chiddush logo

The Significance of Obtaining a Firearm License.

Written by שי טחן, 6/2/2024

The Significance of Obtaining a Firearm License.

Rabbi Shay Tahan

In today's climate, people are grappling with uncertainty about how to respond to the increasing incidents of anti-Semitism worldwide. The dilemma arises: should we flee or stay and confront the challenges? Even if the option to run is considered, recent events demonstrate that no corner of the world seems entirely safe for us. Another quandary facing the Jewish community is whether to apply for a gun permit. Raised and educated to respect and love others, and not to inflict harm in any way, the notion of wielding arms for potential self-defense goes against these values, presenting a moral conundrum for many.

In this article, we will explore the Torah's perspective on navigating the challenges posed by contemporary dangers and assess whether seeking a gun permit is aligned with its recommendations.

Let's begin with the core principle that Jewish people typically avoid targeting others unless it is necessary for establishing deterrence in self-defense. In contrast to nations that have historically targeted Jews based on religious persecution, jealousy, or animosity, Jews, as a generalization, do not harbor an inherent desire to inflict harm on others. Instead, the primary objective is to coexist peacefully, guided by the principle of "live and let live." Therefore our emphasis in this article is specifically on the aspect of self-defense.

Thus, it's important to note that our discussion goes beyond the old American debate on whether guns themselves are responsible for mass school shootings or if it is the evil individuals behind the guns who commit such acts. We are specifically addressing the importance of Jews holding guns as a means to protect ourselves from potential harm.


Halachic Perspectives on Obtaining a Firearm License.

It is an undisputed halachic principle universally accepted that individuals are obligated to protect themselves from harm. The concept dictates that one should not passively allow others to inflict harm upon them. The Gemara (סנהדרין סב) states that if someone attempts to take your life, there is a moral obligation to preemptively defend yourself by taking their life firstהבא להרגך השכם להורגו- . The Gemara derives this principle from a case where a robber breaks into a houseבא במחתרת- , and the Torah permits the homeowner to kill the intruder. The reasoning explained in the Gemara to justify this permission is that the intruder is presumed to use lethal force if confronted by the homeowner, and therefore, the homeowner is justified in taking action to protect themselves before being subjected to harm.

Example to this we find in the incident involving Gedaliah (Yirmiah 40-41). After the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem, the Babylonians appointed Gedaliah as governor over the remaining Jewish population in the land. However, Gedaliah's lenient and trusting approach toward his political opponents led to a tragic outcome.

Ishmael, a member of the royal family, plotted against Gedaliah and eventually assassinated him. Despite warnings from Yohanan about the threat to his life, Gedaliah did not take decisive action to protect himself. Chazal  (נדה סא,א)criticized Gedaliah for not being more vigilant and for not taking the necessary precautions to ensure his safety in a politically volatile environment.

This story is often cited as a cautionary tale, emphasizing the importance of self-preservation and the duty to take reasonable steps to protect one's life, even in times of apparent peace. The broader lesson is about balancing trust and caution, understanding the potential risks, and acting responsibly to safeguard oneself and the community.

As we journey through the Torah's parashot, a recurring theme emerges – our forefathers were frequently engaged in battles and wars. Those wars were either fought in self-defense or to rescue hostages. Later, Hashem commands the conquest of the Land of Israel.


Warfare for the Liberation of Hostages.

Avraham Avinu, for instance, undertook a war to rescue his kidnapped nephew Lot, highlighting the prevalence of conflict in their narratives.

The concept of engaging in warfare to rescue captives is evident in the Torah narrative when Shimon and Levi took action against the city of Shechem for violating and kidnapping their sister, Dinah. Additionally, the Israelites waged war when a female slave was taken hostage(במדבר כא,א) . The Torah narrative illustrates a justification for employing all means necessary in situations where a Jewish woman is violated or someone is held hostage.

Afterward, Yaakok Avinu had to defend himself from the surrounding nations who came to attack him following the incident with the city of Shechem (רש״י בראשית מח, כב). Yaakov emerged victorious in the war, declaring, "The land that I conquered with my sword and arrow."

In fact, Yaakov had to arm himself before meeting Esav. He prepared for the encounter with prayer, ready to engage in a potential fight if necessary. Yaakov dressed his people in white clothing, symbolizing goodwill as they greeted Esav. However, beneath the exterior of peaceful attire, they were armed and prepared to defend themselves if the need arose (רמב״ן לב, ט).


