Ask The Rabbi

Ask the Rabbi #139

Become a Supporter Library Library

Ask the Rabbi

15 February 1997; Issue #139

  • Shoot Me or I'll Kill Myself
  • Hard Heart
  • Answer to Yiddle Riddle
  • Subscription Information
  • Back issues are indexed both by issue no. and by subject
  • Ohr Somayach Home Page

    This publication is also available in the following formats: [Text] [Word] [PDF] Explanation of these symbols

  • Shoot Me or I'll Kill Myself


    Surie Fleischman wrote:

    If a Jew were to hold a gun to his own head and threaten to kill himself unless you ate pig for example, what should you do? Please answer as soon as possible (Just kidding!). Thank you.

    Dear Surie Fleischman,

    In general, you must do anything in your power to save a life. Except for murder, idol worship or forbidden relations, you must even perform Torah prohibitions in order to save a life.

    However, it's forbidden to transgress the Torah to save the life of someone who, with forethought and malice, is trying to cause another person to sin. So, theoretically, in the hypothetical case you asked about, you would not be allowed to eat the unkosher meat.

    But in reality, anyone who would do such a thing is probably emotionally disturbed and not fully responsible for his actions. In such a case, you would eat non-kosher food - you would even break Shabbat - to save the person.


    • Yoreh Deah 158:2
    • Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 329:1

    Hard Heart


    David T. Subar wrote:

    The Parsha refers to Hashem hardening Pharaoh's heart, and therefore not letting our people free. This hardening caused further plagues, including slaying of the first born. Therefore, Hashem's action (hardening of Pharaoh's heart) led to unnecessary suffering, since Pharaoh was of the mind to free the Jews. How is this explained by the Sages?

    Dear David T. Subar,

    Great question! Here are two answers:

    The extra plagues weren't a punishment for Pharaoh's stubbornness; rather, they were punishment for previous actions, such as oppressing innocent people, throwing babies in the river and attempted genocide. All these actions were done with free will.

    The hardening of Pharaoh's heart was merely a pretext, so to speak, for the timing of Egypt's punishment. It was timed so as to impress indelibly and historically upon the collective consciousness of the Jewish People that Hashem controls everything. But Pharaoh and company got only what they deserved, based on their previous bad deeds.

    Here's another answer: Really, the hardening of Pharaoh's heart wasn't taking away his free will. Just the opposite! The plagues had taken away Pharaoh's free will (in the opposite direction) by making Hashem's existence too obvious. By hardening his heart, Hashem was merely restoring Pharaoh's free will to the point it had been prior to the plagues.

    That is, Hashem didn't force Pharaoh to say "No." He simply gave Pharaoh the opportunity to do so. Nothing but his own stubbornness stopped Pharaoh from repenting.


    • Ramban, Exodus 7:3 citing Medrash Rabbah
    • Sforno, Exodus7:3

    Answer to Yiddle Riddle


    Question: Halachically, what do the following days have in common?

    1. 21 Cheshvan
    2. 3 January
    3. 14 Iyar

    Answer: They are the days outside Israel after which you no longer have to repeat Shmoneh Esrei prayer if you forgot whether or not you:

    1. Said "Mashiv Haruach u'Morid Hageshem"
    2. Said "Tal U'Matar"
    3. Omitted the above
    The silent prayer contains seasonal additions for rain. On Shemini Atzeret we begin praising Hashem for rain by saying Mashiv Haruach u'Morid Hageshem. Starting the night of December 4th we add a prayer - V'ten tal u'matar Livracha - asking for rain. On the first day of Pesach, we stop saying both of these.

    If you forgot whether you correctly added the seasonal addition (or in the proper season omitted it), during the first thirty days you are assumed to have erred due to force of habit. Therefore you must repeat the prayer correctly.

    The dates listed above are, respectively, thirty days after the beginning of saying Mashiv Haruach u'Morid Hageshem (Shemini Atzeret), "Tal U'Matar" (December 5th), and ommitting them both on the first day of Pesach (15 Nissan).

    Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 114,117

    © 1997 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved. This publication may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue newsletters. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission, and then send us a sample issue.

    This publication is available via E-Mail
    Ohr Somayach Institutions is an international network of Yeshivot and outreach centers, with branches in North America, Europe, South Africa and South America. The Central Campus in Jerusalem provides a full range of educational services for over 685 full-time students.

    The Jewish Learning Exchange (JLE) of Ohr Somayach offers summer and winter programs in Israel that attract hundreds of university students from around the world for 3 to 8 weeks of study and touring.

    Ohr Somayach's Web site is hosted by TeamGenesis

    Copyright © 1997 Ohr Somayach International. Send us Feedback.
    Dedication opportunities are available for Ask The Rabbi. Please contact us for details.
    Ohr Somayach International is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation (letter on file) EIN 13-3503155 and your donation is tax deductable.