#27. Not to Stand Idly By
When a Human Life is in Danger.
"Neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbor."
How many ways can we destroy what we've built? How many ways can we destroy what we have been gifted by God?
Certainly, we can do damage proactively. We can commit murder, fraud, adultery, theft, and a host of other felonies and misdemeanors. However, there is also great passive damage.
Today's commandment tells us that when we stand or sit idly by to let human life be unlawfully killed, we are guilty of a crime and a sin ourselves.
First, this does not mean we shall be against Torah death penalties, for these are commanded. Second, it does not mean we shall be against every form of warfare, for some is defensive, and therefore commanded, and some is offensive in defense of society, and is therefore also commanded. What remains to stand against?
(1) Murder and Assault. You are commanded to interfere, either by your physical force or by calling in powerful authorities, such as the police. We cannot here parse whether we should judge if the victim "deserved it" (as in the lawful "avenger" of Torah) or if we are judging the perpetrator in a wrongful light, or even if the police themselves shall commit further or worse harm. Our duty is to step in where blood is being spilled, even before it is spilled. Some may say that to step in too soon is to cause irrevocable harm as a false witness. This is a matter of personal judgment, for the consequences shall be far-reaching and life-changing in any case.
(2) Abortion. A fetus is a human life. In legal terms, the fetus has value, and a mother who receives malpractice that harms her growing child may sue for a sizable sum, and such a doctor is subject to many administrative punishments. Such consequences do not come upon any doctor that treats an animal that dies, or treats a disease or cancer that dies. A fetus is therefore not to be considered an animal, or a disease or cancer. You are therefore commanded to intercede with any abortion, for the sake of the child.
The "fight or flight" instinct is completely natural, from God. We might think this gives us license to run, and thereafter blame our created glands for interfering in assisting someone in trouble. It does not. Obviously, the instinct is necessary, or we would not be gifted it. Nevertheless, its power is a bit much when mixed with our Free Will, so the commandment is necessary to reign in the natural instinct to run from trouble.
What if, by stepping in, I am killed? Is it "oh well, too bad" for me and my family? This is a difficult question, and more so since our instinct is to walk or run away from dangerous situations which do not light up the parental instinct. Talmud tells us we have the right to defend our own lives too, for we are valuable to our families and to ourselves, as well as to God. There is therefore not only a commandment to fulfill, but also a decision to make at the moment of crisis: do I or don't I? By hesitating, the victim may be hurt or killed; by not hesitating, I may be hurt or killed.
Soldiers, police, and athletes, are no less subject to the adrenalin rush of fear, only they are trained to stand and fight. These are our everyday examples.
Jesus might've saved Himself by telling the Sanhedrin what they wanted to hear, but that was not the mission of Christ. Instead, Jesus was sent to be a supreme example of standing for Torah even unto death. Naturally, few or none of us can attain such a pinnacle, and fewer still desire it, but He is the apex of one willing to die, not only for his beliefs, but also for his friends. "And ye are my friends if you do whatsoever I command." What does Christ command? "I and the Father are one." Therefore, Christ commands what God commands, which is Torah. Christ does not tell the Father to change His Law, the Father tells the Son to evangelize the existing Law. Matthew 5:19 tells us this means every commandment. After Jesus ascended, the Church taught, rightly, the entire Law to all, Jew and Gentile. Only the difficulty of such Law caused the Council at Jerusalem to make a grave error in permitting partial Torah for Gentiles.
Think how this applies to today's commandment. It is very difficult to intercede in an assault, a murder, or an abortion. One is bound to become embroiled or get hurt, or be subject to further time in court as a witness. Yet the difficulty of commandments is not how we decide whether to obey them.
All things considered, the commandment is not TOO difficult to fulfill. We are
not commanded to go looking for villains, as a super-hero. Therefore, the
number of times we should be called upon to aid a victim in mortal danger ought
to be few. But if and when that time comes, heroism and courage are
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