Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sinning for the Sake of Heaven

Most of the explanation of why Yonah ran away, assume that he did so for nobel reasons: i.e. he would rather sin than bring harm onto the Jewish nation. This type of action is generally refereed to as a "חטא לשם שמים" – literally “a sin for the sake of heaven.” (Rav Eliyahu Dessler explains the sin of אדם הראשון as another mistaken application of חטא לשם שמים.) Clearly, Hashem in this case felt that Yonah was wrong. Are there ever any circumstances where a person would be justified in violating the Torah for a noble purpose? If so, how are those circumstances different than the case of Yonah?

25 Comments:

Blogger Yoni Krestt said...

Let me know if you have problems with the Hebrew.

September 14, 2006 9:50 PM  
Blogger Arella said...

The only other instance where a person disobeys a commandemnt from Hashem for a noble purpose that I could think of is Moshe striking the rock. Though Hashem told him to only speak to the rock, Moshe hits it-twice (just to refreshen everyone's memory.....). What both instances have in common is that both Yonah and Moshe took drastic measures for Bnei Yisroel's good. Yonah wanted to ensure their safety, and Moshe wanted to supply them with water. If I were Moshe,( haha the thought...) and i was surrounded by a gazzilion people spazzin about lack of water, and after following Hashem's orders to speak to the rock didn't work-i highly doubt that i would have acted differently. Yet what differentiates between the two cases is the prophets' motives. Yonah ran away in hopes of saving Bnei Israel-thereby emphasizing complete selflessness in that he'd rather die than endanger Bnei Israel. Yet Moshe's action, (despite his outstanding virtue of humility and selflessness), is simply a reflection of his anger, frustration, and deteriorating ability to lead the nation. We know this because after hitting the rock he labels Bnei Israel negatively by refferring to them as "hamoriim" (how I remember this I have no idea-o wait-actually it's because of Mrs. Krestt's class last year!! hehe the ironay..anyways..). the difference between both circumstances is that one action reflected care for others and the other reflected frustration and self doubt.

September 17, 2006 11:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it hard to tell the difference between doing a sin for the sake of heaven and responding properly to Hashem's myriad of tests. There are many instances where great Jewish figures argue with Hashem to save people or to do what they perceive as being moral. This arguing is viewed as a positive action. One could view Avraham's haggling with Hashem over destroying Sodom as a sin, but on the other hand it was also a test of his kindness and devotion to even the greatest of sinners.
I personally find it hard to know when Hashem is testing a person to speak up and challenge His authority and not just blindly follow His commands. It is possible that Yonah thought that he was being tested by Hashem as Avraham was. However, I am not sure how running away would quite fit in with that. I think that Hashem wants people to actively think for themselves and if that means violating a small rule in the Torah for a noble purpose that would benefit the Jewish nation then so be it. However, I also believe that their are limitations on what can be violated for what outcome. Suicide bombings and other forms of violence are so egregious and outrageous that, no matter what the perceived outcome might be, they are completely unjustified. There are some things that are worth violating tiny rules/guidelines for, so long as the overall principles of the Torah and Judaism are not being violated. But, on the other hand, Hashem created all the rules in the Torah knowing what would eventually happen to His people. He probably would have addressed all possible moral dilemmas. [I hope that I haven't offended anyone in saying this - I am only referring to cases that have significant ramifications for the entire Jewish nation and future generations!]
- Rebecca

September 18, 2006 7:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if Hashem though that yonah's running awya was worng why would He help him go through with it? other than to learn a lesson. i think half of the reason Yonah was allowed to run away was to show us that there may be sometimes where one must risk death in order to do the right thing. we as jews are commanded to risk death in order not to do three things, worship avodah zara, have illigitimate relations, or kill. in all three it affects others negativly if we were to follow through with them [aka commit illegimate sexual acts, kill or do avodah zara] this story shwos to us that one must be willing to risk death for the good of others, although for the less holy [than yonah] it is on a much lesser scale [aka only for those specific things ]

~tamar

September 18, 2006 9:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When would a person be justified in violated the Torah for a noble purpose?
- Well, Pekuach Nefesh is one, but that's a given.
- I think the question really depends on who's code you are going by. Everybody thinks they are right, right? If you strongly beleive that the right thing to do is to defy the Torah, then you will go ahead and do it. You will think you are right no matter what.

September 19, 2006 8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Above comment is by Miriam... kind of posted before I mentioned that...

September 19, 2006 8:40 PM  
Blogger luna said...

this might not make sense... oh well. i think its okay to break the rules when a persons feelings are at risk. when i think about breaking the laws, i consider how the people around will feel or react to what im doing. like lying for example. sometimes i beleive its okay to lie to save someone from being hurt or offended. it depends what the circumstance is really. also with shomer negiyah. if somebody holds out their hand, refusing it would be considred offensive. i know thats a halacha actually but for me personally, if a boy touches me by mistake i dont neccisaraly tell him right away not to do it again, because he will feel bad. ooooookkayy
~ luna

September 20, 2006 8:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think every person holds their own story. Therefore, in every persons life they will be placed in a situation where they will need to ask themselves-is it appropraite to voilate the torah in order to do etc. I belive that there is one case where one person should voilate the torah besides for peukuat nefesh etc. I belive that if someone is going to get embarased if you do not, you should try your hardest of course not to violate the torah but if a sitaution presents itself where you must violate the torah or else someone will be embarsed, it is better to voilate the torah. B/c isnt it true that someone who embarases someone it is as if they have killed them? If so, it is better to do a transgression then to "kill" a person. But of course there are many cases in whcih it is not right to castoff what Hashem has told you.
But I also In Yonahs case, Hashem spicifically told Yonah to do something and he didnt listen to him bc he wanted to help Bnei Isroel. Which is in one hand very noble but on the other hand - serosily what was Yonah thinking? Going agasint Hashem? I think we need to look at the situation like this- Yonah is only Human and he was doing what he saw fit. It is not easy being a navi-so I think at some point we need to give a the guy a break. He had good intentions- whcih is very important. Didnt we jsut read today in shul on Rosh Hashana that Hashem can see our interntions and whether they were for good or for evil. And clearly Yonahs were for good which makes what he did seem like a much lesser transgression. So in many ways Yonahs travials are very simlar to what we face today- when is it or not appropraite to follow Hashem- and whether or not he had good interntions.
Shira Zurndorfer

September 24, 2006 9:41 PM  
Anonymous ally said...

To your question Are there ever any circumstances where a person would be justified in violating the Torah for a noble purpose? Cleary there are cases when a person can be excused for violating the laws of the Torah. If g-d forbid someone's life was in danger on Shabat, and your only option was to call the 911, would you choose to keep Shabat and just pray that the person will survive? Now, it is good to have faith in Hashem, but it is another thing to be naive about it. obviosuly, you are going to break Shabbat and call 911. In Yonahs case, he was doing just the opposite. He was running away from the commands of Hashem, parrarel to the person I was speaking of, who was trying to stay as close to Hashems commands as he could. The circumstances are different because in the first situation, you do not have Hashem guiding you, telling you if the right thing to do is call the police or wait untill shabat is over. In Yonah's case, he has Hashem telling him basiccally what to say to the nation, giving him an inkling ( i mightve made up that word its questionable) that he is clearly the right one chosen for this task. ok adios peace bye

September 24, 2006 9:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i dont think there is a clear (or any) cut btween when it is permissable to go against hashem l'shem shamayim and when it is not for u can rbign examples for both cases.
for example: when eliyahu during one of him miracles built a bama on the mountain (in order to show that his god=hashem will answer and those worshiipping avodah zara will not) even though it is against the torah and u r not allowed to build a bama outside the beit hamikdash, hashem still answered him, and eliyahu was not punished. this obviously is an example where it was permisable for eliyahu to violate hashem l'shem shamayim
however, u can also bring examples where it was not permissble. for example, miriam speaking lashon hara...she had only good intension of trying to get moshe and tzipporah back together, however even though she had good intentions she was still punished for speaking lashon hara and got tzaraat subsequently
(thse examples were with help of my sister)

