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10.23.2010

If a person does what is prohibited by the Law, not only because of his evil inclinations, but in order to oppose and resist the Law, he "reproaches the Lord" (Num. 15:30), and must undoubtedly be put to death.   The passage speaks of an idolater who opposes the fundamental principles of the Law.  Even if an Israelite eats meat [boiled] in milk [Exo. 23:19, 34:26], or wears garments of wool and linen [Deut. 22:11], or rounds the corners of his head [Lev. 19:27], out of spite against the Law, in order to show clearly that he does not believe in its truth, I apply to him the words, "he reproaches the Lord," and he must suffer death as an unbeliever, though not for a punishment, but in the same manner as the inhabitants of a "city misled to idolatry" [Deut. 13:12-13] are slain for their unbelief, and not as punishment for crime; wherefore their property is destroyed by fire, and is not given to their heirs, as is the case with the property of other criminals condemned to death. All the members of an Israelite community which has insolently and presumptuously transgressed any of the divine precepts, must be put to death. This is proved by the history of "the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad" (Josh.  22), against whom the whole congregation of Israel decided to make war. When warning was given to the supposed offenders, it was explained to them that they had relinquished their faith, because by agreeing to transgress one particular law they rejected the truth of the whole Law. For they were addressed as follows: "What trespass is this that you have committed against the God of Israel, to turn away this day from following the Lord?" (Josh. 22:16); and they replied: "The Lord knows . . .  if it be in rebellion, or if in transgression against the Lord," (Josh. 22:22).
Moses Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, Friedl√§nder tr. [1904], 248-49, at http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/gfp/gfp177.htm