25 - Do Not Stand By part 1

If we see a Jew drowning, or being attacked by armed robbers or a wild animal, we may not run away; we are obligated to rescue him if we can.

We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create z’chusim for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.


Last week’s stretch of the week was:  Count to ten in your head before addressing someone out of frustration or anger in public.

Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.

Taking A Deeper Look - Lesson #25


PART 1 –  Saving a Fellow Jew’s Life or Property – Part 1


If we see a Jew drowning, or being attacked by armed robbers or a wild animal, we may not run away; we are obligated to rescue him if we can.  Similarly, if we hear that violent people are plotting against him or setting a trap to ensnare him, we must inform him of what we heard.

If running into our neighbor’s home to save him will pose a clear danger to us, then we are not obligated, and according to most opinions, not allowed, to do so.  But if the danger to us is a ‘safek’, a potential danger but not a definite danger, such as pulling an injured man from a car that has been in an accident and might ignite, there is a difference of opinion.  Some say we are obligated to take the chance, but most say there is no obligation.  Nevertheless, we have to weigh each situation carefully and not inflate every minor concern into a “possible danger.”

The obligation to save a fellow Jew applies to men and women, in all places and all times.  If we see someone in danger and do not save him, we violate the positive mitzva of “Lo sa’amode al dam ray’acha”, do not stand by the blood of your friend.  If the person is a captive and we pass up the opportunity to redeem him, we violate several prohibitions, such as tightening our fist from helping those in need, allowing  someone to be subjected to grueling labor without intervening, not saving those being led to death, and other, similar transgressions.

The mitzva obligates us to save Jewish men, women, and children, including the elderly, the ill and the mentally unstable.  Even if a Jew does not want to be saved and shouts “Do not save me!” we are still obligated to save him.  If, for example, he does not want to give up his opportunity to die al Kiddush Hashem, we still overrule his request and save him.  

(Excerpted from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver.)

Story(based on a true story)

“Oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh...”

“It’s OK, Leah.  She’ll be OK.”

“No no no, she couldn’t breathe!”

“Hatzala came and helped her.  The carrot’s out, she’s on her way to the hospital with her mother, and they’ll take care of her.”

“I didn’t know what to do.  I didn’t know how.”

I had been watching Shifra’s kids for her while she ran to the store.  They and my kids were running around in my backyard playing some bizarre version of elimination and stopping for snack breaks at the patio table along the way when four year old Kayla slowed in her pursuit of my oldest and stopped suddenly, dropping the ball and plopping down on the grass.  

From my vantage point at the kitchen window, I waited for the inevitable screams to begin-who had done something unfair to her?  Was it my kids or her own sisters?  Had she tripped and skinned a knee?  But nobody shouted-someone else grabbed the ball and threw it at her, declaring her out.  The kids kept running and she just sat there, staring and grabbing her neck.  

Something clicked in my head-the neck thing.  Choking.  I ran from the kitchen window and almost went straight through my sliding back door before I remembered to open it.  In seconds I was by the small girl, who stared up at me with pleading eyes.

The other children came quickly-clearly something was happening, and the Ima would help.  I asked if she could breathe, and she shook her head slightly.  My eight year old son volunteered that he’d seen her eating baby carrots before her last run, and emphatically told me I had to get them out.  Acting on instinct, I opened Kayla’s mouth and reached in, trying to grab whatever was there.  Nothing.

I shouted, “Call Hatzala!” to nobody in particular, and three children ran inside to the kitchen phone which thankfully had a bright green Hatzala sticker on it.  Meanwhile, Kayla was still silent, and I knew that was bad.  I also knew that I didn’t know what to do.  I remembered that there was the Heimlich maneuver, but I had never learned how.  

Someone had done a demonstration in my high school once, but they’d used an adult and then insisted that there were necessary changes with a small child and that we should take their course to learn all about it and CPR too.  A bunch of my friends signed up, but I had art class at that time, so I figured I’d get to it another time.  Never happened.  All I remembered was that if I did this thing wrong I could hurt Kayla worse.  Or was that with CPR?

I smacked her on the back, but I knew that was wrong.  I went around to her back and was putting my arms around her to do who knows what when a Hatzala guy came running to the backyard.  I found out later that night that my kids had followed the training they learned in school and had stood in the front driveway and flagged the him down.  “And you’re supposed to say someone’s name when you want Hatzala to be called, not just tell everyone,” my son explained well after his bedtime.  “The police man said that makes sure someone calls, instead of everyone thinking someone else will.”

The Hatzala guy ran straight to Kayla and I let go of her, letting the professional do his work.  In under a minute she was gagging and coughing, and soon there was carrot on the ground and she was crying.  I hadn’t heard such a beautiful sound since my last baby was born.  The EMT was concerned about her color, though, so off to the hospital she went, her recently arrived mother beside her.  Apparently her other kids had called her.

I watched them leave from my driveway, my next door neighbor holding on to me.  And I panicked, in reverse.  “I didn’t know what to do,” I babbled.  “I never took the first aid class.  I was always too busy or lazy.  Why didn’t I take the class?  She was choking.  On my lawn.” 

My neighbor stopped me mid-babble.  “She’s fine, Leah.  And you can still take the class.”

“I can?  I can.  I will,” I resolved.  “I’ll do anything I can to keep someone from choking on my lawn again.”

“And you’re not a horrible person for not knowing what to do.  A lot of people don’t.  I don’t, really,” she added.  “I saw you with Kayla, but I didn’t come help because you seemed to have it under control and I didn’t want to crowd her and I didn’t remember exactly from my class ten years ago either.  Maybe I’ll come with you to the course.”

I knew I wasn’t horrible.  I had taken the steps I knew how to take-I hadn’t just stood by.  My neighbor wasn’t horrible either-she hadn’t wanted to make things worse, and thought she wasn’t needed.  But with a person’s life... The obligation of “Lo Saamod al dam rei’echah” didn’t obligate me to know how to do the Heimlich or CPR, but learning them would be an amazing step toward being able to do the mitzvah, to help someone who might need me.  And even if nobody needed the first aid I would learn, I would be taking active steps toward being able to save a life.

It didn’t matter that other people didn’t know how to help; it made it more important for me to know.  Now that I knew that it could really come down to me, that I might need to save a life, I felt that I couldn’t allow myself not to know how.  

Discussion Question Options:

What are our responsibilities in keeping our children safe?  Do they all fall under the law of “Lo sa’amode”?

What types of situations prompt us to stay back from helping another in danger?  What about when helping them doesn’t put us in danger?

How does the number of others aware of the situation affect our decisions regarding when to step in?  Does it affect our obligation?

Stretch of the Week:

Take a proactive step to keep your family safe.


Stretch Of The Week