GEN1011 [T]he Rabbis see motives as the characteristic determinant of virtue. Interestingly enough, Maimonides singles out as examples David and Elijah, who displayed harshness and anger, albeit in righteous causes, to show how lack of love results in loss of virtue even though in practice the exigencies of justice leave no room for choice. [Maimonides, Shemonah Perakim
, chap. 7]. It is not surprising therefore that the Halakha itself recognizes the suspension of the usual halakhic criteria in those instances where conflict on the motivational level is acute. The archetype is our father Abraham. So boundless is his love for man that he rebels against accepting the divine decree against the wicked cities of Sodom and its allies. Scripture says, “Abraham approached” [this verse], and Midrash comments: “R. Elazar explained thus, ‘For war-I come; for conciliation-I come; for prayer-I come.’” Bereshit Rabbah 49.
Abraham does not shrink from war, as it were, against the Almighty, and driven by love he hurls an accusation against “the Judge of all the earth.” The question reappears in various guises. In order to save lives, is every action justified? Based on Talmudic remarks about Esther and Yael, Sanhedrin 74b
, Rabbi Joseph Colon saw it as permissible for a woman to surrender to or even arouse the adulterous lust of bandits in order to save the lives of their captives. Responsa Maharik, 137
. More recently Rabbi Ezekiel Landau demurred. Noda Be-Yehuda, Tinyana, 161
. The same question is discussed in our own time by Rabbi Yehiel Weinberg. Seridei Esh, v.3, sec. 109
. All the authorities agree that in extreme cases, there is no prescribed course of action, and the woman’s own conscience must be her guide, for only she can determine what her true motives are. Not only an overwhelming challenge of love can suspend the usual norms. The same applies to the stern demands of justice. … Lest one allow oneself too much freedom in taking liberties with established judicial procedure [Maimonides] concludes, “It is the glory of the Torah only to act in accordance with its statutes and ordinances.” It is only in cases of overriding urgency that the individual is given the liberty to probe his own motives and act as he sees fit regardless of the usual rules. FOXMJE 93-4
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