On gun control — for your consideration

For many years the English “Bobby,” who peddled his bicycle on patrol, needed but blow his whistle and shout “Halt in the name of the Crown” and the criminal would oblige. This was still the reality when I lived in Manchester some 30 years ago. The reason was simple. Punishment was severe. Generally, criminals did not use guns, as the punishment for their crime rose significantly if they dared to carry a gun. As the English became ever more liberal in their administration of justice, criminals began to use guns. Today, the constabulary needs to be armed when confronting them. A great message for all on this subject as it is being addressed anew in the USA.

This message is clear no matter the location, “The punishment must fit the crime.” And while I doubt this would have altered the recent Las Vegas mass murder orchestrated by, it seems at this point in the ongoing investigation, a single individual, it would address the gun violence in communities such as Chicago. Well I remember 16-year-olds shooting it out on my street in the Uptown neighborhood of the City which was my home for two decades. Reason – prison is a revolving door. In many American urban centers a stint of a year or so in penitentiary is a badge of honor on the street and in the gangs. Let these teens face life imprisonment without parole and things will change.

As for general society, the value and sacredness of human life traditionally taught by the collective church community through the Judeo-Christian ethic, which shaped the moral fiber of our nation, has been thrown to the wayside by liberals, in particular, who take a dim view of religion in general, castigating those who are

G-d fearing. The number of human beings murdered by the rampant practice and acceptability of abortion in the United States, recently demonstrated by the Republican Governor of Illinois allowing for state funding of abortion on a grand scale, staggers the imagination.

The brother of the Mayor of Chicago, Dr. Ezekiel Emmanuel, an ethicist no less and architect of Obamacare, has advocated that doctors must reevaluate their fidelity to the Hippocratic oath realizing that many of the lives they save through modern medicine are not of any economic value to society as a whole but rather a burden. “A UNIQUE UNDERSTANDING OF PROFESSIONAL OBLIGATIONS, SPECIFICALLY, THE HIPPOCRATIC OATH’S ADMONITION TO ‘USE MY POWER TO HELP THE SICK TO THE BEST OF MY ABILITY AND JUDGMENT’ AS AN IMPERATIVE TO DO EVERYTHING FOR THE PATIENT REGARDLESS OF COST OR EFFECT ON OTHERS,” in his view is placing an undue financial burden upon society as a whole as it requires the physician to provide equal and maximum medical care for everyone. Dr. Emanuel developed a graph indicating, in his view, the period of years in life during which one is entitled to maximum medical care and conversely the period of years in life when only minimal care should be administered to the patient. Woe to the youngster or senior who develops a serious medical problem.

The so called “death panel”, very much the key issue in the debate at the onset of Obamacare in the United States, has been a fixture of British medicine for decades. During my sojourn in Manchester a striking example of this phenomenon occurred.  The local Board responsible for the administering of medical care in greater Manchester had to make a budget decision.  Never receiving sufficient funds from the government to meet the costs of the medical requirements of the community, they had to decide where best to allocate these funds.  And while it was recognized that, given the need, several new dialysis machines were a necessary purchase, it was determined the all too inadequate funds available would be better utilized elsewhere. A review of patients requiring dialysis was undertaken.  Those who were single, on the dole, middle age, with no immediate family were sent formal letters stating further dialysis would no longer be available to them at hospital. Those letters were in truth “death certificates” issued by a “death panel.”

In the aftermath of the High Holy Days it is worth remembering that somber prayer offered on those days. “On Rosh Hashanah it is written and on Yom Kippur it is sealed… who shall live and who shall die.” The supplicant, with earnest and pure faith, with trepidation and fear, recognizes the Al-mighty, “pen in hand” reviews each of our pages in the ledger of life, calculating the sum of our virtues and the lack thereof, and with deliberation, imbued with His knowledge of eternity, inscribes their sum – “who shall live and who shall die on each of our respective pages. That humanity has now relegated this celestial judgment to the sphere of mere mortals, who, unlike our Heavenly Father, are incapable of truly evaluating the virtues of the individual human being and therefore resort to evaluating his\her supposed economic value to society as a whole, is a desecration, a diminution and devaluation of life itself.

That our “advanced” world no ,longer understands that which was clear to Hippocrates, the Greek physician in the Age of Pericles, that the physician must care for each and every individual utilizing his best skills to sustain life, all life, regardless of the patient’s age or station, speaks volumes about how little humanity has truly advanced beyond our forbearers.

Death by doctor is rising at an alarming rate. Euthanasia is already a reality in today’s hospitals. Society has accepted that we can evaluate by our own divination another’s right to life itself. Is it then any wonder the taking of another’s life is no longer viewed with the horror of the past and demand for severe retribution it once entailed? This trend will continue until those of Faith speak out in unison declaring “The L-rd giveth and the L-rd taketh away.” Life is a Divine gift, a precious and unique commodity the value of which cannot be limited to the human ken. Society must reconsider its sense of economics, where it places true value and need – a new ultra-modern hospital or a new ultra-modern sports arena. The choice is ours.

Let us pray and work toward guiding humanity toward that right and proper choice taught to us in the Bible. Honing the moral and ethical skills of society, enriching our children’s lives with the eternal moral and ethical teachings revealed to humanity at Sinai is the ultimate answer to the gun violence of our times.

About the Author
Retired and residing in Jackson, New Jersey, Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz was the rav of Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation in Chicago. During his nearly five decades in the rabbinate he led congregations in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. He served as an officer, Executive Committee member and chair of the Legislative Committee of the Chicago Rabbinical Council.
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