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‘Stand Your Ground’ And Halacha

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Question: Can you “stand your ground” according to halacha as George Zimmerman allegedly did when he killed Trayvon Martin?

Answer: According to halacha, if someone is running after you to kill you, that person is classified as a rodef and you may kill him. However, this is only the case if you have no other option. If wounding the rodef is sufficient to stop him, you may not kill him. If you do nonetheless, you are a murderer (see Rambam, Hilchot Rotzei’ach 1:6,7)

The Mishnah L’Melech, however, takes a different position (see his comments to the Rambam’s Hilchot Chovail U’Mazik 8:10). He argues that only a bystander has to assess whether killing a rodef is necessary. In other words, if A is trying to kill B in front of bystander C, C may only kill A if he has no other recourse available. If he can save B by wounding A, he may not kill A.

The victim, however – in other words, B – need not assess whether killing A is necessary or not. His life is in danger and he is permitted to kill A without making any calculation as to whether killing him is necessary or whether wounding him would be sufficient.

About the Author: Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, is the author of eight sefarim on Jewish law. His latest, “Jewish Prayer the Right Way” (Urim Publications), is available at Amazon.com and select Judaica stores.


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3 Responses to “‘Stand Your Ground’ And Halacha

  1. ML NJ says:

    Common sense (and the Talmud) says that if someone is bashing your head into a cement sidewalk, and you have a gun you are permitted to shoot the basher until he stops; by which time he may be dead.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I think you need to simplify your answer, stupid! If you're a law-abiding armed citizen volunteered as neighborhood watch you spotted a dope-smokin' gangsta wannabe in your neighborhood who don't even live in your neighborhood looking for prospective house to break in, he saw you, because of his enormous size he assaulted you, partially subdued you, slammed your head in the concrete pavement, saw your Keltek PF-9 in your holster, he tried to grab to kill you saying you'll die tonight mother****er, but you got better grip to your Keltek PF-9, what would you do? Ran away? You're an idiot!

    You're Jewish residing in your comfort zone in Los Angeles practicing ultra-Orthodox, you're not living in Ashkelon where Hamas missile might vaporize your neighborhood while you and your family asleep, what difference does that make?

  3. Ronny Mol says:

    Dear Rabbi Cohen,
    G-d forbid any person, should be in this situation but if you are, you need to be very clear on the Halacha. Thank you for addressing this complex issue.

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