkun olam," for the public good. In other words, the public takes precedence over the individual, even if this endangers the individual. Exchanging hundreds or thousands of terrorists for one Israeli encourages kidnapping of Israelis, and frees hundreds or thousands of terrorists who will pick up their weapons and attack Israel. In other words, it endangers the public and should not be done.

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Rabbi David Golinkin

Rabbi David Golinkin, Ph.D., is president and rector of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, where he teaches Talmud and Jewish law, and he heads the Va'ad Halakhah (committee on Jewish law) of the Masorti, or Conservative, movement's Rabbinical Assembly in Israel.