Is Non-Jewish Life Worth Saving?

We now know that three non-Jewish African-Americans risked their lives to pull Ephraim Klein from his burning car to try to save his life.

Many readers of openly contend Jews should not
risk their lives to save non-Jews. Some contend Jews should never help
non-Jews (unless all Jews everywhere are perfectly safe and
comfortable). Indeed, this may very well be the position of the next Chief Rabbi of the IDF, who openly asserts that, all things being equal, Jews should never
violate Shabbat to save a non-Jew’s life.

This appears to be the
normative Orthodox position, held by haredim and Modern Orthodox alike
– including Chabad. Chabad’s late rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson clearly asserted
that helping American Jews with their spiritual needs took precedence
over saving the lives of dying black Jews in Ethiopia. (That no halakhic [Jewish legal] source exists to support that contention did not stop the Rebbe from making it. This has led many to think the Rebbe secretly believed Ethiopian Jews were not Jewish. If so, they argue, teaching a Jew Torah in Minnesota certainly takes precedence over saving a dying non-Jew elsewhere.)

So, what is the correct approach? Do we view non-Jewish life as less (or ‘differently’) important? Is Shabbat more important than saving a non-Jewish life? Readers?



Filed under Bio-Ethics, Chabad Theology, Haredim, Modern Orthodoxy, Religion

4 responses to “Is Non-Jewish Life Worth Saving?

  1. Save the life I say, believe me Hashem will forgive you for “violating” Shabbos.

    Shmarya, my earlier posts were about terrorists, their lives shouldn’t even be savede during the week! (Unless you need to get information from them).

  2. Ironic how these are always the people who go on and on about where was America during WWII. Where were all the goyim ? Why didn’t anyone help the Jews ? Let’s think about this one…Uh, I know. No one helped the Jews for the same reason that frummies couldn’t care less about nonJewish lives. Everyone looks out for him or herself and what is happening in Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur, South America, Thailand and Sudan is interesting only in the sense that maybe it impacts the price of my gas at the pump or the price of my tomatoes at the grocery shop.

  3. I saw one of my acquaintences standing outside of shul with his cell-phone to his ear last Shabbos. He’s a doctor in a largely goyim area. Our LOR has told members of the congregation in life-saving professions that they may carry cellular phones for emergency use on Shabbos. Ostensibly, they are being allowed to violate Shabbos in full knowledge that the lives they will save are most likely non-Jewish. Honestly, I don’t know a Jew that wouldn’t set aside Shabbos to save a life, Jewish or non-Jewish.

    Why that can’t extend beyond our individual communities is beyond me. Taking care of our own while taking care of others is possible. To say otherwise smacks strikingly of a cop-out.

  4. ben matityah

    chabad, min haktubim !
    how so ?
    sheneemar :
    תַּחַת, כִּי-שָׂנְאוּ דָעַת; וְיִרְאַת יְ-וָה, לֹא בָחָרוּ.

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