I recall a kina in which the children of R' Yishmael (haKohen Gadol) are put in a dark room together and forced to have relations. At the end of the kina, they recognise each other and kill themselves.

I also have a hypothetical extension of this:

If a person is taken and forced to have illicit relations (without the option of death) should they actually take their own life after the fact? Would incest be different from the other categories of arayot in this regard?

  • 1
    "have illicit relations (without the option of death)" Is that possible?
    – Double AA
    Commented May 15, 2016 at 5:25
  • @DoubleAA, I wanted to leave the question open-ended, but the original scenario was of rape or physical confinement in such a way as to make killing oneself impossible. I also did not want to make the question itself darker than necessary, so I figured it would be better to leave that out. Commented May 15, 2016 at 5:28
  • 1
    I mean that literally. I don't know that that is possible. Note "relations" without an erection is not prohibited for a man, and a totally passive woman may not be liable either (cf אסתר קרקע עולם)
    – Double AA
    Commented May 15, 2016 at 5:29
  • Putting the story aside, according to the Rambam, any time a man has relations as the בועל it's voluntary for the man. I haven't looked up the meforshim. Either way, I don't see why they'd be justification for someone to kill themselves which is an aveira just because they did another aveira. It's not preventing anything
    – user613
    Commented May 15, 2016 at 6:56
  • 1
    It should also be noted that although suicide was practice by some German Jews, the vast majority of halachic sources (actually all of the m AFAIK) indicate that this is unacceptable. To justify these events, the Germans had to dig up every obscure Midrash at their disposal; hardly the normal halachic methodology. R. Dr. Haym Soloveitchik sees this as a typical example of Talmudic halacha being bent by the Ashkenazim to fit it with popular practice.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented May 15, 2016 at 21:40

2 Answers 2


Regarding your initial assumptions:

1) I recall a kina in which the children of R' Yishmael (haKohen Gadol) are put in a dark room together and forced to have relations.

As noted by @kouty there is no indication that they actually had relations.

2) At the end of the kina they recognize each other and kill themselves.

As noted by @kouty there is no indication that they kill themselves.

That being said, the question still stands:

If a person is taken and forced to have illicit relations (without the option of death) should they actually take their own life after the fact?

Regarding forced relations in particular, this likely does not even enter the discussion of yehareg v'al yaavor, since it the victim is a passive participant, then the victim is not considered to have performed any act; sin, or not. (Cf. Sanhedrin 74a).

That being said, the question still stands: is suicide permissible, or even encouraged after performing a cardinal sin?

From everything we know from the rulings of the Talmud and Geonim, suicide is always forbidden (cf. Masechet Semachot ch. 2, Maimonides' Hilchot Avel 1:11, and Hilchot Avel 5:1-4).

Probably influenced by certain tragic events in the First Crusade, certain Tosafists (Sefer Mitzvot Katan #3, see here) decided on the basis of questionable aggadic evidence that preemptive suicide is actually permitted to prevent one from violating cardinal sins.

None of this pertains to suicide after a sin.

Although one can find a source for anything "in Judaism", i.e. a great Jew who may have held an opinion, that does not mean that that is reflective of the Jewish position on the whole.

The lone view in this case is the Yaavetz who could be interpreted as permittng suicide after performing both cardinal sins, and any sins for which one is liable to the death penalty. (It should be noted that this came up as part of his primary discussion of abortion, which is much more lenient than general murder. His emphasis on the various views on abortion indicates that he likely does not really permit suicide in normal cases. Furthermore, it is not clear to me, how much of what he is saying is a limmud zechut; post hoc justification, and how much of it is l'chatchila)

However, whether he intended this or not, this wild view was rejected in the strongest possible terms by countless successors.

For example, R. Moshe Feinstein writes in Igrot Moshe (CHM 2:69):

והנה בשאילת יעב"ץ ח"א סימן מ"ג ראיתי דברים שלא נתנו להאמר...וממש דברים בטלים הם אף שכתב זה אדם גדול כהריעב"ץ,

He describes the statement of Yaavetz, as one that is forbidden to even be mentioned, which constitutes utter "devarim b'telim" a derisive term for useless words.

Accordingly, in no uncertain terms, regardless of the dispute regarding preemptive suicide, it is unquestionably a grievous sin to commit suicide after one has committed a cardinal sin (involving incest, or anything else), a sin liable to death, or any other sin.

