Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah
April 20, 2023
29 Nisan 5783
Tuesday morning, I started my drive to work and there was a soccer ball at the foot of my driveway blocking my way. I knew that it didn’t belong to my softball-obsessed daughter. So, I picked it up and moved it to the lawn in the hopes that its owner would appear to claim it later in the day. Well, it’s Thursday and the ball is still sitting there. So, imagine my surprise when I looked at my news feed today and saw an article about a North Carolina man who shot a six-year-old girl and her father after a basketball rolled onto his property. This, of course, took place just days after a teenager was shot in the face for knocking on the wrong door when trying to pick up his younger siblings from a friend’s house in Kansas City. It took place just days after a 20-year-old woman was shot and killed because the car in which she was a passenger turned into the wrong driveway in upstate New York. There was also the birthday party shooting in Alabama last week that killed four people. These are just the shootings that got a lot of publicity. There were many more during the same time period. How much more of this madness must we tolerate?! In the Talmud, we read the following: "אין לך דבר שעומד בפני פקוח נפש"—“No word [no law, no teaching] stands in the way of saving a life (Yoma 82a).” In order to save a life, we are instructed by the ancient rabbis to set aside virtually all of Jewish law—which they believed to be God-given—because they understood that the whole point of a legal system to is to enable its adherents to LIVE according to the laws and not die because of them. As Jews, we must bring this principle to the American conversation about guns. No single law is more important than the lives of our children. I must confess that I agree with the former chief justice of the US Supreme Court Warren Burger when said, “The gun lobby's interpretation of the Second Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American People by special interest groups that I have seen in my lifetime (click here).” But, even if we are inclined to believe that the current, widely held interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is correct and Americans have the right to own any guns they wish, it’s time to reconsider. The rabbis were willing to set aside laws that they believed were written by God in order to save lives. It seems to me that we should be willing to set aside laws written and ratified by human beings in 1791 in order to save lives. Those same legislators enacted laws that prohibited women from voting, and counted African-Americans as only 3/5 of a human being. I think it’s fair to say that they got some things wrong and that it’s okay make some changes over two centuries later. This week’s double Torah portion “Tazria-Metzora” describes how our ancestors treated certain skin diseases. It may not surprise you to know that we no longer treat skin diseases the way that the Torah prescribes. After all, the treatments may have helped centuries ago, but we now know that there are more effective ways of treating those diseases. The 2nd Amendment may have been a good law in its time, when virtually every adult male was a part of a well-regulated militia. However, those days have passed, and the technology of guns has changed. It’s time for our national gun laws to change as well. And I will be reminded of it every time I see a ball rolling down the street of my neighborhood. Shalom, RAF.