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Saving Men Before Women?

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Rabbi Ari Shvat

Kislev 17, 5781
Question
Hi, A question came up tonight in my social psychology college class. If a man has a son and a daughter in danger but can only save one, he is supposed to save his son. My question is as follows: 1. Is that true? 2. What is the source?
Answer
The source is the Mishna in Horayot 3, 7-8, but there are many complex factors involved, and R. Moshe Feinstein (Ch.M. I, 74; ii, 73) and the Tzitz Eliezer (vol. 18, 1), undoubtedly considered among the greatest modern poskim who both dealt with the question at length, both decided that the doctors must objectively make the decision based upon the accepted medical aspects. The bottom line, is that almost always, you save the person who is closest or most "save-able", and don't include the gender factor. The Mishna there says that if all factors are exactly equal (almost never the case, in the modern world), you save a kohen before a regular man, and a man before a woman, because they can respectively do more mitzvot, but on the other hand, in practice, women tend to be more religious than men and often do more mitzvot than men, and that would change the aforementioned halacha accordingly. Say theoretically (for it's very difficult to measure one's religiosity), that they are both exactly religious to the same extent, we must remember that the essence of this world, as opposed to the world to come, is that here we have free-will and can do mitzvot, to prepare for heaven. The Maharal (Drashot, end of Be'er HaGoah, p. 26), Rav Hirsch (on Vayikra 23, 43) and Rav Kook (Shmoneh Kvatizm 1, 421 et al), all explain in different places and stress that women are naturally more spiritual than men (as I, or anyone who has taught both, can clearly attest!). Accordingly, God keeps men on a "tighter leash", as opposed to women who don't need as many mitzvot to reach the same spiritual level, and don't need to prepare as much in this world of mitzvot, and can advance quicker to the main worlds (!), the world-to -come (both in the world of the souls, and afterwards, in the resurrection of the dead).
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