Thursday, January 28, 2010

Perhaps I'm Not Truly Orthodox After All?

Due to the recent earthquake in Haiti and the efforts of ZAKA to provide help, a lot of attention has been paid to the question of whether or not one is allowed to do melacha on Shabbos in order to save the life of a non-Jew.

I'm not going to pretend that I have the answer to that question. I have to state up front that I am not a rabbi and not a posek. A commentator on a previous post of mine said that it's an explicit halacha in Shulchan Aruch that one may not perform melacha on Shabbos to save the life of a non-Jew. He may well be right, but he may also be wrong in that circumstances have changed since the SA was written. Others have indicated and brought sources that this may not be the contemporary halacha. In short, I simply don't know.

But there are some things that I am fairly certain of -- and one of them is this: I don't think I would be able to avoid saving a life on Shabbos if the situation presented itself.

Imagine the scenario: It's 11PM on a pleasant summer Friday night and you are sitting on your front porch. Most of your neighbors have left for the country, giving your block an unusually quiet and peaceful Shabbos evening. In the place of the usual sounds of neighbors, pedestrians and the various other noises in your community, you can actually hear the crickets chirping. It's a welcome change.

Suddenly, the peacefulness is broken by a careening car that appears from down the street and appears out of control. Loud honks fill the air as the car swerves from one lane to the other, clearly out of control. You worry as it starts to head in your direction, but at the last minute, the car swerves and hits a telephone pole right in front of your house with enormous force.

It takes you a minute or so to get over the shock of the accident. The car is a wreck -- the front is totally crumpled. Thank heavens the telephone pole withstood the crash, or it might have gone right into your home. There's a fair amount of smoke coming from under the hood and rear and you think you might have seen a flame as well. Rushing over to the car, you quickly note that there are two occupants -- a barely conscious driver and an eighteen month old toddler strapped into a car seat in the back screaming hysterically. Both are obviously not Jewish.

You quickly glance around to see if anyone else is coming who might be able to help the crash victims or at least call 911. No one appears -- it looks like it's just you and the crash victims.

Through the broken window, you can quickly sum up the situation. The driver is hurt - bad. Blunt trauma for certain, possible (probable?) spinal injury. Bleeding coming from somewhere on his torso, but you can't see where. A nice gash on his head where his skull met the windshield. Moving him would almost certainly be a bad move but for the fact that you're now certain that you smell smoke and see flames coming up under the hood. Nonetheless, whether you move him or not, he needs an ambulance and a doctor - and quickly. The child, while frightened and screaming, seems to be okay. You're no automotive expert... is the car about to blow? You have no way of knowing for sure... but you know that smoke and flames in a car can't be good.

The guy groans and grabs your attention. He holds out his phone and begs you to get his daughter and himself out of the car before it blows and call 911 for an ambulance.

What would you do? Make the following assumptions:

  • There are no non-Jews (or even other Jews) around to do any prohibited actions.
  • No one else saw the accident. No one else is calling 911.
  • There is no question of aiveh (hatred) as there is no one else around and you could (if so were so inclined) just waltz back into your house and claim you were sleeping and missed the whole accident should anyone question you.
  • In order to save them, you will have to perform an action that is a melacha d'oreissa.

Could you just look the guy in the eyes and say "Sorry, my religion doesn't allow me to get you out of the car or call 911." Could you just walk away and almost certainly doom the man to death from his injuries and possibly the kid from an explosion? Could you ignore his pleas and just walk away? Could you be so callous if your religion demanded it of you?

Not me. Even if you told me the halacha is that I have to walk away and let him (or them) die. I just couldn't do it. Of course, I would do what I could to minimize the melacha done, but if push came to shove and I had to open the door to grab the kid (thereby turning on the lights in the car) before the car went kaboom, I'd do it. In an instant. May God never give me such a test.

That being said, I'm curious what that says about me.

Let's assume, for the moment, that the halacha is that it is absolutely forbidden to save their lives. I have just admitted that, under a certain set of circumstances, I would violate Shabbos - knowingly. That being the case, perhaps I should not be considered Orthodox anymore. Yes, I'll grant you that (despite having been an EMT in a former life) I haven't actually been in this circumstance yet (and let's hope I never am) and therefore I haven't actually knowingly been mechallel Shabbos. So perhaps for now, as long as I don't act on my beliefs/feelings/impulses I'm still "in the clear." But let's say that this coming Shabbos I am put in the situation? Should I call my rav after Shabbos, tell him that I'm no longer shomer Shabbos so that he can get a new ba'al kriah?* Should I just consider myself non-shomer shabbos even though 99.9999% of the time I do not knowingly perform melacha on Shabbos?**

At first, I thought about this in terms of some of the recent scandals that we have seen in our community. We still call people who commit financial crimes (and even, in some cases worse crimes) "frum" despite their transgressions. For the most part (and, granted, there are exceptions) they don't get thrown out of shul or suffer other communal punishments. Certainly, then, I might still be considered frum.

But then I thought about it again and realized that there is a fundamental difference between myself and the other cases we've seen. In the case of the Spinka Rebbe, for example, he certainly didn't mean to sin publicly. It was only the fact that the authorities discovered the crime that led to the public knowledge of his actions. Otherwise, he certainly would have continued hiding it. I, on the other hand, have no such defense. In the above situation, given the assumption that saving the driver and his daughter is forbidden, I would probably sin and so publicly and openly. That's a far cry from those who simply give into temptation once in a while and do so secretly and wish that they wouldn't do it.

Orthodoxy (in the modern sense) is usually defined by the "big three" mitzvos. We tend to consider people Orthodox if they publicly keep Shabbos, kashrus and taharas haMishpacha. Now that I find my status of being a shomer Shabbos in potential jeopardy, I wonder if I can, in all honesty, consider myself Orthodox anymore.

The Wolf


* The question of whether or not a non-shomer shabbos person can serve as a ba'al kriah aside, I'm willing to bet that most Orthodox shuls would want their official functionaries to be Orthodox and shomrei shabbos.

** Would you consider someone to be shomer Shabbos if they refrained from melacha most of the time but occasionally cooked a meal in public?

110 comments:

Coomenting Anonymously for a Reason said...

I would do the same thing.

Larry Lennhoff said...

What if the halacha unquestionably required you to drink the blood of Christian babies? Would you do it? Of course not, and the halacha does not and cannot require it. Any interpretation of the halacha that would do so is invalid, and you should not be worried that you are not really Orthodox because you cannot accept the initial premise that it does so require.

