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    Suicide or murder – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. In Jewish law, is suicide as bad as murder?

    A. Maimonides thinks so (Hilchot Rotze’ach 2:2), as does Rashi on Gen. 9:5. They say that the verse, “I require a reckoning for the blood of your lives” indicates that a person who commits suicide is a shedder of blood.

    The Romans regarded suicide as a crime against the state; the Jews said it was a crime against God.

    It is a bad sign when someone despises the good things of this world. But the rabbis noted that Job asked, “Why is light given to the person who is in misery, and life to the bitter in soul who longs for death but it comes not?”

    In Talmudic times there were people who were stricken with guilt for some real or imaginary sin and there were people who were so distraught that suicide could not be regarded as deliberate defiance of God. Rabbi Akiva stated that many of the usual burial procedures should not be carried out.

    Rabbinic decisors understand that extreme distress has clouded the suicide’s thinking and the feelings of the family should be considered.

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