Why Collective Punishment is OK and Why We Avoid it nonetheless

But even a more qualified objection to collective punishment is likely predicated on a limited understanding of the self that the Jewish mystical tradition considers ultimately incorrect. That tradition tells us that the reason we are told to love our neighbor as ourselves is because our neighbors are ourselves – literally. Hence that commandment is meant to enlighten us about ourselves even more than it is meant to teach us ethical behavior. Accordingly, such a view compares different individuals to different limbs of the same body that generally all share the same fate. 

That means that the potential sin of Aharon and his sons (Vayikra 10:6) would be a potential sin of the entire Jewish people. If so, there should be no reason to object to the idea that their sin would bring about Divine anger against the whole people. Yet that would lead us to the unlikely – though not impossible – conclusion that the previous commentators all missed this. To read more at the Jewish Press, click here.

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