The Jeremy Kyle Show has been cancelled by ITV after a participant killed himself when he failed a polygraph test regarding his relationship with his girlfriend. So, what does the Torah say about this?
Ahitophel, an adviser to King David’s rebellious son Absalom, took his life when he heard that his advice to the monarch was not applied.
However, the rabbis severely criticise him, taking Ahitophel as the prime example in matters relating to the prohibition of suicide.
Since the Jeremy Kyle Show cancellation story broke, suggestions have been made that the poor participant took his own life not solely because he had failed the test and that there were other reasons at play.
Looking at the polygraph test, in Judaism, unless there are two witnesses who come before a Beth Din, evidence is usually not accepted as conclusive.
On the face of it, an implement such as a lie-detector machine would not be safe for halachic use.
The nature of the Jeremy Kyle Show is also questionable as to whether people’s private lives should be pulled apart in public. If there is absolutely no other way to bring a person to account, then it is a useful forum, as was the case when Joshua identified Achan – who had been accused of secretly pillaging spoils from the city of Jericho – before all of Israel.
As for competing accusations, swearing and the need for on-site security, all of which were a common feature of the show, Proverbs counsel that the Torah’s ways are ways of peace. The safety of methods used to extract the truth is essential, as our rabbis warn that no man should incriminate himself.
Mediation and reconciliation, not proverbial pitch battles, should always be the goal.
- Rabbi Abel serves Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation and is padre to HM Armed Forces