I understand the support for not saving a gentile's life on Shabbat seems stronger than the non-existant halacha requiring blood drinking. But in my mind, it is just as incorrect, and so my refusal to hold by it doesn't cause me to question whether or not I am Orthodox.

G*3 said...

First of all, there is no way to know for sure whether or not the person in the car is Jewish. There are Jews of all ethnic backgrounds. Maybe this guy's mother was a ger, and he went OTD.

I realize though that isn't your point. If you somehow knew for sure the man wasn't Jewish, you would still save him. Congradulations. You're a decent person.

Does that make you not Orthodox? Depends on which is more important, action or intent. Suppose someone had an uncontrolable urge to eat pork, but felt bad about it, did teshuva every time and really tried not to. He would probably be considered frum. Maybe an uncontrolable urge to be a decent person would be the same.

Does it trouble you at all that your religious beleifs and your moral standards don't match?

SuperRaizy said...

OF COURSE you would do what you could to save those people's lives. OF COURSE it doesn't matter if they're Jewish or not. OF COURSE any decent person, regardless of their religious beliefs, would do the same thing.

That being said, perhaps there is a halachic difference between actively going out of your way to save non-Jewish lives on Shabbat (e.g. traveling to Haiti to do rescue work)and the scenario that you presented, where the emergency suddenly appears before you (and you did not seek it out). Either way, I still think that pikuach nefesh should supercede Shabbat.

Off the Derech said...

If that's Orthodox, can I PLEASE be atheist?

Larry Lennhoff said...

Also, isn't this another instance of the Amalekite baby case? If you knew for sure that a particular baby was an Amalekite that in all respects qualified for the command that all Amalekites be killed, would you do so?

Off the Derech said...

By the way, I know a ton of people who, at least in theory, would let them die. It's called mainstream Orthodox.

Off the Derech said...

I couldn't possibly think of a better reason to go OTD than this.

rogueregime said...

Perhaps I'm being naive, but is it really true that halacha would say better to observe Shabbat and let a non-Jew die than violate Shabbat to save him/her? Are there really Orthodox Jews who would sit there and watch someone die who could otherwise be saved because of Shabbat?!?

Jeez.

BrooklynWolf said...

Also, isn't this another instance of the Amalekite baby case?

I hadn't thought about it that way, but I suppose you're right.

Nonetheless, the baby issue is purely academic at this point in time. This is somewhat more practical.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

But in my mind, it is just as incorrect, and so my refusal to hold by it doesn't cause me to question whether or not I am Orthodox.

Fair enough - but that's why I predicated my question on the assumption that it truly is forbidden.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

Does it trouble you at all that your religious beleifs and your moral standards don't match?

In some cases, yes it does - sometimes very much so.

The Wolf

Off the Derech said...

>Are there really Orthodox Jews who would sit there and watch someone die...

Not only that, but they look down upon those who wouldn't.

They're probably the majority of Orthodox Jewry worldwide, though they have a weak Internet presence. Speak to Garnel: he'll pretend they don't exist!

BrooklynWolf said...

Not only that, but they look down upon those who wouldn't.

They're probably the majority of Orthodox Jewry worldwide


Doubtful, IMHO. I believe that most people can empathize with those who are forced to make sudden very difficult decisions - even if they believe in the end that they made the wrong decision.

The Wolf

Mike S said...

I will, for the sake of argument, accept at face value your assumption that this would necessarily involve melacha d'oraisa, and that there is not heter for doing so under the circumstances. I will accept that you have just told me that under these circumstances you will sin publicly.

However, there is no one who is immune to the temptation of sin under all circumstances, and very few who are immune to to do so publicly under all circumstances. Even Moshe Rabbeinu sinned publicly. This does not remove you from orthodoxy; it only makes you human. If you accept Torah Minhashamaim and your obligation to obey it, you are Orthodox. The fact that there are some observances that you just can't bring yourself to do, or perhaps that you would )consciously or subconsciously) assume that if the halacha required you to let this child die, it must have been garbled in transmission makes you a human, not a heretic.

Larry Lennhoff said...

If I accepted the idea that this was the legitimate halacha (which I do not) I would have to answer "I'm not there yet."

Off the Derech said...

>Doubtful, IMHO.

I don't know. Why don't we tally up the numbers?

BrooklynWolf said...

Why don't we tally up the numbers?

Because neither you nor I have numbers for this sort of thing.

The Wolf

Off the Derech said...

>"I'm not there yet".

Give it time, boychik! One day you'll let everybody die!

BrooklynWolf said...

temptation of sin

That's an interesting way to think of it. Thank you.

The Wolf

Off the Derech said...

I wonder what Garnel has to say about this.

Unless he's already commented as one of the Anonymi or Mike S.

BrooklynWolf said...

One day you'll let everybody die!

I think you missed the "if" that his statement was predicated on.

The Wolf

Lion of Zion said...

MIKE S:

"However, there is no one who is immune to the temptation of sin under all circumstances, and very few who are immune to to do so publicly under all circumstances. Even Moshe Rabbeinu sinned publicly."

the difference is that wolf has evaluated the situation before it even occurs and declares that ab initio he would "sin"
moshe rabbeinu's sin was not premeditated.

BrooklynWolf said...

Garnel

Enough already.

The Wolf

Off the Derech said...

>neither you nor I have numbers for this sort of thing

Who does? Or is it all "off the books?"

Off the Derech said...

When people realize that Frum=KKK, they'll understand why I'm off the d.

BrooklynWolf said...

wolf has evaluated the situation before it even occurs

True, but I think that most of us can come up with scenarios where, if tested, we know we will fail.

The Wolf

Larry Lennhoff said...

Nonetheless, the baby issue is purely academic at this point in time. This is somewhat more practical.

Not really, IMHO. How can you be absolutely sure these people aren't Jewish halachically, whatever their practice? How can you be sure that there isn't a non-Jew watching, and thus eiva could result if he saw you leave without doing anything? What if the guy miraculously survives - he knows you walked away. I'm not sure if New York state has a 'duty to rescue' law, but if so there are considerations of dina malachut din.

In short, there are so many mitigating factors that even given the base assumption that it is halachically prohibited to violate shabbat to save a non-Jew's life except due to eivah, I would feel comfortable doing so. If you think that even eivah is not in principle a valid cause for exception I freely admit I'm not part of your religion - which is not Orthodox Judaism.

Off the Derech said...

