The Talmud in Bava Metzia 62a brings a scenario where if two people were traveling in the desert and one has a flask of water but there's only enough water for one of them to reach civilization alive:

Ben Petura rules that it is better for them to share the water even though neither one will survive
Rebbi Akiva disagrees and rules that one's own life takes priority over the life of his fellow man, and thus the owner of the flask should drink all the water himself and live.

  • Does the Shulchan Aruch or other commonly accepted Acharon provide halacha pesuka for this case?

  • Would Rebbi Akiva still hold for the person not to share his water if the second person is the person's own child?

  • The Torah has Parshas Erchin, stating the "value" of men, women, children and seniors. Kids are valued less. (Don't know how it is related to saving lives, but still)
    – Al Berko
    May 14, 2019 at 16:24
  • 1
    HeHasid says that an uneducated person should sacrifice his life to save a Torah scholar so there may be some exceptions to the general rule. I think it would be a very natural instinct for a parent to want to save their child. May 14, 2019 at 17:51
  • 1
    The machloqes you cite is first person. To relate it to the question, you would have to specify if the person who has the canteen is the parent or the child. Either way, I think the owner comes first. Rav Shimon Shkop points out that this is the same Rabbi Aqiva for whom the central principle of the Torah is "love your peer as yourself", in that love for others is predicated on love of oneself. May 15, 2019 at 14:33
  • 1
    ... and he relates it to Hillel's take on the principle being framed in the negative "that which you loathe, do not do to another". Because in the positive, oneself does come first. In my book, I compare to airplane emergency instructions, "Place your own oxygen mask on before attending to that of the child next to you." May 15, 2019 at 14:33

1 Answer 1


The Aruch Hashulchan (1829–1908) in YD 251:7 quotes this gemara in the context of the laws of giving tzeddakah vs sustaining oneself:

והיינו באיש אינו מרויח רק חיי נפש, לחם צר ומים לחץ, דחייו קודמין

thus man was not profiting only that he can sustain himself with simple bread and water since his life takes precedence.

In terms of a child vs. parent, perhaps a gemara in Sanhedrin can help us.

The gemara in Sanhedrin 72b tells us that if woman was giving birth and her life was being endangered by the fetus, the fetus may be sacrificed in order to save the mother.
once the baby's head has emerged during the birthing process, the baby may not be harmed in order to save the mother, because one life may not be pushed aside to save another life.

Rashi there s.v. "יצא ראשו" writes (likely applying the principle of "מי יימר דדמא דידך סומק טפי" Sanhedrin 74a):

אבל יצא ראשו אין נוגעים בו להורגו דהוה ליה כילוד ואין דוחין נפש מפני נפש

But when its head came out, we cannot touch it to kill it, as it is like a born [baby]; and we do not push off [ie kill] one soul for the sake of another.

Namely we can seemingly deduce that a parent and child's life are on the same level. The same rules apply for a child as for an adult; according to Rabbi Akiva the life of the owner of the water takes precedence.

  • 1
    That Gemara says אין דוחים נפש מפני נפש because משמיא קרדפי לה. Rashi seems to understand the Gemara that they’re pursuing each other, and the Rambam (Rotzeiach 1:9 as explained by Kesef Mishnah) understands that it’s a natural occurrence. Either way, I don’t think you can apply that Gemara in this manner. (Not saying your conclusion is incorrect, just that you can’t prove anything from that Gemara.)
    – DonielF
    May 14, 2019 at 21:41
  • 2
    We also cannot apply this Gemara which discusses killing with your hands to save yourself vs. merely not surrendering your water and drinking it yourself. May 14, 2019 at 22:55
  • 1
    Ah thanks for the feedback guys- explicit sources (which I didn't find) are much easier than svaras 😅
    – alicht
    May 14, 2019 at 23:01

You must log in to answer this question.