The next two dappim of the Gemara will discuss various situations of self-injury and self-destruction.  The Gemara references Shimshon’s ”Kamikaze” act upon the Philistines.  At the end of his life, deprived of his miraculous strength, he was tied up and mocked in a public stadium.  He prayed that God grant him one last strength, so that he “May die with the Philistines.”  Thus, he was able to break apart the central pillars that he was tied to, causing the entire stadium to collapse, killing himself and the enemies of his people. It was, literally, a performance that “Brought the house down.”

While Shimshon’s actions were courageous and miraculously granted by God, the Gemara uses the phrase “Let me die with the Philistines” as an idiom for all kinds of self-destructive behavior that seems to be motivated to cause harm to others as well. Unfortunately, since situations of mass murder suicide seem to be prevalent, let us take some time to study the psychology, motivations and precursors to Suicide Homicides.

According to researchers Rouchy Emma et. al (Version of Record: Manuscript_5d1545b0b4366aa03c46a8078e8ec986):

“Perpetrators of homicide-suicides were more likely to be male, older than homicide or suicide perpetrators. Studies also reveal an early history of adversity during childhood, legal issues in the past, as well as the exposure to stressful and/or traumatic events shortly before the criminal act as risk factors. Most of HS (Homicide-Suicide) are perpetrated in an intra-familial setting and occur in the context of recent separation, divorce, and domestic conflicts. Finally, the present review shows the significant contribution of psychopathological factors (e.g., depressive disorder, psychotic delusional convictions) in the HS phenomenon.”

The authors of this study surveyed 47 articles on the topic in an effort to organize common themes and findings.

  • They noted that 19 studies affirm that the overwhelming majority of offenders are male.
  • The studies were almost unanimous that offenders of homicide-suicides occurs in the context of recent separation, divorce or relational conflicts.
  • Victims of HS are most likely to be women or children.
  • Although mental illness in general is a factor for obvious reasons, there was a high correlation between depression and HS.
  • Another factor that seems to strongly increase the risk of HS is the presence of early adverse childhood experiences.
  • Data on the means used in committing the HS crime concurs that the access and the use of firearms substantially precipitate the risk of HS. In fact, the largest majority of HS are perpetreted by means of firearms.   (Do not confuse this with advocacy for gun control, as onerous laws and restrictions on guns does not conclusively prevent obtaining weapons illegally, while at the same time may serve as a way of disarming victims who otherwise might have had social and legal sanction to bear arms.  For example, it is unknown if arming teachers in schools and shopkeepers would reduce school shootings and roberries. Since this issue is politically charged, and there are vested interests on both sides, it is doubtful that unbiased research on this will be conducted.)
  • Motivations for HS are not homegenius. However, two themes occur some of the time.  Romantic jealousy and/or delusional ideas about “saving victims from a terrible world.” Surprisingly, the researchers found that though the thinking was psychotic and delusional, when the perpetrators survived, there often were not found to be suffering from psychotic disorders.  This leads one to think that the stressors of the occasion drove the person mad, but on the whole, they were not psychotic.  This has implications in terms of labeling psychotic individuals as generally dangerous, as it seems they are not. Simply put, murderers act and behave psychotically, but psychotics are not murderers.

While this is an unpleasant morbid discussion, it is an important one. The ability for educators and loved ones to flag a potential offender and intervene before it is too late is critical in preventing tragedies.  Knowing the risk factors and motivations are a helpful tool.



Translations Courtesy of Sefaria, (except when, sometimes, I disagree with the translation cool.)