Does God want us to risk life, or to save it?

Hundreds of members of the Orthodox Jewish community attend the funeral for a rabbi who died from the coronavirus in the Borough Park neighborhood which has seen an upsurge of (COVID-19) patients during the pandemic on April 05, 2020 in the Brooklyn Borough of New York City.(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Hundreds of members of the Orthodox Jewish community attend the funeral for a rabbi who died from the coronavirus in the Borough Park neighborhood which has seen an upsurge of (COVID-19) patients during the pandemic on April 05, 2020 in the Brooklyn Borough of New York City.(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Some of you reading this are frum. If you are שומר שבת (Sabbath observant) you know — or should know that there are circumstances under which מלאכות (stuff you’re just not supposed to do on the Sabbath) are not merely permitted, but required. Every restriction specific to שבת must be cast aside to save a life. The overriding rule is פיקוח נפש pikuach nefesh — saving life. The protection of life is everything.

So if you’re walking out the door on Saturday morning on your way to shul and you see your neighbor drop to the ground grabbing his chest, if it’s the fastest way to get him help, you fire up that Dodge Caravan with “Challah Has Been Taken” bumper sticker and drive him to the ER… on Shabbat (It traces back to Chanukah. See https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-festival-of-life/)

A God so petty that he would want Jews — or ANYONE to risk infection, serious illness and death for the sake of ritual is not a God worthy of worship. The very suggestion is birkat hashem (the sarcastic term for insulting God). Think about it. Accusing God of being so legalistic that he wants some of us to die for the sake of ritual is as insulting as it gets.

I skipped seders, I’m not going to shul, I am using the brains God gave me by minimizing my chances of contracting COVID-19 – and by extension minimizing my chances of becoming a threat to others. I not a Jew more concerned with a bloodspot on an egg than one on the lungs of countless Jews and non-Jews dying from COVID-19.

If God is anything like my understanding, when Yom Kippur rolls around I’ll have less to atone for because of it.

Israeli soldiers walk past a woman wearing a protective face mask in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, as they patrol to check that people are not disobeying the government’s lockdown orders, April 7, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
About the Author
Mark Ira Kaufman majored in physics. He later worked as a studio musician for many years before turning to writing. He has been published in The Plain Dealer, The Beacon Journal, The Jerusalem Post, and Midstream Magazine. He also was writer and editor of The Mark Ira Kaufman Journal.
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