Thursday, September 16, 2010

Suicide & Teshuva:Shevus Yaakov - rejected by Rav M. Feinstein & R O Yosef

Igros Moshe(C.M. 2:69.4): ... Also this view (Yaavetz 1:43) that someone who has deliberately transgressed a sin that is liable to the death penalty and he commits suicide that he is not only not punished but it is also a meritorious act – is clearly prohibited even if he had been halachically warned not to do the crime. It is a shameful thing that Rav Yaakov Emden stated and his view on this matter should be totally disregarded.

    Rav Obadiya Yosef (Yabiyah Omer Y.D. 2:24.8)… In fact this issue is very confusing in my opinion. How is it possible that the mitzva of repentance can be done by means of the major sin of suicide? Our Sages have said that a person who deliberately commits suicide has no portion in the World to Come… This matter is an explicit verse (Yechezkeil 33:11): “Say to them, As I live, says the L‑rd G‑d, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked should turn from his way and live; turn, turn from your evil ways; for why will you die?” And there is nothing that repentance doesn’t help. So why would anyone think R’ Chiya's attempt to kill himself in response to what he thought was a sin with a prostitute - was according to the halacha (Kiddushin 81b)?  But look at Sefer Chasidim (#674) …How could he tell his students to do teshuva in a manner that caused them to be killed? It would seem that the Sefer Chasidim is a major support for the Shevus Yaakov. This is a very difficult issue that requires study. Nevertheless in my opinion one can not learn halacha from stories such as these. Therefore it is prohibited to kill oneself – even for the sake of repentance. I also saw this point in Shevet Shimon (345) which expresses great astonishment at this Shevus Yaakov and he concludes that the halacha is in accord with the Yafas To’ar [and not the Shevus Yaakov]. This is also the conclusion of the Chida in Birchei Yosef (345:3), that even though normally the Shevus Yaakov is more authoritative but logic is in agreement with the Yafas To’ar. [There are many other sources that come to this conclusion and reject this Shevus Yaakov]…


  1. It is interesting that you are bringing these discussions about suicide. Y'all should see this article on YNET. Check it out check it outers.,7340,L-3955221,00.html

  2. This is all very fascinating. Thanks for presenting all of this.

    In any of these cases, though, it would seem that we would never really know the reason someone committed suicide unless they left a note or explained it to someone beforehand. So is the point that we can't assume either way? Or are we really not supposed to assume? Even if we give the benefit of the doubt and assume it was an attempt at teshuvah by someone wracked with guilt over a terrible averah they committed, that is actually not really giving the benefit of the doubt because that assumes they did a terrible averah that needed teshuva in this manner.

    So what do we conclude from all this, Rabbi E., or more specifically, what point are you basically trying to present here?

  3. A fascinating series of post. Not sure where you are going with this, but fascinating nonetheless.

    Another even more difficult (in a sense) stories about suicide is the story of the young girls and boys being shipped to Rome deciding to drown themselves. Another difficult story is the story of the executioner of R' Chanina b. Tradyon throwing himself into the fire after allowing the Rabbi to die more quickly. In both cases, the suicides are committed not even as a part of the teshuva process (fist case is suicide lest one come to sin, second case is suicide AFTER one already did teshuva). Yet they are not faulted for their actions. In fact, the executioner goes immediately to olam haba.


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