The Bible Says What? ‘Dirty laundry comes before saving lives’
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here
Analysis

The Bible Says What? ‘Dirty laundry comes before saving lives’

Rabbi Sandra Kviat takes a controversial topic from the Torah and looks at a progressive Jewish response

 Two people are travelling through a desert. One of them is carrying a bottle with just enough water to sustain one person. Whoever drinks the water will live; the other person will die. If both people drink half the water, both will die. What should they do?

The ancient rabbis argue the owner of the bottle should drink it, using a biblical command from Leviticus that one should first save one’s own life, before helping others.

In another rabbinic story, we have two cities, one with a water supply, the other without.

As before, the ancient rabbis argue that the inhabitants of the city with the well have the right to the water before the other city – but add that if the well is only for animals, then the other city’s inhabitants have rights to the water.

Rabbi Yosi, however, disagreed. He said the animals and even doing the laundry takes precedent over the lives of people in the other city (Tosefta, Bava Metzia 11:33–37).

American Progressive Rabbi Jill Jacobs quotes a modern-day rabbinic study group where her colleagues were aghast that Rabbi Yosi’s view is upheld in Jewish tradition, until one pointed out: “We all do this all the time. I take my kids to water parks, even though I know there are people in the world who don’t have water to drink.”

This story highlights the competing responsibilities we all face, between our own needs, local needs and global needs.

Perhaps all of us are a bit more like Rabbi Yosi than we’d like to think, for we do choose our ‘laundry’ over the basic survival of those further away.

As we reflect in the weeks before the High Holy Days, let us each take some time to consider how we help others, whether they are our neighbour or the stranger in another land.

  • Rabbi Sandra Kviat serves Crouch End Chavurah
Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments