Suicide in Halachah
Suicide in Halachah
Committing suicide is one of the gravest aveiros (sins) because our lives don’t belong to us but to Hashem, Who gives life and determines when life ends. Suicide is therefore somewhat similar to murder. A me’abed atzmo le’daas (someone who committed suicide), ein lo chelek l’Olam Habah (has no portion in the World to Come). According to halachah, there is no k’riah (ripping garments as a sign of mourning) or aveilus (mourning) for a person who chas v’sholom (G-d forbid) has taken their own life; they are buried with tachricihim (burial shrouds), but at the far end of the Beis Hachayim (cemetery)—and many other halachos apply.
However, if there is any room for doubt, even if remote, that the person did not commit suicide but passed away from other causes, they are given the benefit of the doubt and we assume that they did not commit suicide, and do not treat them as such; rather, regular laws of mourning are observed. Moreover, if in their final days the person endured much suffering, it’s possible that they were not in full possession of all their faculties; therefore, they are not considered me’abed atzmo le’daas. Additionally, even if a person did in fact commit suicide, we assume that between carrying out the act and passing away they had thoughts of teshuva (repentance) and regretted their actions. In such situations, it is not uncommon for the family to receive a psak (halachic ruling) to observe the regular laws of mourning, either due to doubt as to whether it was in fact a case of me’abed atzmo le’daas, or to spare them p’gam mishpachah (bringing shame upon the family). However, if there is any measure of doubt about what actually took place, a Kohen should not be part of the burial party, even if it is one of his close relatives for whom he has the mitzvah of being metameh (bring ritual impurity upon) himself—father, mother, wife, son, daughter, brother, and sister who was never married. This is because if it was suicide it would be forbidden for a Kohen to be metameh himself; additionally, in such a situation the brachah of Baruch Dayan Ha’emes (Blessed is the true Judge) should be said without Hashem’s Name. #388