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Masada and Suicide

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Topic: Masada, Suicide

Marisa Yentel from Cordoba, Argentina wrote:
Dear Rabbi,

Hello, My name is Marisa Yentel, I am from Cordoba Argentina. My question is: If the Torah orders us to choose life, and this is against suicide, I wanted to know what is the Torah's point of view in relation to what happened at Masada. I wanted to know also sources on the matter. Thanks.


Dear Marisa Yentel,

It's interesting to note that the Mishna and Gemara, both written after the events of Masada, make no mention of it. I believe the reason for this is that no one really knew what went on at Masada. All we have is the account of Josephus in "The Jewish Wars," much of which is probably from his imagination.

If the Jews on Masada committed suicide only for the sake of evading capture or ignominy, then it would be forbidden. If however they were worried that they would be tortured and thereby forced to worship idols or participate in immorality, they would be justified in committing suicide. Since no one knows what their motivation was, we can neither approve nor condemn their action, and hence the Talmud's silence on this issue.

Sources:

  • Sanhedrin 74a


 
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