The Rules of Mesirus Nefesh

December 15, 2014 at 8:07 AM

על ידי כהניך הקדושים

 …through Your holy Kohanim

If an oppressive government is trying to abolish one or all of the Mitzvot, one must choose death rather than transgress whichever Mitzvah they are attempting to abolish, (even if the transgression is not related to idolatry, adultery or murder.) This would explain, why in the era of Chanukah, the Jews needed to sacrifice their lives when forced to do so.Would this justify actively going to war? Considering that they were “few against the many” and “the weak against the mighty”, the revolt led by the Chashmonaim seems like active self-annihilation by choice! According to the Rambam, one is not allowed to sacrifice their life in a scenario where they are not obligated to do so according to Halacha. How then was this revolt acceptable?The Kesef Mishna comments on the Rambam, quoting from the Nimukei Yosef:Even according to the Rambam who forbids giving up your life if not required, nevertheless if you are an “adam gadol, chasid, yirei shamayim”, i.e. a notable person of exceptional piety, and you see this mitzva is weak in the generation, you may give up your life so that everyone will take note and come to fear and love Hashem with all their hearts.

Accordingly, we can explain why in “Haneiros Halalu”, we emphasize that the miracle was “על ידי כהניך הקדושים – through your holy Kohanim”. As the Chashmonaim were Kohanim, children of Kohanim Gedolim, they fit the above category, and were justified in actively sacrificing their lives by choice, even when not obligated according to the classic Halachic parameters of Kiddush Hashem. Indeed, their sacrifice succeeded in inspiring the Jewish nation to love Hashem to the point of self-sacrifice, in the merit of which we were granted the Chanuka miracles.


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– Likutei Sichos, vol. 10, pp. 148-149






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