Monday, August 2, 2010

Rambam-Yesodei Hatorah Perek 5 halacha 7- Why The Big Three Sins Can't Be Transgressed Even to Save A Life

ומנין שאפילו במקום סכנת נפשות אין עוברין על אחת משלש עבירות אלו שנאמר ואהבת את ה' אלהיך בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך ובכל מאודך אפילו הוא נוטל את נפשך והריגת נפש מישראל לרפאות נפש אחרת או להציל אדם מיד אנס. דבר שהדעת נוטה לו הוא שאין מאבדין נפש מפני נפש. ועריות הוקשו לנפשות שנאמר כי כאשר יקום איש על רעהו ורצחו נפש כן הדבר הזה:

From where do we know that even in a life threatening situation [a Jew is not allowed] to transgress any of the three big sins? [The reason is because] it says (Devarim 6:5) "And you shall love Hashem, your G-D, with all of your heart, all of your soul and all of your possessions" even if He takes your soul. [That is good for Idol worship, but how do we know that we are not allowed] to kill a Jew to save the soul of another Jew or to save a man from the hand of the one forcing him [to kill]? This is something that logic dictates, one can not destroy one soul to save another. Also, illicit relations is connected to murder [and, therefore, one can not commit illicit relations in order to save their life or the life of another] because it says (Devarim 22:26) "For as when a man rises against his neighbor, and kills him, even so is this matter."

The Rambam only bases one of the three big sins, Idol Worship, on a verse. The prohibition for the other two big sins is based solely on logic: murder (because that is logical) and illicit relations because it is connected to of murder through a verse. This seems contradictory to the basis of the big three sins. If these are the only sins that are to be "special" and we are not allowed to transgress them for any reason, shouldn't they all be explicitly stated in a verse and not just implicitly extracted or completely based on logic?

Every other sin in the Torah can and must be transgressed when faced with a life or death situation. This is why Rav Moshe Feinstien would get upset with doctors who hesitated to violate shabbos in the hospital (found here). Pikuach Nefesh (A life in danger) trumps everything other than these three big sins. It stands to reason that, therefore, these three sins be explicitly prohibited or so logical that even the most simple person can understand why they must not be transgressed.

I think that it is extremely logical for the three big sins to be excluded from the rule of "A life in danger trumps everything" in the way that they are for the following reason. The first law the Rambam talks about is Idol worship. This requires a verse because it involves the direct connection between man and G-D. If a person decides to worship idols he or she is severing that direct connection. Since this is a direct connection between a person and G-D, the Torah must come and tell us that one must die rather than sever this connection, because it deals with a direct relationship between man and G-D. Murder is the opposite extreme, it deals solely with the relationship between man and man, therefore, it must be through man's logic that he or she realizes that one life is not greater than another. Finally, illicit relations is a combination between logic and a verse because it combines the relationship with man and the relationship with G-D. How? Relations is what leads to child birth and everyone knows the famous Midrashim that talk about the three way partnership that exists for when a baby is created: Man, woman and G-D. Therefore, the verse must be combined with the logic of man in order for this rule to stand.

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