Similar but an extension of Killing Civilians in a defensive war

On September 11, 2001, there was a military pilot in an unarmed military jet who considered flying into one of the hijacked planes in order to prevent it from hitting anything and killing any additonal people

While she would have been removing the imminent and clear mortal threat, she also would be inevitably killing the civilians on the plane, plus herself. These civilians can not be considered guilty co-conspirators (as some of the answers to the related question characterize civilians in war time).

Would her actions have been considered a sanctioned act of rising up to kill a rodef (does it make a difference that she was not in danger, but others were?) or did she not have the right to take other lives (possibly as related to Sanhedrin 74a: "It happened with Rava: A man came to Rava and told him that the governor of the city had ordered that he (the man) slay a certain man or himself suffer death, and Rava said to him: 'Rather than slay another person, you must permit yourself to be slain, for how do you know that your blood is redder than his, perhaps his blood is redder than yours?'")

  • 1
    Great question. An idea, a foetus before thstep in which his head get out, when the birth can kill the mother is called rodef an would be destroyed. But after the exit of the head, when each of them, mother and child, is as a rodef, we don't salve nefesh tachat nefesh. But here, logically it is different, people in the plane would Vaday be killed anyway, but people in th building may remain alive if the pilot fight the plane, so this action willbe only positive. Its a mitsva
    – kouty
    Sep 14, 2016 at 18:13
  • 1
    בעזרת ה׳, may we be zoche never to be in a situation where this question might be applicable! Sep 14, 2016 at 18:24
  • See this article by R. J. D. Bleich, and the comments of Dr. Shapiro here in footnote 33.
    – mevaqesh
    Sep 14, 2016 at 18:33
  • It seems relevant to ask if the military pilot was Jewish or non-Jewish. The mitzvot related to a rodef are incumbent on Jews. Non-Jews don't have that obligation to my knowledge. Sep 15, 2016 at 0:46
  • 1
    In a hypothetical case, make the pilot Jewish. In the real case, I don't have the answer to that.
    – rosends
    Sep 15, 2016 at 1:18

1 Answer 1

  • This question is highly interesting and leads to halachical study about several dinim in Mishna and Gemara.

    1. Rodef: Torah allows and commands to kill someone who is about to murder someone else.
    2. The rule of rodef applies even if the killer is not responsible for this action (e. g. a child).
    3. In certain situation, there is a choice to deliver it to the murder one specific person only or several persons.
    4. In certain situations, a man needs to be killed to avoid delivering someone to death.
  • Let's examine some sources.

    1. Mishna Sanhedrin 8, 7: we need to save somebody life by killing his chaser.
    2. Gemara Sanhedrin 72b: R' Huna said: A minor in pursuit may be slain to save the pursued.
    3. If each side presents a danger for the other, Mishna Ohalot, 7, 6, concerning a dangerous childbirth: Once his head has come forth, he may not be harmed, because one life may not be taken to save another.
    4. Mishna Terumot 8, 12: Women, who are told by gentiles "Give us one of you to defile. If not, we will defile all of you," they should allow themselves all to be defiled rather than give over a single soul of Israel to.
    5. Tosefta Terumot 7, 23: A group of Jews who was told by gentiles "Give us one of you to kill. If not, we will kill all of you," they should allow themselves all to be killed rather than give over a single soul to. Rabbi Yehuda described the case: He is protected in a close room and they are outside. But if he an them are in the same room, they must to surrender him because he will be killed in both cases. So says the book of Samuel "Then the woman went to all the people in her wisdom. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and threw it out to Joab." The wisdom was to say "In one case he is killed and you are killed, you can surrender him to kill and you will not be killed. But Rabbi Shim'on's does'nt agree and think that they surrend him because he was already sentenced to death (This is treated in Talmud Yerushalmi)
    6. Yerushalmi Trumot 8, 4 (47a), a discussion the same case is discuted between Tana Kama and Rabbi Shim'on, about the wisdom explained by the Tana Kama of the Mishna. At the first glance, the reasoning of Tana Kama and Rabbi Shim'on are combined by Resh Lakish, may be that for R. L. the argument of Rabbi Shim'on is also taken into consideration by Tana Kama.
    7. Rambam Mada Yesode Hatorah, 5, 5 stated as Resh Lakish, and Rashi (Sanhedrin 72b), seems to think that it is a discussion in Bavli between Rav Huna and Rav Chisda concerning Rodef. Rav Chisda follows the Resh Lakish svara and Rav Huna the Rabbi Yochanan Svara. So the "hostage" in the case of the Tosefta in Trumot is considered as an innocent Rodef. But following Rambam, Nezikin, Rotseach 1, 7, the cases are not similar.

Let's examine a case in which the pilot can shoot down the plane without killing herself. The Tosefta of Teruma is not relevant according to the Rambam because it is a case of Rodef. To fight seems to be a duty, despite the stringency of Rambam in the case of the Brayta in Trumos.

In the case in which she needs to kill herself, the Mishna in Ohalot seems to prohibit this. We need to add that the count of persons seems to be irrelevant, according to the Mishna and Tosefta in Terumot.

This answer is only the seeds of a reflection, the first steps after the question, to clarify the problem and initiate the study of Rishonim.


You must log in to answer this question.

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