Orthodox Judaism has a rich history and tradition, with a strong emphasis on valuing human life and seeking peaceful solutions. With this in mind, it may come as a surprise to some that there are debates within the Orthodox Jewish community about whether or not it is appropriate to carry guns for self-defense.
Many rabbis within the Orthodox Jewish community have spoken out against the idea of carrying guns, stating that it is not in line with Jewish values and can lead to more harm than good.
For example, Rabbi Yehuda Rosenbaum, the Modzitzer Rebbe, stated, “Carrying a gun is not a solution. It’s a problem. If a person thinks he needs a gun to protect himself, he needs to increase his faith in God.” Similarly, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, Rosh Yeshiva of the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia, noted that “the possession of guns is a cause for worry, not a cause for security.”
Other rabbis have echoed these sentiments, stating that the proliferation of guns is a danger to human life and that we should focus on healing our society through education, values, and community-building. Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, Av Beis Din of the Eidah Hachareidis in Jerusalem, noted that “Judaism values human life more than anything else,” and Rabbi Shimon Schwab, Rav of Khal Adas Jeshurun in Washington Heights, stated that “guns are a symptom of a sick society.”
Instead of relying on guns for protection, many rabbis encourage individuals to strengthen their faith in God and to live a life of Torah and mitzvot. Rabbi Zev Leff, Rav of Moshav Matisyahu, stated, “We live in a dangerous world, but the solution is not to arm ourselves. The solution is to strengthen our faith in God, to pray for His protection, and to do our best to be law-abiding citizens.” Similarly, Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Ore in Jerusalem, noted that “our job is not to take matters into our own hands, but to trust in God and have faith that He will protect us.”
Additionally, many rabbis suggest relying on trained professionals like security officers and police for protection rather than arming ourselves. Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe in Kiryas Joel, stated that “the Torah teaches us that we have a responsibility to protect ourselves and our communities, but we should do so in a way that is consistent with Jewish values. This means relying on trained professionals like security officers and police, rather than arming ourselves.”
In fact, my Rav, Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, ZTL a respected posek and former Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas never minced words on what he thought: “We believe that we should rely on the government and law enforcement for our safety. Carrying a gun is not necessary and can lead to more harm than good.”
The situation in Israel is distinct from other countries, as it is not uncommon to see armed soldiers in public places, particularly in areas deemed high-risk or sensitive such as checkpoints or military bases.
However, carrying firearms in Israel is strictly regulated by the government, and only soldiers who have undergone extensive training and have been given permission by their commanders are allowed to carry weapons. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein affirms that in Israel, the government has the right to arm its soldiers to protect its citizens. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman further clarifies that carrying weapons is permissible in times of war for self-defense and defense of the Jewish people. But Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv emphasizes that the permissibility of carrying weapons is only limited to trained soldiers during times of war and not granted to every citizen.
It is important to note that while many rabbis within the Orthodox Jewish community discourage carrying guns for self-defense, there are also those who believe that it is a necessary measure for ensuring one’s safety. However, even those who do advocate for carrying guns often emphasize the need to do so responsibly and in a way that is consistent with Jewish values — including training, being part of a licensed security force, but almost no Rabbis believe “anyone” should be carrying a gun.
While there may be differing opinions within the Orthodox Jewish community about carrying guns for self-defense, there is a strong emphasis on valuing human life and seeking peaceful solutions.
Rabbis within the community often encourage individuals to strengthen their faith in God, rely on trained professionals for protection, and pursue peaceful solutions to security concerns.
“In Judaism, human life is sacred and should be protected at all costs. However, this does not mean that we should resort to violence or take matters into our own hands. We should work to create a peaceful society and avoid using weapons as a means of protection, except in extreme circumstances.” – Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel.