Death of the Righteous Atones


Moshe Ben-Chaim



Debby: I have questions about the following text, found in Berachos 62b: (R. Elazar): “God told the angel of death, “I prefer to kill the Rav (important one) among them, his death atones for many sins.”


Would you please explain; are the Rabbis saying that God would DELIBERATELY KILL a person for the PURPOSE OF ATONEMENT OF OTHERS?  How does this differ from the Christian concept of Jesus being deliberately killed for the purpose of atonement of others?


Many thanks,


Debby Kobrin



Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: The Talmud does not say Avishay (the important one) was undeserving of death: all men sin. The safest approach is to say only what we must:

1) God desired the atonement of the Jews...this is a good.
2) Avishay’s death will atone...the question is how?
3) Avishay had to die, at some point.


Perhaps, God times Avishay’s death at an opportune moment when it served an additional good. But in no way does God kill someone undeserving, to save others. As the Torah says, “A man in ‘his’ sin shall be killed.”

How was his death atonement? Perhaps when the Jews reflected on his life during his eulogy, or aftermath if their loss, they become inspired by his lifetime of good.