Friday, February 24, 2006



A large passage in the Torah[1] is devoted to the explanation of the laws of a metzora (one afflicted with Tzara'as) and his purification process, which he must undergo to retain his ritual purity. A metzorah is commonly mistranslated as a leper, and his disease, leprosy. However, in reality, Tzara'as is not the skin disease caused by a slowly reproducing Mycobacterium. Although a spot of Tzara'as is called a nega (and pluralized in the name of the Mishnaic tractate dealing with its laws, negaim), which means affliction or plague, as leprosy is, the literal translation of neg’a is “touched.” This refers to the fact that a metzora is “touched” by the hand of G-d, and receives this sort of physical blemish (whether on his body, clothing, or house). Tzara'as is unique in that it is a spiritual disease manifested through a physical appearance. Throughout Rabbinical and Biblical literature, a Metzora is usually looked at as a person who is castigated by HaShem. Rabbi Shlomo Efraim of Luntchitz (1550-1619), records[2] an opinion that Tzara'as is a naturally occurring disease; however, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) vehemently disagrees[3].

The etymology of the word “leprosy” comes from the spotted animal known commonly as a leopard. According to the Midrash[4] , the word metzora is an abbreviation of motzei Shem r’a, the Hebrew phrase for a slanderer whose punishment is Tzara'as. Tzara'as is obviously not leprosy. Marks of Tzara'as can appear on one’s hair, clothes, and house, in addition to on his body. Leprosy is a purely biological malady and so, inherently, cannot materialize on lifeless objects such as garments or a home. Furthermore, in order for a spot to be termed a nega of Tzara'as it must be one of the four shades of white as described in the Mishnah[5]. If Tzara'as is synonymous with leprosy then the color should not make a difference; therefore, any color, and surely any shade of white, should be classified as Tzara'as. In addition, the strict halachik definition of Tzara'as is a blemish that a Kohen has deemed Tzara'as, accordingly, despite its physical appearance and symptoms, only the Kohanic pronouncement as a spot of Tzara'as transform any spot into a nega. Tzara'as only applies within the Land of Israel[6]; if it is only some form of leprosy, it should apply in every locale.

The Talmud says[7] that one who is afflicted with Tzara'as is receiving “pains of love” from HaShem. The Talmud further qualifies this statement by explaining that is only true outside of the Holy Land, but within Eretz Yisroel, where Tzara'as is grounds for isolation and quarantine, such an affliction is a punishment. The pain involved in Tzara'as –whether physical or spiritual—is used as a means of comparison to unfortunate situations. The “Alphabet of Ben Sira”[8] compares[9] a bad wife to Tzara'as and divorcing her heals him from his affliction. The Talmud states many times[10] that the situation of a convert to Israel attempting to adapt and integrate is as difficult as a sapachas, a type of tzara'as. Rabbi Akiva Eiger of Posen (1761-1837) points out[11] that the Rambam[12] had a version of the Gemara, which compared it to a nega of Tzara'as directly, not just specifically a sapachas. The Talmud[13] learns from the verses dealing with seis and sapachas (types of negaim) that one who conducts himself with haughtiness is going to experience an eventual downfall and despite his initial attitude of priority in the world, he will become secondary. Rashi[14] writes that Tzara'as on one’s house is a punishment because one then has to remove all the vessels in the house and neighbors will see exactly what is and is not owned (despite what the owner said was owned).

The Midrash[15] states that there are ten sins[16] for which a Jew is punished with an affliction of negaim: idolatry, sexual immorality, murder, desecrating the holy name, cursing the holy name, stealing from the public, stealing other's belongings, haughtiness, spreading lashon harah, and an evil eye. The Midrash elaborates on the sources for all of these by exegetically expounding various verses throughout Tanach. Idolatry is learned from the Jewish people who committed idolatry at Mount Sinai with the Golden Calf[17] and were thus stricken with Tzara’as[18]. The daughters of Zion conducted themselves with sexual indecency[19], and thus they were punished with Tzara’as[20]. Joab murdered various people throughout the books of Samuel and was eventually afflicted with Tzara’as[21]. Gehazi desecrated the name of heaven by accepting a gift from Na'aman, thus was struck with Tzara'as[22]. Goliath cursed HaShem[23] and consequently he was fittingly punished with Tzara'as[24]. Stealing from the public is punishable with Tzara'as as is seen from Isaiah 22:17. King Uziahu conducted himself with haughtiness[25] and stole certain rights belonging to the Kohen Gadol. Soon after, he developed signs of Tzara'as[26]. Furthermore, the Midrash implied from Leviticus 14:35 that an evil eye is also punishable with Tzara'as. Miriam, the sister of Aharon and Moses, spoke disparagingly about her latter brother to her former brother; consequently, she ended up quarantined as a metzora'as (female form of metzora)[27]. This type of evil speech is the most famous cause of Tzara'as.

