Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 46a
תלמוד בבלי סנהדרין מו: א
רבי אליעזר בן יעקב אומר: שמעתי שבית דין מכין ועונשין שלא מן התורה, ולא לעבור על דברי תורה, אלא כדי לעשות סייג לתורה
Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov said "I have heard that the court may pronounce sentences even where not [warranted] by the Torah; yet not with the intention of disregarding the Torah but [on the contrary] in order to safeguard it." [Soncino translation]

Suggested Discussion Questions:

1. What is the difference between the “letter of the law” and the “spirit of the law?” How do you know when the “spirit of the law” should override the “letter of the law?”

2. Can you describe a situation in which breaking the law or ignoring the law is, in fact, the best way to keep the law?

3. Can you imagine a legal system which does not allow such leniencies? What would that be like?

4. Did you ever have to do something that seemed “wrong” but nonetheless was the right thing to do?

Time Period: Rabbinic (Maccabees through the Talmud)