The Divrei Torah in this section have been translated by Rav Reuven Ungar, Director of Alumni Affairs
Sanctification of The Name- To What Degree? Part 2
By: Rav Noam Koenigsberg
Summary of Part 1: The halacha of forfeiting one's biological life rather than committing one of the three cardinal sins of idolatry, sexual immorality and murder-yehareg ve'al yaavor (YVY) can be explained by two distinct views. The severity of these sins removes the normal command of preserving one's life (pikuach nefesh) or the commandment of sanctifying The Name (Kiddush Hashem) generates the halacha of YVY. The Rambam apparently adopts the second approach. Therefore, if in a case of duress (ones) an individual committed the sins he is not subject to the normal punishments for these sins. The failure to fulfill the commandment of Kiddush Hashem does not generate a death penalty.
Yet, the Rambam rules in the fifth chapter of Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah, halacha six, that an ill individual who heals himself with wood that stems from a tree used for idolatrous purposes (ashera) receives the "appropriate punishment". If the in generating factor of YVY is the requirement of Kiddush Hashem, why does an individual who has failed to fulfill Kiddush Hashem liable to be receive the severe punishments associated with the three cardinal sins?
HaGaon Rav Kapach of blessed memory comments that perhaps the Rambam refers to lashes (malkot) of a rabbinic origin. If the Jewish court of law (Beit Din) understands that the individual was not truly under duress (ones) he is liable to receive lashes. If this is indeed the intention of the Rambam it should be mentioned explicitly.
The Pri Chadash suggests that illnesses do not contain clear and present dangers. Similarly, the cures are not necessarily effective. Thus the clause of ones is invalid; the individual should refrain from transgression the prohibition. Failure to do so warrants the "appropriate punishments".
Perhaps the clearest distinction is provided by the Ohr Sameach. He maintains that the desire of an individual to attain a cure for his illness is markedly different than avoiding the wrath of a gentile who coerces him to violate prohibitions of the Torah. An individual who murders a fellow Jew to avoid his own death is executing the desire of the coercive gentile; the action of the Jew qualifies as ones. An external force motivated his actions. However, an ill person who seeks a cure is motivated by his inherent desires. Thus the individual is culpable for his actions.
This distinction is illuminated by Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. When a person is coerced to hand over an item, the transaction is invalidated. This is due to the lack of consent of the owner of the item. If an ill individual acquires a cure that ultimately is proven to be ineffective the sale is valid. The duress of an illness prodded the individual to acquire the medicine; yet the factor that motivated the acquisition stemmed from within the individual. Thus the acquisition is considered his desire. Similarly, curing oneself with forbidden objects constitutes a manifestation of the desire of this person. Consequently he is accountable for his actions.
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