I remember a guy in yeshiva puzzling over the fact that he would hate to save a drowning woman because IT'S NOT TZNIUS! However, how he could he let someone die?

He joyfully resolved his theoretical dilemma by proclaiming that he would first save the woman, then drown HIMSELF!

LOL!

BrooklynWolf said...

then drown HIMSELF!

OK, so your yeshiva friend was an idiot, so what? You know that's not the normative Orthodox position according to just about anyone.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

In short, there are so many mitigating factors that even given the base assumption that it is halachically prohibited to violate shabbat to save a non-Jew's life except due to eivah, I would feel comfortable doing so. If you think that even eivah is not in principle a valid cause for exception I freely admit I'm not part of your religion - which is not Orthodox Judaism.

Fair enough.

However, I'm basing this all off the commentator on my previous post. His position there is that in situations where there is a potential for eivah, then one may violate a d'rabbonon only (maybe -- it's a machlokes according to him).

Nonetheless, your other points are well taken.

The Wolf

Off the Derech said...

>You know that's not the normative Orthodox position

Not so fast. I'm sure our friendly commenter from the other post will be happy to enlighten us and share with us the glorious Halacha in all its gory detail.

Menachem Lipkin said...

I wouldn't hesitate, except for my own fear maybe.

As a practical matter, and I'm no Rabbi either, I would say that any decent Rabbi would pasken around it for you: sofek, darchei shalom, whatever. No matter how airtight you make the scenario there'd be some way to get you out of it.

Either way you've raised a very important issue for modern halachic Jews. Are we really supposed to relate to non-Jews as they did in the times of Chazal? I believe that many of the ethical lapses we're seeing today in the orthodox world are rooted in an anachronistic attitude toward non-Jews.

I have a lot of difficulty with this attitude.

BrooklynWolf said...

Are we really supposed to relate to non-Jews as they did in the times of Chazal?

That relates to another question of whether or not Chazal (and other rabbanim in general - as well as their decisions) were influenced by societal and cultural norms of their day or whether or not such decisions are made in a vacuum. I thought the answer was obvious, but there are those who disagree on that position as well.

The Wolf

Menachem Lipkin said...

I need to believe that they were influenced by their times.

There's another similar issue related to the earthquake.

There's a gemora in Yevamos (63A) that says, "Misfortune comes to the world only account of Israel". Not as practical but still philosophically difficult. For me at least.

Philo said...

"Perhaps I'm Not Truly Orthodox After All?"

According to Jacob Stein, the philosopher who does not think and comes to so many conclusions relating to metaphysics so I don't know where he fins the gall to call himself a philosopher, you are a kofer bieker, atheist, meth-head, crackhead, homosexual, and have AIDS.

Reb Shlomo Heights said...

Wolf,
Please take this discussion down.
It really is inappropriate to discuss these matters which can lead to so much misunderstanding.
I mean this is what aiva is all about and yet you stir the coals with this post.
You can cause people who do not understand these things properly, to reject their yiddishkeit.
Think man what you are doing.
Not everything that is thought of needs to be blogged.
Take it down PLEASE.
I beg you.

Off the Derech said...

^LOL!

(Let's keep our KKK meetings private, shall we?)

BrooklynWolf said...

OK, enough with the KKK references too...

The Wolf

Philo said...

Reb Shlomo Heights,

Sarcasm right?

If not, the fact that you need to constantly need to censor, shows that yiddishkeit's argument is weak (I don't completely reject, I'm a skeptic).

Philo said...

typo: "The fact you need to constantly censor..."

YD said...

Would you have the same reservation had someone told you to worship avodah zara or else he would kill the child of a woman who was standing right next to you? Or is it only Shabbos that bugs you?

Joe in Australia said...

These sort of thought experiments lead to all sorts of crazy conclusions. I have a friend who argued (perhaps still argues) that taxes are fundamentally immoral, extracted under threat of murder. Why? Because if you don't pay your taxes, you will get sued. The court will give an order allowing your property to be seized. You will resist the order. The bailiffs will use force against you. You will fight back and get arrested. You will try to escape. And they will shoot you! So the government threatens to murder you if you don't pay your taxes, and they're no better than any other criminal gang.

Similarly, you can construct a scenario in which you would certainly violate Shabbat. But the fact is that you haven't experienced this scenario and, G-d willing, you never will. So it doesn't make you someone who is prepared to violate Shabbat, any more than someone working for the tax office is a murderer.

Philo said...

In the end, anyone who says they would actually die for those 3 things, are all talk. Watch how fast they would pray to Baal for come cookies if someone put a gun to there head.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the issue of whether aiveh applies when no one else is alive, there's an interesting responsa from R. Moshe Feinstein that's discussed here:
http://ottmall.com/mj_ht_arch/v18/mj_v18i64.html#CVM
"He further argues that even if one is in an area where such dire results
may not be expected to occur if one refuses to violate Shabbos for the
non-Jew, one must still do it. He reasons from the statement in the
Gemorah, quoted by the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch, that when one sees
a JEW in danger, then even if an equally competent non-Jew is nearby,
even G'dolei Yisrael must do the act of saving the victim themselves and
not pass it off to the non-Jew or to a minor. This is to avoid a
situation where one might think that it is not totally permissible to
act and hesitancy might result. R. Moshe boldly extends this concept to
a NON-JEW in danger, and says that the doctor must violate Shabbos for
the non-Jew even if he thinks HE (the doctor) may not be in danger for
not doing so, so that for others, hesitation which may lead to problems
does not occur."
It's a good example of how clever R. Moshe was.

Anonymous said...

Well that doesn't sound very nice. When you say "die for those 3 things" I assume you are thinking of murder, avodah zarah, and glui arayot and not Shabbat, kashrut, and taharat hamishpacha which are mentioned above. Although even the latter set would be fall under the halachic requirement of yehareg v'al ya'avor under certain circumstances. Granted, you are right that there are people might not be capable of giving their lives for some mitzvot, the Rishonim even bring this down l'halacha that in such a circumstance such a person is not subject to any punishment for the transgression. But many people do have the proper emunah and bitachon, and willpower, to give up their life for mitzvot. And it's happened plenty of times. Sorry, but I just feel uncomfortable with your tone. Perhaps I misunderstood you.

Anonymous said...

Yay, a psak from Reb Moshe that it's ok. :) Is the situation better now?

Anonymous said...

I just realized that my previous post could be understood in two ways. I did not mean it sarcastically. I really mean that now that we know there is a psak from Reb Moshe and there is a halachic "excuse" for those with the moral dilemma, is that enough to satisfy you?

zdub said...

