German-born schoolgirl Linda Wenzel, who left her home in Dresden last year and travelled to Iraq to join ISIS, could now face the death penalty. What does the Torah say about this?
The most famous of child crime scenarios is the rebellious child, the “ben sorer u-moreh”. The apparently uneducable adolescent is judged first by his parents and then the communal elders to be unsalvageable and is condemned to death.
Whereas the rabbinic laws severely limit the possibility of this happening, to the point that one Talmudic opinion claims that the rebellious child is only theoretical, the Torah does entertain the possibility that delinquency can lead to the most serious of crimes.
The rebellious child thief, who steals from his parents, guzzles wine and scoffs meat with the proceeds may seem in urgent need of psychiatric help or at least intensive therapy.
However, he is also only a step away from taking a life to fund his reckless lifestyle. Volunteering for ISIS is far worse than reckless.
For some Wenzel may seem a hero, sacrificing home comfort and security for the sake of an ideal that could lead to death.
But volunteering for the enemy is treason, which is Biblically punished by death. Joab, the lifelong military chief of staff of King David betrayed him and supported his son Adonijah.
Exploiting David’s vulnerability cost Joab his life, as David instructed his son Solomon to find a way to punish him fatally for his treachery.
Wenzel was no Chief of Staff, but she still carried the responsibility of betraying her own citizens by joining those who were at any time prepared to attack Europeans in major cities.
The Torah insists that educators instil a sense of mutual responsibility in our youths for fellow human beings – something that is essential to avoiding future cases of girls like Wenzel.
ω Rabbi Ariel Abel is Padre to HM Forces and rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation