> Judaism 101 > Philosophy > Deed and Creed

10. The Issue of Martyrdom

April 28, 2014 | by Rochelle Lev and Rabbi Benjamin Blech

Three Jewish laws are better to die than to transgress.


Required Reading Understanding Judaism, pp101-153

Required Reading Laws of Shabbat (Exodus 31:16-17 – p. 493 ArtScroll Chumash, Stone Edition)

The Children of Israel shall observe the Shabbat, to make the Shabbat an eternal covenant for their generations. Between Me [God] and the Children of Israel it is a sign forever, that in six days God made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.

Required Reading Laws of Shabbat (Leviticus 18:5 – p. 651 ArtScroll Chumash, Stone Edition)

You shall observe My decrees and My laws, which man shall carry out and by which he shall live – I am God.



(1) When can the laws of Shabbat be superseded? Give two reasons why exceptions must be made.

(2) For which three sins must a Jew be prepared to give up his or her life rather than transgress?

(3) How could the nature of a threat to the Jewish people affect our approach to martyrdom?

(4) How do the different ways we celebrate the festivals of Chanukah and Purim reflect our responses to different types of attacks against the Jewish people?

(5) Jacob is given two names in the Torah – Yaakov and Yisrael. What aspects of Jacob's character do these two names represent?

(6) How are the two names of Yaakov and Yisrael manifest in the Jewish people today?

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