In addition to Miriam, Aaron was also punished with Tzara'as for merely listening to the slander said against his younger brother Moses[28]. In a separate incident, Moses himself was punished for dishonoring the Jewish nation by claiming that they will not listen to him[29]; that is why his hand was to turn snow-white with Tzara'as when he appeared before the King of Egypt. Even King David was once afflicted with Tzara'as [30], and as a result, he temporarily lost his prophetic insight and the Sanhedrin separated from him. In Late Tannaic times, Abadan slighted certain Torah scholars[31] by stepping on top of them and as a result, immediately thereafter, his two sons drowned, his two daughters-in-law refused their husbands, and he himself was struck with Tzara'as [32].

Although Tzara'as and its implications in purity apply only to Jews (as learned from Leviticus 13:2[33]), non-Jewish dignitaries who have some connection to Jews are also sometimes susceptible to becoming afflicted with Tzara'as. The simple reading of Exodus 2:23 is that Pharaoh, a certain head of state of ancient Mitzrayim/Egypt, died. However, Rashi explains[34] that he was actually afflicted with Tzara'as, which is considered tantamount to death.[35] Naaman the Syrian, commander of army of the king of Aram was afflicted with Tzara'as because of his anti-social behavior and arrogant attitude. Namaan the leper was eventually miraculously healed through the advice of Elisha the prophet[36] who told Na’aman to emerge himself into the Yarden/Jordan River seven times. When Gechazi, a student of Elish’a accepted a gift from the Syrian general after being told by Elisha not to do so, Gehazi was struck with Na’aman’s Tzara'as. This is why Tzara'as is sometimes referred to as “Gehazi Syndrome.” It can be argued that the Crusade-era King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem (1161-1185) was afflicted with leprosy–or perhaps even Tzara'as —as a punishment for the harsh treatment that the Christians accorded the Jews during the Crusades.

In order for one to be totally deemed impure because of Tzara'as, the spot must experience a growth, develop a dead skin inside, or develop two white hairs. If the white hairs were in the spot before the nega was there, the two hairs possibly do not render the man ritually impure. The Talmud relates[37] that HaKodosh Baruch Hu (G-d) Himself said that in such a case the man is pure; however, the students in the Yeshivah of the Heavens disagreed and felt he should be rendered impure[38]. Rabbah Bar Nachman was chosen to resolve the argument and decided in favor of G-d, just before his passing, that the law is that such a metzora is tahor (pure). However, the Rambam[39] decides in practical Halacha, that he is tamei (impure), against the opinion of G-d because[40] the Torah is not in Heaven[41] to be decided there[42]. Some explain that this entire episode was merely a dream[43].

The Torah says that one who is afflicted with tzara'as is supposed to call out "Impure! Impure!"[44] The Talmud explains[45] that this is done so that others know that he is ritually impure, so that they can stay away from him. However, if this is the only reasoning behind the calling out, then the Torah should have obligated him to call out "Do not become impure [through contact with me]"[46] not merely "impure". Therefore, Rabbi Dovid Povarsky (1902-1999) explains[47] that there is another reason for the calling out: The Talmud elsewhere says[48] that the purpose of the calling out is so that the afflicted could publicize his suffering and rouse the mercy of others to pray for him. Since the punishment of tzara'as is to counter one's anti-social tendencies, this dual explanation for the calling out "impure!" makes sense. This is because when the metzorah calls out "impure", his intention is to help the other man by warning him not to become ritually impure like himself, while the man who hears this declaration, if he is as selfless as he should be, understands it as a cry for help and then assists the metzora by praying for him. Accordingly, the double expression of "Impure! Impure" used by the metzora is justified because one refers to the metzora and one refers to he to whom the metzora is talking. This also explains why the Torah portions concerning the laws of the metzora are often read during the Sefiras HaOmer mourning period, for the mourning is because Rabbi Akiva's students were punished for not showing acting properly in their interpersonal relations[49]. The lessons of the metzora are the antitheses to improper social behavior.

