Friday, May 7, 2010

Rambam- Yisodei Hatorah Perek 5 Halacha 2- When One Should Give Up Their Life For The Commandments

במה דברים אמורים בשאר מצות חוץ מעבודת כוכבים וגלוי עריות ושפיכת דמים. אבל שלש עבירות אלו אם יאמר לו עבור על אחת מהן או תהרג. יהרג ואל יעבור. במה דברים אמורים בזמן שהעובד כוכבים מתכוין להנאת עצמו. כגון שאנסו לבנות לו ביתו בשבת או לבשל לו תבשילו. או אנס אשה לבועלה וכיוצא בזה. אבל אם נתכוין להעבירו על המצות בלבד. אם היה בינו לבין עצמו ואין שם עשרה מישראל יעבור ואל יהרג. ואם אנסו להעבירו בעשרה מישראל יהרג ואל יעבור. ואפילו לא נתכוין להעבירו אלא על מצוה משאר מצות בלבד:

"What case is the first halacha speaking of (that one must violate the commandments rather than give up his or her life)? In a case of all the commandments except idol worship, illicit relations and bloodshed. However, by transgressing these three sins, if one is given the object to transgress or die one must die rather than transgress.

Also, with what is the first halacha speaking of (that one must violate the commandments rather than give up his or her life)? In a time that the idol worshipper (that is forcing the Jew to choose to die or transgress) is doing this for his or her own benefit. For example, the idol worshipper forces the Jew to build a house on shabbos, cook, forces a Jewess to have relations with him and similarly. However, if the idol worshipper's only goal is to have the Jew desecrate the commandments for that purpose in and of itself then if it is private (less than 10 Jews are there) then the Jew or Jewess should transgress and not die, but if it is public, in front of ten Jews, then the Jew or Jewess should die and not transgress. This holds true even if it is in regard to any commandment."

These two exceptions to the rule of "transgress and do not die" need to be further analyzed. If the idea of the commandments truly is that one should "live by them" and not die by them then why are there any exceptions? How could we find any case where one should die for the sake of the commandment if the whole purpose of the commandments are for us to live and observe them?

I think there are two very unique answer as to why we must die rather than transgress in these two situations. In the cases of illicit relations, bloodshed and idol worship there is an inherent rebellion against G-D in these three sins. The idea of living by the commandments is that one realizes that G-D is the creator of the world and that He is G-D. Illicit relations inherently denies this, bloodshed inherently denies this and idol worship inherently denies this.

Idol worship goes counter to the idea that G-D controls the world. Someone who worships idols asks the idols for rain, money and other events. This detracts from the belief that G-D is the ruler and guider of the world. Illicit relations represents the antithesis of G-D's ultimate power over the granting of life. Someone who has illicit relations uses a forbidden path to form life. Bloodshed is a man taking the power of ending life. These three ideas are the antithesis of Torah and Judaism. When someone falters in one of these three areas it is impossible to worship G-D with the same level of fervor. Therefore, the idea of "live by them" does not apply in these situations.

In the other situation, that a non-Jew is forcing a Jew to transgress a commandment just because he is Jewish and the non-Jew wants him or her to violate the laws of the Torah, this is similar, but a little different. The non-Jew's sole purpose is to hear the Jew renounce G-D. In this situation a Jew is given a choice, is G-D the ultimate truth or is man in charge of the world. The non-Jew or idol worshiper is trying to show that he or she is in charge and not G-D. Therefore, one must stand up and say that G-D is the only one that is all powerful and this disgusting person is worthless. However, it is only necessary to give up one's life in public in this case because if it was in private there is no real statement being made. However, in public there is a public act of acknowledgment that is being conveyed. So in private, one may transgress, but in public it is necessary to give up one's life.

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