The Wars of the Nation in the Desert

Not only did the Avot need to engage in wars for self-defense, but throughout the journey of Am Israel, they were also required to fight battles. This is exemplified by the fact that the nation emerged from Egypt armed, as the pasuk states (שמות יג, יח), "Israel were armed when they went up from Mitsrayim."

The Ramban asserts that the nation was armed to instill in them the confidence that they could defend themselves in the desert if necessary. The Gemara (שבת ו, ד ירושלמי) further elaborates on this verse, noting that they were armed with 15 different types of ammunition. This emphasizes the importance of having a variety of means to defend ourselves, as in a war, a diverse range of techniques is essential to overcome the enemy.


The Purpose of Being Armed for Confidence and Significance.

One might question the above, considering the preceding pasuk explained that Hashem made the nation take a detour to avoid coming near another nation and experiencing war. Why, then, were they armed if they were intentionally kept away from potential areas of conflict?

The Ohr Hachaim explains that even though, in reality, they may not encounter any wars, the mere feeling of being unable to engage in battle would be sufficient for the nation to feel lost. This sentiment could potentially lead them to retract and consider returning to Egypt.

We glean from his words that being armed contributes to a person feeling secure and reassured, even though they may not actually need it. The very sense of being armed already builds confidence.

The Ramban adds another layer, suggesting that Hashem armed them not only for a sense of security but also to instill pride and honor within the nation. This was done to ensure that they did not emerge from Egypt with the mindset of former slaves escaping their master but rather with a newfound dignity.

Once again, we can infer from this that being armed not only instills confidence but also bestows dignity.


Additional verses from Tanach underscore the significance of being armed.

Various psukim in Tanach emphasize the significance of being armed for protection from potential harm. For instance, concerning King Shlomo, it is written: "Here is Shlomo's couch, surrounded by sixty mighty men from the mighty men of Israel. All of them are skilled in warfare, trained for battle, each with his sword on his thigh, guarding against the terror of the night." (שיר השירים פ״ג)

Another pasuk from King David, explaining about the righteous:

"יעלזו חסידים בכבוד ירננו על־משכבותיהם .רוממות אל בגרונם וחרב פיפיות בידם." (תהלים קמט(

"Let the faithful exult in glory; let them shout for joy upon their couches, with paeans to Hashem in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands."

Certainly, there are spiritual meanings to all these verses, but Chazal emphasize the principle that the simple, literal meaning of the pasuk must also be studied.(שבת סג,א)



Guided and Guarded: Protection by Heavenly Providence.

Some may argue that since the Jewish nation is guided by heavenly providence, there might be no need for them to take active measures to ensure their safety. However, Rabbeinu Bechayey (שמות יג, יח) offers an insightful perspective. He suggests that the reason the nation was armed when leaving Egypt was not to undermine the divine protection, symbolized by the glory clouds and the pillar of fire. Rather, it was to encourage the people to behave naturally.

Rabbeinu Bechayey's point is that while Hashem provides supernatural protection, there is an inherent value in people behaving in accordance with nature. Even in times of divine protection, Hashem encourages individuals to take practical steps for their well-being. This harmonizes the divine guidance with the natural order, emphasizing the importance of both heavenly support and responsible human action in ensuring safety.

Even the righteous Torah scholars, who the Gemara (בבא בתרא ח,א) suggests do not require protection as the Torah protects them, as Chazal explained on the pasuk - "I am a wall," referring to the Torah, and "And my breasts are like towers"; those are Torah scholars. Still, the Chazon Ish(ס״ה ס״ק יח)  and Rav Moshe Feinstein  (דברות משה)explain that they must behave according to nature and seek protection.



This was a brief overview among various sources that highlight the importance of every responsible Jewish person exercising their Second Amendment right. It serves as a reminder that predators target the defenseless, and if the majority of Jews are armed, potential attackers may think twice before initiating an assault.



To dedicate this Chiddush (Free!) Leiluy Nishmas,Refuah Sheleimah, Hatzlacha, click here
Agree? Disagree? Want to add anything? Comment on the chiddush!
Discussions - Answers and Comments (0)
This chiddush has not been commented on yet