It’s our duty to save life whenever we can

AT first, I was a little bemused — puzzled even — when I saw your front page last week.

“Surely a life is worth £650?” was the main headline. Momentarily, I wondered what that could mean.

After all, it was so different to the usual Page One fare we are used to: the depressing upsurge in antisemitism or the seemingly endless ramblings of Jeremy Corbyn.

Then, as I began reading, I found myself simultaneously filled with concern and yet full of admiration.

Concern that half of the communal organisations in the Jewish community don’t have a life-saving defibrillator, which is so vital in saving someone who has suffered a heart attack.

And admiration that the Jewish Telegraph has chosen to highlight the fact that an outlay of just £650 on this miraculous piece of equipment could keep so many in the land of the living.

What a startling fact it was to read that if you can get a defibrillator on a patient within two minutes of a heart attack, their survival rate goes up from six per cent to 90 per cent.

That really hit home. For the saving of life (pikuach nefesh) is not just a humanitarian act — it is a Jewish obligation.

Indeed, it takes precedence over all other commandments in Judaism. In matters of life and death, it is incumbent on us to act, even when that action violates the letter of the law.

A famous Mishna states “whoever saves one life, it is as if he has saved all humanity”. Each human being is likened to a whole world — of infinite value and irreplaceable uniqueness.

The Torah commands lo ta’amod al dam re’echa (you shall not stand idly by your neighbour’s blood). In other words, all Jews are obligated to save the life of a fellow Jew who is in danger.

What’s more, refusing to do so is considered a transgression.

And it does not matter what day of the week it happens — even Shabbat. For, yes, we are commanded to break the laws of the holy day in order to save a life. Thus Jewish ambulance workers are permitted to work on Shabbat and Jewish nurses may tend their patients.

Of course, defibrillators were not around when this principle was formulated. But they undoubtedly fall within its ambit.

So I say congratulations to those far-sighted Jewish organisations which already have this lifesaving device.

And let’s hope the remainder will soon follow suit.

Finally, a word of praise to the Jewish Telegraph for highlighting the situation.

We are quick enough to criticise newspapers when we think they’ve stepped out of line — let’s congratulate one which has launched such a valuable campaign.

Kol hakavod — well done, JT.

Jacob Levy,
Golders Green,

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