How about this one, more likely to occur and with drastic - but less so - consequences:

Your shabbos candles tip over onto a brandy glass which spills onto the table cloth and begins to rapidly burn. You KNOW that your wood frame house will likely go up in flames if you don't do something soon. Putting out the fire in a "halchically acceptable" manner is not possible (e.g., surrounding the flame with water but not dowsing directly.) There is no one else at home so no immediate issue of pikuach nefesh to let you rationalize putting it out. You can run over to the nearest gentile and ask him to call the fire department, and hopefully they'll get there in time and save your home & possessions.

OR, do you run to the fire extinguisher and use it quickly and in the most effective manner possible? (Please, no "outs" like using it left handed as a shinui!)

Philo said...

I want to clarity what I said. I would find it extremely noble for someone to die to save someone else. But I would understand if he didn't, and would have no hard feelings against him.

Regarding the other 2, I would find it irrational to die for it. If someone else would, the they should go ahead. Though if a person chooses not to die for this, and is ostracized by even a single person, shame on that person for being an arrogant fake. He would not die for it either.

I am a David Hume skeptic, so I don't value any human statement, no matter who it is made by (R' Moshe in this case) as being divine. I believe all knowledge relating metaphysics and epistemology are impossible to attain, so my moral decisions are basically COMMON SENSE.

JewishGadfly said...

Wow. Cool post.

It looks like a lot of answers here are saying

a) There would halachikally be some way out in the end

or

b) People might not always be able to uphold all laws, but they can still be frum if they feel bad about it, want to uphold the laws, etc.

But to me, this post gets to something deeper. What if you are simply unwilling to follow that theoretical halacha--and the thought experiment does declare that it is the halacha, so let's leave aside (a)--and also unwilling to feel guilty about it? IOW, what if someone does not want to "strive to the level where they keep this halacha?" What if that phraseology itself repulses them?

And yes, the Amalekite baby case is a great analogue. If someone reflects and realizes they not only would never do it, but also have no interest in or ability for viewing it as something "desirable," what then? Isn't there an implicit rejection of halacha-in-principle there, not just halacha-in-practice?

If this is true, I wonder what this says about a lot of people.

Anonymous said...

Zdub, it seems like the issue of pikuach nefesh would always arise in that situation- a fire large enough to burn down my house could potentially kill me.

G*3 said...

SuperRaizy said...
> Either way, I still think that pikuach nefesh should supercede Shabbat.

Saving a non-Jew is not pikuach nefesh. In fact, there are sources (a gemara?) that say the only issur of killing a goy is baal tashchis, just like chopping down a fruit tree.

BrooklynWolf said...
> Does it trouble you at all that your religious beliefs and your moral standards don't match?
> In some cases, yes it does - sometimes very much so.

The question then is which wins, your moral standards or God’s will. Keep in mind that Hashem is not kind to those who cross Him. Also, what does it say about a religion if it demands immoral actions of its adherents?

I see two options. Either the traditional views are right, and non-Jews are of no consequence, so God’s omni-benevolence is preserved; or the modern view is right, and a religious requirement to allow another person to die shows that Hashem is not omni-benevolent and is strangely ethnocentric.

BrooklynWolf said...
> Garnel
> Enough already.

OTD, see what I mean?

Reb Shlomo Heights said...
> You can cause people who do not understand these things properly, to reject their yiddishkeit.

You should worry more that might understand exactly what things like this mean. Or do you have a good reason why (halachicly mitigating factors aside) we should let the man and his child die?

Zach Kessin said...

When people realize that Frum=KKK, they'll understand why I'm off the d.

OK I'm invoking Godwin's law on OTD here.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law

Off the Derech said...

^Which part of KKK rhymes with "Nazi?"

jewinjerusalem said...

I'm glad to see that my responses made an impression upon you. This is a wonderful post! Really. You are an honest person Wolf. The halacha is clear. Everone here understands the importance of every hman being "btzelem elokim." Unfortunately, not everyone understands the kedushas hashabbos. At the end of the day though, this would be a major challenge to any feeling person. I'm sorry that some people, such as super Raizey, do not want to accept the halacha. I'm glad that most would love to find a heter. And I agree with Wolf that I would never want to be placed in such a situation. Of course Tropper, the Spinka Rebbe, the child abusers, and all the other avaryanim are not really an excuse to not keep this halacha. Yes we should be consistent, but failing in one area is no reason to give in to the yetzer hara in another area. I praise you Wolf.

Jewish Atheist said...

Abraham was ready to murder his own son because God said so. Orthodoxy as far as I know supports that decision.

Kudos for you for wanting to do the right thing, but it shouldn't be any surprise to you that halakha and Orthodox Judaism are 100% immoral in some situations. (And they're not all life-and-death, or at least not as obviously so, for example with regard to homosexuality.)

Sometimes I wonder if people like you aren't acting immorally by supporting Orthodox Judaism via denying to yourself its evils.

Jewish Atheist said...

And while comparisons to the KKK are usually unfair, I don't see how any belief held by the KKK is worse than this:

Saving a non-Jew is not pikuach nefesh. In fact, there are sources (a gemara?) that say the only issur of killing a goy is baal tashchis, just like chopping down a fruit tree.

And the pleas to censor yourself so that people don't hear about Orthodoxy's monstrous morality rather than, you know, questioning why anybody should be Orthodox, is revolting. Reb Shlomo Heights, you are on the side of the devils.

Philo said...

BrooklynWolf and the other babies,


I don't think OTD was saying "Frum people are the KKK". That would be ridiculous. The KKK hated Jews as well. However, there are some 2nd century superstitions about other cultures, that are still widely accepted within Orthodoxy, that are KKK type. (emphasis on TYPE)

Yerachmiel Lopin said...

Wolf,

I commend you for posing this as a thought experiment. I find it interesting that some commenters refuse to allow that by arguing about whether there is a way to say either some one will know, or the injured people are really Jewish, etc. This is an absurd evasion on their part.

In fact the bottom line question is whether or not halachah advances to encompass a different attitude to non-Jews. This was something on which Yechiel Yaacov Weinberg (Sridei Eish) was concerned about.

In a world which includes non-Jews we have to have a humane way of dealing with them. Otherwise the barrage of chillul hashems will continue because the underlying attitudes justify and rationalize it.

lostgod said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lostgod said...

It seems to me that most of the comments from frum people are either saying that it would be mutar due to technicality. They might be jewish or it might be aiva.

