Better Dead than Alive? A Tale from the Haredi Zone

The ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Israel never cease to take the Jewish imagination to places   where no rabbi has ever gone before. A case in point: One Israeli Haredi rabbi, Dovid Kornreich, thinks that homosexuals are better off dead than alive. In one of his popular blogs (his blogspot is called “A Voice from the Wilderness”), the rabbi offers a third possibility for Orthodox Jews who are struggling with their homosexuality—how about trying suicide?

To make his idea more appealing, Kornreich says that such behavior would be permitted provided that person commits suicide “al kiddush HaShem” as a means of sanctifying God’s Holy Name

Sounds pretty weird, no?

Well, the 18th century American philosopher Jonathan Edwards once wrote, “Even the Devil can cite Scripture for his purposes …” Actually, the Devil can even cite Talmud, Maimonides, and Jewish law as well!

Rabbi Kornreich doesn’t seem to realize the every human life is precious and of inestimable value. God created every person to be a unique expression that serves to glorify His Presence in the world. In Judaism, our Sages teach us that the true sanctification of God’s Name does not come with death, but with life. Suicide—even for religious purposes—only applies when the person is confronted by a disease or circumstance that threatens to debilitate the human spirit through a life of intense suffering.

In the case of Samson’s suicide (Judges 16: 30), Samson preferred to destroy himself in order to sanctify his God before the pagan Philistines. Given the choices Samson had, he did not wish to be tortured any further by the enemies of his people.

Thus, when King Saul saw the Philistines approach him, he asked his armor-bearer to kill him, so that he would not be tortured by the enemy in their pagan shrines. However, his armor-bearer refused. In the end, the narrator relates: “So he took his sword and fell on it” (1 Sam. 31:4).

According to the Talmud, After the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, the Roman soldiers gathered four hundred youths  in Israel and sent to Rome on ships. The children realized  that they would become victims of immorality and abuse at the hands of their Roman captors. They decided it would be better to take their own lives than be  sexually degraded by their new masters.  And so it was, they jumped into the sea and died (T.B. Gittin 53b). Continue reading “Better Dead than Alive? A Tale from the Haredi Zone”