The Mishnah teaches[50] that HaShem punishes sinners in a similar fashion to their sin. When someone commits an anti-social sin— even if it is technically permitted, but is only against the social standards of society—he can be punished with Tzara'as. With such a punishment, the sinner must submit completely to another person (a Kohen) who is to decide his fate; he himself has no say (even if he himself is a Kohen, he cannot see his own negaim as the Mishna in Negaim rules). If deemed necessary, the unsociable sinner is punished by being forced to seclude himself from society for at least a week. During this time of solitary confinement, he is supposed to contemplate repentance and he should resolve to change his ways in order to be healed from the spiritual disease. One can look at the word Tzara'as as being a portmanteau of the words tz’ar (pain) and ‘ais (time) as if to tell the one afflicted that his pain is only temporarily and will eventually go away with proper repentance. Even though the laws of Tzara’as do not apply in present times because of the lack of Yovel (the Jubilee Year), the message is still clear: We are constantly to be reminded of G-d’s power over the physical realm as a means of punishment for a lack of adherence to His words. May it be His will that our must recent sufferings should act as complete atonement for the sins of Israel and that we should therefore merit to see the coming of the Messiah and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, speedily and in our days: Amen.

[1] Leviticus chapters 13 and 14

[2] Kli Yakar ad loc.

[3] See “The Pentateuch,” printed by Judaica Press in Gateshead, England published in 1962

[4] Leviticus Rabba 16:1

[5] Shevuos 1:1 and Negaim 1:1

[6] See Brachos 5b

[7] Brachos 4b

[8] Sometimes called “The Wisdom of Ben Sirach,” written by the illegitimate son of the prophet Jeremiah

[9] As quoted in Yevamos 63b

[10] Kiddushin 70b, Niddah 13b, Yevamos 47b, and Yevamos 109b

[11] Gilyon HaShas

[12] Maimonides, Laws of Sexual Prohibitions 13:13

[13] Sotah 5b

[14] To Leviticus

[15] Midrash Rabbah to Leviticus 14:34

[16] Arachin 16a lists only seven of these

[17] Exodus 32:4

[18] Ibid. 32:28

[19] Isaiah 3:16

[20] Ibid. 3:17

[21] Samuel II 3:29

[22] Kings II 5:20, 5:26

[23] Samuel 1 17:43

[24] ibid 17:46

[25] Chronicles 2 26:16

[26] Chronicles 2 26:21

[27] See Numbers, Chapter 12

[28] Shabbos 97a

[29] See Exodus, Chapter 4

[30] see Yoma 22b

[31] Yevamos 105b

[32] See Yevamos 108a

[33] The Talmud assumes that the title “Adam” refers specifically to Jews, not Gentiles.

[34] Based on Targum Yonasaon ad loc. and Midrash Rabbah Exodus 1:34

[35] See Nedarim 64b which cites a Baraisa equating Tzara’as with death. Yevamos 103b says that Tzara’as is halachikly comparable to death. Rabbi Chaim Brisker (1853-1918) says that not only is its ritual impurity analogous to the ritual impurity of a corpse, but even the Metzora himself is comparable to a dead person.

[36] See Kings 2 Chapter 5

[37] Bava Metzia 86a

[38] See a similar argument in heaven concerning the Tefilin of Rabbeinu Tam and Rashi is recorded in responsa Min HaShomyaim §3.

[39] Maimonides, Laws of Tzara’as Impurity 2:9

[40] As the Kesef Mishnah ad loc. explains

[41] Deuteronomy 30:12

[42] See Nazir 65b, Negaim 4:11, and the version of Negaim 4:11 quoted by Tosafos on Yevamos 110b.

[43] See Shittah Mekubetzes in the name of Rabbeinu Chananel to Bava Metzia 86a

[44] Leviticus 13:45

[45] Moed Katan 5a

[46] As the Targum Onkelos translate the verse

[47] Yishmiru Da'as to Leviticus 13:45

[48] Sotah 32b, Shabbos 67a

[49] Yevamos 62b

[50] Sotah 8b

Friday, February 17, 2006

Addendum to last post

The next post will hopefully be ready next week or the week after, so hang on tight. (That message was for both of the readers of this site).

In this week's parshah, Yisro, the Bais HaLevi has interesting pshat in why goyim are not obligated to give up their lives for certain mitzvos, while yidden are. He says that at Matan Torah, HaShem made a kinyan over the Jews and they became his slaves and are bound by His command, even to the Torah (yet most commandments, He says one is not obligated to die for). Goyim are only bound by his commandment as part of humanity, but not in the fashion that a slave must heed to his master/owner. Therefore, gentiles are commanded in their Noahide laws, but are not obligated to sacrifice themselves for them.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Sin or Die

Essay One: Sin or Die
From the moment that Avraham jumped into the fiery furnace under the command of King Nimrod for resisting idolatry, the Jewish nation inherited a certain character trait. That hereditary characteristic is the drive for one to give up his life in martyrdom to sanctify the holy name of HaShem. Rabbi Chaim Volozhiner (1749-1821) explains[1] that this will is now engrained in all descendants of Abraham and accounts for their willingness to sacrifice their lives for the sake of G-d[2]. However, in Halacha, a person is usually obligated to violate a transgression if human life is at risk. This justifies desecrating the Holy Shabbos in order to save someone's life or eating pork when having a gun stuck to one's head (heaven forbid[3]). When someone's life is at risk, any transgression is considered ones (meaning "accidental" or even "forced") and the transgressor is therefore exempt from punishment. The scriptural source for exempting ones is the verse, which states[4] “…and to the [forced] girl do not do anything”; even though she committed adultery, she is exonerated because she was forced. Nonetheless, there are certain instances in which one must give his or her life up instead of committing a sin; these are called cases of yaharog v'al ya'avor. A Beraisa quoted by the Talmud[5] records that only three cardinal prohibitions supersede a human life; they are, namely, idolatry, murder, and the sexually forbidden relations. Concerning these three grave transgressions, the Talmud teaches that one is obligated to give up his life rather than to commit the transgression.
If one is sick on the fast of Yom Kippur to the extent that if he did not eat, he would, die, then the Torah allows him leeway and this person has an exemption from the fast, and can eat[6]. The same law applies to eating chametz (leavened grain products) on Pesach, when such foods are normally forbidden[7]. (In both cases, it should preferably be done in a way where the person has the least amount of pleasure while utilizing this dispensational leniency.) This is true even though under normal circumstances eating on Yom Kippur is grounds for the strictest of punishments[8]. However, if one had a lethal sickness that could only be cured by having relations with a woman who is forbidden to him, or even by looking at the naked flesh of such a lady, the law is that he should be left to die rather than to commit such an act of licentiousness. The same rule seemingly applies to one with a mortally dangerous addiction to idolatry or murder. The Rambam rules that if one ended up saving himself from a disease through committing one of these three cardinal sins, he still gets his befitting punishment from Bais Din. The person is supposed to allow his or her own self to die rather than to heal through dubious means.
According to various additional sources, there may be more than three of these cardinal sins. An addition to the list comes from the Maharshal (Rabbi Solomon Ben Jechiel Luria, 1510-1574), who rules[9] that one should give up one's life rather than to lie about Torah. Perhaps the logic behind this is because lying about the Torah can be tantamount to idolatry for which one is also obligated to give up his life rather than commit. In modern times, many later day achronim decided certain prohibitions should also be considered yeharog v’al ya’avor: Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (1895-1986) ruled that an American Jew should rather allow himself to be killed rather than to eat turkey on Thanksgiving. Similarly, the Chazon Ish (Avraham Yeshayah Karelitz, 1878-1953) decreed that the prohibitions for a Jewish girl to join the Israeli Army and of negiah (lit. “Touching,” refers to the rule barring a Jewish male from coming into any physical contact with a non-related Jewish female) supersede life[10]. The Ramban quotes[11] an apocryphal Baraitha in which Rabbi Meir adds to the aforementioned list the prohibition of stealing (and damaging other people's property). Indeed, the Chasam Sofer (Rabbi Moses Schreiber, 1762-1839) codifies[12] this minority opinion of Rabbi Mayer into practical use. A footnote to the Otzar Meforshei HaTalmud [13] proposes[14] that perhaps the rationale of Rabbi Meir is the dictum that stealing any amount, even an iota, is tantamount to murder, as the Talmud records elsewhere in the name of Rabbi Yochanan[15].
Additionally, in his glosses to Kesubos 19a, Rabbi Akiva Eiger of Posen (1761-1837), the father-in-law of the Chasam Sofer, refers the reader to a passage from Tosafos in Sotah: The Talmud teaches[16] that it is better for one to throw one’s self into a fiery pit rather than to embarrass a fellow person (“whiten his face”) in public. Tosafos in Sotah[17] give[18] technical reasons as to why embarrassment is not considered one of the three cardinal sins[19].
The Brisker Rav (Rabbi Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik, 1886-1959) points out[20] that the question of Tosefos assumes that humiliating others does indeed require the ultimate sacrifice in its avoidance. Indeed, Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerona (circa. 12th century) rules[21] that this prohibition takes precedence over one’s own self-preservation. Perhaps one can again say that embarrassment is tantamount to murder, as Rabbenu Yonah himself seems to say in his commentary to Avos 3:11, and thus was not required to be enumerated in the list of yeharog v’al ya’avor cases. The comparison between embarrassment and murder is traditionally explained by assuming that one loses blood in his face when embarrassed, which is similar to death; this explains the Rabbinical Hebrew term for “embarrassment,” which is “malbin pnei chaveiro,” literally, “whitening the face of his friend.” Nonetheless, the Rambam omits[22] lying about the Torah, embarrassing others, and stealing in his enumeration of the cardinal sins.
The underlying foundation for each accepted cardinal sin is found throughout the Talmudic literature. Every Jew is supposed to love HaShem “with his might”[23]. A Braisa explains[24] that this teaches that a man whose body is overly important to him should give up his body in service to HaShem, if forced to commit idolatry. The reasoning behind why one must give up his life rather than to be forced to murder someone else is based on[25] a logical question, “Why is my blood redder than his [the potential victim’s] blood?” This means that a person cannot assume that his life is more precious than another’s and should another’s life be at stake, he should allow himself to murdered rather than to actively commit murder himself. All of the sexually forbidden relations are exegetically compared[26] to murder based on Deuteronomy 22:26, which considers raping a betrothed girl to soul-murder, and thus one is obligated to give up his life in order not to commit one of those forbidden sexual acts. Some explain that since one cannot have an erection without proper intent to do so[27], any case of the forbidden sexual relations must be considered willing and thus can never be classified as completely ones[28].
Tosafos elucidate[29] at great length the deep intricacies of the laws of yeharog v’al ya’avor. They explain that one is only obligated to sacrifice himself if he would otherwise be committing the transgression actively. However, explain Tosaphos, if either a person would otherwise be committing a transgression indirectly or submissively, he is not obligated to allow himself to be killed. Committing a sin merely causatively—instead of directly—is like one being pushed on top of a baby to kill him as opposed to choking the baby with one’s own hands. Classic examples of passively sinning include two people physically being forced upon each other by another or any female in sexual relations (who is qarqa olam). This explanation justifies the acts of Esther, a married woman according to Megillah 13a, who had an adulterous relation with the Persian-Median king, King Achashverosh[30]. Since as a female she was only a passive partner in the relationship, she was not considered actively transgressing the law and thus was allowed to lie with him instead of allowing herself to be executed. However, the Talmud[31] was not satisfied with this answer because she nonetheless gained some pleasure from her relations[32] with the wicked king and thus should have refrained from that. Tosafos answer that just as the Talmud said by Yael[33] that when a righteous person causes pleasure for a wicked person it is displeasure for the righteous person, with reference to Esther, since she pleasured the evil king Ahasuerus, their relations was displeasure for her. Others answer that sex with a non-Jew does not have the legal status of sex; however, this is a difficult answer. The second understanding answers the problem with the first answer in that since their relationship was on public display, transgressions involved should have had stronger stringencies attached to it.
