Rabbi B. Isaacson, my father—also a scholar of Judaism—imparted a bit of Jewish Halacha (law) during the bi-weekly telephone conversation I put through to South Africa, where he (sadly) resides.
But first, with society’s unfaithful watchdogs (media) pretending that the larger population is statistically as likely as are Jews to be the target of Islamic terrorists—Mark Steyn’s wry reminder of the reality of anti-Jewish Jihad is warranted (via Jihad Watch):
At the Chabad House, the murdered Jews were described in almost all the Western media as “ultra-Orthodox,” “ultra-” in this instance being less a term of theological precision than a generalized code for “strange, weird people, nothing against them personally, but they probably shouldn’t have been over there in the first place.”
Are they stranger or weirder than their killers? Two “inflamed moderates” entered the Chabad House, shouted “Allahu Akbar!,” tortured the Jews and murdered them, including the young rabbi’s pregnant wife. Their 2-year-old child escaped because of a quick-witted (non-Jewish) nanny who hid in a closet and then, risking being mowed down by machine-gun fire, ran with him to safety.
The Times was being silly in suggesting this was just an “accidental” hostage opportunity – and not just because, when Muslim terrorists capture Jews, it’s not a hostage situation, it’s a mass murder-in-waiting.
Dad, who considers Chabadniks a dubious sect, avers that they should not have set up a post in India.
For long—since the 8th century—Jihadis have waged pitched battles against the “infidels” of India. India is a dangerous place, especially for Jews.
Jews don’t missionize; Mormons do. The object of the outpost was to provide a kosher meal for Jewish travelers.
More significantly, Jews don’t martyr themselves. Jewish law forbids the wanton endangerment, or squandering, of life. Giving one’s life unnecessarily is a sin in Judaism. The Palestinian culture of death banks on the Jewish culture of life to sustain its murderous momentum.
According to the Talmud, “To save one life is like saving the world.”
SIDEBAR: As a matter interest, this verse was later on claimed by the Quran, which quickly qualified the otherwise-universal Jewish credo. The Qur’anic ayah states:
On that account: We ordained
For the Children of Israel
That if anyone slew
A person—unless it be
For murder or for spreading
Mischief in the land—
It would be as if
He slew the whole people… (Verse 5:32)
“Mischief in the land” gives the Muslim wide discretion in killing Jews.
Back to Mumbai’s Jewish martyrs: Had they followed Jewish law, demurs dad, they would not have endangered themselves and their child.
Jewish law calls for martyrdom under these three contingencies only:
MURDER: If a Jew is instructed to kill another human being on pain of death, he must refuse, and prepare to die.
The Talmud states (in Sanhedrin 74a): “It happened with Rava: A man came to Rava and told him that the governor of the city had ordered that he (the man) slay a certain man or himself suffer death, and Rava said to him: ‘Rather than slay another person, you must permit yourself to be slain, for how do you know that your blood is redder than his, perhaps his blood is redder than yours?'” [Beautiful metaphor]
IDOLATRY. If a Jew is threatened with conversion to an idolatrous deity or death, he must choose death.
There is a famous example that can be found in the Babylonian Talmud Gittin 57b, the apocryphal II Maccabees 7, and other sources about Hannah and her seven sons, a story associated with the holiday of Hanukkah. Rather than prostrate before an idol of Zeus placed in the Second Temple, Hannah defies the Greek-Assyrian King Antiochus IV and allows her sons to be killed one by one before she herself is killed.
SEXUAL IMMORALITY. If a Jewish woman is threatened with rape on pain of death, she must prepare to die.
[Source: Monty Python, “The Life of Brian.” Brian the Hebrew is told by his mother that his father was a Roman. Brian cries, “Tell me you were raped, Mother.” She/he replies, “Well, at first.” Sorry dad, I couldn’t help that.]
These teachings are expounded on in Wikipedia (bar “The Life of Brian” citation.)
Unexplained is their proper application. No other rabbinical authority that I know of has applied the teachings to the strange specter—and subsequent martyrdom—of members of a Chabad mission in Mumbai.
In any event, according to Rabbi Isaacson, had the unfortunate Chabadniks adhered to the letter and spirit of the Jewish law, they would not have decamped to India and died there.