It is because they recognized the moral responsibility of judging that the rabbis were so hesitant to impose extreme verdicts, especially the death penalty. The law code given in the Torah is full of capital crimes: everything from adultery to idol worship to violating Shabbat to disobeying your parents can be punished by death, often by the particularly horrible method of stoning. But by the Talmudic era, it is clear that judges had lost their taste for such bloody punishments. Indeed, they introduce such high barriers to the imposition of capital sentences that, in practice, the death penalty could almost never be used.Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.
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