Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Va'etchanan
To dedicate this lesson
Vaetchanan 5778

At The Shabbat Table


Rabbi Daniel Kirsch

Av 14 5778
"And you shall greatly guard your souls…" (Devarim 4:15)

All for One?
Aryeh sat at his desk, diligently working on his latest assignment. He took his job, as an agent at the Israeli Security Agency, very seriously. Which is why, when he was urgently called into his supervisor’s office, Aryeh couldn’t imagine what the man wanted from him. In fifteen years of his work at the ISA, Aryeh had never been called in to his supervisor, like this.
Aryeh hurried down the hall, his heart beating wildly. He was sure that he was about to be told that he had lost his job. He knocked hesitantly on his supervisor’s door. "Enter!" commanded the voice within. Aryeh had barely managed to sit down, when his manager started to speak. "How would you like to go to Hong Kong for us?"
"Whaaat!?" stammered Aryeh, struggling to integrate the words that his ears had just heard.
"I got an urgent request to find a new bodyguard for our prime minister. The prime minister is due to leave for Hong Kong in a few hours. I’ve been reviewing the work that you’ve done for us, and I believe that you would be an excellent candidate for the position. Of course, you understand that, as the prime minister’s bodyguard, should any attempts be made on his life, it would be your responsibility to intervene, and, if necessary, take the bullet, in his place."
Aryeh resumed breathing, as he took in the information which he had just heard. On the one hand, this was a very exciting development. This would be a definite advancement in his career, on the other hand, was he even allowed to take a position in which he might be required to take a bullet for another person?
"So?" his supervisor interrupted Aryeh’s reverie. "Will you take on the assignment?"
"Well," began Aryeh. "I would have to check with my rabbi first, and I’ll get back to you."
"Alright. Get back to me within 2 hours."
With that, the meeting ended. What should Aryeh do? Is he allowed to take a position in which he might be required to die in place of someone else?

Rabbi Asher Weiss, shlita:

The basic question is: Is one permitted to sacrifice his own life in order to save the life of another person?
The Gemara, Baba Metzia relates a disagreement between Rabi Akiva and Ben Petora. The two sages discussed how a person should act if he and a friend are alone in the desert, and one of them possesses sufficient water to keep only one of them alive. Ben Petora states that he should share the water with his friend, and hope that both of them will live. Rabi Akiva on the other hand, maintains that the owner of the water should drink all of the water, as the verse states "your brother shall live with you," indicating that "your life takes priority over the life of your friend." And the law is according to the ruling of Rabi Akiva.
However, in the book Rishon L’tzion, written by the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh, it says that even though Rabi Akiva does not require the owner of the water to share with his friend, Rabi Akiva would still say that the owner is permitted to share the water.
Ultimately, the law that we follow is not in accordance with the position of the Rishon L’tzion, and a person is not allowed to endanger himself in order to save his friend.
Having said that, it still seems that Aryeh is permitted to take the job. This is because the position of presidential bodyguard appears to be one of the safest jobs…
Let’s consider the fact that four American presidents were assassinated, and none of their bodyguards were injured. Additionally, there was an assassination attempt on another president, and his security personnel were also unscathed. One of the popes was shot, and where was his bodyguard? An Israeli prime minister was shot, and he was surrounded with security personnel, and nothing happened to them.
This is because, in today’s world, by the time people realize that something is taking place, it has already happened. Therefore, I rule that Aryeh is permitted to be a presidential bodyguard.


The following question is l’ilui nishmat (lit: for the elevation of the soul of) Rabbi Sraya Devlitzky, zt"l, who passed away last week. The question is taken from his excellent book Zeh Hashulchan. In his book, Rabbi Devlitzky raised fascinating questions for discussion, and deliberately left them unanswered. Nevertheless, we presented the following question to Rabbi Dov Lior, shlita, and Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, shlita, and present their answers, below.

In a Pickle
Shiri was hurriedly preparing a meal for her family members, who were scheduled to get home in just a few minutes. She reached into the cabinet for a can of pickles, yet the cupboard was bare. There were no pickles. How would Shiri make her signature salad without pickles?! Frantically, Shiri dashed across the hall, hopeful that her neighbor Tamar would have a can of pickles to spare. Can in hand, Shiri rushed back to her kitchen, and opened the can of… pickled eggplant!
Shiri gasped. She checked the label, sure that her neighbor had accidentally handed her the wrong can. And, yet, there was the label, clearly indicating that the can contained pickles!
Shiri heard the front door open, and the voices of her children, approaching her. Oh well, they would just have to have salad without pickles.
When the meal ended, Shiri went back into the kitchen, and looked for the customer satisfaction hotline number, listed on the can. After a few minutes on the phone, she hung up, satisfied that the company had been notified of the error.
A few days later, a package arrived at her door, with a note attached, which read:
Dear Valued Customer,
We deeply regret any inconvenience caused to you, as a result of the error regarding which you notified us. We take great pride in our products, and do our best to ensure that these errors do not occur. We greatly appreciate that you took the time to call us, to help us make our great products even better. Therefore, we are sending you a free case of cans, containing an assortment of pickles and olives, to help offset any inconvenience which you might have experienced. We look forward to continuing to provide you with quality pickled goods in the future.
Shiri hurried over to Tamar’s house to share the good news. She related to her neighbor the story of the missing pickles, the unwanted eggplant, the phone call to the company, and the newly acquired pickles and olives. "And it’s all thanks to you!" Shiri added. "Because you lent me the can of pickles, now I have all of these new cans!"
"I’m glad it worked out in the end, Shiri." Tamar paused. "But don’t you think that the compensation for the mistake goes to me? After all, I’m the one who bought it."
Who is right? Do the new cans belong to Shiri or Tamar?

Rabbi Dov Lior, shlita:

Shiri and Tamar should each take half of the cans. The reason is that the compensation is a result of the purchase of Tamar, in combination with the efforts of Shiri, to contact the company.
Similarly, Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, shlita, states that it appears that when Tamar gave the can to Shiri, it was a gift based on a mistaken premise. Tamar intended to give a can of pickles to Shiri, not a mislabeled can of eggplant. Shiri should have returned the can to Tamar, because Tamar never intended to give Shiri the product which Shiri actually received. On the other hand, because it was Shiri who actually found the mistake and called the company, she also deserves some share in the compensation. Therefore, Shiri and Tamar should evenly divide the cans between them.

Summary: Shiri and Tamar should each take half of the cans.

Translated from Hebrew by Avigail Kirsch
את המידע הדפסתי באמצעות אתר