In the story of Purim, Mordechai HaYehudi refused to prostrate himself in front of Haman the Agagite; he was even willing to give up his life in order not to bow down to Haman[34]. This is because, as the Rambam rules[35], in a situation where one is forced to commit a transgression in public, one must always choose death. Furthermore, at a time of persecution (shmad) or under a regime or influence of anti-Torah forces that purposely cause people to commit sins, any ultimatum given between death and sin should result in death. The Talmud says[36] even though one who is physically forced beyond his control to commit a sin is usually not responsible for his sin; there is no such dispensation for idolatry. Thus, even if one is physically forced to submit to an idol, even if he does not have any heretical intentions when committing the abominable act, he is still liable. These reasons justify Mordechai in not bowing down to Haman even though it could have potentially caused the death of world Jewry[37] in his time. The Rambam says that an important person (e.g. the Gadol HaDor) should not use a leniency and should sacrifice himself. Mordechai put himself in danger by not bowing to Haman because Mordechai, as a member of the Sanhedrin, was one of the leading Rabbis of his generation and it would thus be unfitting to allow himself to commit a sin, especially in public. Mordecai did not have the heter (permission) of being passive (elaborated in Tosafos above) like his wife had, because obeisance in submission to an idol is an active action even if it is being caused by another person. Rabbi Chaim Solveitchik of Brisk (1853-1918), father of the Brisker Rav, assumes[38] that the Rambam did not concur with Tosefot concerning that heter and felt even by a passive one is obligated to give up his life. The Chazon Ish was in doubt whether the Rambam agreed with the heter of Tosafos or not[39]. This can explain why Mordechai did not use the heter[40].
In practical Halacha, Rabbi Jacob Ettlinger (1798-1871) writes[41] that it is forbidden for one to embarrass another in order to save his own life[42]. He writes that although embarrassing another is not actually considered an active action, one is still obligated to give up his life. Perhaps this is because talking (which presumably is the means of embarrassment) can be considered a semi-action in Halacha[43]. Rabbi Ber Oppenheim argues on Rabbi Ettinger[44]; he maintains that the passage in Sotah 11a is merely an Aggadic citation and bears no relevance in practical Halacha[45]. The Brisker Rav[46] points out a discerning feature in the text of the Gemara: It literally states that it is “better for one to throw him into a fiery pit and not embarrass his friend.” This seems to imply that it is only “better” for one to do so, but not that he is obligated to do so.
The Rambam and Tosafos both agree that if a person does not give up his life, but instead allows himself to be forced into a sin, then he cannot be held liable. This is because his transgression was forced (because of the threat of losing his life) and as explained above, the Torah exempts an accident. In an amazing novel idea, the Rambam says that since when one sacrifices his life in order to not sin, he sanctifies the name of heaven (like those who died in the Holocaust), then the converse should also be true and when such a person does the sin, he is profaning the name of G-d (chillul HaShem). A Noachide does not have this obligation to sanctify the “name of heaven”[47], therefore is not considered desecrating the name of G-d by commit these sins instead of allowing himself to be killed. It seems from here that a Noahide is not allowed to risk his life to avoid one of these sins. However, Shifrah and Puah[48] disobeyed the King of Egypt and thereby put their own lives in danger by not committing infanticide on the Jewish baby boys[49]. This seems to imply that a non-Jew is allowed to risk his or her life in order not to commit murder. The Maharitz Chayos (Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Chajes, 1805-1855) explains[50] that the two midwives evaluated the situation and concluded that not killing the babies would actually not put their lives in danger, so they helped save the babies. However, under normal circumstances, a Noahide is not permitted to put his life in danger in order not to commit one of the cardinal sins. Doing so is tantamount to stealing from G-d, for one’s body and soul is not his own, but is rather His.
Under normal circumstances, a person committing suicide is forbidden. When Chur, the grandfather of Betzalel, refused to help the Jews build a Calf of Gold for idolatry, he was put to death. This is because “the world in its entirety belongs the Creator”[51], and killing oneself is akin to stealing from Him. Furthermore, under normal circumstances a person may not give up his life in order to perform one of the mitzvos because it says[52], “v’chai bahem,” meaning that one should live through the commandments, decrees, and laws of the Torah, and not that one should, god forbid, die through them. However, given certain criteria, the gravity and seriousness of certain sins have the power to obligate the potential transgressor to give up his life rather than to commit an atrocity. It should be the will of G-d that the merit of those who have died as martyrs in the name of heaven should come and redeem His people from their current situation and bring upon the days of Moshiach, speedily and in our days. Amen.

