There is a law in the Gemara and brought in the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch. From Rambam end of Chapter 1 of Mishneh Torah Hilchos Rotzeach:


Whenever a person can save another person's life, but he fails to do so, he transgresses a negative commandment, as Leviticus 19:16 states: "Do not stand idly by while your brother's blood is at stake."

Similarly, this commandment applies when a person sees a colleague drowning at sea or being attacked by robbers or a wild animal, and he can save him himself or can hire others to save him. Similarly, it applies when he hears gentiles or mosrim conspiring to harm a colleague or planning a snare for him, and he does not inform him and notify him of the danger.

And it applies when a person knows of a gentile or a man of force who has a complaint against a colleague, and he can appease the aggressor on behalf of his colleague, but he fails to do so. And similarly, in all analogous instances, a person who fails to act transgresses the commandment: "Do not stand idly by while your brother's blood is at stake."


כָּל הַיָּכוֹל לְהַצִּיל וְלֹא הִצִּיל עוֹבֵר עַל (ויקרא יט טז) "לֹא תַעֲמֹד עַל דַּם רֵעֶךָ". וְכֵן הָרוֹאֶה אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ טוֹבֵעַ בַּיָּם. אוֹ לִסְטִים בָּאִים עָלָיו. אוֹ חַיָּה רָעָה בָּאָה עָלָיו. וְיָכוֹל לְהַצִּילוֹ הוּא בְּעַצְמוֹ. אוֹ שֶׁיִּשְׂכֹּר אֲחֵרִים לְהַצִּילוֹ וְלֹא הִצִּיל. אוֹ שֶׁשָּׁמַע עוֹבְדֵי כּוֹכָבִים אוֹ מוֹסְרִים מְחַשְּׁבִים עָלָיו רָעָה אוֹ טוֹמְנִין לוֹ פַּח וְלֹא גִּלָּה אֹזֶן חֲבֵרוֹ וְהוֹדִיעוֹ. אוֹ שֶׁיָּדַע בְּעַכּוּ''ם אוֹ בְּאוֹנֵס שֶׁהוּא בָּא עַל חֲבֵרוֹ וְיָכוֹל לְפַיְּסוֹ בִּגְלַל חֲבֵרוֹ לְהָסִיר מַה שֶּׁבְּלִבּוֹ וְלֹא פִּיְּסוֹ. וְכָל כַּיּוֹצֵא בִּדְבָרִים אֵלּוּ. הָעוֹשֶׂה אוֹתָם עוֹבֵר עַל לֹא תַעֲמֹד עַל דַּם רֵעֶךָ:

When a person sees a rodef pursuing a colleague to kill him, or a woman forbidden as an ervah to rape her, and he has the potential to save the victim and yet fails to do so, he has negated the observance of the positive commandment: "You must cut off her hand," and has transgressed two negative commandments: "You may not show pity," and "Do not stand idly by while your brother's blood is at stake."

That one has to go to any measures to save the life of another Jew. In some places this means even stealing the property of the other Jew, based on this rambam that anything except the big 3 can be done to save a life if a jew

Question is if this applies to the spiritual life if the Jew as well, meaning of a jew has idols can we steal then and break thek to prevent the Jew from chas veshalom owning idols?

If any mitzvah, including stealing, but minus the big 3, are overruled to save a Jewish life, then would idolatry, which is not overruled even to save a life, as it is one of the big 3, certainly be overruled by the lesser mitzvos, including stealing? Is this not a Kal vachomer?

  • You're probably looking for this
    – robev
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 2:46
  • @robev I don't understand the connection can you explain, this is talking about breaking shabbos to save ones daughter for converting (I think), is that related to stealing for idolatry Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 3:07
  • Is owning idols considered [part of] one of the big 3? I thought only the performing of avodah zarah (praying before an idol, or servicing it) was.
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 6:03
  • Is it possible to ‘steal’ an idol? Aren’t they issurei hana’ah and therefore valueless, and possibly even ownerless?
    – Joel K
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 8:05
  • @joel oh interesting, so your suggesting possibly it would be permitted to simply take it out of the domain if the Jew and not even violate the commandment of stealing at all? Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 8:32

1 Answer 1


Rashi on Genesis 31:19:2 (2) ותגגב רחל את התרפים AND ROCHEL STOLE THE TERAPHIM — her intention was to wean her father from idol-worship (Genesis Rabbah 74:5).


If Rochel (pashtus a Jew) took away idols from her Dad so he (Goy) shouldn't worship them - then kal vchomer one should steal idols from (a Jew) so he shouldn't worship them either.

  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – interested
    Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 19:58
  • This was the angle I thought of, immediately. I don't have the time to view the chat, so, I'd be interested in a summary of the issues, if relevant to the answer / question.
    – DanF
    Commented Sep 7, 2020 at 20:57
  • (1) It is open to question whether Rochel (or anyone pre-Matan Torah, for that matter) could be considered a Jew[ess], especially to the extent one can learn definitive Halakhah, as it applies to us today, from her actions. Her own husband was married to two sisters. (2) How commendable were Rochel's actions (as opposed to her intentions) here? (a) So commendable, that Ya'aqov (unaware of what she had done) told Lavan "With whoever you find your gods, they shall not live". That's what you say about someone who did a good act? ...
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented Sep 16, 2020 at 9:47
  • ... (b) So commendable are her actions, that next time we hear from her, is when she dies giving birth to Binyamin. (c) So commendable, that the Zohar says (I: 164b) that although Rochel did this to wean her father from idolatry, she was punished by not bringing up Binyamin or spending even a single hour in this world with him, due to her father's sorrow, despite her good intentions.
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented Sep 16, 2020 at 9:48
  • Machlokes HaPoskim if they kept the Mitzvohs, pashtus yes. Thus, she was a jewess. On a deeper level she's the mother of Jews (kyaduah). And if she stole from her father - a goy, then a Jew can steal from a Jew to prevent them from AZ Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 5:02

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