For the week ending 24 April 2010 / 9 Iyyar 5770

Sanhedrin 72 - 78

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • Preemptive action against burglar
  • When abortion is mandated
  • Rescuing a potential victim of murder or rape
  • If the potential murderer can be stopped by wounding him
  • When martyrdom is required to avoid transgression
  • Why Esther did not give up her life to avoid violation
  • Is the non-Jew obligated in martyrdom to avoid idol worship
  • Which sins of sexual immorality are punished with sereifah
  • Advice to fathers regarding marriage of their daughters
  • The sins punished with death by the sword
  • What is considered outright murder and what is considered only indirect cause
  • Murder performed by more than one person
  • When death is not immediately caused by murderer
  • When Moshe did not know the punishment for a sin

A Threefold Obligation to Save Life

  • Sanhedrin 73a
If one sees another being attacked and he is in a position to save his life by wounding or killing his assailant, he is obligated to do so. This obligation is spelled out by the Torah in a number of places.

1) In Devarim 22:2 where the Torah commands us to return to its owner a lost object, it uses the terminology "You shall return it to him" which implies that if his very body is in danger of being lost, you must take action to preserve it for him.

2) In Vayikra 19:16 there is a prohibition "You shall not stand by idly while another's blood is shed." This prohibition obligates one to do more than personally intervene and requires him to even hire help to save the victim's life.

3) In Devarim 22:26 there is a Torah passage that equates murder with rape. This teaches us that just as one may take the life of a potential rapist to save the honor of his married victim (something we learn from the very next passage), so too may one even take the life of a potential murderer in order to save the victim.

What the Sages Say

"Concerning one who loves his wife like himself and honors her even more than himself, raises his children properly and marries them off at an early age, it is written 'You will know that there is peace in your home.' " (Iyov 5: 24)

  • Beraita - Sanhedrin 76b

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