web analytics
October 24, 2014 / 30 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



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.

The sefer, Prashas Derachim, says that according to the Rishonim – who opine that Avraham had the status of a Yisrael – Avraham acted correctly by not transgressing.

The Nimukei Yosef (Sanhedrin 18a) says that although one may not give up his life for other mitzvos (aside from not practicing avodah zarah, murder, and arayos), if an adam gadol – a chassid and yirei shamayim – sees that the generation is parutz in a certain area he may give up his life for that particular cause so that his generation will learn from him.

Perhaps we can apply this to Avraham Avinu who, whether he had the status of a ben Noach and therefore should not have allowed himself to be killed for this aveirah or if he had the status of a Yisrael and attempted to kill himself, saw that the entire world was lacking in any knowledge of Hashem and therefore felt the need to make a statement in order to teach the world that there is a God. Hence he was permitted to go into the fire to pronounce to the world that there is a God.

For questions or comments, e-mail RabbiRFuchs@gmail.com.

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.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Miniature Torah at the women's section of the Western Wall Friday morning.
Women of the Wall Smuggle Tiny Torah Scroll to Western Wall
Latest Judaism Stories
Rapps-Rabbi-Joshua-logo

Shem realized that he owed his existence to his father who brought him into the world.

Daf-Yomi-logo

Law-Abiding Citizen
‘That Which Is Crooked Cannot Be Made Straight…’
(Yevamos 22a-b)

Weck-110411-Noah

The flood was not sent to destroy, but to restore the positive potential of the world.

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

Why is there is no mention of dinosaurs, and other prehistoric animals, in the Torah?

Strict din demands perfection. There is no room for shortcomings and no place for excuses; you are responsible.

Surprisingly, my husband and one son arrived home over half-an-hour earlier than usual. I excitedly shared my perfect-timing story, but my better half one upped me easily.

Noach felt a tug, and then heard a rip. His jacket had been caught on the nail, and the beautiful suit had a tear.

Boundaries must be set in every home. Parents and children are not pals. They are not equals.

Noah and his wife could not fathom living together as husband and wife and continuing the human race

The Babel story is the 2nd in a 4-act drama that’s unmistakably a connecting thread of Bereishit

Our intentions are critical in raising children because they mimic everything we parents do & think

A humble person who achieves a position of prominence will utilize the standing to benefit others.

Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.

The creation of the world is described twice. Each description serves a unique purpose.

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

Others suggest that one cannot separate Shabbos from Yom Kippur by accepting Shabbos early.

Taste-of-Lomdus-logo

While women are exempt from actually learning Torah, they are obligated in a different aspect of the mitzvah.

The Chafetz Chaim answered that there are two forms of teshuvah; teshuvah m’ahava and teshuvah m’yirah.

Since it is a Rabbinic prohibition we may follow the more lenient opinion.

They ask, how can Rabbeinu Gershom forbid marrying more than one wife, when the Torah explicitly permits it in this parshah?

First, how could a beis din of 23 judges present a guilty verdict in a capital punishment case? After all, only a majority of the 23 judges ruled in favor of his verdict.

According to Rabbi Yishmael one was not permitted to eat such an animal prior to entering Eretz Yisrael, while according to Rabbi Akiva one was permitted to eat animals if he would perform nechirah.

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: