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Riddle: Name a halacha derived from a statement of Satan.

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closed as not a real question by Isaac Moses Jun 16 '11 at 22:08

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1 Answer

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The statement is Job 2:4

וַיַּעַן הַשָּׂטָן אֶת יְהוָה, וַיֹּאמַר: עוֹר בְּעַד עוֹר, וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר לָאִישׁ--יִתֵּן, בְּעַד נַפְשׁוֹ

And the Satan said to God: skin on behalf of skin, and all a man has, he will give for his own life.

The Halacha is that while we may not redeem a captive if the price is too high, an individual is entitled to spend as much of his own money as he likes on redeeming himself (and possibly his spouse). This is based on the above verse. --Tosfos, Kesubos 52a, s.v. והיו.

My understanding of Tosfos is that the verse is describing a reality of human behavior. Since:

  • Any normal person would do anything to save themselves

AND

THEREFORE:

  • The rabbis excepted one's self from the "no exorbitant ransom" rule
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How does this apply to the cases in Israel today? What price is considered "too high" to get soldiers back? If their lives are at risk, is that considered a case of pidyon shvuim, or pikuach nefesh? –  Jeremy May 27 '10 at 17:21
1  
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger observed that 30-40% of the people Israel releases (in exchange for its own) will go do more terrorist stuff, and that released terrorists have so far killed 50+ Israelis. On the other hand, he pointed out that the "we get our boys back no matter what" policy is a morale-booster for the troops, and enables them to do maneuvers that they otherwise couldn't. This generalized pikuach nefesh is a consideration they can (and do) weigh against the Mishnaic enactment. –  Shalom May 27 '10 at 17:31
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