Saving Oneself at the Expense of Another


I have a moral question. This almost happened to me recently. Suppose you are stopped at a red light with one or more cars in front of you. You look in the rearview mirror and a big runaway truck that has lost its brakes is heading toward you at a high rate of speed. It looks almost certain that the truck will hit your car very hard and kill you. The only way you can save yourself is to move to an empty space on the street to your right, out of the path of the truck. But if you do this, the truck will strike the car in front of you and probably kill its occupant(s).

What is the proper thing to do in this scenario according to Jewish law? Let yourself be killed, or save yourself and let the occupant(s) in the car in front of you get killed?


Fortunately, when this almost happened to me, no one got killed. The truck driver who lost his brakes swerved to the right and hit the brick side wall of a building. He did a lot of damage to the building and the truck and had minor injuries, but he didn’t need to go to the hospital, and no one else was hurt. Really, it happened very suddenly and there was no time to think about my choices.



  1. First, it is Chasdei Shamayaim that nothing happened to you or to anyone else.

    What a terrible dilemma! In Jewish Law there is a concept called “Chayecha Kodmim” – that, when there is an obvious choice between saving your life or sacrificing your life to save another, your life takes precedence over someone else’s. That would seem to indicate that, in your scenario, it would be your right to move out of the way even though it means that the truck will run into someone else’s car. What you would be obligated to do – to the best of your ability under the circumstances – is to try and warn those ahead of you, by sounding your horn and/or screaming at them to get out of the way.

    Best wishes from the Team