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February 12, 1993 - Image 10

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-02-12

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

TRUST YOUR OWN JUDGEMENT
START WITH YOUR OWN IDEAS
WE'LL HELP YOU FINISH
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LETTERS page 6

Factionalism
Vs. Klal Yisrael

After reading articles and let-
ters in The Jewish News, we
find ourselves astounded and
deeply disappointed by atti-
tudes expressed by some mem-
bers of the Orthodox
community.
As members of that commu-
nity we agree that Torah is def-
initely the focus of our lives.
But so too are other Jews.
If we contend that problems
of the modern world do not af-
fect us, that we need not deal
with the problems of child
abuse, that AIDS and drug ed-
ucation is meaningless for our
children, regardless of the num-
bers, that it is worthless to com-
municate with our neighbors
who are not as observant as we
claim to be, that the only thing
that matters in life are the
numbers of mitzvot we do, then
we sadly do ourselves and our
community a disservice.
We demand tolerance from
others, yet we are intolerant.
We — all of us — are responsi-
ble for one another, regardless
of religious barometers.
We must learn that sinut hi-
mum (causeless hatred) is as
destructive today as it has ever
been. We must come to realize
that every Jew, every person is
as important as the next.
We must learn to communi-
cate and to love one another.
As Jews, we are commanded to
do no less!

Larry and Rita Winer

Oak Park

Suicide
And Torah

The Jewish News carried an
interesting presentation of the
Jewish tradition's strong op-
position to suicide, authored by
Rabbi Herschel Finman (Jan.
8) It is a fine and timely article,
for we live at a time when the
general culture is once again
accepting, or even glorifying,
suicide.
The Jewish tradition, as
Rabbi Finman rightly notes,
considers suicide a crime akin
to murder.
But I believe the article is in-
complete in one area. Rabbi
Finman asserts that "dying for
the sake of heaven" is "the only
exception" to the universal con-
demnation of suicide in Jewish
sources. There is, however, one
other situation in which at least
some Jewish sources counte-
nance suicide.
According to Bereshit Rab-
bah 34:13, King Saul was jus-
tified or excused for his suicide
(this story is told at the end of
the first book of Samuel). De-

feated in battle, surrounded by
his enemies, sure that his fuH
ture was to be displayed as a
trophy of war and then tor-
tured to death, Saul fell on hi:\
sword.
The rabbinic text does not
specify which of the horrible
conditions of Saul's situation
was sufficient to allow his sui-
cide. To take it as a precedent,
one would have to decide.
In fact, a rabbi did have to
decide. In the final days before
the destruction of the Ghetto at
Kovno, a certain Jew, expect,
ing the Nazis to murder his
family before his eyes, and then
to murder him, asked Rabbi
Ephraim Oshry whether it
would be right to kill himself.
The essence of the rabbi's re-
sponse: "In our present case,
where certainly he will be hor-
ribly tortured as King Saul
would have been, it appears/
that it would be permitted for
him to commit suicide." Rabbi
Oshry did not want his re-
sponse published at that time,
lest it discourage other Jews,
who were also trapped by the
cruel Nazis.
The point of departure fog
Rabbi Finman's article is sui-
cide driven by medical con-
cerns. It might be argued that
Rabbi Oshry's acceptance of
suicide to avoid torture should:
be limited to situations in I
which the torturers are evil
human enemies.
However, if a disease, or thL
treatment for the disease,
promises a patient horrible,
painful and degrading suffer-
ing followed by imminent
death, that does seem to be the
equivalent of being tortured to
death.
We should work to make this
a rare situation. Dying patients
ought to have adequate pain,
medication, attentive medical
care, and the presence of affec-
tionate friends or relatives, so
that these patients do not reach
the despair of King Saul or of
Rabbi Oshry's interlocutor.
Be that as it may, it seems
that legitimate fear of torture"
may be recognized in Jewish
law, along with "dying for the
sake of heaven," as a valid rea-
son for suicide.

-;

Eliezer Finkelman
Berkeley, Calif

Letters Policy

Letters must be typewritten,
double-spaced, and include
the name, home address,
daytime phone number and
signature of the writer.

Brief letters (Less than a
page), arriving by noon Tues-
day, will be given prefer-
ence.

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