It would be an ironic double tragedy, for as noted by R. Yechiel Michel Tukatchinsky (Gesher HaChayim ch. 25) death usually brings atonement for sins. How tragic would it be if the death itself was self-inflicted, thus failing to bring atonement and indeed incurring further punishment.

As an aside obviously many if not most suicides are the result of mental illness. In such circumstances, the one who commits suicide suffers from mental illness, and inasmuch as he was not in control of himself, he would not be considered the perpetrator, but the victim.

  • If you want link for the SMAK --> beta.hebrewbooks.org/…
    – kouty
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 5:51
  • @kouty Thank you very much. Hopefully I will edit it in.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 5:53
  • The Kovets Shitot Kamae is a very very good book that contain a lot of rishonim and Geonim from books not on the Daf and he rewrited them very good. You may work hours with this.
    – kouty
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 6:02
  • This Yaavets is a metsia! Shkoyech. I wondering if he quote the Gemara of the כובס in Ketubot. I have a Pshat for this Gemara, it is not on Kidush Hashem Spectrum. but has a common denominator with Kidush Hashem
    – kouty
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 17:36
  • @kouty Again to clarify I am not at all sure that he even meant it, as I mentioned. Rav Moshe and many others said he made a tragic mistake. I am hesitant to even quote it; don't want anybody getting the wrong ideas..
    – mevaqesh
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 23:44
  1. The kina (kina 23, quoted bellow) talks about a brother and his sister in captivity with different owners. . The owners bring together the two young slaves, for reproduction.
    Q` Would incest be different from the other categories of arayot in this regard?--> `
    Heterosexual intercourse between single sibling are not punished by death penalty, but marriage do not be effective so this is a case of Yehareg veal yaavor (to die rather than transgress)[3].
  2. However, those who violated this rule (of yehareg veal yaavor) are not punished by the tribunal[1].
  3. Q``` and forced to have relations ```
    The kina of Tish'a beAv told us that they cried all night until dawn. No one walked into the room. Clearly, they did not commit prohibited intercourse (sibling had no sex).
  4. The Rambam quoted below rules that a posteriori, the tribunal does not punish people who have transgressed Yehareg veal Yaavor, so if the tribunal does not punish, of course they are not required to commit suicide[4].

Rambam Mada Yesode Hatora, 5, 4

וכל מי שנאמר בו יהרג ואל יעבור ועבר ולא נהרג הרי זה מחלל את השם. ואם היה בעשרה מישראל הרי זה חילל את השם ברבים ובטל מצות עשה שהיא קידוש השם ועבר על מצות לא תעשה שהיא חלול השם. ואעפ"כ מפני שעבר באונס אין מלקין אותו ואין צריך לומר שאין ממיתין אותו בית דין אפילו הרג באונס. שאין מלקין וממיתין אלא לעובר ברצונו ובעדים והתראה שנאמר בנותן מזרעו למולך ונתתי אני את פני באיש ההוא מפי השמועה למדו ההוא לא אנוס ולא שוגג ולא מוטעה. ומה אם עבודת כוכבים שהיא חמורה מן הכל העובד אותה באונס אינו חייב כרת ואין צריך לומר מיתת בית דין.‏
When anyone about whom it is said: "Sacrifice your life and do not transgress," transgresses instead of sacrificing his life, he desecrates [God's] name. If he does so in the presence of ten Jews, he desecrates [God's] name in public, nullifies [the fulfillment of] the positive commandment of the sanctification of [God's] name, and violates the negative commandment against the desecration of God's name.

Nevertheless, since he was forced to transgress, he is not [punished by] lashing, and, needless to say, is not executed by the court even if he was forced to slay [a person]. The [punishments of] lashes and execution are administered only to one who transgresses voluntarily, [when the transgression is observed by] witnesses, and [when] a warning [was given], as [Leviticus 20:5] states concerning one who gives his children to [the worship of] Molech: "I will turn My face against that person."

