Hitting a Jew

Hitting a fellow Jew:
A. The prohibition, severity and penalty:[1]
It is [Biblically] forbidden for one to hit another Jew and if one hits him he transgresses a negative command.[2] This prohibition applies even to a light hit.[3]

Lifting hand to hit:[4] Furthermore, anyone who lifts a threatening hand against his friend, even if he does not hit him, is called a Rasha.[5]

Cherem: Whoever hits another Jew [without Halachic allowance[6]] is automatically entered into a Cherem of the previous generations.[7] One may not join him to a Minyan of ten Jews for any matter of Kedusha until a Beis Din [of three Kosher Jews, similar to Hataras Nedarim [8]] removes the Cherem from him, after he accepts their judgment.[9] [This applies even if the victim does not desire the Cherem to be removed, nevertheless, the Beis Din has authority to remove it.[10] Unfortunately, today there are many people who are in Cherem due to hitting and other reasons and it is not possible to enforce every Cherem, and that the person not join a Minyan. Nevertheless, a community should try as much as to enforce this matter.[11]

Lashes/payment:[12] If the hit caused a Peruta’s worth of damage to the person is liable to pay for the damages, and if it was a light hit that did not cause a Peruta’s worth of damage, he is liable for lashes.[13]

 

Summary:
One who hits another Jew transgresses a negative command, is considered a Rasha, and is liable for lashes or payment. He is in automatic Cherem and cannot join a Minyan until he accepts judgment from a quorum of three Kosher Jews and has them remove his Cherem. Even if one lifts his hand to hit a Jew he is considered a Rasha.

 Q&A

May one answer Amen to his blessings?[14]
Yes. A Jew who hits is in Cherem although is not considered like a gentile and hence one must answer Amen to his blessings.

What is one to do if a person who hit is Chazan?[15]
If a person who hit another Jew did not go to a Beis Din to receive judgment and have his Cherem removed, then if he forces himself as a Chazan upon a Minyan, the congregation is not to answer Amen to his blessings, and is to force him out of the position. If, however most of the congregation has accepted him and Chazan and the protest of the few individuals will not be useful to remove him from being Chazan, then they are to answer Amen.

May one hit someone as a joke?
No. Thus, one is not to slap someone’s back in a way that can cause him pain.

B. Hitting in self-defense:

Hitting during an argument:[16] During an argument, it is forbidden to hit a Jew even if one is doing so in retaliation to a verbal attack against him. This applies even if his friend initiated the argument.

Hitting during a fight/Hitting in self-defense:[17] If one was hit by a Jew, it is forbidden to retaliate and hit him back if the Jew has now stopped hitting him. However, during a fight in which one is continuously being hit by a Jew, it is permitted to hit the Jew out of self-defense, to prevent him from continuing to hit him. This however only applies if there is no other way of stopping the attack. Likewise, one may only use enough force to stop the attack, and hence if a light blow will chase off the attacker, one may not give him a strong blow.

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[1] Nikeiy Haguf Vihanefesh 1; Michaber C.M. 420/1; Rambam Chovel 5

[2] The reason: As the verse [Devarim 25/2-3] states “Im Ben Hakos Harasha…Arbaim Yakenu Lo Yosif Pen Yoseif.” Now, if the Torah was particular against one hitting a Rasha more than he deserves then certainly it is particular regarding hitting a Tzaddik. [Admur ibid; Michaber ibid; See Smeh 420/1 for the various opinions in Rishonim for the exact wording of this verse which serves as the source of the Lav]

[3] Admur ibid 2

[4] Admur ibid; Michaber ibid; Rambam Chovel 5/5; Reish Lakish Sanhedrin 58b

[5] The reason: As the verse [Shemos 2/13] states “And he said to the Rasha why do you hit your friend.” Now, the Torah does not say “Hikah/why did you hit” but rather “Sakeh/why do you want to hit”. [Admur ibid; Smeh 420/3; Levush ibid; Sanhedrin ibid]

[6] See below for cases in which it is permitted to hit, such as in self-defense or to educate a child or student

[7] Admur ibid; Rama ibid in name of Yeish Omrim; Maharam Merizburg brought in Mahariy Viyal; Smeh 420/4 that the Cherem is automatic; Maharam Merizburg brought in Mahariy Viyal

[8] Smeh 420/4

[9] Admur ibid; Rama ibid in name of Yeish Omrim; Maharam Merizburg brought in Mahariy Viyal

[10] Rama ibid; omitted from Admur ibid

[11] Chasam Sofer C.M. 182/4, brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah 420/1

[12] Admur ibid 2; Michaber 420/2; Kesubos 35a

[13] The reason: As whenever one is monetarily held liable to pay eh does not receive lashes for transgressing the negative command, and hence if the liability is less than a Peruta, which is not payable, he receives lashes just like one who transgresses any other negative command. [See Admur ibid; Michaber ibid; Beir Hagoleh; Smeh 420/5]

[14] Chasam Sofer C.M. 182/4, brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah 420/1

[15] Chasam Sofer C.M. 182/4, brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah 420/1

[16] Nikeiy Haguf Vihanefesh 2

[17] Nikeiy Haguf Vihanefesh 2; See Michaber 421/13

 

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