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The Gemoro in Kiddushin 81b brings down the following (shortened version of the) story:

Rabbi Chiya Bar Ashi used to say 'May God save me from the Yetzer Hora'! When his wife overheard him she said he is anyway old already, why does he need to pray such? She dressed herself up as a prostitute and paraded in front of him. She told him she was a famous protistute who had just returned from overseas. He requested relations with her and she said 'first fetch me that pomegranate'. Meanwhile she dissappeard. When he came home he went and sat in the oven. When his wife asked him what he was doing he told her the story. She then told him not to worry because it was herself anyway, and he only believed her after she proved it with Simonim. However he fasted the rest of his life to repent on trying to do an aveirah.

Rashi says why did he sit himself in the oven? 'To kill himself'!

Can we deduce from here that Rabbi Chiya Bar Ashi held it is permitted to kill oneself to atone for a sin? If so, would it follow that he would hold it is permitted to kill oneself prior to sinning in order to avoid a sin if that is the only way?

Please note that all Halachic decisors from later generations to today agree that the Halacha is that it is forbidden to kill oneself, and no one should assume the law is otherwise based on this story. This question is to understand the implication of R' Chiya Bar Ashi's actions only!

  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/14477 – msh210 Jul 13 '12 at 3:42
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    It is important to remember the distinction between halacha and aggada. – mevaqesh Jun 2 '16 at 6:21
  • Your title does not match your question. This Gemara has nothing to do with avoiding a sin in the first place, but rather repentance as you yourself note in the body. – user6591 Jun 2 '16 at 18:09
  • I was taught that the rabbi sat not in the oven, but behind it, which is very cramped and dirty but not dangerous. – Clint Eastwood Jul 3 '16 at 13:18
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    Another Rabbi does this when propositioned by a matron to remind himself of the fires of gehinom. He states that explicitly in the gemara, I believe. perhaps that is what is happening here? – Baby Seal Oct 23 '16 at 17:13
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In yesterday's daf yomi I think was mentioned the shlah proves from this gemara you can commit suicide to attain atonement.

The wife was obviously pretty stupid.

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    When you write "yesterday's daf yomi" think about readers 2 months from now ... do you mean Kiddushin 80? (not even sure since I don't what time zone you are in) – mbloch Jun 2 '16 at 8:25
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This is an important question, there are several examples of Rabbis that "Teshuva killed them". We see the case cited (BTW, in the Translation it seems that of the statement "עד שמת באותה מיתה", is missing "until he died from this death"). The case of the nevew of Rabbi Yosse Ben Yoezer Ish Tsereda Bereshit Rabba 65, 22, the case or Rabbi Eliezer Ben Dordea Masechet Avoda Zara 17b and the case of the Coves (fuller) Masechet Ketubot 103b

  1. See this post in the paragraph "cases of suicide directed by Teshuva";
  2. See this post in the paragraph "a surprising Gemara in Ketubot" with the note number 4;

For a righteous men, errors may be painfull to the point that they cannot go on living because of pain. Nobody has suggested that they have to suicide, or that suicide is a good option. Suicide in this case is only a testimony of pain generated by remotness from truth. This pain demonstrated that Rav Chyia bar Ashi loved truth. Suicide was due to pain . I mean that because of his love of truth, he became felt a moral pain and committed suicide by "Oness" . I added this explanation because of an user feel that at first glance something is self contradictory. the explanation is now clear I hope.

There are cases of suicide because of shame, even if the "suicided" has not commited any error; Berachot 23a:

For a certain student once left his tefillin in a hole adjoining the public way, and a harlot passed by and took them, and she came to the Beth ha-Midrash and said: See what So-and-so gave me for my hire, and when the student heard it, he went to the top of a roof and threw himself down and killed himself.

This was shame only, the student was clean, nothing to do with a problem of Teshuva.

But it seems that the Gemara in Kiddushin shows that Rav Chyia bar Ashi did repent and felt ashamed. The shame was not necessarily, from a logical point of view, linked with teshuva. But he was known as a big Tsadik. Thus, according to the rule of "Kaf zechut" we conclude that he died because shame and pain generated by Teshuva.

The source of dying because of Teshuva is in Gemara Avoda Zara 17b, concerning Eliezer Ben Dordea. Despite that he did not suicide, we see that the pain of the regret generated his dead. Pain can also lead to suicide, a suicide by "Ones" .

suicide if that is the only way to keep from sinning?

--> no

that one opinion allows for suicide

--> wrong

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