Din Rodef – The obligation to stop a pursuer כי תצא

In the previous post we discussed the obligation to report to the authorities one who is suspected of child abuse.  We will see that from this week’s Parsha, that there is an even stronger obligation, that of “Din Rodef”, namely that if someone is in the act of pursuing in order to commit a rape, there is an obligation to stop it in even to the point of killing the pursuer.

The Mishna in Sanhedrin 73a states: “These are the ones that must be stopped from committing a sin even to the point of killing them: One who pursues someone in order commit murder, and one who pursues a male (in order to rape him), and one who pursues a betrothed young woman (in order to rape her).”  The Gemara brings a Braitha that says that the source of the first law of stopping the pursuer even to the point of killing him is derived from the verse  לא תעמוד על דם רעך “Don’t stand aside on the blood of your fellow.” (Vayikra 19, 16) But the Gemara questions this source because this verse of “Don’t stand by” teaches us that there is a general obligation to save someone’s life, such as from drowning or being eaten by an animal.  But where do we learn that there is an obligation to stop the pursuer even by killing him?  This is learned from the story of the rape of the betrothed young woman:

ואם בשדה ימצא האיש את הנערה המאורשה והחזיק בה האיש ושכב עמה, ומת האיש אשר שכב עמה לבדו. ולנערה לא תעשה דבר אין לנערה חטא מות, כי כאשר יקום איש על רעהו ורצחו נפש כן הדבר הזה. כי בשדה מצאה, צעקה הנערה המאורשה ואין מושיע לה. – דבירם כב, כה-כז

(25) But if a man find a betrothed young woman in the field and the man grabs her and lies with her; then only the man that lie with her shall die.  (26) But to the young woman you shall do nothing, the young woman has no sin deserving of death; for as when a man rises up against his fellow man and kills him, so is this thing.  (27) For he found her in the field, and the betrothed young woman cried out, and there was no one to save her. (Devarim 22, 25-27)

The Gemara learns that the source of killing the one who pursues in order to murder is learned from the case of the one who pursues in order to rape the young betrothed woman.  Since the Torah tells us that “there was no one to save her” (verse 27), we can derive from this that if there was someone around to save her, that he must do anything possible to save her, even to the point of killing the pursuer. Why such an extreme measure?  Because rape of a young betrothed women is an extreme disgrace and degradation.

Since in this section the Torah compares rape to murder by stating: “for as when a man rises up against his fellow man and kills him, so is this thing,” then also one pursuing for murder has a Din Rodef, and he must be stopped by any means, including killing him.

The Gemara further learns that this story teaches that also someone pursuing a male in order to rape him must also be stopped, even by killing him.  The word in the Torah for “young woman” is spelled without the final letter Heh, which changes the gender from feminine to masculine.  So even though we read the Torah by pronouncing the feminine, “young woman”, it is written in the masculine, young man.  This teaches that the same law applies to one pursuing a male in order to rape him.

What about other forbidden sexual acts?  The Gemara learns from the word “sin” that the Din Rodef also applies to someone pursuing any other “Arayot” – forbidden sexual acts.

So we see that sexual predators and pedophiles, who are out to rape young children, must be stopped by any means.  And this Din Rodef only applies to the sins of murder and rape.  It does not apply to idol worship, not to desecrating the Shabbat, not even to bestiality.  Seeing that they have a Din Rodef, there would seem to be no justification whatsoever not to stop these criminals by any means, including reporting them to the police.  Nevertheless, we frequently hear in the news, such as in the case in Kommimiyut, of known pedophiles who were not reported, and were able to continue to abuse children for long periods of time.

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