Re: Dying "al kiddush Hashem"

Daniel Malament (
Fri, 28 Feb 1997 01:23:23 -0500 (EST) wrote:
> There are many stories of people standing up to the Nazis even
> for small mitzvos. For example washing ones hands before eating. There
> are stories of people who died for these and other such mitzvos. Isn't
> there a rule that a person is only obligated to allow himself to be
> killed for the _BIG THREE_? How can one then allow himself to be killed
> for something else? I am not talking about the people killed just for
> being Jewish, these people had a chance to survive and gave it up for a
> small mitzvah, and I thought that requirement was only by the _BIG
> THREE_? *
> [* The three cardinal transgressions, concerning which one must forfeit his
> life rather than commit, are idol worship, forbidden sexual relationships,
> and murder.]

This is true only in a time that is not "a time of sh'mad" - a time of
persecution for the nation as a whole. In such a time, or if the
attacker is specifically telling one to do something because it is
against Jewish Law, one may not violate even the slightest rule - even,
says the Talmud (or is this only in Rashi?) the rule about the way of
tying one's shoelaces.
[According to the Shulchan Aruch, one is supposed to put on first one's
right shoe, then one's left, then tie first the left, then the right
shoelaces. The origin of this custom (for such I assume it is, as
opposed to an actual full mitzvah) is presumably Kabbalistic in nature. --DM]

[It is because we are to give preference to the right side, but tying is an
exception because of Tefillin. So this is a "Mitzvah Kallah," a very minor
thing with a slight "Jewish touch" to it. This is the opinion of Rashi
concerning what the Talmud means when it says we must give up our lives
over shoelaces.

Rabbeinu Tam goes still further - he says even if the Jews wear white
laces, and everyone else black, in a time of persecution we would have to
give our lives "al kiddush HaShem." --YM]