It is almost unnecessary to comment about the recent decision of the
Israeli High Court to outlaw any form of corporal punishment, including
asserting the right of a spanked child to sue his parents even if
he or she was not injured. The Court ruled that using this sort of
method is "a remnant of a social and educational conception that
In fact, parental spanking is legally sanctioned in most countries
of the world, and it is only in a few countries in northern Europe
that it has been abandoned. In those countries the decision to ban
corporal punishment was made by the legislative bodies after consulting
with experts in the field and after public discussion and debate as
the result of a process that claims to reflect the will of the people
who elect the legislature. The events in Israel are similar only in
The High Court made its pronouncement without extensive consultations
with any recognized experts in any relevant field. It hardly cited
any such experts in its decision. It certainly did not consider much
the views of the Israeli community, believing, as its president has
written and said, that it is empowered to set the norms of society
by the standards of "an enlightened societal elite." It was
just presented with a case and decided as it saw fit, according to
its own lights.
Even those who agree with the principle cannot praise this way of
imposing it. The issue involved here is clearly rooted in areas that
are outside of the Court's expertise. The Justices obviously have
personal beliefs about corporal punishment, but what is more undemocratic
than to use their legal position to impose their personal beliefs
on the whole country?
The charge of the Court that corporal punishment is outmoded is not
directed specifically against the Jewish religion, although the possibility
of corporal punishment does have a source as old as Mishlei
and most religious people do feel that there can be occasions when
it is proper to use it. However, there are still many people who are
less than religious and do not want to give up corporal punishment
as one of the possible ways of teaching.
There is of course no license to beat a child. Spanking must be used
as an educational tool, to emphasize a lesson, and not as a vent for
one's frustrations. It should be done, when necessary, calmly and
out of love and concern and not out of anger. It must be a deliberate
decision about the importance of the issue involved and the need to
emphasize the lesson, and is best accompanied and followed by verbal
and physical expressions of love and closeness. Properly and judiciously
applied, a spanking brings parent and child closer.
The Court cited the need to reduce the violence in Israeli society
as one of the reasons it was moved to ban corporal punishment. Though
this is a worthwhile goal, that does not give the Court the right
to specify the means to reach it, and it certainly does not guarantee
that the Court knows how to achieve the goal. "Modern" methods
are not known for their success in this area.
HaRav Dessler in Michtav MeEliahu (Vol. III at the end) notes
that the modern approach is fundamentally flawed since it believes
that what must be encouraged in the developing child is creativity
and independence, while in fact it is discipline and a sense of limits
that are the big lesson that a child has to learn in life.
The High Court, it seems, is a true product of modern education, and
never learned about limits. Now they want to take away one of the
best educational tools for this purpose.