We are here to improve our relationships with others
in order to transform the Jewish people in these urgent times.
Last week’s stretch of the week was: Choose one person for whom you bear a grudge and think of ways you can allow yourself to forgive them by focusing on their positive traits. Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Saving a fellow Jew’s life or property
Lo Sa’amod al Dam Ray’acha
When a fellow Jew is in danger, anyone who is in a position to save him is required to do so, as the passuk states: Lo Sa’amod Al Dam Ray’acha -- “Do not stand aside while your fellow’s blood is shed” (Vayikra 19:16).
Therefore, if we see a Jew drowning, or being attacked by armed robbers or wild animals, we may not turn away; we are obligated to rescue him if we can. Similarly, if we hear that violent people are plotting against him, we must inform him of what we heard. (Mishpetei HaShalom 8:1-2)
In addition to being obligated to save a fellow Jew through our physical efforts, we are obligated to spend our money, when necessary, in order to do so. This might involve hiring others to do the rescue work or paying off violent people to prevent them from doing harm.
According to some opinions, we are obligated to make an effort to save others even from worry and anguish. For example, a husband who knows that his wife is easily worried should make sure to call her whenever he will be slightly delayed in coming home, before she has a chance to agonize over the reason for his delay.
Some poskim infer that if we are obligated to save someone from physical danger, then we are certainly obligated to rescue him from spiritual peril, thereby saving him in body and soul. According to these opinions, the obligation to save our fellow Jew from doing an aveirah is included in the mitzvah of lo sa’amod. (Mishpetei HaShalom 8:11)
(Excerpts from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)
The Sh’lah HaKadosh states that this mitzvah is a fulfillment of “Kol Yisrael areivim zeh l’zeh,” the whole Jewish People are guarantors one for another. He continues by saying that just as we are obligated in “hatzalah (saving) of the body,” all the more so we are obligated in “hatzalah (saving) of the soul”, because if one sees a person doing an aveirah (spiritual mistake), in reality he is destroying his life, and therefore one must do what they can to save him.
Story: (based on a true story)
When I think about the mitzvah of “Lo sa’amod al dam ray’acha” the image I see is that of one person saving someone that is drowning or someone performing emergency CPR on a collapsed victim. The following story reveals that this mitzvah can apply in another form of life saving as well.
When I was in need of a repairman, a very nice Jewish gentleman, Isaac, walked into my house to work on our leaking sink. He informed me it was a much bigger problem than he had originally estimated. He told me he’d need a few days to repair the problem. Isaac was in our house from 8-4 for the days he worked at our house and this provided us the opportunity to make small talk about the weather, the price of gas, and politics. After working on the job a couple of hours on his second day, Isaac informed me that he came from a very religious family. He shared that at a certain point in his early adult years he decided to give it all up. I asked him why, but he answered with vague ideas of his views on religion. I didn’t understand what he was saying nor did I really have the time to listen. He really didn’t seem to be interested in my opinion anyway. He continued with his work as I continued with my daily routine. Every now and then he would bring up the issue of Judaism but I would just nod, smile, and act as if I empathized with his position. Finally, after 4 long days adjusting to water being on and off and borrowing various neighbor’s washing machines, the work was complete and my house was up and running again. We paid Isaac his well earned pay and he was on his way.
Ten years later I woke up in a sweat from a dream. I dreamt that Moshiach had come and my family, neighbors, friends and I were all dancing in the streets in sheer ecstasy. The much awaited day had finally arrived and I was feeling an
unbelievable sense of relief. But from the other side of the street I saw a man approaching me. He looked familiar but I couldn’t exactly place his face. When he was finally a few steps ahead of me I realized it was Isaac, our repairman. He looked me straight in the eyes and said “Do you remember me? DO YOU REMEMBER ME? I spent 4 long days in your home working from morning until night and you didn’t teach me! You didn’t set me straight! You didn’t explain to me that I was making a mistake! You didn’t show me that there was a better way! Look at me now! Moshiach has come and it’s too late!” and then I woke up.
I can’t tell you how I was shivering! I had trouble falling back asleep. I literally had not thought about Isaac since the day he left our house that afternoon but the dream seemed so real, so vivid, so important. I felt as if HaShem was teaching me something. I really don’t enjoy telling this story to people because I feel it sounds like I’m giving mussar, yet my heart feels I must share the message I learned.
The message? If we see another person drowning in a pool, we don’t think. We jump in and try, be”H, to save them. If we see someone being cheated by a certain merchant we jump in and inform them that they are being taken advantage of and instruct them to be cautious. If we see someone’s child running into the street we scream and command all traffic to stop. If we see a lost Jewish soul - one who knows they’re lost or one who doesn’t even realize, we have the same obligation to guard, protect and guide them as well. To turn the other way out of discomfort or apathy is not responsible. It doesn’t mean we have to possess all the answers or even get into a conversation, but we must take their spiritual health as seriously as we’d take any other Jew’s physical life or money. The mitzvah of “Lo sa’amod al dam ray’acha” has new meaning for me when I view it in a light of spiritual life and death. This perspective has helped me grow in my ahavas yisrael in ways I never thought possible.
Discussion Question Options:
Do we have any obligations when we come in contact with a secular Jew?
Why do many religious Jews shy away from approaching secular Jews about their Judaism?
If a secular Jew is not aware of his rich heritage, whose obligation is it to teach him/her?
Stretch of the Week:
Reach out to an unaffiliated Jew this week.