The oral tradition teaches [that we can infer]: "that person" and not one who is forced [to transgress, who transgresses] inadvertently, or [who transgresses] because of an error. If, concerning the worship of false gods, which is the most serious [of sins], a person who is forced to worship is not liable for cut off, nor, needless to say, execution by a court, how much more so [does this principle apply] regarding the other mitzvot of the Torah? [Similarly,] regarding forbidden sexual relations, [Deuteronomy 22:26] states: "Do not do anything to the maiden."[1] [2]

Kina 23 (the source is Gemara Gittin 58 a**)

וְאֶת נָוִי חַטָּאתִי הִשְׁמִימָה וְדִמְעָתִי עַל לֶחְיִי אַזְרִימָה וּבְיוֹם זֶה נְהִי וְנִהְיָה אָרִימָה וְאָהִימָה מִיָּמִים יָמִימָה

אֶבֶל לֵב וְנִחוּם חָדַל חָדוֹל וּמִכָּל כְּאֵב צִירִי נִבְדַּל בָּדוֹל עַל בֵּן וּבַת רִבִּי יִשְׁמָעֵאל כֺּהֵן גָּדוֹל זִכְרָם יְקוֹד בִּלְבָבִי אָשִׂמָה וְאָהִימָה מִיִּמִים יָמִימה: ‏
Son and daughter of Rabbi Yishmael Kohen Gadol.
עֵת נִשְׁבּוּ וְנָפְלוּ לִשְׁנֵי אֲדוֹנִים וְהֵם שְׁכֵנִים זֶה לְעֻמֶּת זֶה חוֹנִים וַיְסַפְּרוּ זֶה לָזֶה עִנְיָנִים זֶה אָמַר מִשִּׁבְיַת צִיּוֹנִים שָׁבִיתִי שִׁפְחָה לְכוּשַׁת שָׁנִים כַּלְּבָנָה בְּזִיו וּקְלַסְתֵּר פָּנִים וּבְתֺאַר כִּקְצִיעָה וִימִימָה וְאָהִימָה מִיִּמִים יָמִימה: ‏
They were captured and purchased by two different owners.

רֵעֵהוּ סִפֶּר לוֹ בַּכִפְלַיִם וַאֲנִי בָא מִשְּׁבִי יְרוּשָׁלַיִם שָׁבִיתִי עַבֶד יְפֵה עֵינַיִם כּשֶּׁמֶשׁ בְּתָקְפּוֹ עֵת צָהֳרַיִם וְסַהַר עֵת זְמַנָּהּ הִשְׁלִימָה וְאָהִימָה מִיִּמִים יָמִימה:‏
They decide to coupling their slaves for reproduction.
בֺּא וּנְזַוְּגֵם וְנַחַלְקָה בֵּינוֹתַיִם בִּוְלָדוֹת כְּמוֹ כוֹכַבֵי שָׁמַיִם לְשֵׁמַע זֺאת תִּצַּלְנָה אָזְנַיִם לְזֵכֶר זֺאת אֶת מַדַּי אַפְרִימָה וְאָהִימָה מִיִּמִים יָמִימה:‏

כְּהִסְכִּימוּ עַל זֺאת שְׁנֵיהַם יַחַד לָעֶרֶב זִוְּגוּם בְּחֶדֶר אֶחָד וְהָאֲדוֹנִים מִבַּחוּץ לִבָּם כְּאֶחָד וְהֵם בּוֹכִים בְּמַר נֶפֶשׁ וָפַחַד עַד בֺּקֶר בְּכִיָּתָם לֹא הִדְמִימָה וְאָהִימָה מִיִּמִים יָמִימה:‏
They place them in a single room and the owners wait outside.
זֶה יִסְפּוֹד בְּחִיל לֵבָב יִמְסֶה נִין אַהֲרֺן אֵיךְ שִּׁפְחָ יְהִי נוֹשֵׂא וְהִיא גַם הִיא תְּיַלֵל בְּתִגְרַת שׁוֹסֶה בַּת יוֹכֶבֶד אֵיךְ לְעֶבֶד תִּנָּשֵׂא אוֹי כִּי זֺאת גָּזַר אוֹמֵר וְעוֹשֶׂה לְזֺאת יִבְכּוּעָשׁ כְּסִיל וְכִימָה וְאָהִימָה מִיִּמִים יָמִימה:‏
Slaves do not recognize one another in the dark and cried all night, how is it possible to marry a slave (a non Jew)? they do not touch one another.
אוֹר בֺקֶר זֶה אֶת זֶה כְּהִכִּירוּ הוֹי אָח וְהוֹי אָחוֹת הִגְבִּירוּ וְנִתְחַבְּקוּ יַחַד וְנִתְחַבָּרוּ עַד יָצְאָה נִשְׁמָתָם בִּנְשִׁימָה וְאָהִימָה מִיִּמִים יָמִימה:‏
In morning they recognize one another and sadness killed them.
לְזֺאת יְקוֹנֵן יִרְמְיָה בִּשְׁאִיָּה גְּזֵרָה זֺאת אֲנִי תָּמִיד בּוֹכִיָּה וּבִלְבָבִי יֵקַד יְקוֹד וּכְוִיָּה עַל בֵּן וּבַת מִסְפֵּד רַב אַעֲצִּימָה וְאָהִימָה מִיָּמִים יָמִימָה אָרִיד בְּשִׂיחִי וְאָהִימָה וְקוֹל נְהִי אָרִימָה: ‏

