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Shabbat Parashat Pekudei| 5764
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Compromises in Religious Legislation- part III - From Amud Hay’mini, siman 11
[We have seen that one can be given over from a group to be killed or defiled in order to save the whole group from the same fate if he or she was chosen by the oppressors. This is so when the situation doesn’t require kiddush Hashem to prevent the act of handing over from weakening Jewish resolve and unity.]
The idea that the appropriateness of giving up one life to save the masses depends on the practical ramifications of the decision explains a couple of difficult gemarot. The Rambam and others forbid one to give up his life for kiddush Hashem when he is not required to do so. On the other hand, the gemara (Bava Batra 10b) is strong in its praise of the martyrs of Lod, who falsely “admitted” committing a murder in order to save an entire Jewish community from death for that crime. How can it be praiseworthy for them to give up their lives in that way if the members of that community would have had no right to give them over?
According to what we have said the explanation is clear. The reason that the group cannot hand one over is that when one is chosen to be killed, the whole group is thrust into a deadly struggle, one against the other, for survival. However, if a person picks himself out in an act of self-sacrifice to save the group, there are positive ramifications, including saving lives and strengthening of the feeling of unity within the group.
We now can understand an enigma regarding the prohibition to aid and encourage the doing of an aveira. On one hand, the prohibition of aiding in an aveira which would be committed with or without his involvement is only rabbinic. On the other hand, the gemara (Nedarim 22a) talks with extreme severity on the matter in the following case. Ulla travelled to Eretz Yisrael with two men. One killed the other and then turned to Ulla to ask him if he had done well. Ulla said that what he had done was good. Upon arrival, Ulla asked R. Yochanan if he had improperly “strengthened the hand of a sinner.” R. Yochanan replied that he had acted to save his life. Why was Ulla unsure whether he had done the right thing, as he was well aware that his motivation had been to save his life?
Ulla was not as afraid of the technical aspects of aiding someone in his transgression as he was by the chillul Hashem of the matter. He was aware that in addition to standard chillul Hashem, which all Jews are commanded to avoid, there is an element which depends on the stature of the person (see Yoma 86a). This requires talmidei chachamim to be more careful than others. For this reason, the Nimukei Yosef says that the Rambam (see above) will agree that a righteous man may give his life to refuse doing an aveira in a case where others would not be required, if he sees a need to strenghten, not weaken, others in their resolve to keep the mitzvot. Ulla was, thus, afraid that it was improper to show support for the murderer even to save his life because of the chillul Hashem involved. R. Yochanan responded that it was clear from the circumstances of Ulla’s actions that there was no moral support for the murderer and that he acted only to save his life. It needs to be seen whether only actions done under fear of death lose the status of chillul Hashem, or whether any time that it is clear that “support” for those who sin is just because of pressure, the chillul Hashem element is missing. In the absence of chillul Hashem, we are left to deal with the more technical issues of when the rabbinic law not to aid in acts of sin applies.
[We will next apply the analysis to the issue of religious legislation.]
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