web analytics
May 22, 2015 / 4 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Home » Judaism » Parsha »

Are There Times One May Kill Himself?

Parsha-Perspectives-logo

Toward the end of this week’s parshah Rashi quotes a Medrash that relates the familiar episode of when Avraham Avinu was thrown into a furnace. Rashi recounts that Avraham’s father, Terach, had reported to Nimrod that his son had broken all of his idols. Avraham was then thrown into a fire and was saved. The wording of the Medrash, however, is that Avraham had gone into the fire by himself (kesheyarad Avraham letoch kivshan ha’eish – when Avraham went into the fire, and in another place it says that Nimrod decreed that he should leireid lekivshan ha’eish – go down into the fire).

Several Acharonim were bothered by this event. First, they ask how Avraham could have thrown himself into a fire. Although avodah zarah is one of the three aveiros for which one must sacrifice his or her life instead of transgressing – in addition, when one is forced to perform any aveirah in public before 10 or more people, the person’s life must be given up instead of committing a transgression – there is nevertheless a dispute among the Rishonim as to whether one may actively kill himself or only allow himself to be killed. Second, the Acharonim ask that since bnei Noach are not commanded in Kiddush Hashem, if a ben Noach is forced to transgress he should do so and not give up his life.

Earlier in the parshah the Torah commanded Noach that although animals may now be killed humans may not be killed. The pasuk says: “v’ach es dimchem lenafshoseichem edrosh – but the blood of your souls I will seek.” Rashi brings the drasha that this is the source in the Torah that one may not kill oneself. The Das Zekeinim Miba’alei Tosafos quote an ambiguous Medrash and offer two interpretations of that Medrash that differ on this point. The Medrash makes a drasha that teaches us whether we should or should not be like Chananya Mishael and Azarya, and whether Shaul Hamelech – who killed himself before he would have been captured – acted correctly, for as the pasuk here says: ach, to exclude. One opinion says that the Medrash teaches us that one may kill oneself or others to prevent avodah zarah. The other opinion says that one may only allow himself to be killed; one may never kill to prevent avodah zarah.

Tosafos continues by saying that in his time there was a decree against the Jews (one of the crusades), and that one rabbi was slaughtering little children in an effort to prevent them from growing up in the church. Another rabbi, angered with this practice, called the first rabbi a murderer and said that if he is correct, the first rabbi will die a strange death. Indeed, the first rabbi was captured and given a strange death. In short order, the decree was abolished.

The Gemara in Avodah Zarah 18a says that when Rabbi Chanina ben Tiradyon was being killed, his students asked him to open his mouth so he would die faster. He responded that he could not do this since that would be considered as if he was killing himself. The Ritvah, on that Gemara and quoting the same Medrash, says that Rabbeinu Tam ruled that one is permitted to take his own life under such circumstances.

Returning to the original question, it is possible that Avraham did not go into the fire himself but rather allowed himself to be thrown into the fire – as seems to be the case from Rashi’s wording. Thus, in that event, the first question is not applicable. But if we understand the events as the Medrash implies, we must then explain the opinion that one may never kill oneself (in this case, that Avraham went into the fire on his own). Additionally, even if we understand that he was thrown into the fire we must still explain that if he had the status of a ben Noach, he should have transgressed and not allowed himself to be killed.

The Maharimt suggests that since Avraham Avinu, as a ben Noach, should have transgressed and not be killed, he acted incorrectly by allowing himself to be killed. He says that it is for this reason that the Medrash says that Avraham was saved in the zechus of Yaakov Avinu.

About the Author: For questions or comments, e-mail RabbiRFuchs@gmail.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Are There Times One May Kill Himself?”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Seder at the White House. The one without the kippa is President Obama.
Obama Reaching Out to (Liberal) Jews in Sermon at Synagogue
Latest Judaism Stories
Torah

This Shavuot let’s give G-d a gift too: Let’s make this year different by doing just 1 more mitzvah

Q-A-Klass-logo

Question: Should we wash our hands in the bathroom with soap and water, or by pouring water from a vessel with handles three times, alternating hands? I have heard it said that a vessel is used only in the morning upon awakening. What are the rules pertaining to young children? What is the protocol if […]

Grunfeld-Raphael-logo

God and the divine origin of His Torah are facts even though we do not fully comprehend them.

Winiarz-Shaya-logo

So if we basically live the same life, why should he get eternal reward and not me?”

The question is: What about pidyon haben? Can one give the five sela’im required for pidyon haben to a kohen’s daughter?

In Parshas Pinchas the Torah introduces the Mussaf for Shavuos by describing it as Yom HaBikurim when we bring the new offering.

Rachel was thrown by the sight and began to caringly think whom this person might be.

The desert, with its unearthly silence & emptiness, is the condition in which the Word can be heard

The census focused on the individual, proving each is created as irreplaceable, unique images of God

Jewish survival in a dysfunctional world requires women assuming the role Hashem gave them at Sinai

The Honor Of Reading The Kesubah
‘Witnesses Sign Only After Reading…’
(Kesubos 109a)

Why does the Torah use two different words for “to count,” and what does each indicate?

From Bemidbar on and in Nevi’im, the nation is viewed primarily by its component parts, the tribes

“You do know that nothing occurs without reason. Can you think of something you might have done to bring on your malaise?”

What does the omer & agricultural laws pe’ah & leket teach about the Biblical approach to holidays?

More Articles from Rabbi Raphael Fuchs
Taste-of-Lomdus-logo

The question is: What about pidyon haben? Can one give the five sela’im required for pidyon haben to a kohen’s daughter?

Taste-of-Lomdus-logo

The mitzvah that parents must give their son a bris milah is a mitzvah that they must perform for someone else – namely their son.

The Bach writes that he mentioned his insights to many of the leading gedolim and no one disproved him.

The Bais Halevi answers that we must properly define what is considered to be “in the middle of a mitzvah.”

In this case one could reason that by applying halach achar harov we could permit the forbidden bird as well.

Why would it not be sufficient to simply state lehoros from which we derive that in such a state one may not issue any psak?

The Netziv answered that there is a difference between a piece of bread that was cut already in front of you, and one that was cut from beforehand.

Why is it necessary to invite people to eat from the korban Pesach?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/are-there-times-one-may-kill-himself/2012/10/17/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: