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Can You Give Up Your Life Rather Than Commit an Aveira If the Halacha Does Not Require it?
The Rambam (Yesodei HaTorah 5:4) says that in cases that you are not required to give up your life and you do so anyhow, you must account for your death since it was not allowed. Most Rishonim disagree and hold that although you are not required to give up your life, it is certainly a great Kiddush Hashem if you do.
There are two very interesting caveats to this machlokes.
1. The Kesef Mishna brings the Nimukei Yosef who says that even according to the Rambam who forbids giving up your life if not required, nevertheless if you are an "Adam Gadol", Yir'ah Shamayim, and you see this mitzva is weak in the generation you may give up your life for everyone to take note and come to keep this mitzva and love Hashem.
2. The Igros Moshe (YD 1:8) says that the Heter according to most Rishonim of giving up your life even if not required to do so is only if the person is ready to give up his life before committing any aveira at all. But if he is only stringent regarding one particular aveira he may not give up his life for it. The reason is because in that case he is not giving up his like for the purpose of the Kiddush Hashem. If he were he would not differentiate between one Mitzva and another. Instead he is giving up his life because he is stringent regarding than specific Mitzvah and a person may only give up his life for Kiddush Hashem not for any other reason.
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