Suicide

A guy who works at the same company just committed suicide. Some people are saying that this is a terrible crime, while others say it's okay because he didn't harm anyone. Can help put this into perspective for me?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

This is a great tragedy and we bemoan the apparent lack of support and intervention that perhaps could have helped this man from suffering this fate. Much is being done in the Jewish community to raise awareness of mental health issues. See an excellent article here.

In terms of the Jewish perspective on suicide, the first thing to know is that we don't "own" our bodies. Our body - and our very life - is a gift, on loan from the Creator. We are entrusted to care for it and nurture it, and do nothing to shorten its lifespan.

Judaism's opposition to suicide is found in the story of Noah's Ark. After the flood, God says to Noah: "Your blood which belongs to your souls I will demand..." (Genesis 9:5). The Talmud (Baba Kama 90b) learns from here that one may not wound his own body, and all the more so may not take his own life.

A person may commit suicide to escape, but in reality the result is a far worse situation. The soul can not return to the body, nor does it enter the soul world, as its time has not come. This state of limbo is quite painful.

Though a suicide may preclude full Jewish burial, observance of the regular mourning period, and saying of Kaddish prayer, in practice today suicide is usually treated as a normal death, since it is assumed that the person was not of sound mind, and not held responsible for his action.

(sources: Minor Tractate S'machot II; Chatam Sofer - Y.D. 326; “HaElef Lecha Shlomo" by Rabbi Shlomo Kluger - Y.D. 321)

See here for a lengthier treatment of Judaism's attitude towards suicide.

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