Berlin has warned Jewish people to not let their faith be seen publicly. Yet, Judaism teaches us to never deny our G-d. Does this time, when our lives are endangered, allow for an exception? Can Jews Deny Our Faith? Oddly, I found myself doing research on this question just after Rosh Hashanah. This seems to be a point of contingency among Rabbis.
The Torah On Can Jews Deny Their Faith
While Rabbis may debate this, The Torah itself is clear. You should risk your life to defend the faith, according to The Torah. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were willing to be thrown into a furnace rather than worship idols. Esther went before the king, risking death, to save her people. Hannah and her sons chose death, over eating pig meat. King Saul committed suicide rather than be captured by the enemies. Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den. There are multiple accounts in The Torah of people willing to lay down their lives for their faith. Of these, the closest to the situation we find ourselves in today would be King Saul choosing death rather than being captured by the enemy. Can Jews Deny Our Faith? According to The Torah, the answer would be no. However, Jews also must consider what Oral Torah has to say.
What The Talmud Says
The Talmud has a similar view. The Talmud states that one should give up their life rather than commit one of Judaism’s cardinal sins. That is rather than commit idolatry, sexual immorality, or murder, one should die. However, The Talmud while stating this about idolatry does not say anything about simply not being open and forthcoming about one’s faith. Is hiding the faith the same as committing idolatry and worshipping another G-d? I would think not. Thus to answer the question, “Can Jews deny the faith,” we need more information.
Epistle on Martyrdom on Can Jews Deny Their Faith
Epistle on Martyrdom, written in the Middle Ages stated that a person should choose to convert rather than give up their life. It further stated that anyone who commits one of the cardinal sins in order to save their own life should not be considered a sinner or cast out of the community. In this instance, the answer to, “Can a Jew deny the faith,” would be yes. This comes closer to the modern idea of Pikuach Nefesh.
Pikuach Nefesh: To Life
Pikuach Nefesh is the idea that one may break Torah law to preserve life. Preservation of life is above all else in Judaism, especially since the Holocaust. We cannot afford to lose more Jewish lives. For this reason, one should take any measures necessary to preserve their own life and that of their fellow Jews. If one is alive they can always convert back or repent later. Can a Jew deny the faith? According to Pikuach Nefesh, yes.
In conclusion, this subject has been long debated by our people, with supporters on both sides of the argument. Therefore, I think this must be a decision made individually by each Jew. I advise you to carefully consider all sources and make a well-informed decision, with which your soul can live. Luckily, we are not yet in a situation where one must choose to convert or die. However, that time may come again soon. Therefore I would advise, in the current situation, to choose life.
However, I may be a bit of a hypocrite in saying that, because I plan to continue to wear my star of David in public, write my Jewish column, and proclaim my faith. Again, that is a personal and private decision. Whatever you choose, may we all hold our family and Israel close to our hearts and pray for peace, as advised in my previous article.