What makes me sad is that there is no argument for human life. The frum people here want to assuage their consciences by saying 'we would save them because it would be mutar'. But the fact of the matter is that inherent in their heterim is a real lack of regard for human life. They should be saved because they are people, heter or no.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

lostgod, your sentiment seems a good one to me, but most of the comments don't reflect the original problem in the g'mara. The g'mara doesn't ask 'may one violate Shabbat to save a non-Jew?' The g'mara questions whether one may violate Shabbat to save anyone at all, even Jews; or is Shabbat completely inviolate? You know that historically this also ties in in some way to the whole question of doing battle on Shabbat, although its resolution is separate?

The g'mara needed a dispensation to save even a Jew on Shabbat. Since that dispensation came within the framework of the Torah which is a specific convenant, then maybe it didn't apply outside that covenant, i.e. to non-Jews? If so, maybe the matter isn't forbidden; but unanswered? Functionally it would be the same (as seen in Shulhan Aruch and other later sources); but certainly not philosophically.

Also, the original discussion objecting to healing a non-Jew doesn't reflect anything about Shabbat. Rather it reflects the tension between Judaism and idolatrous culture. That is why some early authorities (the Meiri being the most famous) and later authorities such as Rav Rabinowitz mentioned in my earlier comment say that the whole thing isn't much of an issue because the specific questions of the g'mara were in the context of a different historical and social reality.

I think there are still some disturbing elements to this; but we have to at least know what we're talking about. Too many people raise objections on all manner of things without actually being informed.

And didn't the sages also know that all men are created in the 'image of God'? Surely they didn't just brush that off, unless you just don't give them any credit - which many people don't. Since I do indeed give them a lot of credit, I am stuck looking to penetrate to the depth of the issue rather than just condemning them and moving on

Unfortunately, I do not have sufficient answers to all my questions. I won't die from questions while I keep working on it. This isn't the only human or Godly realm about which I have many questions. I suspect if others are honest, that is true for many many of us.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

I see my earlier comment didn't make it.

In response to the pseudonymous jewinjerusalem I pointed out that his statement 'the halacha is clear' is simply not true. With all respect to the Igrot Moshe and Tzitz Eliezer (and the Mishnah Brurah has an even tougher stance); we find valid positions like Rav N.E. Rabinowitz in M'lumadei Milhamah who argue that the sages stated the halachah in this particular case in a socioreligious reality that required a different response than today. That is the position of the Meiri and some other Rishonim. It isn't truthful to make this all black and white.

Michael Makovi addressed some of this on his blog quite a while back.

Rav Rabinowitz is head of a large Hesder yeshiva, and was once the principal/rosh yeshiva at Jew's College. Many of Britain's rabbanim were taught by him. His Orthodox credentials are impeccable.

Those who have questions due to their basic respect for humans created in the image of God have a valid point to be pursued. Those who have questions because they reject the Torah anyway are asking questions that may look/sound the same; but in fact have very different meaning.

The questions aren't new. They are as old as the Torah. We should continue to ask them. That is how we eventually arrive at deep understanding. That doesn't in anyway invalidate the Torah, nor the people who question while trying to understand it.

Wolfish, I'm sure you're in good company.

Mike S. said...

Lion of Zion quoted me and replied:

"However, there is no one who is immune to the temptation of sin under all circumstances, and very few who are immune to to do so publicly under all circumstances. Even Moshe Rabbeinu sinned publicly."

the difference is that wolf has evaluated the situation before it even occurs and declares that ab initio he would "sin"
moshe rabbeinu's sin was not premeditated.


Not so clear. It seems to me, Wolf could mean any of several things by his statement. He could mean that he knows that he would give in to the temptation to save the folks even though he knows it is against halacha. That was what I was assuming, and that would make him a human who knows his weaknesses. He could have meant that no matter what he had learned he couldn't believe the halacha really required of him that he leave the pair to die. Wolf may or may not have been right in that belief, as others have discussed above, but, even granting he was wrong, it wouldn't render him a cofer or an apikorus. At worst it would be a deficiency in his emunat chachamim. Or he could have meant that he rejected the authority of the halacha to compel him to abandon the victims to their fate; only this option would require his shul to find another ba'al koreh.

Anonymous said...

Mordechai, I think you're being a bit harsh on the Igrot Moshe and the Tzitz Eliezer- their responsa gave the doctors permission to save non-Jews on Shabbat in all practical sitations. I guess it's a philosophical question- if the right result is reached, does the reasoning matter?

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

Halilah! I have no intentions to be "harsh" on true greats like Rav Feinstein or Rav Waldenberg! Nor the Hafetz Haim, for that matter. My intention was only to strongly promote the idea that there are legitimate alternatives firmly within the parameters of the halachic discourse; and that those alternatives are being applied as practical halachah. Rav Rabinowitz, after all, wrote his response for someone in the IDF who was likely to then act on it. Likely one of his Hesder students.

There are some possible differences in application; some certain hypothetical differences; and probably some philosophical differences. My impression is that for many of the commenters the philosophy/morality is more important than the applied halachic result. What's more, I think some philosophical difficulties remain in this topic, no matter what.

BTW, for those truly interested in the foundations of this discussion, which is really 'the interface of morality and halachah', Rav Haim Navon just started a podcast on this topic which I discovered before Shabbat. It is on the Hebrew language podcasts from KMTT/Virtual Beit Midrash/Yeshivat Har Etzion. The first introductory shiur was good.

Anonymous said...

My apologies for using the word "harsh", Mordechai.

Anonymous said...

Dear Readers of this blog,

I am not accustomed to reading blogs and most certainly not to entering a comment. I feel the necessity to due so being that this particular blog-specifically this issue was sent to me.

I am not a rabbi, just a G-d fearing and Torah abiding Jew. Being that is such, my comment will reflect the halacha that Hashem, G-d, the Lord tells us in the Torah. A Jew may not save a non-Jews life on the Holy Sabbath. I dont know what contemporary halacha means-if it is halacha, then the halacha is as just stated, and if it isn't halacha, then what then is there to discuses.

Did you know that in truth a Jew may not even assist in saving another Jews life on the Sabbath? Yes, that is right. However a Bibical commandment of "vichai behem" ("and you shall live by them") instructs us that life is more important than any one mitzvah (commandment). This is as such with the exception of three (the three cardinal sins). A non-Jew does not have the commandment of v'chai behem, and as such would have to die for all commandments ascribed to him/her.

