June 2014, From the Rabbi

By Rabbi Erica Burech

Shavuot & Saving Lives

I have always been enamored with ER doctors. I feel completely riveted as I join the cluster of cars on the right side of the road as an ambulance races by with its blaring alarm. The (holiday) chag of Shavuot was observed recently. During this chag, we remember when we were at Har Sinai, we accepted the Torah as we stated: (“we will do and we will understand”) “na’aseh v’nishma” (Shemot 24:7). I believe that as we observe these mitzvot, we learn the value of life. During Shavuot, we renew our acceptance of God’s gift of the Torah where the mitzvot are revealed.

These mitzvot are guidelines that safeguard our physical selves and strengthen our (souls) neshamot. Interestingly, we are taught that we must place all these mitzvot to the side if we find ourselves in a situation where we need to fulfill the ultimate mitzvah of (saving a life) pikuach nefesh. The Talmud includes several cases where the laws of Shabbat are broken in order to save the life of another (Yoma 84b).

All of us might not be ER doctors or EMTs. However, we have a responsibility to take measures to safeguard our lives and the lives of others. “Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor” (Vayikra 19:16). As we travel this summer, please be safe.

A study released by the National Safety Council reveals the following: Twenty-eight percent of traffic accidents occur when people talk on cell phones or send text messages while driving . . . the vast majority of those crashes, 1.4 million annually, are caused by cell phone conversations, and 200,000 are blamed on text messaging (National Safety Council).

We all have the ability to ensure the safety of our life and the safety of other lives as well. In addition, we are an example to our children and grandchildren when we ignore a cell phone call, let it go to voicemail and retrieve it when we arrive at our destination. Our children are watching what we are doing and they are understanding our values when we do not glimpse at a text message or an e-mail while driving. The mishnah teaches us that every life is so precious. “Anyone who preserves a single life…is as though he preserved an entire world” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5). Here’s to continuing to do and to understand–na’aseh v’nishma.

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