Thursday, December 02, 2010

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Toras Chayim

We occasionally forget that Torah is Toras Chayim, Torah is the Torah of Life…  This evening my daughter broke her arm.  My wife ran with her to the local emergency clinic while I headed home from work (in case it was serious and would require subsequent transport to the hospital).

I arrived at the clinic after fighting through rush hour end-of-week traffic (Thursday is the end of the business work week here in Israel – though I watched emergency vehicle after emergency vehicle screaming NORTH towards the Haifa / Carmel mountain fires) and met my wife and daughter, whose wrist and arm was in one of those positions that just screams OUCH THAT’S NASTY AND CLEARLY BROKEN.  My wife was chatting with another mother who’s child was also getting an x-ray as the doctor was handing us a paper to head to the hospital, and that mother asked “did you light chanukah lights yet?”

My wife responded “no, my husband came here straight from work” and I responded “this clearly has priority”.

Photo – Jerusalem sunset, looking west from Bayit Vegan towards Ein Kerem (on the left and Hadassah Hospital in the distance).

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We make a lot of sacrifices for Torah and mitzvot.  Pleasures we avoid in this world, restrictions we place on ourselves, lots of effort and money focused on Jewish education, Jewish holidays and the Jewish ritual objects of life (like tefillin).  We may even go hungry at times to be sure of eating kosher and make great sacrifices to keep Shabbos if necessary.

But Toras Chayim – the Torah is a Torah of life.  The Torah tells us the things for which we MUST give up our life or accept major injury.  They are being forced to murder, rape, or being forced to worship idols.  That’s it, that’s all.  We DO NOT give up our lives to keep Shabbos.  We DO NOT give up our lives to keep kosher.  Or to be able to pray.  Or to eat matzah on Passover.  Or to light Chanukah lights.

We may and SHOULD strive mightily, and give up much to keep Hashem’s Torah.  But life and limb, THE TORAH TEACHES US, have priority.

So when it’s Shabbos and G-d forbid someone is seriously injured, there’s no hesitation to get in the car and go to the hospital even though under normal conditions that would be a direct and serious violation of Shabbos.  And there’s no concern over whether the Chanukah lights will be kindled in the proper time when one is staring at a seriously broken arm.

Photo: Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital complex in the distance at sundown.

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It’s not an uncommon error (unfortunately) in an age of superficial zealousness to move beyond sacrificing for mitzvot to sacrificing AGAINST the commands of the Torah that Toras Chayim and suffering on one’s own command (instead of the Torah’s command) for one’s unlearned interpretation of Torah.  But it’s the piousness of fools without merit, ignorant zealousness that harms instead of helps.

May we all learn Torah and through our learning understand Hashem’s plan for living Torah.

Chanukah Samayach, a happy Chanukah from the waiting room at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem.

(While I sit with my daughter in the waiting area we’re watching news reports of the horrors of the fires burning northern Israel.  People killed and injured, communities destroyed, even hospitals evacuated.  It’s time to beseech the gates of heaven with our prayers!)

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