You say 'this is taking religion too far'? Is there such a thing as taking truth too far? Is there such a thing as G-ds word too far?

Let me ask you this. On the Sabbath there are laws pertaining to what you can touch and what you can't. The things you can't a called 'mukztah' (literally 'set aside'). You are walking down the street on the Sabbath and you see a penny. A penny is mukztah, hence you cannot touch it. Does that seem fair? Ok, not too bad, its just one cent. Now what about $10, or $50, or $1000 or $10,000? When do we say that the Lord is taking things too far?

Man made religions can take thing too far. Can the Almighty?

Larry Lennhoff said...

However a Bibical commandment of "vichai behem" ("and you shall live by them") instructs us that life is more important than any one mitzvah (commandment). This is as such with the exception of three (the three cardinal sins).

That is certainly the general source for the principle of pikuach nefesh. In the case of Shabbat, however, the rabbis mentioned an additional principle 'violate one shabbat so that he may observe many shabbatot'. This principle also does not apply to non-Jews - since they are not commanded to observe Shabbat, saving their lives will not result in more Shabbatot being observed.

However, as others have stated, there are yet other principles which do allow a Jew to violate shabbat to save the life of a non-Jew.

Rav Moshe Feinstein explicitly rules that a Jewish doctor who is actively involved in the treatment of a patient must treat them on Shabbat, even if this involves violating d'rbanan or d'oraita laws. See Igrot Moshe, Orach Chayim Part 4, Number 79 for the responsum. A brief excerpt in translation:

All must appreciate that a [refusal to treat a non-Jew on the Sabbath] would now be totally unacceptable in every country known to us…[The opinion of the Hafetz Hayyim] is surely not in consonance with the current social condition...If it should be reported that a Jewish physician refuses to treat a non-Jew on the Sabbath while he does treat his fellow Jews, true animosity (eivah) will result to the great detriment of the Jewish inhabitants" (Igrot Moshe, Orah Hayyim 4:79).

This is in turn based on a teshuvah of the Chatam Sofer (Yoreh Deah No. 131).

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

Personally, I won't discuss/debate matters of significance with someone who refuses to sign their name to their opinion. Moreover, the recent 'anonymous' makes no comment that hasn't already been noted. It is important to note that the halacha is NOT monolithic here, despite the simplistic representations of 'anonymous' and jewinjerusalem ("the halacha is clear").

Sometimes I don't know what is the greater threat to Judaism: those who would shape the Torah and halacha according to their sentiments, or those who would deny the occasional complexities and breadth of the issues and the halachah both. Come to think of it, they're pretty much one and the same, despite leading in different directions.

Philo said...

"Personally, I won't discuss/debate matters of significance with someone who refuses to sign their name to their opinion"


In all fairness, the Orthodox community has created the State of Fear, that the opposition cannot even state their name.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

"In all fairness, the Orthodox community has created the State of Fear, that the opposition cannot even state their name."

In all fairness, if that were true why am I using my name? Why does Harry Maryles? Or Daniel Eidensohn? Rafi Goldmeir? The list goes on.

If you don't want to be intimidated, then don't be. Personally, I don't think it is that big a deal. I think it is used as an excuse and blown way out of proportion. Integrity usually requires that one stand behind their opinion and be accountable for it. There are exceptions, but they are few and far between. Imagine if Rav Goren or Rav Feinstein had issued their more controversial opinions anonymously.

And it is especially cheap and easy for someone to post an 'authoritative' declaration of 'the halachah' on the internet anonymously/pseudonymously. They can spout whatever they want without having to substantiate it or be accountable later.

Philo said...

Because they are mostly with the Orthodox "party line". To your second point---unless in issues of plagiarism, PERSONAL defamation etc., no one's speech should ever have to be personally be accounted to.

It's not that Orthodoxy intentionally made this State of Fear (though I won't say they feel bad for it--because they don't), but it happens when they make irrational responses to any challenge. Instead of philosophically thinking for an answer, they say "Get out of my house you oisvorf". It isn't flowers and roses in that community.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

Well, we should probably start a new thread on this somewhere. We're way off the original topic. BUT...;-), I disagree. True, some important works over the years have been published anonymously, usually out of modesty; but that has never been the norm as far as I know in the realm of honest intellectual discourse. Try going to University of Chicago and submitting a paper in philosophy anonymously. I don't think it'll happen. In the hard sciences, peer review usually requires knowing who's responsible for the original research being critiqued. And in the g'mara? We find names. It seems to me it is a matter of integrity, among other things. I fail to see the moral argument that establishes that "no one's speech should ever have to be personally" accounted for. On what is that predicated?

As for your second paragraph; who, pray tell, is "Orthodoxy" or "they"? Insofar as we are stuck with labels, I and many of my colleagues and friends are firmly "Orthodox", and I neither see nor hear of heads being bitten off just because someone asks challenging questions or has real existential angst that doesn't seem satisfied by Judaism as they know it to this point. Or even because they're unconvinced and don't keep mitzvot in a traditional sense. We've got a few like that in our beit midrash, and they keep coming precisely because they are respected for the sincerity of their questions. Maybe the world of traditional Torah is simply a lot bigger than you realize and you need to get out more. ;-) (Here's my chance to say that I've always found NY a bit toxic anyways...)

Yerachmiel Lopin said...

Some orthodox posters are anonymous because of the internet bans. But they can't shake the habit of arguing on the web. For them I would have sympathy if at least they would say they disagree with their rabbis' internet bans.

In truth most chareidim live in the State of Fear because of social pressures around shidduchim and the pervasive corruption where decisions are made in response to political influence and money rather than halachah. Show me the last rav who said most hashgachahs are not necessary. The Adbadi family is one of the few in the chareidi world who have taken this stance. Show me the last chareidi rav who has supported a molesting victim in going to the police (not just advising them to go but not giving them permission to quote their psak). Yet incest and the rape of boys is a much bigger halachic issue than some minor hasgachah issue.

G*3 said...

Anonymous said...
> Man made religions can take thing too far. Can the Almighty?

Oh, the irony.

There isn’t a single religion whose adherents don’t claim it’s Divine origins. If we expect Muslims to question whether blowing up buildings in the name of Allah is taking things too far, is we expect Christians to question whether persecuting the nation they blame for killing Christ is taking things too far, we too must question whether it is taking it too far when Judaism demands immoral acts.

Incidentally, refraining from picking up money on Shabbos is a matter of temptation, not morality. Surely you can see the difference between making yourself rich and saving someone’s life.

Philo said...

