Should Jews Learn Self-Defense? | Rav Avigdor Miller

Q: Do you think a Jew should learn self defense?

A: Honestly, I think he should not because it’s only the expert swimmers who drown. If you know that you’re not an expert in self defense, you’ll stay off lonely streets at night. And if goyim throw a banana peel at you, you’ll just pass by with your head flat down and you’ll remain alive.

But suppose you’ll take a stance, a karate stance, and you spread your feet – first of all, all the bums know these things too and all you’ll do is you’ll incite them. They’ll come now with chains. Before they threw a banana peel, now they’ll come with big chains and they’ll do a good job.

And therefore, like I once told you, the Chinese say, “The best hero is the one who knows how to run away,” or better, “The best hero is the one who remains alive.” To die an honorable death is not a hero.

And so, if you’re able to teach goyim a lesson successfully which is a rare opportunity, I don’t say you shouldn’t utilize it. But in most cases, you’ll be alone on the street and there are a bunch of hoodlums who by numbers alone, even though they don’t know the science of self defense, they can overcome you; so it doesn’t pay.

So just take from them whatever it is. Usually if they see you’re mild, they’ll let you go with only a slight molestation. And if they have, chalilah, bigger intentions, then your self defense won’t help you much.

And therefore, I think it’s a good idea to learn other tactics. There are a lot of tactics you can learn but not these, not karate and self defense. Practice to learn how to keep your mouth shut. Practice crossing the street. If you see them on one side of the street, walk on the other side. So you’ll say, “They’ll walk on the other side to meet me.” You’d be surprised how lazy they are! If you walk right past them, they’ll molest you. But if you walk on the other side of the street, in most cases, they won’t bother. They may throw something, that’s all. They’re too lazy to bother!

There are a lot of tactics to learn. Sometimes it’s good to laugh when somebody does something fresh to you. Let’s say you’re on a bus and some savage sticks something almost into your face – he wants to make a scare. So open your mouth and guffaw! Laugh at it! And he enjoys it; he sees you enjoyed the joke; you’re friends now.

I was once walking on Utica Avenue and there were two colored men who were standing there. One of them took a swing at me just for fun, to frighten me. I was carrying an umbrella. I picked up my umbrella and I made as if I would use it like we were fencing, as if we were sword fighting, and I burst out laughing. Then he shook my hand! He was my friend.

So make a joke out of it. There are all kind of tactics. But the worst tactic is to give him a hit or even to show you’re ready for it because then he loses control of himself. These savages become frightened and then they can do anything.

TAPE # 165 (May 1977)

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    • Look at the two former soldiers in manhatten.
      As tough as they were they were in for one helluva beating.
      As yidden we should fight to survive, then Hashem will help us. Fighting for our “rights” well, we are very much in golus.

  1. Shmuel, firstly Rav Millers words are timeless. No updates needed. Secondly in instances as yours where you want to know that it applies now too, read within the answer to it’s message and what’s behind it. That is regardless if Utica avenue still exists or was renamed, the message within the answer will remain timeless.
    Hashem yishmoreinu mikol davar rah.

  2. sorry i was misunderstood…i love/loved Rav Miller, as a Mir talmud i always listened to his lectures…
    what i meant was…
    “time to update”…learn self defense, get a gun, make others RESPECT the Jewish people…and FEAR them…not,for a moment, let our haters think,this one will be easy…think IDF.

  3. That is precisely your critics point. You err because you’re daas bal habayis. Chazal teach us daas bal habayis is hepach Das Torah.
    Rav Millers words are timeless.
    No nowadays, enlightments, or any variations needed.
    Read into the answer, muster up some hisbatlus, and save your soul

  4. Also shmuel, if you will fear Hashem, all the fears you wish others will have for you will be satisfied. For, rotzeh Hashem es yraiav..

    Don’t forget shmuel, Das bal habayis is hepach daas torah

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