Death Penalty Today?
by Rabbi Aron Moss
I would love to embrace Judaism again, but there is something I can't get over. I was observant as a child, keeping Shabbos and kosher and all the laws. But then once, when I was a teenager, a neighbour offered me a meat sandwich. It wasn't kosher, and I knew it. But I was hungry. In a weak moment, I ate the sandwich. And then.... nothing happened. I was not struck down by lightning, I didn't get sick or collapse, the sky didn't fall. I realised that these laws actually mean nothing. So I stopped keeping Shabbos, and from there it was a matter of time before I lost any guilt and dropped religion entirely. That was twenty years ago. Doesn't my experience prove that the Torah isn't true?
On the contrary, your experience proves just how true the Torah is. The consequence for breaking the Torah's rules is not the sky falling or being struck down by lightning. The consequence of sin is indifference. When you do bad and feel nothing, that is the greatest punishment there can be.
What happened to you is exactly what the Talmud says: "One sin leads to another." When you do something wrong, a layer of ice forms over your soul. You become less spiritually sensitive, less in touch with G-d, you become cold and apathetic. The feeling of indifference just makes the next transgression easier, which leads to a cycle of spiritual degeneration and disconnect.
This is the deeper meaning of the biblical death penalty for sins. The death is an internal one, your soul loses its life force, your spirit is cut off, your heart goes stone cold. When you eat non-kosher or break Shabbos, something changes inside you. The fact you feel nothing is the proof of how deep it is. Your soul is numb.
But your soul can always be revived. For the Talmud teaches, just as one sin leads to another, so one mitzvah leads to another. If one sandwich can freeze your spirit, one good deed can bring your soul back to life, by melting the ice of indifference and allowing you to feel again. The first step is hard, but the next one is easier.
You have proven the numbing power of breaking the Torah's rules. Now prove the reviving power of keeping them, and do just one mitzvah.