MUST ONE ENDURE TORTURE? [Mesiras Nefesh:torture]
(Rav Ashi): Perhaps lashes are harsher than death!
(Rav): (Chananyah, Misha'el and Azaryah chose to jump into the furnace and not bow to Nebuchadnetzar's image.) Had they been lashed, they would have bowed to the image!
Question (Rav Sama brei d'Rav Asi): Perhaps we distinguish between a limited number of lashes (of Beis Din) and an unlimited number (like Rav discusses)!
Berachos 61b (Beraisa - R. Akiva): "Uv'Chol Nafshecha" teaches that one must love Hash-m even when He takes your life.
When R. Akiva was taken to be executed, it was the time for Kri'as Shma. They were tearing off his skin with iron combs, he was accepting upon himself Ol Malchus Shomayim.
His Talmidim: Rebbi, to this extent?!
R. Akiva: My entire life I was troubled by "uv'Chol Nafshecha," even when He takes your life. When will I be able to fulfill it? Now that I have the opportunity, will I not fulfill it?!
Gitin 57b (Rav Yehudah citing Shmuel): Four hundred boys and girls were being taken on a boat to Romi. They realized that this was for sexual exploitation.
The girls: If we drown ourselves in the sea, will we come to the world to come?
The oldest boy: Yes! "(Hash-m) will return from the depths of the sea".
Upon hearing the answer, the girls jumped into the sea.
The boys made a Kal va'Chomer: it was proper for the girls to take their own lives, to avoid heterosexual exploitation, which is a 'natural' abomination. We are being taken for homosexual exploitation, an unnatural abomination. All the more so, we should take our own lives to avoid this! They jumped into the sea, fulfilling "For you we are killed all the day, we are like sheep to be slaughtered."
Avodah Zarah 18b: R. Chanina ben Tradyon was being executed for teaching Torah. They wrapped him in a Sefer Torah and vines, which they lit on fire. They put wet sponges over his heart, so he would not die quickly.
His Talmidim: Open your mouth, so the fire will enter and you will die quickly!
R. Chanina: Hash-m gave me my soul. He will take it, not I.
The executioner: Rebbi, if I increase the fire and remove the sponges, will you bring me to the world to come?
R. Chanina agreed, and swore to him about this. The executioner did as he said; R. Chanina died quickly, and the executioner jumped into the fire.
A voice from Heaven: R. Chanina and the executioner are prepared for the world to come (without need for Gehinom).
Rosh (Mo'ed Katan 3:94): Bereishis Rabah (34:14) forbids suicide from "V'Ach Es Dimchem l'Nafshoseichem Edrosh" (our text learns from "Ach Basar..."). It suggests that this applies even to Sha'ul, i.e. one who was Ivud (going to die). "Ach" refutes this. Yisrael were punished for not eulogizing Sha'ul properly (Yevamos 78b).
Question #1 (Tosfos Kesuvos 33b DH Ilmalei): Why does the Gemara say that if Chananyah, Misha'el and Azaryah had been lashed, they would have bowed to the image? "Uv'Chol Nafshecha" connotes even torture like R. Akiva's death, which was worse than lashes!
Question #2: Why does the Gemara (Pesachim 53b) ask why Chananyah, Misha'el and Azaryah were Moser Nefesh? All agree that one must Moser Nefesh for idolatry in public!
Answer #1 (to both questions - R. Tam in Tosfos ibid.): The image was not idolatry. It was only for the king's honor.
Nimukei Yosef (Sanhedrin 18a DH veha'Mekadesh): People thought that it was idolatry, therefore Chananyah, Misha'el and Azaryah were voluntarily Moser Nefesh to inspire others.
Answer #2 (to Question #2 - Ri in Tosfos Pesachim 53b DH Mah): The Gemara asks why they didn't flee, like Daniel did!
Talmid ha'Rashba (on Kil'ayim, Inyanim b'Sof ha'Sefer 7): Bereishis Rabah (34:14) permits suicide in cases like Sha'ul, e.g. one fears lest kill him and he does not want to fall into their hands. We also learn from the children who killed themselves. A Bas Kol praised them (this is not in our Gemara). It seems that R. Chanina ben Tradyon had permission to hasten his own death. It was Midas Chasidus to show that bearing suffering was dear to him, to increase Kidush Shem Shomayim. Hie Talmidim would not have suggested that he die earlier if it was forbidden!
Igros Moshe (CM 2:73:3): R. Chanina ben Tradyon said that it was forbidden to hasten his own death. All the more so a Nochri may not hasten death, for he is liable for killing a Tereifah (Rambam Hilchos Melachim 9:4)! We must say that it was a Hora'as Sha'ah to authorize the executioner to do so.
Tashbatz (415, citing Maharam me'Rotenburg 517): Once a person decides to be Moser Nefesh, he does not feel the pain - "Hikuni Val Chalisi" (Mishlei 23:35). Any person whose finger enters fire screams, even if he was determined not to. We find that many Kedoshim were burned and did not scream. Once one says Shem ha'Meyuchad, he is guaranteed to fulfill Kidush Hash-m without pain.
Aruch ha'Shulchan (OC 61:1): While reciting Shma one should intend to accept Ol Malchus Shomayim and to be Moser his body and Nefesh for Kidush Hash-m. This is "uv'Chol Nafshecha". One should picture that even if he is tortured greatly it will be nothing in his eyes, due to his love of Hash-m, like R. Akiva, whose skin was being torn with iron combs and he recited Shma. Many Kedoshei Elyon recited Shma while they were killed and burned.
Tzelach (Berachos 61b DH Omru): R. Akiva had prayed to die while saying Shma, in order to fulfill "uv'Chol Nafshecha". His Talmidim thought that he held that Kidush Hash-m is only until death. They said that one must endure all torture, and advised him to do so to increase his reward.
Shulchan Aruch (YD 345:3): If one killed himself due to Ones, like Sha'ul, this is not like a suicide (over which we do not mourn).
Beis Yosef (157 DH v'Kosvu Od): Bereishis suggests that suicide is forbidden even in a case like Sha'ul, i.e. one who fears that he will be tortured greatly. "Ach" refutes this. Some say that Sha'ul acted improperly.
Rebuttal (Shirei Keneses ha'Gedolah, brought in Hagahos to Tur ha'Shalem 2): Surely, Sha'ul acted properly! His place in the world to come is with Shmuel ha'Navi. After his death a Bas Kol announced that he is "Bechir Hash-m" (Berachos 12b). Rather, he was permitted because he knew that he would not live (Shmuel told him that he would die that day) and he feared lest the Plishtim make a mockery of him. If it is possible that one will live, he may not strike himself.
Aruch ha'Shulchan (CM 104:2): If one was reciting Shma and a Nochri king greeted him, he interrupts, lest the king kill him. It is not clear whether or not one must stop if the only concern is lest they beat him.