If a group of people are in mortal danger, all of the same gender (cf. Horayot 13a; some suggest that the Mishnah on Horayot is not discussing a case of rescuing from physical danger, cf. Tziz Eliezer vol. 18 §1) and age group, and are not all able to be rescued simultaneously, accordingly to the Halachah how is it determined who to rescue first?

An example of such a situation, and the decision that inspired this question, is the current situation of the young Thai soccer team who are submerged in a maze of caves filled with water with escalating water levels and decreasing oxygen supply. Media outlets reported that the governor of Chiang Rai ordered that the healthier players will be rescued first.

According to this essay, it would seem that R. Eliashiv would instruct that a lottery be drawn in such a situation. From a responsum of R. Feinstein (Iggros Moshe vol. 7, CM §73:2) it would seem that the individuals who have a higher chance of living should be rescued first. However, in our particular case, at least in our hypothetical, none of the members are terminally ill.

Related: partial reasoning of R. Feinstein's opinion on this case

Related: a broader question

  • 1
    Your "According…" paragraph sounds like it should be an answer post rather than in the question.
    – msh210
    Jul 10, 2018 at 5:37
  • I'm looking for a more sourced and thorough answer, which that cited essay falls short of. (Even R. Feinstein's resp., which isn't entirely comparable, is mainly m'svara d'nafshe.)
    – Oliver
    Jul 10, 2018 at 14:49
  • @Oliver - In this case there were at least two more factors to consider. 1 -There was also a danger in the evacuation itself. 2 - There was a chance to strengthen the boys left behind and lower their risk. Would this change the comparison to Rav Elyashiv and Rav Moshe? Jul 10, 2018 at 20:51
  • @פריזהב 1. Not sure how this would affect our essential question; it's related to a question about putting oneself in danger to save other/s. 2. Indeed, that's part of why I don't think those opinions are comparable.
    – Oliver
    Jul 10, 2018 at 21:00
  • Who's one to decide? If the boys - everyone rightfully claims my life first! If the crew - they have no way of properly evaluating them.
    – Al Berko
    Jul 10, 2018 at 21:27

1 Answer 1


I"m surprised that you didn't quote the end of that Mishna in Horayot 13a that a Talmid Chacham comes before an Am Haaretz... I would therefore pasken that they shall see who of them has the most knowledge of Torah he should be saved first etc. I must add that someone with more knowledge comes before the one who is more sharp (see end of horayot סיני ועוקר הרים סיני קודם). Reminding me that I"ve always wanted to open a community where one may only live in it if he is a Baki in the entire Shas! PLZ comment if you're intrested in working with me on this project!

  • Welcome to MiYodeya and thanks for this first answer. Since MY is different from other sites you might be used to, see here for a guide which might help understand the site. Great to have you learn with us!
    – mbloch
    Mar 17 at 4:20
  • Seemingly, the question was what to do after we exhaust the formal rules of precedence like this.
    – Double AA
    Mar 17 at 16:08
  • I was wondering, if there is a good way in times of distress where time is limited to be able to determine the levels of each of them in their learning. Mar 17 at 17:08

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