Suicide in the Jewish scriptures

Israel Orbach and Aron Rabinowitz

in Oxford Textbook of Suicidology and Suicide Prevention

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

ISBN: 9780198570059
Published online July 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199640461 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Textbooks

Suicide in the Jewish scriptures

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The Jewish scriptures and the commentaries of the scriptures throughout history present a very complex approach toward suicide. There is a categorical prohibition against suicide, but also an obligation to submit to death when there is an external coercion to transgress Jewish laws that pertain to the essence of the faith. Talmudic sages have shown a psychological and empathic understanding of the suicidal state of mind, but they have harshly condemned suicide and punished it by omissions of certain religious rituals for the dead. Yet, Jewish law defines suicide in a very minimalistic way, so it is very rare that a death is defined as a suicide. Inherent in this approach is the attempt to avoid further suffering by the family, to show respect for the frailty of the human being, but at the same time, to condemn self-destructive behaviour.

Chapter.  5388 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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