There is a well known rule that if A is threatening B's life, B may kill A, if necessary, to prevent that.

Is there any such rule in non-capital cases? Specifically:

  • If A is threatening B with physical injury, can B injure A to prevent it?
  • If A is threatening B with monetary harm, can B financially injure A to prevent it?

If so, then:

  1. Does B's injury of A have to be proportionate to what A would have otherwise done? For example, if A is seeking to inflict $100's worth of damage on B's possessions, can B, to prevent that, inflict $100's worth of damage on A's? $100.25's worth? $1,000,000's worth? Likewise, if A is seeking to damage B's person to a certain degree (monetary degree in terms of nezek, or to some degree as defined by some other standard), can B damage A to the same degree? to a higher degree?
  2. Would B have any liability to A thereafter (in bes din)?

Of course, for practical guidance in any specific case, each person should consult his rabbi; this question is about general rules.

  • Toward meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/q/629. – msh210 Jan 2 '12 at 21:48
  • The gemara mentions somewhere if someone is stealing your share of well-water you can hit him with a saddle many times. – Ariel K Jan 2 '12 at 22:50
  • See Choshen Mishpat siman 4. – Shmuel Brin Jan 2 '12 at 23:55
  • must see Taz Y.D. 179 S'4 (gilyon marsha and atzei levona) the essence of self defense. ktzos hachoshen ---- does oved inesh dina lenafsho trump a prohibition (lo sovo el beiso la'avo avuto-taking a mashkon from lenders home!) -- parameters of protecting your money – user3109 Aug 11 '13 at 13:57
  • Somewhat similar: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/33296 – msh210 Nov 14 '13 at 5:20

A relevant source (regarding case #2) is Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 383:2 (from Bava Kamma 28a). The case is that A's ox has climbed on top of B's ox and is going to kill it. B may pull his ox out, even if this will cause A's ox to fall to its death. On the other hand, he may push off A's ox only if he has no other way to save his own; if he could have saved his ox without killing the other one, he is liable for damages.


The gemara in Sanhedrin 72 says that if a person digs into your house to steal from you, you may kill him. The Rishonim explain that this is because the thief knows that no one lets his money be stolen without a fight, and therefore comes ready to kill the victim if will stop him from stealing. Therefore it is essentially a case where a person comes to kill you, which you may kill him to stop him if that is what is required, or if a monetary solution is available to you, then you have to use that.

However, some of the poskim hold this true only if he actually dug a tunnel, and not any monetary attack.

  • I think most hold you can kill him if he's burglarizing your private residence, though nowadays there are many factors that complicate things (though if both parties are up and armed it seems it would be clearly true). – Ariel K Jan 2 '12 at 22:49
  • Thanks for this answer, of which the part relevant to my question is the last sentence. I'm not sure what "this" in that sentence refers to: permissibility of damaging your attacker monetarily, or permissibility of killing him? Who are "some of the poskim"? Do the rest of the pos'kim hold that "this" is true in any case of an attack on someone's finances? – msh210 Jan 2 '12 at 23:32
  • Yes other poskim hold killing is permissable on any monetary attack if there is sufficeint reason to suspect the victim will defend himself. Will get you the names later, bl"n – Yehuda Jan 3 '12 at 6:52
  • Yehuda, are you saying that Reuven may kill Shim'on, solely because Shim'on expects Reuven to do so and will be prepared to strike first? – Seth J Jan 6 '12 at 2:50

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