Whose Blood Is Redder?

I recently read that one person may not take another's life to save his own (other than in self-defense), because we can't judge another person, and can't possibly know which of the two is more precious to God. Could you please send me the source for this idea?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

This issue is discussed in the Talmud – Yoma 82b.

There, the Sages explore situations in which a Jew's life is in danger. For example, let's say that a terrorist says, "Kill that person, or I will kill you."

The law is that one must allow himself to be killed rather than kill the other person. The reason is derived from logic, which is "How can you judge between your life and his? Perhaps he is worthier than you!" Even in the case where a great leader is told to kill a lowly person, they cannot do it. Because the lowly person may have secretly performed great deeds, or they may have overcome greater struggles in life.

In the language of the Talmud, "Perhaps his blood is redder." Since it is impossible to know who is better, one has to let the circumstances play out without killing the other person.

More Questions

Due to limited resources, the Ask the Rabbi service is intended for Jews of little background with nowhere else to turn. People with questions in Jewish law should consult their local rabbi. Note that this is not a homework service!

Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

Receive the Daily Features Email

Sign up to our Daily Email Jewsletter.

Our privacy policy