1

R Avraham ibn Ezra writes (Devarim 20:7) that folks (can) die in wars even if it isn't yet their time to go:

ולא לקחה – בנשואין. והנה זה הכתוב לאות על כי יש מי שימות בבוא יומו, רק המת במלחמה מת בלא יומו. על כן אמר דוד: או במלחמה ירד ונספה (שמואל א כ"ו:י').

Is this normative Jewish theology?

Are there others that argue with this assertion?

Hard sources please, rishonim and earlier preferred.

11
  • 1
    I am unfamiliar with the title's idiom enough to see how it relates to the question?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Dec 26, 2023 at 20:26
  • The idiom means that a given soldier only dies if a particular bullet was designated (from on high) for him.
    – Shalom
    Commented Dec 26, 2023 at 20:32
  • 1
    There are countless stories of people that died before their time or lived extra years (e.g., Adam and Dovid). Ultimately everything is still in the hands of heaven.
    – shmosel
    Commented Dec 26, 2023 at 21:22
  • 1
    sefaria.org/Ralbag_on_I_Samuel.26.10?lang=bi Commented Dec 26, 2023 at 22:14
  • 5
    It would appear that some have, "To whom it may concern."
    – The GRAPKE
    Commented Dec 27, 2023 at 7:03

3 Answers 3

4

The Rambam states:

. וְכָל הַנִּלְחָם בְּכָל לִבּוֹ בְּלֹא פַּחַד וְתִהְיֶה כַּוָּנָתוֹ לְקַדֵּשׁ אֶת הַשֵּׁם בִּלְבַד. מֻבְטָח לוֹ שֶׁלֹּא יִמְצָא נֵזֶק וְלֹא תַּגִּיעֵהוּ רָעָה. Anyone who fights with his entire heart, without fear, with the intention of sanctifying God's name alone, can be assured that he will find no harm, nor will bad overtake him.

I am not sure as to what type of battle the Rambam is discussing.

Whichever that may be, the sefer haikkarim writes:

או במלחמה ירד ונספה ירמוז על המיתה המקרית המגעת לאדם בלא עתו ובלא חטא קודם אלא מצד הוראת המערכת או הגזירה הכוללת שכל מי שיכנס במלחמה פלונית ימות, ואם לא היה יוצא למלחמה לא היה מת, ואם יצא ימות מצד ההוראה הכוללת אף על פי שאין בידו עון אשר חטא. “Or he shall go down into battle, and be swept away,” denoted accidental death, which comes to a man prematurely and not for any sin, but through the indication of the stars, or by reason of a universal decree or law that every one going into a particular battle shall die. If he had not gone into the battle, he would not have died; if he does go he will die by reason of this general indication, though he is not guilty of having committed any sin.

That is to say, if you put yourself in harms way there is a chance of death.

To this verse in Mishlei:

עָר֤וּם ׀ רָאָ֣ה רָעָ֣ה (ויסתר) [וְנִסְתָּ֑ר] וּ֝פְתָיִ֗ים עָבְר֥וּ וְֽנֶעֱנָֽשׁוּ׃ The shrewd man saw trouble and took cover;The simple kept going and paid the penalty.

The GR"A concurs with this rule in general; and explains that if one willingly goes into danger hashem will not protect him.

7
  • The gemara on shabbos 32a would be a good addition "לעולם אם יעמוד אדם במקום סכנה", as well as the Tosafos there and on Kesubos 30a צינים פחים
    – Lo ani
    Commented Dec 27, 2023 at 12:13
  • @Loani Thanks for the references! I was looking for a good instance in the gemara.
    – Shababnik
    Commented Dec 27, 2023 at 13:37
  • This answer seems to prove that every bullet does have a name: in the case of a battle, the person's death is "mazal/decree", rather than "the result of one's own sin". What exactly is the chiddush here?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Dec 27, 2023 at 16:53
  • @RabbiKaii I think you're not understanding the sefer ikkarim. The chiddush is that it's not decreed from hashem. Hashem let's nature take its course. In other words this unfortunate soldier has died before hashem 'wanted'.
    – Shababnik
    Commented Dec 27, 2023 at 17:18
  • 1
    @RabbiKaii indeed it is quite paradoxical. Though there is the concept of a murderer that 'steals a life'. This too is applied to situations of danger as well. Where Hashem let's nature take it's course, and being that we have free will, we can get ourselves killed without completing our quota of time on earth (whatever that means). You can argue that everything is predetermined, but subjectively a life was cut short
    – Shababnik
    Commented Dec 27, 2023 at 20:39
1

