Mishnah Sanhedrin 8:7
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משנה מסכת סנהדרין פרק ח:ז
ואלו הן שמצילין אותן בנפשן הרודף אחר חבירו להרגו אחר הזכור ואחר הנערה המאורסה אבל הרודף אחר בהמה והמחלל את השבת והעובד ע"ז אין מצילין אותן בנפשן
The following must be saved [some say: from sinning] even at the cost of their lives: he who pursues after his neighbor to slay him or after a male or a betrothed maiden [for forced sexual intercourse] but he who pursues after an animal [for copulation], or would desecrate the Sabbath, or commit idolotry, must not be saved [from sinning] at the cost of his life. [Translation by Rabbi Steve Greenberg]
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Suggested Discussion Questions:

1. What is the difference between the first group of cases where we do kill the pursuer if necessary and the second where we do not?

2. The mishnah can be read as does Rashi that we save a person from sinning by preventing him from accomplishing murder or rape, even at the cost of his life. However, the Gemara suggests that we kill the pursuer in order to protect his intended victim. The Rambam translates the first line thus: These are [the victims] whom we save at the cost of their pursuer's lives. Which of these two

readings do you find most convincing?

3. Harm is a central concern when it comes to the rape of a married woman and a man. However, harm is framed in a social context. The law would not permit killing a man who is pursuing after an unmarried woman who is not prohibited to him biblically. The rape of a single woman while horrible enough, is not a serious enough social concern to take the life of the pursuer. Consequently, it is the social harm to the victim accomplished by male rape and not the personal psychological or physical harm that the framers of this rule had in mind. That is why a male pursuing a boy under the age of nine cannot be killed. While murder is obvious harm, the harm of rape is thought to be embedded in social context. How might this impact our thinking regarding the overall prohibition of male sexual relations?

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Time Period: Rabbinic (Maccabees through the Talmud)