Your right. I should not have used the word "Orthodoxy" because not the whole Orthodoxy supports the tzitus checkers who are looking for an anonymous blogger's identity.

Fred from Clifton said...

Wolf- you presented this scenario brilliantly. It really attacks the question that so many people have debated. I've contemplated similar hypothetical situations where I was the only person able to save a non-Jewish life on Shabbos in exchange for being mechalel. The scenario I envisioned had one additional fact to deal with: the life saving measure would take place in an area without an eruv, thereby guaranteeing that an issur deoraaisa would occur.

You know what? There is no way I could live with myself knowing I actively contributed to someone's death by being inactive in taking measures to save it. Maybe the mitzvah of v'chayay l'echem applies here- that is, if you cannot live with yourself for doing a mitzvah (keeping shabbos at the expense of a non-Jewish life) then perhaps you would be in violation of v'chayay l'echem.

There are non-Jewish soldiers in the Israeli army (Druze, Bedouin, etc) who are treated/rescued by Jewish doctors and medics on Shabbos. I've never heard a halachic objection to that, and it seems reasonably analogous to what Zaka has done in Haiti.

moshe klass said...

Hi Wolf,

Thought provoking. I would agree with 3 posters.
1) Diff. between flying to Haiti and sitting at home
2) The same way everyone else was tempted at one time or another and did a sin, you did also (I bet g-d himself would find a heter)
3) what the last guy said. It would be a situation of Pikuach Nefesh for you as you couldn't live with yourself.

D.A. said...

I was upset by your post (and by some of the outrageous negative comments).
My first response was: "chas vashalom". Are you implying that if your kid made a big mistake you would pasul him in regards to your relationship with him? I would hope not. Kal vachomer with the Abishter, who is our Tatty, and loves us beyond our comprehension. He knows you are a baal rachamim.
And really, this goes to show you how superficial the labels that we use to categorize ourselves are. I made a mistake (even a big mistake) so i am not "orthodox". So what am I? MO? Conservative? Progressive? Not a Yid?
Furthermore, your whole thought experiment is based on the premise that you know that the guy is not a Jew. You can't really know that; are you assuming in your story that you have ruach hakodesh like Moshe Rabeinu before he killed the Egyptian. He knew he was not a Hebrew and knew that nothing good would come out of him.
You also seem to be assuming (or the unnecessary conclusion that you are presupposing is) that orthodox people are cruel and/or halachah is cruel. False. The vast majority of orthodox people are not cruel. Its hard to me to imagine a typical orthodox person idling standing by and watching a person burn to death and not doing anything about it, davka because of a halachik cheshbon that they making, this does not sound realistic; and although halachah is not always "fair" it is not a cruel system.

Sammy Berkowitz said...

Mordechai Y. Scher said "Personally, I won't discuss/debate matters of significance with someone who refuses to sign their name to their opinion."

You can say that with a straight face a few lines after having responded to 3 different anonymous posters - "lostgod", "jewinjerusalem", and even a different poster under plain "Anonymous"?

I think his comment was dead on and you hadn't a rebuttal to it, so you chickened out with that anonymous fig leaf.

aaron from L.A. said...

Don't feel so bad,Wolf.I once forgot to wash Mayim Achronim,myself....

onionsoupmix said...

I think the Akeidah comment was the key to the answer, at least in psychological terms.

Most people would agree that if there is a God and if God is telling them to do something, they must do it, no matter how awful it may seem.

The crux of the matter is that most people would never believe that God wants them to do something awful.

Ergo, we do not agree to walk away from the dying man and infant on shabbos because we do not believe that that is what God would want. We believe that that halacha is some product of rabbinic fears of assimilation of of 18th century Judaic culture but it is certainly not Ratzon Hashem.

If it was ratzon Hashem, I, personally, would have to follow it, so I'd rather convince myself that it is not.

It's pretty easy. I would guess that our vision of what ratzon hashem is, is actually more grounded in contemporary societal moral codes than it is grounded in sefarim and piskei halacha and shailos uteshuvos of rav Moshe Feinstein.

So my current societal moral codes do not allow for leaving a dying man and therefore, this is not ratzon hashem.

cipher said...

Most people would agree that if there is a God and if God is telling them to do something, they must do it, no matter how awful it may seem... If it was ratzon Hashem, I, personally, would have to follow it, so I'd rather convince myself that it is not.

onionsoupmix, I can't tell you how depressing I find your reasoning. It's a sort of accommodationist authoritarianism. Really, I find it cowardly; I can't think of any other word.

Wolf, the mere fact that you accept the Torah as divinely revealed and twenty centuries of rabbinic opinion as binding makes you frum. However, after reading the postings by the various "anonymous" commenters, as well as Sammy Berkowitz and jewinjerusalem, I think you need to ask yourself - why would you want to be?

onionsoupmix said...

Cowardly? That's pretty weird. I'm explaining to you why I don't find this leave-him-to-die position to have any moral validity and you find that cowardly?

What would be brave then? Walking away?

cipher said...

I don't know how else to describe it. I find it very disturbing. I would have hoped for something more along the lines of SuperRaizy's comment: OF COURSE you'd save the person's life. She didn't get into, "What do I have to do in order to trick myself into thinking it's permissible?"

I remarked to OTD the other day that I couldn't understand why, as you see and blog about the problems in the frum world, you choose to remain. I can sort of understand it in Wolf's case, but you seem to go farther than he does - or perhaps that's just been my perception. Perhaps I've had the wrong impression of you (BTW, to all of those who are always getting after OTD for being reactive, I want you to know that he told me not to be judgmental).

Now you say,

If it was ratzon Hashem, I, personally, would have to follow it, so I'd rather convince myself that it is not.

In other words, you'd pretend you misunderstood, or misheard, or were having a senior moment - whatever mental gymnastics you had to do in order not to have to give up the security blanket. I expect this from someone who grew up in the black hat universe and has been brainwashed from birth, but you see the weaknesses in the system and in the people - yet you rationalize it this way. I find it very depressing.

And, btw, while we're on the topic of things that are none of my business, and while I've got your attention - LiveJournal is horrendous. One shouldn't have to navigate an obstacle course to read comments. I'd choose another platform.

onionsoupmix said...

In other words, you'd pretend you misunderstood, or misheard, or were having a senior moment - whatever mental gymnastics you had to do in order not to have to give up the security blanket

I guess you could see it that way, but I'm just being honest.

