Torah Portion: Mishpatim
You shall not permit a sorceress to live (Shemos 22:17).
It is a negative commandment that we not allow a sorceress to live but to put her to death instead, as it is written: You shall not permit a sorceress to live (Shemos 22:17). This commandment applies not only to a sorceress but to a male sorcerer as well, but the Torah refers to a sorceress because sorcery is more common among women.
Among the roots of the commandment is the idea that sorcery is a very great evil, as it causes many pitfalls to people. We are therefore commanded to remove from this world the person who promotes this, for such a person acts against the will of Hashem, Who wishes the development of the world and that the world function in accord with the nature He set for it, whereas the sorcerer comes to alter everything.
This mitzvah, of judging sorcerers, applies to men who are qualified to judge. It applies only in the Land of Israel and only to ordained judges in a court of twenty-three, who are authorized to try capital cases. A beis din (court) who has the power to do justice and nevertheless failed to do so, violates this commandment.