The barbarians in question have a history of sometimes freeing their captives but also have a history of torturing their captives to death.

And what if it is becoming clear that no one will negotiate for the release of the captive because it was decided (by the good guys) that it is counter-productive to negotiate with the barbarians?

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    naaleh.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/… In 2015, during the War in Gaza, Rav Elyashiv ruled that the soldiers should not commit suicide, seeing as nowadays the enemy usually capture soldiers to use as pawns in prisoners exchange (and not torture them to death).
    – The GRAPKE
    Oct 31, 2023 at 9:13
  • I think they shouldn't give up. Gliad Shalit was returned home after over 5 years and there are various other ways in which the situation could change - eg. they could be released, or their captors could be killed, or they could escape. The Gemara says Berachot 10a אפי' חרב חדה מונחת על צוארו של אדם אל ימנע עצמו מן הרחמים Even if a sharp sword is resting on one's thought he shouldn't hold back from (asking for) mercy." ie. never give up home and always keep praying because Hashem can achieve anything Oct 31, 2023 at 11:04
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    @TheGRAPKE, R' Elyashiv זצ"ל was niftar in 2012 Oct 31, 2023 at 12:21
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    @NoachMiFrankfurt Maybe he issued the psak earlier, that is the quote at any rate.
    – The GRAPKE
    Oct 31, 2023 at 14:38

1 Answer 1


This is a very old debate, that rotates around the explanation of Shaul Hamelech's suicide. As detailed in Sefer Shmuel Alef p' 31 Shaul fell on his sword to avoid capture by the Pelishtim (no relation to palestinians). I apologize that I don't have time to find the sources now, but the Rishonim's understanding of this cover a range of explanations: suicide is muttar to avoid pain, suicide is muttar to avoid chillul hashem, suicide is muttar (only) to avoid the potential for sins forced conversion, suicide is muttar to avoid the death's of many (those who would have tried to recapture Shaul or take revenge), suicide is never muttar and he was already dying from arrow wounds and just sped up the process, or suicide is never muttar but he was told by Shmuel he would die and just chose the manner. The minhag in Europe appears to have been to be lenient and suicide (or kill children) to avoid conversion.

Relatedly, there's a story of a Rav who killed the kids in his shtetl to avoid forced conversion and the army coming ended up capturing just this Rav and brutally murdering him and leaving everyone else alone. The point of this story being that in any case of doubtful death the preferred approach is to hope for life.

  • Please clarify. You write "...suicide is muttar to avoid pain, suicide is muttar to avoid chillul hashem,..." Are these two opinions, that suicide is allowed to avoid pain if someone is going to kill him?
    – larry909
    Nov 1, 2023 at 0:20
  • The story with the rav, he killed all the kids and they left everyone else, you mean the men and women? So the rav only killed the kids, why ? Cause he figured the men and women are adults and will not convert?
    – larry909
    Nov 1, 2023 at 0:22

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