but...as u can see sometimes one is punished for this and sometimes one is not, therefore there is not "cut" btween when it is ok to do so and when it is not.
however from the two different examples i brought above, there is a difference that may perhaps explain hashems different responses. i the case of eliyahu, he was violating/building a bama for the sake of kiddush hashem, he was showing/proving to those worshipping avodah zara that they have no god answering there prayers where as eliyahus god does answer and is existant. he did this, although in the process voliated the torah, for the sake of kiddush hashem and to stop avodah zara. however, in the case of miriam this is not so...mirian DID NOT speak loshon hara for any kiddush hashem. although she had only good intension in her speaking about moshe, it was no kiddush hashem that affected or spread god name through a vast majority of people like in the case of eliyahu.
u can not turthfully say that in such and such a case god will punish u and in such and such a case god will not punish you, becuase ultimately everything is up to hashem and he will decide what is wrong and what is not and we humans have no way of knowing this, i still think these two cases can make a slight cut.
however this also is no basis in saying u can violate the torah l'shem shamayim b/c in most cases it wont be, in gods eyes, worht it. i think eliyahu is more of an exception for he was such a tzadiik and therefore knew that hashem would answer his prayers even though he built the bama in a place where he was not supposed to.

now...connecting this to the case of yonah, clearly since we know the outcome of yonah getting punished, so clearly yonah did the wrong thing. in his spacific case, yonah sinned b/c he didd not go to ninveh, he was trieing to run away from nevuah which is clearly impossible, so he plan kind of backfired on him. hashem wanted ninveh to do teshuvah so it was going to happen either way and yonahs "running away" just prolonged the process. although yonah thought he could esacape hashem, it is impossible to do that which is why he got backfired on aka got punsihed. even though in the long run yonah had the intensions of helping bnei yisroel (b.c he knew ninveh would destpry them) hashem clearly wanted this to happen, so hashem would make it happen dispite wether yonah ran away or not. whatever hashem wants goes, so if u think about it yonahs running away for his reasoninng didnt actually accomplish anything the way he wanted it to.
-tova

September 24, 2006 10:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

holy cow i did not realize how extremely long my comment was!
--tova

September 24, 2006 10:49 PM  
Anonymous Shira M said...

I think there are many circumstances where a person is justified in violating the Torah. As Aviva (I think) wrote in a comment to a different blog, the Torah isn't all logic. Eventhough we might be commanded to do or not to do something there are always times where you can break that commandment. Saving a persons life of course is the major time when you could transgress the Torah, but even if a person is in the slightest bit of danger, it is better to save them and violate the Torah, then not to do anything. I think we have to be able to differentiate between violating the Torah and not. When a woman is about to give birth, you are allowed to drive on Shabbos to a hospital to deliver the baby. However, if a person saw another person in danger and was about to help them but heard Hashems voice, and Hashem told him not to, I think that person should listen to Hashem. This is the difference between just violating what the Torah says, and what Yonah did. Yonah violated what Hashem specifically told him to do. There is logic in that. If Hashem tells you to do something, you do it. However if you just see it in the Torah, there are usually exceptions to the rule. Clearly Yonah was wrong because he did not listen to what Hashem explicitly told him. Hashem knows what a person should and shouldn't do, and if he speaks to you and tells you to do something, obviously thats what you should do. Yonah, on the other hand, did not listen to Hashem.

-shimo

September 25, 2006 10:54 AM  
Anonymous Ray-Dott said...

Alrighty, so heres what I think:
It is definetly acceptable to "sin" or disobey a halacha leshaim shamayim in certain circumstances. For example, it is always acceptable to break shabbat for pikuach nefesh. Nevertheless, Yonah's case was completely different (though he was trying to accomplish some sort of pikuach nefesh) because he recieved specific instructions directly from God, the absolute authority. Hilchot Shabbat apply as a general rule to a great deal of people. Yonah's message was individualized, and more imporantly, a direct message from God. Basically, it is often okay to violate the torah for a mitzvah leshaim shamayim, but not in Yonah's case, since he recieved specific instruction from God. Hope that makes sense...by the way i didnt have time to read anyone elses, so sorry if im repeating someone elses idea...if i am.
Ray-D

September 27, 2006 7:18 PM  
Anonymous ray-d said...

okay i just skimmed some other comments and i think we all have the same point.

