PESACHIM 25 (8 Av) - Dedicated l'Iluy Nishmas Mrs. Lily (Leah bas Pinchas) Kornfeld, who passed away on 8 Av 5765, by her daughter and son-in-law, Diane and Andy Koenigsberg and family. May Lily and her husband's love for Torah and for Eretz Yisrael continue in all of their descendants.
1) DERIVING BENEFIT FROM THE WOOD OF AN "ASHEIRAH" TREE
OPINIONS: Rebbi Yakov says in the name of Rebbi Yochanan that one may not heal himself with (or derive any other benefit from) the wood of an Asheirah tree.
What is the reason for this prohibition? When one heals himself with the wood of an Asheirah tree, he does not worship the tree in any way. Although the Torah prohibits deriving benefit from an object used as Avodah Zarah, that prohibition is only a Lo Ta'aseh (Devarim 13:18), which should be permitted for one who needs to heal himself, as every other Isur Hana'ah is permitted in order to heal oneself (see Rashi DH b'Chol). Why is one obligated not to cure himself, but to risk losing his life, in order not to derive benefit from the wood of an Asheirah tree?
(a) TOSFOS (DH Chutz) and the ROSH explain that the prohibition against using the wood of an Asheirah, even at the risk of losing one's life, applies only when the doctor says that he must specifically use the Asheirah's wood and no other wood will do. If one uses the wood of the Asheirah in such a case, he causes people to be drawn after Avodah Zarah and to think that Avodah Zarah has the power to cure. By not using the Asheirah's wood in such a case, one fulfills the commandment, "v'Ahavta Es Hash-m Elokecha" -- "You shall love Hash-m your G-d... with all of your soul" (Devarim 6:5), which teaches that one must love only Hash-m and cause others to love only Hash-m, even at the cost of one's life.
RASHI says that when one uses the wood of an Asheirah tree to cure himself, he is "Nir'eh k'Modeh Bah" -- he appears as though he avows power to it. Rashi also may mean that healing oneself in such a manner may cause people who see him recuperate to believe that Avodah Zarah has the power to heal.
(b) The RAMBAN (Milchamos, Sanhedrin 74a) and the RAN here explain that when the Torah commands one to give his life and not to serve Avodah Zarah, this applies to the "branches" of Avodah Zarah as well. The prohibition against deriving benefit from an object of Avodah Zarah is a prohibition that is linked to idol-worship, and as such it is considered a branch of the prohibition of Avodah Zarah. Therefore, one must give his life in order to avoid transgressing it. (They cite proof for this ruling from the Yerushalmi in Pesachim 2:2 and Shabbos 14:4.)
According to the Ramban, even if the doctor says that one may use any wood to cure himself, he is not allowed to use wood from an Asheirah.
HALACHAH: The SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD 155:2) cites both opinions. The SHACH (#11) rules like Tosfos, the more lenient opinion, and says that one must give his life and not use the Asheirah wood only if the doctor specifically prescribes Asheirah wood.
However, the VILNA GA'ON points out that the REMA later (YD 157:1) appears to rule like the stringent opinion of the Ramban.
2) TO KILL OR BE KILLED
OPINIONS: The Gemara discusses the principle of "Yehareg v'Al Ya'avor." Of all the Mitzvos, only three require that one give his life in order not to transgress: Avodah Zarah (idolatry), Shefichus Damim (murder), and Giluy Arayos (immorality). The Gemara explains that the obligation to be killed in order not to kill is based on logic: one is unable to determine that his own life is more valuable than the other person's life ("Mai Chazis d'Dama Didach Sumek Tefei"), and thus he may not choose to kill the other person in order to save his own life.
What is the nature of the prohibition against killing another person in order to save one's own life? Does the prohibition of "Lo Tirtzach," "Do not kill," apply in such a case, or is that prohibition suspended because the person is forced to kill against his will, and the act is forbidden instead because of a different reason -- the logic of "Mai Chazis"?
(a) RASHI (DH Mai Chazis) writes that if not for the logic of "Mai Chazis," one would be permitted to kill someone else in order to avoid being killed himself. The normal allowance of Piku'ach Nefesh, which permits a person to transgress the Torah in order to save his life, would apply, and he would be permitted to kill someone else in order to save his own life. The logic of "Mai Chazis" teaches that Piku'ach Nefesh does not permit a person to kill another person in such a situation. The concept of Piku'ach Nefesh teaches that saving a Jewish life is more important than performing a Mitzvah. In this case, however, a Jewish life is going to be lost in any case, and therefore Piku'ach Nefesh does not apply to permit one to kill another person in order to save his own life. Once the allowance of Piku'ach Nefesh no longer applies, the prohibition of "Lo Tirtzach" remains. Consequently, it is the prohibition of "Lo Tirtzach" which prohibits one from killing someone else in order to save his own life.
