Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

18 Adar 5764 - March 11, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Suicide Bombers vs. Kiddush Hashem

By HaRav Chaim Charlap

Suicide bombers seem to come in swarms, like flies. There seems to be no end to them. What is their secret? Why is it seemingly so easy for them to give their lives for their "homeland"? From where do they take their heroism? Why is it that for Klal Yisroel giving up one's life for Kiddush Hashem is so scarce and precious?

The answer lies in understanding the meaning of sacrificing one's life for Kiddush Hashem. In order to give one's life for Hashem, one must first understand and appreciate the importance of life. One who doesn't appreciate life isn't sacrificing anything by giving it up. The more one values life, the greater the sacrifice.

At first glance, the two sound like a contradiction: How could someone who appreciates life, give away his life? The answer is found in the words of Chazal in Pirkei Ovos (4:16): "This world is like a lobby before the World to Come. Prepare yourself in the lobby so that you may enter the banquet hall." If the purpose of our coming to this world was to enjoy ourselves as much as possible, then it would not make sense to sacrifice our life for anything. However Chazal tell us that this world is nothing more than the preparation for the World to Come, by doing the will of Hashem.

Sometimes, but only sometimes, the will of Hashem is to sacrifice our life for His will. Not only is it not a contradiction, but on the contrary, doing otherwise would be contradictory because our whole purpose in this world is to perform His will.

Sacrificing one's life al Kiddush Hashem doesn't mean blowing oneself up together with innocent men, women and children. That is merely suicidal, and hence the term "suicide bombers." In Jewish law committing suicide is a sin, no matter what the motivation for the action. Nothing can justify giving up one's life like that. Such a person is not even allowed to be buried in a Jewish cemetery.

A person who places no value on life, has no place among the dead. A cemetery is a holy place. It is a place where people come to pray for their life. Therefore, one who does not value life, has no place in a cemetery.

Only one who truly realizes and values the importance of life as a preparation for the World to Come is capable of sacrificing his life for the will of Hashem. Thus we only find this self-sacrifice by truly righteous people.

This is in contrast to the Arab who blows himself up together with innocent children, and who really does so out of frustration and total lack of placing any value in life. He is not sacrificing anything, because for him life has no value. Therefore you won't find any of their intellectuals committing suicide in the name of their religion. They are not willing to sacrifice anything.

With this we can understand the gemora in Brochos (61b) that tells us the chilling tale of R' Akiva's sacrifice for Kiddush Hashem. When he was brought out to be executed, and his skin was raked with metal combs, he happily accepted upon himself the yoke of Hashem and said, "My whole life I have yearned for the opportunity to sacrifice myself for Hashem."

This is the way of life of the righteous, yearning a lifetime to merit the opportunity to sacrifice oneself for Hashem.

It is a way of life that a non-Jew cannot fathom. For them there is no greater contradiction: to yearn a lifetime for death? Only one who realizes that the sole purpose of life in this world is as a preparation for the World to Come, is capable of yearning to sacrifice his life in the Name of Hashem.

This is the life of tzaddikim, who prepare themselves for the World to Come. Their whole life revolves around the day of death. As the gemora tells us in Shabbos (153a), "R' Eliezer said, `Repent one day before departing this world.' His talmidim asked, `How is a person supposed to know his day of death?' R' Eliezer answered, `Then let him repent every day lest he depart the world tomorrow.' "

Preparing oneself for the World to Come does not only entail a willingness to give up one's life al Kiddush Hashem. It also entails a constant awareness of our purpose in This World.

The Brisker Rov zt"l was known to put his finger into the fire of Havdoloh on motzei Shabbos in order to get a taste of the fire of Gehennom. Chazal tell us that our fires are one sixtieth of the heat of the fire of Gehennom.

HaRav Gifter zt"l, the Telzer rosh hayeshiva, wrote his will more than forty years before his petiroh, asking his talmidim to learn for his neshomoh in order to minimize the fire of Gehennom for him.

HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel zt"l, the Mashgiach of Lakewood, once gave a powerfully parable. The gemora in Sotah (46b) tells us of the city called "Luz" in which the Angel of Death had no control. The older people would simply leave the city to die when they had no more will to continue living.

One time a resident of Luz met a resident from a different city. In the course of their conversation the resident of Luz realized that it was only in his city that people lived as long as they pleased, whereas in other cities people lived no longer than seventy or eighty years. He said to the other person, "I'm sure that in your city people don't spend their time building large houses, for your life span is a mere eighty years."

To his astonishment his acquaintance told him that not only do they build large houses, they also spend lots of time furnishing the house. The Luz resident could not believe his ears and considered those people insane.

The Mashgiach told us: "Our problem is that we live within the borders of an eighty year life span, thinking that it is an endless period of time. Only a resident of Luz is capable of realizing the silliness involved in wasting our precious time."

However one should not make the mistake of thinking that living a life in preparation for the World to Come is a life filled with sadness, depression and deprivation. The exact opposite is true. If one realizes that this world is just a preparation for the Next World, then most of his problems disappear. Such a person does not get aggravated over every little argument or problem. Such a person does not demand respect. Blessed is the one who lives like this.

HaRav Chaim Charlap is rosh yeshivas Bais Zvul. This essay is adapted from his sefer Ohr Chaim on avodas Hashem.

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.