September 27, 2006 7:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's really important to go back to the questions here, especially the word "noble". So I looked it up and here's what I found: "of an exalted moral or mental character or excellence." I understand the bikuach nefesh examples brought by many of the previous comments, but I think those are less noble and more human instinct. Breaking Shabbat to safe a life isn't something expected of someone who has an especially high moral standard but refusing to worship avoda zarah on pain of death because of your beliefs is.
I therefore don't think there are any ways to violate the Torah for a noble purpose, because the Torah is a Divine document, not to mention, our moral code. So we're violating our moral code to be moral? It doesn't make sense.
Take the example I thought off immediately when I read this blog: Shaul and the Plishtim, when Shaul blatantly chose to ignore HaShem's via Shmuel's words because of what he thought to be a noble course. HaShem is ALWAYS right, and that's a pretty consistent pattern within Tanach. Even when HaShem changes HaShem's mind, the fact stands that its not that the previous view was wrong, but that the other one is new and improved, and is just a product of God's mercy.
Bringing it back to Yonah, I think Yonah is simply one in a pattern of Tanach characters who think they know better than God, and choose to act on that view. I think we should learn from Yonah this exact lesson, and use it in our daily lives. Just because we ourselves don't see the value of God's work, does that mean it's wrong and we shouldn't follow it? Yonah reminds me of so many of the people I met this summer who were exclusively immersed in their own views and ideas and values, and refused to accept anything that didn't make sense to them. It wasn't possible that a 17 year old maybe wasn't as sophisticated and developed and knowledable as thousands of years of documents.
Anyway thats my little thing against Yonah----def. not one of my favorite characters
-tali

September 27, 2006 10:42 PM  
Anonymous Eliana said...

I skimmed over everyone's comments and they all seemed to be saying what first came to my mind: the exceptions of Pikuach Nefsh. But to me, there seems to be a greater message/issue in Hashem's disapproval of Yonah's actions.

According to some Meforshim, a.k.a the Malbim and Rashi, Yonah ran away for the good of the Jewish people. He was trying to stop Ninveh from destroying the Jews, according to Malbim, and from making teh Jews look bad, according to Rashi.

Yet, God clearly says this is the wrong thing to do. No matter what his intentions were, Yonah was wrong for thinking he could escape God and the Nevuah.

This reminds me of the plays some of us are reading in AP lit: Oedipus and Anigone. In each, fate plays an extremely important role. The characters try to deny/escape their fate, but in the end this action really only ends up screwing them over, and causing their fate to happen anyway. The gods in these plays have a clear message: your fate is set, and you can't escape it; trying to escape it would be wrong, no matter the intentions.

Yet, in history, God has made it possible for jews to escape fate many times.Their fate was set; Haman had picked the day where they were to be killed. In esther , for example, God positions Esther in such a way that she can convince Achashverosh to kill Hamna and save the Jews. Then again, Esther tried to avoid her fate when she argues with Mordechai because she doesn't want to risk her lfie for the sake of the Jewish people.

Here, i think we can see the distinction. God allows for changes in fate when it benefits people/the Jewish people; but when it does not benefit them, or rather harms them, he does not allow for anyone to avoid their fate.

Yet, we still have the problem of Yonah having good intentions, and wanting to help the Jews.

I think the problem with Yonah was not the actual running away or avoiding the Nevuah. i think it was his lack of trust and faith in God. He believed God would allow Ninveh to destroy the Jews flat out; they would be extinct from the world. This shows a clear misunderstanding of God and his relationship with Bnei Yisroel. hte persecution by Ashor is just part of the bigger plan god has in store for the Jewish people.

