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If someone is being led to his death by bes din (a Jewish court), is he supposed to try to escape, since, in general, saving one's own life is paramount? More: normally, we say that if someone is out to kill another, the latter can kill him to defend himself. Does that apply here: is the doomed man allowed, if necessary to save himself, to kill the employees of bes din who are leading him to his death?

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Inspired by "Is it a sin to escape the death penalty?", but actually something I've wondered for some time. –  msh210 Oct 4 '11 at 22:18
    
Very similar: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/27594 –  msh210 Apr 3 '13 at 6:21
    
Similar: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/48725 –  msh210 yesterday

2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

About your second question, defending himself by killing his executioners: Mishneh Lemelech (Hil. Rotze'ach Ushemiras Nefesh 1:15) implies that no. He says that in cases where extrajudicial killing is permitted (e.g., a goel hadam pursuing a murderer, or a zealot attempting to kill a Jew consorting with a gentile woman), then the intended victim may indeed protect himself by killing the assailant; but not where the killing is a mitzvah, as would be true of a person convicted of a capital crime.

Not sure about escaping, although perhaps we can prove that, at the very least, it's not a mitzvah and may indeed be a sin. In the story of Shimon ben Shatach's son who was convicted based on false testimony (Rashi to Sanhedrin 44b ד"ה דבעיא, and Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 6:3), we see that he willingly went to his death without making any attempt to flee.

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Re. the case of Shimon ben Shetach's son, perhaps he needed to allow himself to be executed to uphold the integrity of the judicial process. An ordinary case might be different. –  Fred Mar 13 '13 at 17:29
    
How do we know he was able to escape? Maybe he didn't try because it was hopeless. –  Ypnypn Feb 3 at 20:09

Agreed that a person found guilty should accept their sentence; here's a different source.

There are several different Midrashic explanations to Deuteronomy 25:11-12, involving a woman trying to save her husband. Several say the phrase to save her husband from his fellow excludes either saving him from an agent of the courts (carrying out the death penalty), or the wife of a court agent (saving her husband, who was acting lawfully, from an assailant). (In Hebrew -- prat l'shliach beit din, or prat l'eishet shliach beit din.) Depending on how you read that, I think you would also conclude as Alex did.

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+1, thanks; which midrashim are these? –  msh210 Oct 6 '11 at 15:24
    
Gemara in Bava Kama and Sifrei. –  Shalom Oct 7 '11 at 9:38

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