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The Gemara (Sanhedrin 74a) derives that one must give up his life to avoid idolatry from the passuk in Va'Eschanan (Devarim 6:5):

ואהבת את ה׳ אלקיך ... בכל נפשך

You should love HaShem your G-d ... with all your soul

One is enjoined to love HaShem - i.e. not to replace Him with another (Rashi) - to the point of giving up one's soul.

According to the way Rashi seems to understand the Gemara, the derasha seems flawed, though: if one serves under duress, he's not "replacing" HaShem. He still loves Him; he's just doing what he can to live. His allegiance is still to the True G-d. Should V'chai Bahem not still apply in this case?

  • "if one serves under duress, he's not 'replacing' HaShem." You're assuming he'd just be going through the motions and still he should rather die. Is that so? – Double AA Jul 5 '17 at 15:21
  • @DoubleAA That is indeed my assumption. If you can disprove that, that would sufficiently answer the question. – DonielF Jul 5 '17 at 15:24
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    Wouldn't it make more sense to just ask about that case before asking about the particulars of the Drashas? Just replace the last paragraph with something like "Now, if someone stuck a gun to my head and told me to bow to a statue of a fish, even if I did it it wouldn't be because I was rejecting God and thinking the fish was powerful. It would just be to convince the guy with the gun to leave me alone. Would such an action really qualify as a rejection of God such that I'd have to give up my life?" – Double AA Jul 5 '17 at 15:28
  • @DoubleAA It seemed logical enough to me that one should give up their life in that circumstance with the comparison to the other yaharog v'al yavor cases, where intent doesn't matter - the guy's dead, the guy had bi'ah, the guy committed a chilul HaShem. To me it doesn't seem like a question, but if you want to ask it, feel free. – DonielF Jul 5 '17 at 15:33
  • Well now you know it is an issue and you can better assess the order you should ask your questions in. See Kereitot 3a and Sanhedrin 61b to start. – Double AA Jul 5 '17 at 15:35
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See Rambam's Sefer HaMitzvot, aseh 9:

והמצוה התשיעית היא שצונו לקדש השם והוא אמרו (אמור כב) ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל. וענין זאת המצוה אשר אנחנו מצווים לפרסם האמונה הזאת האמתית בעולם ושלא נפחד בהיזק שום מזיק. ואע"פ שבא עלינו מכריח גובר יבקש ממנו לכפור בו יתעלה לא נשמע ממנו אבל נמסור עצמנו למיתה ולא נתעהו לחשוב שכפרנו ואע"פ שלבנו מאמין בו יתעלה

...The content of this mitzvah is that we are commanded to publicize this true belief in the world, and we should not fear the damage of anyone inflicting damage. Even if a strongman asks of us to deny God's name, we must not give in, but instead give ourselves over to die, and not deceive [the strongman] to think that we have denied, even though in our heart we still believe in Him.

  • This doesn't answer the question. "And not deceive him to think that we have denied" - well, why not? One is allowed to lie because of eivah. – DonielF Aug 6 '17 at 5:10
  • I actually think that this rambam helps a lot. The purpose of our lives is seemingly to provide honour to heaven (see last mishna in Avos, every day we also say 'ברוך הוא אלוקינו שבראנו לכבודו'). Appearing as though we are serving another god is a terrible defacing of the aforementioned honour. Therefore, if one had to appear as though he is serving another god, his life has lost all purpose and it is better that he die. – Moshe Steinberg Aug 6 '17 at 7:48
  • @DonielF because of Kiddush Hashem - one is not allowed to mislead someone into thinking he accepted avoda Zara mishum eiva. See also Yoreh Deah 157:2 for a similar halacha he.m.wikisource.org/wiki/שולחן_ערוך_יורה_דעה_קנז_ב – wfb Aug 6 '17 at 17:04
  • @wfb That's a pretty important halacha. If you edit that in, I might just give you a checkmark. As an aside, according to those who hold Christianity is AZ, are you telling me that generations of anusim were oveir such a severe halacha? – DonielF Aug 6 '17 at 17:13
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    @DonielF I have in fact heard of the Spanish Inquisition. What I have never heard of is a defense of the actions of the anussim from the perspective of halacha. – wfb Aug 7 '17 at 18:45

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