THerefore, the difference between Yonah and everyone else is that Yonah didn't understand God or his intentions, while everyoenn else did.

look at me.. im such a frumah

September 28, 2006 12:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As previously mentioned, there are clearly cases where one may violate the torah. One example of this is when a life is in danger
(as I saw many people mentioned). This is clearly not the case when Hashem specifically tells you to not to do something. If we were on the level of our forefathers and received nevuot, if Hashem told us not to do something, we wouldn’t. Let’s say that Hashem came to us in one way or another and told us not to violate Shabbat in order to save someone’s life- since we just got a message from God we wouldn’t want to disobey his direct word. This is where Yonah’s case comes in. Yonah had a message from God to do something and decided not to. For some reason or another he felt that he had the upper hand in the situation and could decide to disobey God. He didn’t fully comprehend the situation or else he wouldn’t have tried to flee. What I mean by this is that Yonah didn’t understand that he couldn’t’ run away from God- either that or he just didn’t care. We learned that if Yonah really had heard what he was saying to the sailors-about Hashem controlling the land and the water- that he would’ve realized that his attempts were futile. He could’ve skipped a bunch of the steps and just gotten it over with a whole lot earlier. Instead he was challenging God. Whether or not he fully comprehended his actions is another question. Basically, Yonah was incorrect in his actions for he was telling God that he had control over the situation. We know though that Yonah did not have control or else he would’ve been able to escape from Ninveh and from the prophecy.

-Naomi Z

September 30, 2006 8:52 PM  
Anonymous Raquela said...

I had perviously read this post last week, and i honestly couldnt find an example without thinking of ways to contradict my theory. But today (yom kippur), a girl in my shul fainted in the middle of yizkor and a docter told the rabbi to call an ambulence. as i was watching the rabbi dial from the phone behind the aron i immeditaly thought that this is deffinately a noble purpose for violating the torah as not only was it yuntif, but it was yom kippur and the rabbi had no problem violating the torah to save a life. And while the torah is full of commandemnts of hashem including to keep the shabbat (or in this case yom tov)there are some circumsatnces where it is justified to break the Torah, but yonah wasnt breakign the torah, he was violating ha-shems direct word. Ha-shem gave yonah a commandment to go to ninveh and yonah knew what would happen if he were to do so, and ran away. But since Ha-shem gave yonah a direct commandemnt it is a different case than when one breaks shabbat or yom tov to save a life or for any other similar circumstances.

October 02, 2006 8:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alright, hope everyone had an easy fast. As I was reading over the blogs Pikuach nefesh was the main example of everyone's blog. Like Raquela at Beth Shalom this Yom kippur there was a real instance of pikuach nefesh. As i was sitting in the Mussaf services in the repetition of the amidah a man walked into our minyan from another minyan saying that there was someone that collapsed and the ambulance could'nt get through because someone's car was blocking the entrance to the shul. He then came back and said the car still had not been moved, the rabbi leading out minyan said "this is a matter of pikuach nefesh." This story is extremly relevant because the person whose car was in the way had to break their holiday in order to help save the life of the girl that collapsed. Therefore there are many times when we MUST trasngress in order to do some sort of noble deed even if we arebreaking one of Hashem's sacred commandments.
-Iris Wertheimer

October 02, 2006 9:05 PM  
Anonymous chavie said...

alrighty so i agree with mostly everone on the blogga. and yes, we're all gonna end up with the same opinions. I do think that violating shabbos to potentially save someone's life and not embarrassing someone when they touch your shomer highness are justifiable "violation situations". ha im a poet. However, Yonah wasn't given a choice. Hashem didn't say "by the way, i may throw in a little somethin somethin so you can violate my commandment and not worry bout it." Yonah had one thing to do and he ran away from it. Furthermore, Hashem obviously had a plan, and embarrassing his J peeps wasnt apart of that plan, so running away was definitely not a noble thing for yonah to do. In all fairness, though, Hashem is very forgiving, so for those of you who violate halachot with no excuses/justification (tsk tsk shame on you all) Hashem will fo sho forgive you--which he just did today so you can relax. peace sistas. and rabbi.

