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Iggeret Hashemad – Rambam

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The second principle is understanding the intentions of the persecutors. In regards to most of the Torah commandments, except for the three cardinal sins, Torah commandments if a non-Jew’s intention is for personal gratification, than a Jew may transgress any other transgression of the Torah, even at a time of religious persecution  and in public.  In contrast, if the context of the coercion times of religious persecution in general and the persecutors  force a Jew to transgress a Torah violation, the ruling depends if the transgression will be performed in front of ten people – then one must give up his life and not transgress any Torah or Rabbinical prohibition, and even not an accepted custom of Israel. If the transgression will be committed in private, then one must choose life and is allowed to transgress.

In summary, the Rambam concludes that it is not necessary to sacrifice one’s life in the case described above, since the Islam radicals were not necessarily forcing the Jewish people to proclaim Muhammad’s devotion as a theological reason, it could have been for their own benefit, Muhammad and Islam are not idolatry according to the Rambam, therefore there is no cardinal sin involved and many of the Jews kept the Mitzvot in private and were only outwardly proclaiming their dedication to Islam. This official letter, Iggeret, is referred to by many today as the Iggeret Kiddush Hashem, appropriately, since it summarizes the key points of one’s obligation in the face of persecution, specifically when confronted with the ethical conflict of dedication to Torah or losing one’s life.

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