In the book about Reb Aryeh Levin, "A Tzaddik In Our Time," (by Simcha Raz), Reb Aryeh says that he learned a lesson about self-sacrifice (messirut nefesh) from 2 students of the Vilna Gaon who were brothers. One of the brothers was dying of an illness, and the other brother prayed to God to save his brother's life through giving his reward in olam haba for his special mitzvah of tzitzit to his brother. The brother recovered and lived another 15 years.

Assuming that one can actually give away their olam haba, where does the Torah teach that one can do that merely to save another Jew's life in this world?

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    One is obligated to do anything to save another's life, save for the three cardinal sins. It seems reasonable that this would apply to this case as well. Otherwise the list would get longer; the three cardinal sins, or giving away a mitzvah.
    – mevaqesh
    May 5, 2016 at 1:25
  • @mevaqesh: You may argue that giving away your reward in the next world is a form of suicide (and included in murder). Also, it may not be on the list because the list may not be exhaustive (we don't learn from generalizations); or, because olam haba is something that is beyond our physical world and not within the realm of 'actions' done. What I mean is: You can do anything to save a life, even by dying, but to give up your purpose for existence just so that someone can perhaps gain purpose to their's by living longer, seems irrational to do. I like your answer though. May 5, 2016 at 1:50
  • @Emetv'Shalom Your purpose of existence is to get Olam HaBa??? What a sad existence. הוו כעבדים המשמשין את הרב, על מנת שלא לקבל פרס
    – Double AA
    May 5, 2016 at 2:05
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    @DoubleAA: That is our purpose, although we should try to serve selflessly because that is the highest level. Living for the next world is also a much higher level than living for reward in this world. May 5, 2016 at 2:06
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    I thought an answer may be that you should love another fellow so deeply that you would be willing to do such a thing for them, but it really is not what rationally should be done. I do not believe that Hashem would actually take away your reward for doing such a good thing for another fellow. Even if the transaction went through, it would be kind of the recipient to 'return' the favor by giving it back. It also may be that the merit that saves the other person is just the fruits of your mitzvah, and not the principal reward in the next world, so nothing is really lost in actuality. May 5, 2016 at 2:09

2 Answers 2


First of all, there is something Chazzal called an עבירה לשמה a violation with good intention, see Horios 10b and Nazir 23b. That act is juxtaposed with the opposite act, a fulfillment of a commandment with bad intentions. Hashem actually rewarded people for doing something wrong when their intentions were correct. (Please, any sabateans, don't misuse this concept). So even if your question is correct and somebody should not give up Olam Habaah to 'merely' save someone's life, he definitely shouldn't be surprised if he gets rewarded for it. I really don't think Yael (if we assume she was Jewish and relevant to this discussion) was expecting a great reward for sleeping with Sisra. She was probably assuming she would be punished (I.e. loose Olam Habaah) for that act. Ok, seven acts. And yet she was in fact rewarded with greater praise than the four mothers. (See later the Esther caveat, it applies here too).

In a similar vein when making the deal you mention, the person would only be trading his Olam Habaah he had earned up until that point. Ok. Clean slate. But now, he has the mitzvah of saving a life on his plate, which is like saving an entire world! I'd call that an upgrade for sure. (Unless this person has saved other lives beforehand. Than his Olam Habaah would probably stay the same. But as a free bonus, he saved someone's life!)

Next, since in your comments you have linked this to a type of physical suicide, i would point out that certain types of shortening of one's life for the sake of granting someone else life are not uncommon in Chazzal. Adam HaRishon gave away seventy years of his life to David HaMelech (Pirkei DiRabi Eliezer 19). I will suggest Esther's act as a source for this as well, at least as Targum understands her words in Esther 5 16 כאשראבדתי אבדתי, she was expecting to die saving the nation. (although one can argue a major difference was that there she was trying to save an entire community).

Also, the fact that you wrote 'merely' about saving someone's life is a bit telling that you don't give life the same exalted status as Hashem and Chazzal did. Perhaps delve into the subject and this question will no longer bother you. One starting point would be in the Igros Moshe who went wild on Reb Shlomo Kluger for suggesting one may avoid saving someone's life if it would embarrass the one doing the saving. (Remember, embarrassing someone is like killing them.) Sorry about the Mussar. Please don't downvote just cause of this. (shameless. I know)

  • I meant spiritual suicide, not physical. Also, I said 'merely' to underscore that olam haba is worth more than olam hazeh, because olam hazeh is only a means to get to olam haba. May 10, 2016 at 21:29

The Baal Shem Tov once gave a man a berachah he would have a child.

A bas kol came out and said, I have to be meshaneh sidrei bereishis to be mekayem your berachah (the man was an akar), so you loose your chelek in olam habah.

The baal shem told the man, boruch hashem the berachah will be fulfilled and now I can serve Hashem lishmah.

Another bas kol came out and said, because of your response you get your olam habah back.

  • Do you have a source that this story is true?
    – Double AA
    May 10, 2016 at 0:58
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    Even if this story were true, and even if the bas kol is a valid source of pesak, we still don't have an answer to the OP's question, since the story does not state that the Baal Shem Tov knew that he would lose his share in the world to come.
    – mevaqesh
    May 10, 2016 at 2:03

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