Gun Violence and Judaism CCAR/RAC Call on Democracy -- Elul 5782

Based on a source sheet originally prepared by Rabbi Joel Mosbacher’s for a discussion on Gun Violence Prevention for the CCAR/RAC.

For more RAC resources on Gun Violence Prevention legislation, visit:


ועוד תניא אין מוכרין להם לא זיין ולא כלי זיין ואין משחיזין להן את הזיין ואין מוכרין להן לא סדן ולא קולרין ולא כבלים ולא שלשלאות של ברזל

One may not sell to certain people weapons nor the auxiliary equipment of weapons, and one may not sharpen weapons for them. And one may not sell them stocks used for fastening the feet of prisoners, or iron neck chains, or foot chains, or iron chains.

The Talmud does not forbid weapons, but it does forbid selling weapons and their accessories to certain people. How might this relate to gun violence prevention today? What might be considered modern “auxiliary equipment”?

(ח) כִּ֤י תִבְנֶה֙ בַּ֣יִת חָדָ֔שׁ וְעָשִׂ֥יתָ מַעֲקֶ֖ה לְגַגֶּ֑ךָ וְלֹֽא־תָשִׂ֤ים דָּמִים֙ בְּבֵיתֶ֔ךָ כִּֽי־יִפֹּ֥ל הַנֹּפֵ֖ל מִמֶּֽנּוּ׃ (ס)

(8) When you build a new house, you shall make a railing for your roof, so that you do not bring blood on your house if anyone should fall from it.

ר' נתן אומר מניין שלא יגדל אדם כלב רע בתוך ביתו ואל יעמיד סולם רעוע בתוך ביתו שנאמר (דברים כב, ח) ולא תשים דמים בביתך:

Rabbi Natan says: From where is it derived that one may not raise a vicious dog in their house, and that one may not set up an unstable ladder in their home? As it is stated: “You shall not bring blood on your house” (Deuteronomy 22:8), which means that one may not allow a hazardous situation to remain in his house.

(ד) אֶחָד הַגַּג וְאֶחָד כָּל דָּבָר שֶׁיֵּשׁ בּוֹ סַכָּנָה וְרָאוּי שֶׁיִּכָּשֵׁל בָּהּ אָדָם וְיָמוּת. כְּגוֹן שֶׁהָיְתָה לוֹ בְּאֵר אוֹ בּוֹר בַּחֲצֵרוֹ בֵּין שֶׁיֵּשׁ בּוֹ מַיִם בֵּין שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ מַיִם חַיָּב לַעֲשׂוֹת חֻלְיָא גְּבוֹהָה עֲשָׂרָה טְפָחִים. אוֹ לַעֲשׂוֹת לָהּ כִּסּוּי כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִפּל בָּהּ אָדָם וְיָמוּת. וְכֵן כָּל מִכְשׁל שֶׁיֵּשׁ בּוֹ סַכָּנַת נְפָשׁוֹת מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה לַהֲסִירוֹ וּלְהִשָּׁמֵר מִמֶּנּוּ וּלְהִזָּהֵר בַּדָּבָר יָפֶה יָפֶה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים ד ט) "הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ וּשְׁמֹר נַפְשְׁךָ". וְאִם לֹא הֵסִיר וְהֵנִיחַ הַמִּכְשׁוֹלוֹת הַמְּבִיאִין לִידֵי סַכָּנָה בִּטֵּל מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה וְעָבַר בְּ(דברים כב ח) "לֹא תָשִׂים דָּמִים":

(4) There is no difference between a roof or anything else that is dangerous and likely to cause death to a person who might stumble. If, for instance, one has a well or a pit in his courtyard — — he must build an enclosing ring ten handbreadths high, or put a cover over it, so that a person should not fall into it and die. So too, any obstruction that is a danger to life must be removed as a matter of positive duty and extremely necessary caution.

(ח) וכן כל מכשול שיש בו סכנת נפשות מצות עשה להסירו ולהשמר ממנו ולהזהר בדבר יפה שנאמר השמר לך ושמור נפשך ואם לא הסיר והניח המכשולות המביאים לידי סכנה ביטל מצות עשה ועובר בלא תשים דמים:

And so too any obstacle that endangers life, it is a positive commandment to remove it and to be very careful around it as it is said, “Protect yourself and guard yourself." (Deuteronomy 4:9) And if he did not remove and set aside these obstacles that are dangerous, he violated the positive commandment and also violated the commandment, “Do not bring bloodguilt upon yourself” (Deuteronomy 22:8).

How would you relate the Torah's principle of "you shall not bring blood on your house" to guns in a home today?

Please note the Torah did not forbid the making of flat roofs, dogs, or ladders; it forbade dangerous ones. Do you think this distinction applies to guns? Why or why not?

מתני׳ לא יצא האיש לא בסייף ולא בקשת ולא בתריס ולא באלה ולא ברומח ואם יצא חייב חטאת רבי אליעזר אומר תכשיטין הן לו וחכ"א אינן אלא לגנאי שנאמר (ישעיהו ב, ד) וכתתו חרבותם לאתים וחניתותיהם למזמרות ולא ישא גוי אל גוי חרב ולא ילמדו עוד מלחמה.

MISHNA: No one may neither go out on Shabbat with a sword, nor with a bow, nor with a shield, nor with a club, nor with a spear. And if someone unwittingly went out with one of these weapons to the public domain, they are liable to acknowledge their sin. Rabbi Eliezer says: These weapons are ornaments for him [that is, they are just fashionable clothing accessories]; just as someone is permitted to go out into the public domain with other ornaments, they are permitted to go out with weapons. But the Rabbis say: They are nothing other than reprehensible and in the future, they will be eliminated, as it is written: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not raise sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4).

According to this passage, what is the general attitude of the majority of the Rabbis towards weapons? Why?

What does Judaism have to say about balancing the right to armed self-defense, responsible selling and handling of weapons, and not making weapons into idols?

(טז) לֹא־תֵלֵ֤ךְ רָכִיל֙ בְּעַמֶּ֔יךָ לֹ֥א תַעֲמֹ֖ד עַל־דַּ֣ם רֵעֶ֑ךָ אֲנִ֖י יי (יז) לֹֽא־תִשְׂנָ֥א אֶת־אָחִ֖יךָ בִּלְבָבֶ֑ךָ הוֹכֵ֤חַ תּוֹכִ֙יחַ֙ אֶת־עֲמִיתֶ֔ךָ וְלֹא־תִשָּׂ֥א עָלָ֖יו חֵֽטְא׃
(16) Do not deal basely with your countrymen. Do not profit by the blood of your fellow: I am the LORD. (17) You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart. Reprove your kinsman but incur no guilt because of him.

How might this text apply to the responsibility of gun manufacturers to play their part in reducing gun violence?

go to to learn more about how we're using purchasing power to press gun manufacturers to play their part in reducing gun violence.