The spectrum of Arayot for Yehareg Veal Yaavor is treated bellow

[1] For the boy, according to Rambam Issure Biah 1, 9 (build on Gemara yebamot 53b) the intercourse is not considered as forced (See Tosfot for more developments). Following Rabenu David even with ones bet din can kill them with witnesses and Hatraa (warning).
The Ran Sanhedrin 74a wrote that Widow for Kohen Gadol is Yaavor Veal Yehareg because there is only a Lav. he spoke about prohibition for Man. A special case is the case of Natan Ben Tsutsita daf 75b, chachamim did not allow him to watch a woman, celibate, following one opinion. This was banned to stem the problem of shamelessness. But "meyikar Hadin" it was allowed. If someone did not resist and made the Avera, Tosfot in Yoma 82a explains that from the verse of Naara Meurasa we can understand that the sinner is not punished because he did that because of the Ones
[2] For the girl, she does not do any action, and because we consider it passive as the earth (See Tosfot chachme Anglia who says: whom read Tehareg is wrong...) so there is no "Yehareg".
[3] Sefer Hachinuch, mitsva 296 wrote that we learn from Naara Hameurasa (as the paradigm of Arayot for Yehareg Veal Yavor), and added in name of his Rabbi that all relationship between man and women they do make a valid marriage ( kiddushin Tofsin) are not Yehareg Veal Yaavor. Non-Jewish. So Nidda is an exception: despite the Kareth nidda is not Yehareg veal yaavor according to this opinion. But in Chidushe Haran, all Karet is included (including nidda) are Yehareg Veal Yaavor. Anyway, for the female side, the sister is Karka Olam and besides, following Rabenu Tam (9nt line "והא"), there is no problem of Yehareg without public (farhesia) with Beilat Akum (she was believing that the boy was a non-Jew). But for the boy, Beylat Aramit may be Yehareg Veal Yaavor (see [this](https://judaism.stackexchange.com/a/73994/9215) post note (1))
[4] See my post about suicide [here](https://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/70692/sources-that-discuss-reasons-for-the-prohibition-on-suicide) and see there the reference of Bedek Habait.

Q should they actually take their own life after the fact? -->

In Halachic literature, almost no one discuss (After the answer of @mevakesh I see that one (She'elat Yaavets, I, 43) this. The main topic of the shut is a case of abortion. This text is VERY INSTRUCTIVE despite that Rav Moshe Feinstein denigrates it very strongly. But we may not forgot that the purpose of the shut is to allow a request for abortion for a woman pregnant from illegitimate union. The Yaavets wanted only be "melamed zechut" to people which practiced abortion in such terrible cases. He specified also that he feel not entitled to give this psak Halacha Lemaasse.) to the duty of suicide (Gemara in Ketubot talks about a suicide a posteriori but not in Kiddush Hashem spectrum. {I see that the She'elat Yaavets quoted it}) and a fortiori to the duty of suicide after a retrospective discovery of th error. By the way, and this is the main answer, the case of the kina will be a classical case of Shogeg when a prohibited relationship is discovered afterward. and the atonement (kapara) is a sacrifice (Korban Chatat), no more.

Cases of Suicide directed By Teshuva

Bereshit Rabba Parasha 65, piska 22

בראשית 27, 27: וַיִּגַּשׁ֙ וַיִּֽשַּׁק-ל֔וֹ וַיָּ֛רַח אֶת-רֵ֥יחַ בְּגָדָ֖יו וַֽיְבָֽרֲכֵ֑הוּ וַיֹּ֗אמֶר רְאֵה֙ רֵ֣יחַ בְּנִ֔י כְּרֵ֣יחַ שָׂדֶ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר בֵּֽרֲכ֖וֹ יְהֹוָֽה:

