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 The Gilad Shalit Situation: What's Halachicly correct?

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Join date : 2011-09-23
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PostSubject: The Gilad Shalit Situation: What's Halachicly correct?   Thu Oct 13, 2011 12:41 pm

I occasionally go to to AskMoses.com to see what the Orthodox position is on certain matters. The other day I e-mailed them a question about the Gilad Shalit situation. They replied today that it was beyond their scope to answer. I know the question is not unanswerable, but it's one of those kinds that people debate for days or even weeks and all sorts of law and parables are dredged up to apply to it.

Here's the question: If you are captured by an enemy, and you know that hundreds, if not thousands, of known terrorists and criminals and murders are going to be traded back to the enemy for your life, do you have the right (but not obligation; never an obligation) to commit suidcide in order to stop the transaction from taking place, given the reasonable assumption that one of the criminals handed over will go back to killing Jews and/or attempting to bring about the downfall of Israel?

Note: Please don't think that I think Gilad should kill himself. I am wondering what I would or would not be allowed to do if, G-d forbid, I ended up in his position.

Here is what I know about halacha that would be applicable.

The only time suicide is permitted is if you are 1) going to be forced to commit sexual immorality (and some people specify only incest, which means a married woman being forced to have sex with someone to, say, secure her husband's release from jail or a death sentence, would be a bit of a gray area on the immorality rule), 2) if you are going to be forced to murder, 3) if you are going to be forced to commit idolatry.

The mass suicide at Masada is a bit of a gray area. It would seem that they commited suicide in order to avoid being enslaved, but the question arises: did they have a reasonable expectation that they be forced to be sexually immoral and be forced into idolatry if they had been captured? The common consensus is that they had a reasonable expectation that, after all the trouble they gave the Romans, they wouldn't have been simply put into slavery like others, but would have been publicly humiliated before either being put to death or pressed into slavery. And the Romans knew what it took to publicly humilate a Jew. It might have been that some of them, under torture, would have knelt before an idol. There's also the worry that if a leader is seen to do something, he will lead others into doing it. So if Eleazar had been forced to kneel before an idol, how many of his men would have done likewise? And from there, how many other Jews?

But what if you are not forced to murder, but murder will be committed because of you? That's where the captive-for-trade question comes into play. But, I am reminded of the story of one of the kings of Israel (can't remember which one off the top of my head) who refused to marry and have children. A prophet came to condemn him for this failure, and he said, wait, here's the deal: I can see the future, and I saw that if I had a son, he would be very evil and he would be an evil king and lead the kingdom into evil. So I thought it was best not to inflict that on the people. And the prophet rebuked him, telling him that it was not his concern. He had a commandment to reproduce, and he should have reproduced. His son's soul would have been his own, and he alone would have been answerable for his sins, and God would have dealt with that as necessary. So, in other words, take care of your own obligations and let the rest of the chips fall where they may.

That would seem to indicate that you can't commit suicide to prevent criminals from being set free--even if you know those criminals will turn around and murder more people. What the criminals do is not for you to worry about.

There's also the fact that you don't KNOW that Israel will make a trade for you (I'm betting Gilad doesn't know he's being set free, much less the conditions of it). For all you know, Israel could stage an Entebbe-style rescue to get you back--which is a perfectly acceptable action. (The fact that one hasn't occurred testifies to how well Hamas has Gilad hidden.)

Of course, such an uneven trade is probably not halachicly correct--which is probably the reason why some rabbis in Israel openly oppose it. In the middle ages, if a Jew was kidnapped by slave traders or an opposing army, rabbis everywhere agreed that you could not offer more than the going rate of ransom. If someone demanded more than the usual value and you paid it, then it would be open season on Jews everywhere; everyone would be kidnapping them in order to extort money, and the price would continue to climb until everyone was in abject poverty and no one could afford to ransom anyone. It was my understanding that this position became a halachic ruling--meaning that it was applicable for similar situations going forward.

Now that Hamas knows they can get at least 1,000 of their people for one Israeli, how many more cross-border incursions are they going to try in order to capture people? If they do enough, Israeli prisons will end up empty of Muslim criminals. And then what? Will Hamas quit kidnapping, or will they try to exchange people for weapons and cash?

So, I am curious as to what other people's opinions are on the situation? Is one young Israeli soldier worth 1,026 convicted criminals being set loose on humanity? If you were captured and knew Israel would strike this kind of deal for you, what would you do?
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