Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ransoming a Captive for More than their Value

The Beraisa states: If she was captured and the kidnappers sought ten times her fair value for redemption, the first time he must redeem her. Afterwards, if he wants he can and if he does not want he does not have to. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel states that we do not redeem captives for more than they are worth for “the establishment of the world” (that captors should not thereby be encouraged to demand exorbitant prices for the ransom of their captive).

This issue had an extraordinary public application about 700 years ago. The leader of Ashkenazic Jewry at the time was Rabbi Meir ben Boruch of Rottenberg. He was imprisoned by a German ruler, Rudolph, whose voracity knew no bounds. Rabbi Meir (known as Maharam Mi’Rottenberg) was imprisoned until his death, and his body was not released. The community did not ransom him, as he himself had ruled. Many years after his death, a private member of the community paid almost all of his own money to release the body, with the stipulation that he be buried next to him.

There is a question whether according to Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel a man would be permitted to ransom his wife if the ransom exceeds her worth. The Ritva holds that he may do so and the Chelkas Mechokeik disagrees.


Poseik said...

It would seem that logic would dictate that the same issur should apply; we don't want the goyim holding our wives for huge ransoms.

Mr Bagel said...

There's some uncanny parallels that can be drawn here. Is this not topical in Israel in the modern context right now? Could it be said we have previously ignored this Rabbi's wise counsel and now are 'paying the price'?
Mr Bagel

Avromi said...

Yes, Aron, you are very right. The Israeli govt. is in a tough position; they want the soldiers back, but how much should they pay? What will stop the Arabs from doing it again? That question is certainly answerable: Nothing! But, on the other hand, we want the soldiers back.

The ultimate answer seems to be a tough response to the perpetrators; one that would greatly discourage them from doing it again.