Friday, August 17, 2007

Don't Turn Your Back On Your Community VII

R. David M. Feldman, author of Where There's Life, There's Life, responds in an essay titled The Imperative to Heal:

It at first seemed counterintuitive that so liberal a set of concessions should apply as well to care of a non-Jewish patient. It did not seem to follow from the enabling principle, "Violate for him this Sabbath so that he be here to keep many Sabbaths." Yet, the desire and the instinct to do so were clearly felt, and two considerations were invoked to allow it.

One was "mi-shum eivah," that the Sabbath be set aside to offer such treatment, in order to "prevent enmity," to promote good public relations. The other consideration was "b’tselem Elokim," that all mankind is created "in the image of God," and the duty to break Shabbat and save life knows no ethnic boundaries.

It is told of the late talmudic giant Prof. Saul Lieberman that he figured in a public challenge as to which of these two considerations is the essential one. A newspaper reporter had heard of the dialectic, and asked Prof. Lieberman what is the real reason Jewish doctors do treat gentiles on the Sabbath. He offered the "image of God" reason. When the reporter left, satisfied, a student demanded: "But does not the Talmud first present the other reason, ‘to prevent enmity’?" Rabbi Lieberman answered "That’s what my response accomplished. It prevented enmity."
Full article here.

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