October 02, 2006 10:29 PM  
Anonymous Ayelet Goller said...

okay so I couldn't think of much of a great answer to Rabbi Krestt's question that hasn't yet been put out there by every one else, so I thought I would dicuss another issue that sort of relates to the roots of his question, so here it is: why did Yonah not at any point just stop, turn around and confess to Hashem as to why he doesn't want to go to Ninveh (and be an instrument of bringing destruction on his people) wouldn't that be a whole lot easier than running away and going into all this trouble and making Hashem angry surely Hashem as an all mericful G-d would understand? The only good answer I could think of to my question is the fact that we as future generations can use the book of Yonah as a Mashal to learn from and improve our own ways, but maybe you guys have a better more practical answer?

October 03, 2006 1:31 AM  
Anonymous TOVA said...

ok, so as practically everyone mentioned, yes u can violate the torah for pikuach nefesh and this is true, however the case of yonah is not pikuach nefesh. there is no danger that yonah is running away from. he is just simply scared in going to ninveh (for the different reasons we learnt in class as to why) however there was no life and death circumstance that he was avoiding by running away....which is what pikuach nefesh is. so one can say that u can violate the torah for pikuach nefesh however that still doesnt reason for yonah since it does not apply correctly to yonahs situation. therefore since u can violate the torah for a case of life and death, not only was yonah not a case of life and death and violated hashems direct words, not rly a law in the torah. since he violated hashems word, and this can not be reasoned with pikuach nefesh, thus hashem punished him.
yonah had the nevuah from hashem spacificly to go to ninveh and yonah (for wtvr reason) chose to ignore it. yes he clearly didnt agree with hashem in doing so, however hashem has his reasons and wether we understand it or not, agree with it or not, u still must do it, stiraght up, and due to the fact that yonah didnt, he got punished....i think its as simple as that. i dont think there is way to reason it which is why he got punished.
and in response to ayelet and to why yonah didnt just say to hhashem striaght out, i think this was becuase yonah didnt realize he was doing such a severe thing. yes he pruposely was trying to run away from hashem, but he thought it was ok, becuase of the miforshim we learnt in class about yonah not wanting to go (didnt think they would listen, he knew they would then go kill bnei yisrael etc.) he thoght his actions were ok therefore didnt bother with hashem, however we later on come to learn that it was not ok and subsequently yonah was punished

October 03, 2006 1:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i dont really know if pikuach nefesh counts as a circumstance where violating torah is necessary (besides for the three things u must die for), but i personally think that violating the torah for a noble purpose is still necessary, even if its not pikuach nefesh. my basic reasoning for this is kiddush/chillul hashem. if ur doing something noble, and ppl know its noble, theyll beleive that the torah teaches us that ironically we dont alway follow it- but i dont want ppl to get the wrong idea so im gonna explain. the torah is not a dead book- we call it torat chaim for a reason. now itwould be a humongous chillul hashem if ppl thought jews were one big cult that jews follow the torah so strictly that they didnt have room to breathe. so when there is an oppurtunity to do something good,, hashem wants u to do it b/c not only are u doing something good, ur making hashem's name look great. granted, its better not to violate the torah and do great things but if it should ever come to the situation where its gotta happen, i think its better to do the noble thing- hashem will forgive and actually be happy about it b/c it made bnei israel look good, and as our father hashem is proud of us for showing the world how we live his torah, and that there is lots of leg room.
aviva

October 03, 2006 8:17 PM  
Anonymous Leo said...

The are defiently many cases when people are allowed to break shabbos or any other halachot especially when its pekuach nefesh yonah was running away from hashem and was totally misuncerstand the point of the nevuah and how significant he was to the people of yisroel...when contrasting yonah to other cases of pekuah nefesh they are very different and when doing an act that can save a life your not punished but yonah was just going against hashem rather than doing what he did for a reason and thats why he got punished...bottom like just listen to Hashem

October 06, 2006 6:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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December 15, 2012 3:33 PM  

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