Radak seems to explain the pasuk in Shemuel as saying that the fellow dying in war is dying due to sin and not randomly (as per the sefer haikkarim), and presumably would have died even if not in battle.

רד"ק שמואל א כ"ו:י או במלחמה ירד ונספה – ונספה טרם יומו הקצוב לו, כי באלה שני הפנים ימות אדם טרם יומו: או בחולי או בחרב, וזו המיתה בעבור עון גדול מעון מי שמת בחולי טרם יומו.

1
  • Not sure how Radak would explain the concern in the Torah (Devarim 20:7) about possibly dying in battle vs staying alive if one abstains from war if one only dies from sin even during battle and would ostensibly die due to sin even while staying home
    – Nahum
    Commented Dec 27, 2023 at 19:55
0

The Zohar (Vayeshev P. 185) establishes that God chooses to not thwart human freewill easily; He intervenes more readily when only natural forces are in play. Thus, in battle, where so many humans are intent on killing each other, a large degree of chaos is to be expected.

ו "וישמע ראובן ויצילהו מידם" (בראשית לז, כא) כתב: מכאן אמרו, יפיל בר נש גרמיה לאשא או לגובא דנחשים ועקרבים, ולא יתמסר בידא דְשַׂנְאוֹי, דזעירין אינון דיכלי לאישתזבא."'and Reuben heard and saved him from their hands.' From here they said that a son of man should throw himself into fire or a pit of snakes and scorpions rather than be handed over to his enemies, for few are able to be saved [from the latter]."

The Neztiv (Genesis 37) underscores that God can intervene anytime but has set up the rules of the cosmos so that when A wishes to harm B it will take some additional merit on B's part for that divine intervention to occur than if B was facing lions, and tigers, and bears ....

ואמנם חלילה לומר שאין ביד ההשגחה העליונה לשמור גם מבחירת האדם. אלא כך יש לנו לומר דלזה בעינן זכות יותר. However, [God] forbid to say that that divine supervision does not have the hand/ability to guard [a person] from man's freewill too. But we will say that for this a greater merit is necessary."

The Talmud in Chagiga:

אֲמַר לֵיהּ רַב בִּיבִי בַּר אַבָּיֵי: אִית לְכוּ רְשׁוּתָא לְמִיעְבַּד הָכִי? אֲמַר לֵיהּ, וְלָא כְּתִיב: ״וְיֵשׁ נִסְפֶּה בְּלֹא מִשְׁפָּט״? Rav Beivai bar Abaye said to the Angel of Death: Do you have the right to act in this manner, to take someone before his time? The Angel of Death said to him: And is it not written: “But there are those swept away without justice” (Proverbs 13:23)?

Rabbeinu Chananel:

ופתרון יש נספה בלא וגו' כגון אדם שהרג חבירו.The explanation of 'there are those who are swept away [without justice]' is FE a man kills his friend."

Again, battle involves a huge quantum of human killing intent ...

2
  • @ Rabbi Kali agreed.
    – GratefulD
    Commented Jan 15 at 12:51
  • I'm aware of the general discussion regarding if folks can intentionally harm others, with, as you say, zohar and R"C opining that they can and with Chovos halevovos and Sefer hachinuch holding that folks cannot. My question relates specifically to during war
    – Nahum
    Commented Jan 15 at 13:45

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .