Readings for Social Action Shabbat: Pikuach Nefesh

This year, my Social Action Committee wanted to promote the Stop the Bleed Campaign due to the experience of Har Sinai Congregation‘s member, attorney Deborah Dopkin whose life was saved because of the timely use of a tourniquet. Her story is told in this amazing local new story reported by WBAL TV Baltimore.

The theme of the service was Pikuach Nefesh (Saving a Life). However when the Social Action Committee began to look for readings suitable for this thematic Shabbat service, we find that there was not much available. Inspired by traditional texts, I wrote the following readings for the leadership participating in this service.

Reading 1: Kiddush – based on BT Sanhedrin 37a

Shabbat: the creation of humanity. Initially Adam was created alone, to teach us that anyone who destroys a soul…. that person is blamed as if they destroyed an entire world. And conversely, one who sustains one soul…. that person is credited as if they sustained and entire world.

Reading 2: Amidah – based on BT Yoma 84b, Mishneh Torah Shabbat 2:3

The sages taught us –

No one needs the permission of a Court to save a life on Shabbat –

              The one who is vigilant to do so is praiseworthy.

Although it is forbidden to fish on Shabbat, if you see a child fall into the sea, spread a fisherman’s net and raise the child from the water –

The one who is vigilant to do so is praiseworthy.

Although it is forbidden to build a step on Shabbat, if you see a child fall into a pit, dig part of the ground out, and create a makeshift step to pull the child out –

              The one who is vigilant to do so is praiseworthy.

Although on Shabbat one is forbidden from certain acts that medical care requires, even scholars and sages of Israel are obliged to treat a patient who is seriously ill by breaking those strictures.

              The one who is vigilant to do so is praiseworthy.

The sages teach us about Shabbat:

One prioritizes the saving of a life.

For it is written in Leviticus:

One obeys the commandments and lives by them.

We live by them and do not die by them.

From this we learn:

The laws of the Torah may not damage the world

But must bestow on the world

Mercy, Kindness and Peace.

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