דבר אחר: וירח את ריח בגדיו ויברכהו -- כגון יוסף משיתא, ויקום איש צרורות. ‏
And he could smell the odour of his clothes and blessed him. For example Yosef Meshita and Yakum Ish Tsrorot.
יוסף משיתא. בשעה שבקשו שונאים להכנס להר הבית, אמרו: יכנס מהם ובהם תחלה. אמרין ליה: עול, ומה דאת מפיק, דידך! נכנס והוציא מנורה של זהב. אמרו לו: אין דרכו של הדיוט להשתמש בזו, אלא עול זמן תנינות, ומה דאת מפיק, דידך! ולא קיבל עליו.‏
Yosef Meshita: At the time that enemies wanted entering Har Habayt, they ordered him to enter and said: "Enter, what you raise is your". He entered and raise the gold Menorah. they said, this is not adapted for a simple man. Enter a second time and what you raise is your. He didn't agree.

אמר רבי פנחס: נתנו לו מכס ג' שנים ולא קיבל עליו. אמר: לא דיי שהכעסתי לאלהי פעם אחת, אלא שאכעיסנו פעם שניה?! מה עשו לו? נתנו אותו בחמור של חרשים, והיו מנסרים בו. היה מצווח ואומר: ווי, אוי, אוי, שהכעסתי לבוראי!‏
They offered him a big rewarding. He refused. The were condemned to torment and he died shouting his regrets.

ויקום איש צרורות היה בן אחותו של ר' יוסי בן יועזר איש צרידה, והוה רכיב סוסיא בשבתא. אזל קומי שריתא למצטבלא. אמר לו: חמי סוסי דארכבי מרי, וחמי סוסך דארכבך מרך. אמר לו: אם כך למכעיסיו, ק"ו לעושי רצונו! אמר לו: עשה אדם רצונו יותר ממך?! אמר לו: ואם כך לעושי רצונו, קל וחומר למכעיסיו!‏
Yakum Ish Tsrorot was a sister's son of Yose Ben Yoezer. He went on horseback at shabbat. He crucified Yossi Ben Yoezer and said him: "Look at the horse that gave you your master and the horse that gave me my master." Yose Ben Yoezer anwsered: "If this is for those that make Him angry, particularly for those that do His will "

נכנס בו הדבר כארס של עכנא, הלך וקיים בעצמו ארבע מיתות בית דין: סקילה, שריפה, הרג, וחנק. מה עשה? הביא קורה, נעצה בארץ, וקשר בה נימא, וערך העצים והקיפן גדר של אבנים, ועשה מדורה לפניה, ונעץ את החרב באמצע, והצית האור תחת העצים מתחת האבנים, ונתלה בקורה ונחנק. קדמתו האש, נפסקה הנימה, נפל לאש, קדמתו חרב, ונפל עליו גדר, ונשרף. נתנמנם יוסי בן יועזר איש צרידה, וראה מטתו פרחה באויר.‏
The words penetrate him as a snake venom. He made on itself 4 death punishments.... {he commit suicide}

אמר: בשעה קלה קדמני זה לגן עדן:‏
YBY said he preceded me one hour in gan Eden. ‏

He made Teshuva, suicided and get Gan Eden! But this is not on Kidush Hashem spectrum, it is similar as the suicide of the Koves in Ktubot explained in the post about suicide. ______ ** אמר רב יהודה אמר רב מעשה בבנו ובבתו של ר' ישמעאל בן אלישע שנשבו לשני אדונים לימים נזדווגו שניהם במקום אחד זה אומר יש לי עבד שאין כיופיו בכל העולם וזה אומר יש לי שפחה שאין בכל העולם כולו כיופיה אמרו בוא ונשיאם זה לזה ונחלק בוולדות הכניסום לחדר זה ישב בקרן זוית זה וזו ישבה בקרן זוית זה זה אומר אני כהן בן כהנים גדולים אשא שפחה וזאת אומרת אני כהנת בת כהנים גדולים אנשא לעבד ובכו כל הלילה כיון שעלה עמוד השחר הכירו זה את זה ונפלו זה על זה וגעו בבכיה עד שיצאה נשמתן ועליהן קונן ירמיה (איכה א) על אלה אני בוכיה עיני עיני יורדה מים
  • 1
    There seem to be several factual errors in this answer. See chat.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 15:57
  • @dov R Elozor ben durdaya killed himself and was even called rebi in Avoda zoro
    – interested
    Commented Sep 2, 2020 at 12:53

You must log in to answer this question.

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