In the Enchanted Forest, the Evil Queen was unrepentant about the pain, suffering, and death she inflicted upon people. In fact, her only regret is that she did not inflict pain, suffering, and death on Snow White.
Although I have suspicions about the ultimately arbitrary nature of law and justice in FTL, it’s clear that mass/serial murder is a capital offense, so the Evil Queen is eligible for the death penalty.
Thus, the tying to the post and the archers and what not.
However, since this is Shabbat, I want to do a bit of study and explore this from a Talmudic perspective.
So, without forcing you to wait for the good part, this is what’s most interesting…
According to the Talmud, it would be unlawful for the Evil Queen to be put to death.
Let me repeat that.
According to the central text of rabbinic Judaism, capital punishment for the Evil Queen would be unlawful.
Not because of a general disapproval of capital punishment. The simple fact of the matter is that despite everything the Evil Queen has done, it does not meet the Talmudic requirements for sentencing someone to death.
What are those requirements?
- There must have been at least two witnesses, and even they have to meet certain standards (no women or close relatives, no gamblers).
- The witnesses must have warned the person moments before the act that they were liable for the death penalty.
- The person has to verbally acknowledge that they were warned and that the warning would be disregarded and then have gone on to do the deed.
- No one can testify against themselves.
Of course, this suggests a question: why bother with capital punishment at all if the requirements are so stringent?
Like a lot of things about Jewish law, it’s one of those things that on the surface doesn’t make sense but after a bit of probing reveals something really interesting.
What this rather interesting case reveals is that what someone deserves and what you should do to them are not one and the same. In the Torah, there are a lot of things people can do to warrant the death penalty, things far less self-evident than murder. Yet, the requirements for sentencing someone to death seem to state, “Yes, there are people who clearly deserve death for what they’ve done, but there is more to justice than giving people what they deserve. Some things are too sacred to subject to human judgment.”
Speaking of human judgment, let’s take a look at the Sanhedrin required for cases where capital punishment is possible.
- They must all be scholars.
- They have to be of exemplary moral conduct and known for their kindness and humility.
- They cannot be driven by greed or amplifying their ego.
- Anyone who has not experienced the pangs and anxieties of raising a child is disqualified.
- As is someone too old to remember what it was like to raise a child.
- The procedure itself has very strict rules about how people sit and which testimony must be accepted as-is or corrected.
- By the way, you need 23 of them.
To me, this seems like a roundabout way of saying, “You don’t want any random ignoramus to make life-and-death decisions. In the absence of perfect knowledge and perfect discernment, you want the people with the most knowledge and life experience to fully understand and make fair judgments about the gravest of legal and moral decisions.”
More than all of this, though, is the importance put on teshuvah, or a return to righteousness, which is among the highest of Jewish values. As I’ve mentioned before, it is not the person who is without blemish who is held in the highest esteem, but the one who has fallen off the path and found their way back.
- “In the place where the repentant (ba’alei teshuva) stand, even the wholly righteous cannot stand” (Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 34b).
- “He receives a great reward because he has tasted the taste of sin and yet separated himself from it and has conquered his evil inclination” (Maimonides; Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuva 7:4).
Indeed, this seems to be what the Evil Queen’s death sentence hinged on in “The Cricket Game.” Indeed, it was Jiminy Cricket’s assertion that the Evil Queen would not change that finally condemned her to death.
And he was wrong.
In a subtle way, the Talmud indicates that anyone who is that fallible should not be the determining factor when it comes to sentencing a person to death. Thus the requirement for not one or a handful, but twenty-three people of remarkable wisdom and outstanding moral character (with an emphasis on kindness and humility) to make the final decision.
But we don’t have that in the Enchanted Forest. Only Snow’s sentimentality (I refuse to call it compassion or empathy) put a stop to it.
And therein lies the main problem of justice in the Enchanted Forest: it’s ruled not by law or principle, but by sentiment. What matters most is not what someone has done or is capable of doing, but how the person in power feels about them.
No matter how benevolent Snow and Charming claim to be, this is a horrifying prospect.