From the Rav’s Desk: Are all Jews killed because they are Jewish considered to have died Al Kiddush Hashem

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Are all Jews killed because they are Jewish considered to have died Al Kiddush Hashem



I was recently witness to a big argument in shul regarding whether all the IDF soldiers who were killed by Hamas terrorists, and in general if all Jews who were killed by terrorists or other anti-Semitic Gentiles due to the fact that they are Jewish are considered to have died Al Kiddush Hashem, and are of the highest of levels. While some argued towards this approach, others stated that saying so has no source, and that a nonreligious Jew, and especially a heretic Jew, is not considered to be of a holy level when killed by a Gentile, or terrorist, even though they killed him due to him being Jewish


According to all opinions, a Jew who was killed or murdered by a Gentile [irrelevant of reason] is considered to have some level of atonement for his sins as a result of the murder even if he was a heretic throughout his life. Now, as to whether such a Jew is considered to have died Al Kiddush Hashem, in the event that the reason for the murder was due to anti-Semitism and the fact that he was Jewish, there exists conflicting sources on this matter and practically this matter is debated amongst Rabbanim who lived during and after the holocaust. As to the Rebbe’s position, he held that such Jews are considered to have been killed Al Kiddush Hashem, although maintains that they would still require purgatory for sins that they committed that require refinement prior to entering Gan Eden.


It is ruled regarding the laws of mourning, that a person who was murdered by Gentile receives atonement, and hence is to be mourned even if he was a heretic all his days. This however, does not necessarily mean that he is considered to have died Al Kiddush Hashem. Some argue that one is only considered to have died Al Kiddush Hashem if he was killed due to his Jewish identity and beliefs and religious observance and had a choice in the matter to avoid being killed and chose to die for his religion or Jewish identity. However, one who wasn’t asked and given a choice in the matter and was simply murdered due to him being Jewish, then perhaps he is not considered to have been killed Al Kiddush Hashem. Practically, this matter was debated amongst the Poskim after the Holocaust, and the Rebbe’s position was as stated above that they are considered Kedoshim and to have been killed Al Kiddush Hashem. However, elsewhere the Rebbe stated that this does not necessarily alleviate individual from requiring the refinement of Gihennom.

Sources: See Sanhedrin 110b; Maharil 99; Chasam Sofer Y.D. 333; E.H. 2:132; Devar Yehoshua 1:27-17-18 and 5:37; Alei Meroros p. 306 [considered to die Al Kidddush Hashem]; Maharitz Dushinsky 1:126; Minchas Yitzchak 1:83-1; 133-2 [leaves in question]; 133:2; Michtav Meliyahu 3:346; Mishneh Halachos 16:121; Bina Vedaas 20; Koveitz Tel Talpiyos 1 p. 36-37; Hearos Ubiurim 1026 p. 81; 1154 p. 63; 1155 p. 76; Emuna Tzerufa Bekor Hashoa by Rav Yissachar Teichtel “even though he himself did not intend to be killed at all Al Kiddush Hashem nonetheless since he was killed because he is Jewish he is therefore similar to one who has died for the holiness of God’s name just like Rebbe Akiva, and it is considered a great merit for him”; The Rebbes opinion: Toras Menachem Vol. 70 p. 192 “as to those who were killed, since they were killed due to their Jewish ethnicity on them the Talmud applies the verse that I have gathered My pious ones who have been slaughtered. It makes no difference as to their level of religiosity until this point. The only ramification is regarding their refinement in Gehennom.”; Sefer Hasichos 5751 1:233 “All those who were killed in the Holocaust are considered Kedoshim, since they were killed Al Kedushas Hashem due to them being Jewish”; See regarding sitting Shiva for a heretic who was murdered by a Gentile: Rama Y.D. 340:5; Hagahos Ashri; Or Zarua 2:428; Taz 340:3; Shach 340:9-10; Kitzur SHU”A 201:5 [It is ruled that although one is not to sit Shiva after the death of a relative who was a heretic the Poskim conclude that if a heretic was murdered by gentiles, then he is to be mourned, being that his murder is his atonement.]

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