(b) A number of Rishonim disagree with Rashi on this point.
1. TOSFOS (DH Af) writes that the logic of "Mai Chazis" applies only when the perpetrator of the coercion demands that the coerced do an action to kill someone else. If he demands that one merely stand still and passively allow himself to be thrown upon a baby, the logic of "Mai Chazis" allows him to kill in a passive manner. Tosfos explains that "Mai Chazis" means that one should always be passive ("Shev v'Al Ta'aseh") and perform no action, whether the consequence will be that one will be killed for his inaction, or one will kill as a result of his inaction.
From the words of Tosfos it is evident that a person does not transgress "Lo Tirtzach" by killing in order to save one's life, since the prohibition of "Lo Tirtzach" does not distinguish between action and inaction. Apparently, Tosfos maintains that the Piku'ach Nefesh element exempts one from liability for "Lo Tirtzach" when he is forced to kill someone else. The only reason one must give up his life in such a case is because of the logic of "Mai Chazis," but not in order to avoid transgressing "Lo Tirtzach."
2. The RAMBAM (Hilchos Yesodei ha'Torah 5:4) writes that if a person did not fulfill the Mitzvah of giving up his life in order to avoid killing someone else, but instead he followed the demand of the oppressor and murdered someone else, he is not liable to punishment. The reason is because his transgression was done under coercion, and the Torah exempts an "Ones" from punishment. The Rambam apparently understands the rule of "Yehareg v'Al Ya'avor" like Tosfos, that the prohibition of "Lo Tirtzach" does not apply and the person transgresses only the principle of "Mai Chazis," for which there is no punishment. If the prohibition of "Lo Tirtzach" would apply even when one is forced to kill another person, then just as the "Ones" element would not exempt him from the prohibition of "Lo Tirtzach," it also would not exempt him from the punishment for that prohibition.
According to Rashi, however, the victim of the coercion is not considered as though he kills under coercion. The fact that someone threatens to kill him if he does not kill is not sufficient reason to permit him to transgress the prohibition of "Lo Tirtzach." Consequently, he should be liable if he does not keep the Mitzvah and he kills someone. According to Rashi, if the prohibition applies, then the punishment should apply as well.
3. Others explain that this argument is actually the subject of dispute among Amora'im in Avodah Zarah (54a). The prohibition of Avodah Zarah is one of the three sins for which one must allow himself to be killed in order not to transgress. Is the requirement to give up one's life in order to avoid worshipping Avodah Zarah due to the normal prohibition against Avodah Zarah, "Do not bow down to them," or is it prohibited because of a different reason -- "You shall love Hash-m your G-d"?
The Gemara there discusses a case in which a person is forced, by mortal threat, to bow down to an animal. If the person transgresses the principle of "Yehareg v'Al Ya'avor" and bows down to the animal, does the animal become forbidden to be offered as a Korban? Rami bar Chama says that the animal becomes forbidden like any other object worshipped as Avodah Zarah. Rebbi Zeira says that the animal does not become forbidden, because the person was forced to worship it, and the Torah exempts a person when he is forced. Rava defends Rami bar Chama's opinion and says that the Mitzvah of "v'Chai ba'Hem" -- "You shall live in them (the Mitzvos)" (Vayikra 18:5), which teaches that one should transgress a Mitzvah in order to save his life (and ensure his future fulfillment of Mitzvos), does not apply to Avodah Zarah.
Perhaps Rebbi Zeira maintains that bowing down to an idol in order to avoid being killed is prohibited because of a separate injunction in the Torah: "You shall love Hash-m your G-d." When one is forced to bow down to an idol, he does not transgress the prohibition against worshipping Avodah Zarah, and, consequently, the animal is not rendered forbidden as an idol and it may be offered as a Korban.
According to Rami bar Chama, the injunction of "You shall love Hash-m" merely teaches that the regular exemption of "Ones" does not apply in this case (where one performs an action that diametrically contradicts the love of Hash-m), and therefore one must give up his life in order not to transgress the prohibition of idolatry, "Do not bow down to them." Since the person who was coerced has transgressed the prohibition of idol-worship, the animal to which he bowed down should be considered an idol and be prohibited to be offered as a Korban.