As an intellectual exercise, imagine a life-long atheist confronted with irrefutable proof of God's existence and now this God asks her to do something horrible and morally wrong. If she is certain that it actually is God, there is not a lot of choice here because God by definition, at least to me, is the dude/gal in charge. There's almost no sense resisting unless you somehow imagine that you can convince the deity to change its mind.

But, in my mind, there is no God who would find leaving a person to die on shabbos to be a moral course of action. A being who would ask someone to do behave that way would not be a God I could believe in to begin with.

So either there is no god at all or there is a god, but his will is not in accordance with this halacha, which was invented by the rabbis in response to the cultural norms of their times.

From those two choices, today I choose the latter.

About why I stay- because I'm married with a bunch of kids. Divorce is not all it's cracked up to be, so I hear.

About LJ- I started the blog when I didn't know about blogspot, so such is life. You can figure out how to post there, many other people have managed:)

Aaron S. said...

I agree with Anon/Jan 31 6:37.

Additionally, I believe the halacha is you may not save a nochri's life on a weekday. The reason for the halacha being, as I recall, you cannot do any favor for a nochri that he cannot repay as he will then hate you and desire to kill you. IOW, he will hate you since he could never repay you for saving his life.

BrooklynWolf said...

IOW, he will hate you since he could never repay you for saving his life.

Forgetting halacha for a moment, does that really sound reasonable to you?

If someone saves your life, would you grow to hate him? I don't think so.

Yes, I'll grant that there are *some* people who could take that attitude, but I would have to think that they are a very small minority.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

You can figure out how to post there, many other people have managed:)

It's not a matter of posting... it's a matter of reading the comments.

Sometimes I have to click multiple times to be able to read all the comments because LJ collapses subthreads. It is annoying.

The Wolf

Aaron S. said...

Forgetting halacha for a moment, does that really sound reasonable to you?

Admittedly, it does not. Nevertheless, I accept halacha over my own reasoning.

cipher said...

A being who would ask someone to do behave that way would not be a God I could believe in to begin with.

So either there is no god at all or there is a god, but his will is not in accordance with this halacha, which was invented by the rabbis in response to the cultural norms of their times.


See, this is more like it!

As for the rest - I'm sorry; I shouldn't have said anything. As I said, it's none of my business.

(Again, for those of you who like to bash OTD - he told me you never know why someone chooses to stay. He's young enough to be my kid, yet his attitude was more mature than mine.)

Wolf said: Sometimes I have to click multiple times to be able to read all the comments because LJ collapses subthreads. It is annoying.

Yes, it's very annoying. There are much better alternatives.

cipher said...

Aaron S. said...

I agree with Anon/Jan 31 6:37.

Additionally, I believe the halacha is you may not save a nochri's life on a weekday...

I accept halacha over my own reasoning.


And this is why, apart from Kvetcher and OTD, I stay the hell away from the Jewish blogs now.

BrooklynWolf said...

Additionally, I believe the halacha is you may not save a nochri's life on a weekday.

Actually, Aaron, it's pretty interesting that you posted this today. As it turns out, some yeshiva boys helped save a non-Jewish woman from a fire on East 35 Street in Brooklyn today.

Do you believe these boys did wrong? Do you think their Rosh Yeshiva should sit them down and say something to the effect of "I know you boys were only doing what you thought was best, and for that I commend you, but in the future you should be aware that the halacha is that you shouldn't save a non-Jew?"

The Wolf

onionsoupmix said...

I kind of like the collapsing threads on LJ- that way you don't have to read the side arguments if you don't want to. But I can see how it would be annoying.

Anonymous said...

IIRC, the reason for saving non-Jews on weekdays is the same for saving non-Jews on Shabbat- eiva.

Aaron S. said...

Do you believe these boys did wrong? Do you think their Rosh Yeshiva should sit them down and say something to the effect of "I know you boys were only doing what you thought was best, and for that I commend you, but in the future you should be aware that the halacha is that you shouldn't save a non-Jew?"

If halacha is as I believe, then the Rosh Yeshiva very well may give them that shmuz. I can assure you though, that for good reason, neither of us will know if that shmuz was given.

Anonymous said...

Aaron, forget "secular" morality for a second- do you understand what would happen if Jews all over the world refused to save the lives of non-Jews when they were in danger? Do you understand the concept of eiva? The reason why most authorities permit the saving of non-Jews has to do with a desire not to commit collective suicide.

Aaron S. said...

Anon - Of course. That's why eiva usually overrides it.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Aaron, I misunderstood. Then why do you think that would not apply to the case of the yeshiva students?

Aaron S. said...

I didn't say it would; I suggested it might. Questions that need to be answered before it could be evaluated are: Why did the bochorim have to show up in the first place? (It seems they were inside and came running out.) If so, perhaps they could have avoided eiva by not "knowing" about the incident or showing up.

Anonymous said...

What about putting out a small fire from a fallen candle, to save your own burning house (i.e. no lives are threatened but you can put out the fire) - would you let your house burn?

Aaron S. said...

That is a halachic question. IF I am not mistaken, the halacha is that if it is certain that no lives are at risk, you cannot extinguish the fire on Shabbos. See Shulchan Aruch OC 334.

Joseph2 said...

I think the real question is this: Would you proceed to help the non-Jew if two kosher eidim were right there giving you warning and you witnessed a public stoning a few days earlier?

BrooklynWolf said...

I think the real question is this: Would you proceed to help the non-Jew if two kosher eidim were right there giving you warning and you witnessed a public stoning a few days earlier?

IOW, would I help him if it meant certain (or near-certain) death for me?

Probably not... just as I probably wouldn't race into an inferno to save someone. But that's not quite the scenario presented.

The Wolf

cipher said...

I think the best thing would be for the RY to have the boys placed in cherem, to cover himself, just in case.

Aaron, before Shabbat sets in, I want to thank you for validating my faith in the the irredeemability of Orthodoxy. What a mighty Kiddush HaShem!

Aaron S. said...

cipher - The Reformers said the same as you did. That they cannot believe anyone still holds of "Halacha XYZ" post-enlightenment -- as it impugns their sense of morality, and as such are starting their reform.

Anonymous said...

Aaron, a lot of people interpret eiva as carte blanche to save non-Jews as long as you're not stranded on a desert island or something. In any case, in an emergency, when it's not possible to ask someone more learned in halacha for advice, most authorities recommend saving the non-Jew,IIRC.

aml said...

Mr. Wolf: I've been reading your blog for a long time now. I think this simply confirms my initial thoughts of you: you're a good human being.