A. Many things: (1) We must give our own lives rather than take the lives of another. (2) Though we do believe in the spiritual Afterlife, and the World to Come, the ultimate Jewish opportunities and Torah’s Mitzvahs are to be found only in this world. Judaism believes in and focuses on the Here and Now, the Physical World, in which G-d desires for us to make for Him “a dwelling”. Many texts support this concept. (3) Martydom is only a last resort (like Give me Liberty or Give me Death) but not an ideal. Torah says: “And you shall Live with them (i.e. the commandments)” – Judaism focuses on and tremendously values human life. (4) Historically, Jewish Martyrs have been victims (Spanish Inquisition, Crusaders, and far back into time), not aggressors. (5) Although not totally unique to Jews, this is a remarkable Jewish phenomenon, consistently repeated over the ages; Jews from all levels of observance or religiosity have given their lives rather than tear themselves away from a Judaism – which they may not have even observed. (Not all Jews had this great courage, but over the generations, an overwhelming majority have). Tanya, Chapter 18 uses this to explain the essence of Jewish identity – which can not be defined by race, nationality, culture or religion. (6) Read the stories. Learn the history. It is a painful, tragic and heartfelt history of martydom, which has lent form to our identity as a people.
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