17 January 2013

Gun Control, 2nd Amendment, Obama and Judaism





In the presser / EA signing from yesterday, both President Obama and Joe Biden said at least once that if the Executive Actions signed yesterday and the proposed things that would need to go through congress saves even one life, then it is worth it.

This is not the first time that we have heard this argument.

I want to point out that what President Obama said is actually very, very Jewish, with roots directly in  the Torah and Talmud.

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First, a point of agreement, and for this I don't even need to give links, there are so many of them that you can find them yourselves: the vast majority of the NRA types are professed "Christians" (God, Guns, Gays). Christianity in America, ESPECIALLY right-wing oriented Christianity, goes out of it's way to indicate it's eternal link with Judaism. Support for Israel (though for reasons I find abhorrent) is very strong in Right-Wing Christian circles. And it is true that Yeshua (Jesus) himself said: "I have not come to take away even one whit of the law (Halakha), but rather, to add to it". So, all those christians who claim to love jews so much and are always so pumped up to protect Israel with bombs and planes and lions and tigers and bears and oh my - those people need to listen up right now:

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There is an overriding principle in Judaism called "Pikuach Nefesh" (פיקוח נפש) - or " rescuing (a/the) soul", which you can read in full from this very informative link. 

In an nutshell, Pikuach Nefesh declares that all laws of G-d, any "Mitzvah" (commandment) can be broken if breaking that law means saving a life. In other words, the preservation of life overrides everything else. Period.

Part of the basis for this is in Leviticus:


"You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor" (Leviticus 19:16)

This has often been interpreted to mean that, for instance, if you see a neighbor drowning in his pool and it is shabbat (where jews are technically forbidden all kinds of work), then it is acceptable to jump into the pool and save that person's life.  If a person needs blood and it is shabbat and you are the only one in town with the needed blood type, then you are allowed to donate.


An even stronger case is made for this in the Talmud (which is a very old and respected commentary on the Torah):

Talmud, Sanhedrin 37a states:

"FOR THIS REASON WAS MAN CREATED ALONE, TO TEACH THEE THAT WHOSOEVER DESTROYS A SINGLE SOUL... SCRIPTURE IMPUTES [GUILT] TO HIM AS THOUGH HE HAD DESTROYED A COMPLETE WORLD; AND WHOSOEVER PRESERVES A SINGLE SOUL..., SCRIPTURE ASCRIBES [MERIT] TO HIM AS THOUGH HE HAD PRESERVED A COMPLETE WORLD."


Here is a pretty good 2-minute explanation of Pikuach Nefesh from youtube:




So, since the NRA gun freaks keep saying that the law of G-d is higher than anything in the US Constitution and if a change is made, they can claim that they are adhering to G-d's law by ignoring or disobeying any gun restrictions, then they should know that they are actually spitting on their own faith.

Pikuach Nefesh has boundaries:

On one hand, the sages have said that "the individual whose life is to be saved must be a specific, identifiable individual, rather than an abstract or potential beneficiary."

But on the other hand, the sages have also said that "If it cannot be ascertained whether or not a situation is life-threatening, the situation must be considered life-threatening until proven otherwise, thereby allowing action to be taken".

The two BIG exceptions to this are taking G-d's name in vain or committing deliberate murder (but this is also cleared up by "rodef", which allows the killing of another party if it is the only way to save yours or the life of a third party).


Now, the Right will claim that there have been situations where a semi-automatic assault weapon in the hands of a civilian has saved lived, but I have not seen one shred of data to support this.

I just wanted to make this point of discussion - so that the next time that Alex Jones and his ilk howl and scream like banshees over "natural law" - then they really should learn what the original "natural law" says, and they will not like what they read.

And I just want to point out in a mild-mannered way that G-d is neither Conservative, Moderate or Liberal. He is way beyond all of that.



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