1) WHEN MUST ONE GIVE UP HIS LIFE IN ORDER NOT TO SERVE "AVODAH ZARAH"?
QUESTION: The Gemara quotes the opinion of Rebbi Yishmael who derives from the verse, "v'Chai ba'Hem" (Vayikra 18:5), that when one is threatened with death if he does not serve Avodah Zarah, he should serve Avodah Zarah and not allow himself to be killed. Rebbi Yishmael understands that one is obligated to give up his life and not serve Avodah Zarah only when he is told to serve Avodah Zarah in public, as he derives from the verse, "You shall not desecrate My holy Name, and I will be sanctified amidst the Jewish people" (Vayikra 22:32). Rebbi Eliezer and others disagree and maintain that a person must give up his life in order not to serve Avodah Zarah even in private. The Halachah follows the view of Rebbi Eliezer.
However, in the Gemara in Avodah Zarah (54a), Rava apparently follows the view of Rebbi Yishmael. Rava states that the prohibition of Avodah Zarah does not apply to someone who is threatened with death if he does not serve Avodah Zarah, as he derives from "v'Chai ba'Hem," which excludes a person who was forced to serve Avodah Zarah from the prohibition. The Gemara asks that the Torah also states "You shall not desecrate My holy Name," which teaches that even Avodah Zarah by force is forbidden. Rava answers that the first verse refers to one who is forced to serve Avodah Zarah in private (in which case he is not required to give up his life), and the second verse refers to one who is forced to serve Avodah Zarah in public (in which case he is required to give up his life). Rava's words are almost the same as the words of Rebbi Yishmael. If Rava indeed agrees with the opinion of Rebbi Yishmael, and the Halachah usually follows the view of Rava, then why is this not the Halachah?
(a) TOSFOS in Avodah Zarah (54a, DH Ha b'Tzin'a) explains that Rava does *not* follow the view of Rebbi Yishmael, and the Halachah certainly does not follow his view ("Chas v'Shalom"). What is Tosfos' source for this? Apparently, in the times of Tosfos, this question was very relevant in practice, unfortunately. If the Halachah followed the view of Rebbi Yishmael, the Poskim in the times of Tosfos would have ruled accordingly and many Jewish lives would have been saved; they would not have let so many Jewish lives be lost unnecessarily.
Tosfos also quotes the SHE'ILTOS who explicitly rules like Rebbi Yochanan (here in Sanhedrin) who says that one *is* required to give up his life and not serve Avodah Zarah, even in private.
What, then, is the meaning of Rava's words?
Tosfos explains that Rava's intention was merely to explain a Beraisa so that it would be consistent with the view of Rebbi Yishmael. Rava, however, did not personally rule in accordance with the view of Rebbi Yishmael. This is clear from Rava's statement in Kesuvos (19a) that when a person is threatened with death if he does not sign a document, he should sign the document, since one may not allow himself to be killed except for the three cardinal sins. Tosfos says that the usual case of witnesses who are forced to sign a document occurs in private, not in public. It follows that Rava in Kesuvos is saying that one may not give up his life for the other Mitzvos in private, but he *must* give up his life and not transgress the three cardinal sins, even in private. This is the opinion of most Rishonim in Avodah Zarah (see RITVA, ME'IRI, CHIDUSHEI HA'RAN, and others).
(b) Tosfos quotes RABEINU MOSHE MI'KUTZI who interprets Rava's words differently. When Rava says that "v'Chai ba'Hem" excludes serving Avodah Zarah under threat of death in private, he means that the prohibitions which carry a Chiyuv Misah for one who serves Avodah Zarah do not apply. Rava agrees that one is *forbidden* to serve Avodah Zarah under threat of death, even in private, because of the Mitzvas Aseh of "b'Chol Nafshecha" -- "with all your soul" (Devarim 6:5), which applies in this situation as well.
(c) The TOSFOS RID indeed maintains that Rava rules like Rebbi Yishmael. The Tosfos Rid in Avodah Zarah questions the Halachic conclusion of the BEHAG who rules that one must give up his life and not serve Avodah Zarah even in private. The Tosfos Rid asks why the Behag rules this way, when Rava follows the view of Rebbi Yishmael. However, the opinion of the Tosfos Rid clearly is a minority opinion. (Y. MONTROSE)
2) MUST A NOCHRI GIVE UP HIS LIFE IN ORDER TO OBSERVE HIS MITZVOS?
OPINIONS: The Gemara asks, must a Nochri give up his life in order to avoid transgressing the seven Mitzvos of Bnei Noach? Rav Ada quotes the verses that discuss Na'aman, an Aramean general. The verse relates that Na'aman told Elisha, "For this matter, Hash-m should forgive his servant, when my master (the king of Aram, see MALBIM) came to the house of Rimon (an idol) to bow there and he leaned on me and I bowed down" (Melachim II 5:18). Elisha replied, "Go peacefully" (ibid. 5:19).
The continuation of the Gemara depends on different Girsa'os recorded by the Rishonim.
(a) According to RASHI's text (DH v'Im Isa and DH b'Tzin'a), the Gemara reads, "v'Im Isa, Lo Leima Lei! Ha b'Tzin'a Ha b'Farhesya" -- "[Rav Ada says:] And if it is true (that a Nochri must give up his life and not serve Avodah Zarah), he (Elisha) should not have told him [to 'go peacefully']." The Gemara answers, "Here (in the case of Na'aman) it was in private, here it was in public." Rashi explains that the incident of Na'aman may have occurred in private, and a Nochri does not have to give up his life for his Mitzvos in private, and that is why Elisha did not object to Na'aman's actions. According to Rashi's understanding of the conclusion of the Gemara, in public a Nochri indeed may be obligated to give up his life and not transgress his Mitzvos. This is also the text of the YAD RAMAH.
(b) TOSFOS (DH 75a, DH v'Im Isa) quotes an alternative text which understands that the Gemara is not asking a question and giving an answer, but that it is making one statement: "v'Im Isa, Leima Lei Ha b'Tzin'a Ha b'Farhesya" -- "And if it is true (that a Nochri must give up his life and not serve Avodah Zarah), he (Elisha) should have told him (Na'aman) that there is a difference between private and public." According to this text, the Gemara implies that a Nochri is *never* commanded to give up his life for his Mitzvos, because otherwise Elisha would have told Na'aman that there are times when he must give up his life and not serve Avodah Zarah (such as in public).
This is the preferable text according to RABEINU TAM, the CHIDUSHEI HA'RAN, and others. Moreover, the Chidushei ha'Ran quotes a Yerushalmi which explicitly gives this answer. The Yerushalmi asks whether the Mitzvah of Kidush Hash-m applies to Nochrim. It quotes the verses that describe the incident with Na'aman, and it concludes that "Yisraelim have the Mitzvah of Kidush Hash-m, and Nochrim do not have the Mitzvah of Kidush Hash-m." (See MINCHAS CHINUCH, Mitzvah 296, for many details in the law of Kidush Hash-m for Nochrim.) (Y. MONTROSE)