[Avodah] big 3

Zev Sero zev at sero.name
Wed Jul 15 07:03:18 PDT 2020

On 15/7/20 5:50 am, Rich, Joel via Avodah wrote:
> We learned that there are three mitzvot that a Jew is always required to 
> give up his life for rather than violate the transgressions of idol 
> worship, murder or forbidden sexual relations. Is there one overarching 
> theme that links these three transgressions that explains why these and 
> not others (e.g. shabbat, brit)?

I don't believe there is.  These three are not worse than other sins. 
E.g. murder is only an issur hereg, and is therefore *less* severe than 
any issur skila and sreifa. So the term "Big 3" is a misnomer; they're 
in the category for being big.

And they didn't all get in to the category in the same way.  Avoda Zara 
comes from the pasuk "venikdashti".  Murder comes in from the svara of 
"mai chazis".  And all the arayos come in because of the pasuk that 
compares eshes ish to murder, so they are included in the "mai chazis" 
even though that svara doesn't apply to them!  Which is very strange.

Then there are other mitzvos that also *obviously* override pikuach 
nefesh, so obviously that they don't need to be listed, such as 
milchemes mitzvah.  (For that matter, since one is required to go even 
to a milchemes hareshus if the king conscripts one, that too must 
override pikuach nefesh.   And obviously war overrides venishmartem.)

Bris also involves a certain level of risk, and historically it was just 
accepted that a certain number of babies will die from it, and that we 
have to accept this.  So to that extent it also overrides pikuach 
nefesh, until the risk rises high enough to change that.  Losing one 
child obviously increases the probability of there being a genetic 
defect in the family, and yet it is not enough to cancel future brissen 
in that family.  Only a second loss does that.

Then we have a pasuk that earning a living justifies taking certain 
risks with ones life; while I wouldn't call this overriding pikuach 
nefesh or venishmartem, it obviously puts a limit on those principles 
that many people don't consciously acknowledge.

Zev Sero            Wishing everyone a *healthy* and happy summer
zev at sero.name       Seek Jerusalem's peace; may all who love you prosper

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