[1] Ruach Chaim, Avos, Chapter 5
[2] Perhaps this explains the suicidal extremists of Islam – an Abarahamic religion—who feel their actions are the wishes of G-d.
[3] In the interest of brevity, this phrase will be omitted many times in the following paragraphs, even in instances where it should really be present.
[4] Deuteronomy 22:26
[5] Kesubos 19a
[6] Yoma 83a
[7] Exodus 12:20
[8] Kerisos 2a
[9] Yam Shel Shlomo to Bava Kama, 4:9
[10] Perhaps the source of the Chazon Ish is Maimonides, Laws of Foundations of Torah, 5:9 who says that even two single people cannot engage in relations to save one’s life, and the Rabbis even flogged someone (Yevamos 91b), even when the law did not call for it, in order to distance the Jewish people from promiscuity and to maintain the nation’s purity and innocence.
[11] Kesubos 19a
[12] See responsa Chasam Sofer on Choshen Mishpat, §1
[13] Compiled and published by Machon Yerushalayim in the 1990’s
[14] Bava Kama 50b
[15] Bava Kama 119a
[16] Sotah 10b
[17] Attributed to Rabbi Baruch ben Shmuel of Mainz (d. 1221), the author of the Sabbath poem “Baruch Kel Elyon”
[18] Ad loc.
[19] It seems that since the prohibition of embarrassing others is not written explicitly in the Oral Torah, it lacks the magnitude of the three cardinal sins, which were unequivocally written in the Chumash multiple times.
[20] Chiddushei HaGriz to Sotah ad loc.
[21] Sha’arei Teshuvah 3:139
[22] Maimonides, Laws of Foundations of Torah, Chapter 5
[23] Deuteronomy 6:5
[24] Brachos 60b
[25] Yoma 82b
[26] Sanhedrin 74a
[27] See Yevamos 53b. “Rabbi” Bradley Shavit Artson had the audacity to argue with this Talmudic dictum and state that it cannot be true based on stories of “Tzaddikim” who had nocturnal emissions through unintentional erections (Jewish Spectator, Winter 1990, “Gay and Lesbian Jews: An Innovative Jewish Legal Position”). However, he is mistaken because in Halacha erections while asleep are considered ones, not merely unintentional.
[28] Forbidden relations while he is flaccid according to this understanding must be permitted.
[29] Ad loc. and Yoma 82a-b
[30] Albeit she cohabited with him using a contraceptive device, see Tosafos, Megillah 13b.
[31] Sanhedrin 74a
[32] Bava Kama 32a
[33] Yevamos 103b
[34] Esther 3:2-5
[35] Maimonides, Laws of Foundations of the Torah, 5:2
[36] Avodah Zarah 54a
[37] Achashveyrosh ruled the entire world and thus had the authority to instate a worldwide killing of Jews, as proven in Megillah 11a
[38] Chidushei Rabbeinu Chaim HaLevi Al HaRambam, Laws of Foundations of the Torah, 5:1
[39] See Chiddushei HaChazon Ish Al HaRambam, ad loc. and the footnotes of the Chazon Ish on Reb Chaim Brisker, cited above
[40] However, see responsa Chasam Sofer on Yorei Deiah, §133 for a completely different rationalization of Maimonides’s opinions. See also Tosafos to Shabbos 72b concerning Mordechai’s refusal to bow to Haman.
[41] Responsa Binyan Tzion §182 and §183
[42] Based on the passage from Sotah 11a cited above
[43] Specifically regarding false witnesses who receive lashes for their testimony or a blasphemer who verbally curses the Lord
[44] As recorded in the responsa from Rabbi Ettlinger
[45] He bases himself on the Terumas HaDeshen §108.
[46] Chiddushei HaGriz to Sotah 11a
[47] See Sanhedrin 74b. The Bais HaLevi (Parshas Yisro) interestingly explains why non-Jews are not obligated to give up their lives for certain commandments, while Jews are. He says that at Mount Sinai, HaShem acquired the Jews as His slaves and therefore, they are bound by His command to the Torah (yet concerning most commandments, He says one is not obligated to die for, but for others He says one is). Non-Jews are only bound by His commandments as part of humanity, but not in the fashion that a slave must heed to his master/owner. Therefore, gentiles are commanded in their Noahide laws, but are not obligated to sacrifice themselves for them.
[48] Identified as either Yocheved and Miriam, or Jochebed and Elisheva, respectively, see Sotah 11a
[49] Exodus, Chapter 1
[50] Glosses to Sotah 11a
[51] see Psalms 24:1
[52] Leviticus 18:5

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