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Yeharog V’al Ya’avor


Dear Rabbi,
I was learning pesachim 25a-25b in the סוגיא of מאי חזית and my ראש חבורה said that it’s משמע from רש״י that יהרג ואל יעבור doesn’t apply to killing נכרים.  I felt very troubled and down by this!



Thank you for your question.

You sound very troubled by this, but let’s deal with the two statements separately. Regarding the Rashi, let me explain. The halacha that a person has to forfeit his own life in order to save someone else, is in itself a tremendous “mesiras nefesh” (pun intended) that a person should give himself up to be killed, in order to save someone else from dying. From now on everything he dreamed for in life will vanish, his children will be orphans, his wife a widow, he will never see his children get married, and his whole family will suffer tremendously as a result. Nevertheless, the torah tells us that we have to value the life of another Jew to such a tremendously high level. This level of value for human life says Rashi, that we would not be obligated to sacrifice our own life for the life of a gentile, but only for a fellow Jew. By the way, the gentile will never do something like that for the Jew, in fact in the laws of any country, there is no such law, that a person has to sacrifice his own life for someone else’s. This is an exception, that we have in Jewish law, however it only applies in certain instances. It is true, the other person is innocent, but so is the person threatened with this dilemma. His obligation is to save his own life first. We all understand the term “chayecha kodmin”, that one’s own life comes before someone else’s. It is only because of the gemora that tells us that we indeed have to sacrifice our own life that we have this idea in the first place, but this idea has its parameters.


Best wishes

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