Q. In light of the recent tragedy in Tel Aviv*, what does Judaism have to say about acts of self-immolation?
A. The issue of suicide has figured in OzTorah previously. The current issue is somewhat different. It is a call for help. The person concerned says, “My life has been ruined. I blame the system. I can’t keep going the way things are. Maybe my plight will shame the people in power into taking some action”. The view of halachah is that nothing can justify killing oneself, since human life is God’s property and one’s fate must be left to Him.
But there is a further question – can a suffering person’s death be tantamount to murder on the part of the authorities? In ancient Israel, if a crime occurred it was considered to be because the leaders of the nation had neglected the victim. In the present case there is an analogy. If things go terribly wrong in a citizen’s life there must be a way in which the authorities can be brought in to show some care, compassion and kindness.
In any democratic nation the buck stops with the prime minister; the Israeli prime minister has his hands full but he cannot and must not fail his own citizens. He saved Gilad Schalit – Kol Hakavod for that – but every Israeli warrants his thought, anguish and involvement.
* The self-immolation of Israeli Moshe Silman Z”L in July 2012.