Jewish Focus on Sanctity of Life

Hamas arms seized by the Israeli Defense Forces from a school in Gaza. (IDF photo)

Let’s be clear about with whom Israel is at war with: It is Hamas.

Hamas is a world-recognized fundamentalist Sunni Muslim terrorist organization founded in Gaza in 1987 by members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The antithesis of a lovely, peace loving, law-abiding org.

As the story unfolds, October 7, 2023 “is a date which will live in infamy” — the independent Sovereign State of Israel was suddenly and deliberately attacked by that world renown terrorist organization known as Hamas. A terrorist organization is not bound by rules of international laws of war.  Yet, it does appear that too many people and countries have an issue with the sovereign State of Israel defending herself as she determines her appropriate reactions — guided by those laws that are foreign to Hamas.  

Jews Attacked!! Jews kidnapped! Jews murdered! Jews sexually abused! All preordained by the Hamas charter. If you haven’t read their charter — then your understanding of the situation is lacking.

Many of our “Writings” are not only brilliant — but prophetic. In Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) — Chapter 3: 

5) A time to cast stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.

8) A time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.

The terrorists have their writings, and we Jews have ours. They are bent on killing us and we are bent on living. 

As the old cliché goes, which is also a phrase adapted from the Book of Ecclesiastes, “Whatever has happened, will happen again, whatever has been done, will be done again. There is nothing new on earth.” 

True to those words — there has always been antisemitism, and very likely, it will always be. As has happened, sometimes the hatred is buried, some deeper than others, and too often it does come up to the surface rearing its ugly head as is so evident today.

Israel’s concerns regarding eliminating ALL Hamas from Gaza stems from the acknowledged problem; i.e., if we do not eradicate ALL the termites in our home, the few left will certainly multiply and successfully destroy the house. 

Killing G-d’s creatures to preserve our safety and health…is explained in Ch 3 — A time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break and a time to build.

We, as a people do not promote taking a human life, but, to quote Tzvi Freeman, his key words, “Balance and Harmony. In all things in life there must be balance. A man must know to recede, he must know to attack. He must know to be a rabbit, he must know to be a lion. Only then is life balanced and healthy.”  If we don’t act as a lion at times, we are deliberately allowing ourselves to be killed. Pikuach Nefesh, do what you must to save your life.

A close read of Hamas’s founding documents clearly shows its intentions. There is NO room, not a bit, for any leniency in their determination to annihilate ALL Jews — total genocidal intentions. It is essential to absorb –“As they are NOT a formal recognized governmental agency acting on behalf of a country and therefore do not follow international laws” — they are deemed a terrorist group out to get you and me. Torah warns us about Amalek, in every generation. We have seen it and it is here!

It is interesting that with the reality of massacres, abuses, kidnapping, we still acted as humanely as possible given the circumstances, dropping flyers, following International Law, warning the innocent to leave. Don’t all so-called invading aggressive armies do that?

While we value LIFE — we must recognize that others do not. We will always be opposites, and therefore, WE need to win!

Yes, a basic principle of Jewish law and custom is the sanctity of all human life. The majority of decisors, poseks and halachic rulers, including the most authoritative and influential ones of the last half century – Rabbi Feinstein, Rabbi Tendler — have ruled that one should allow natural death to take its course, and that one is not required – and, according to some — even forbidden to intervene in such cases. Their opinions stem from a Talmudic story of Rabbi Judah the Patriarch, who was dying in great pain. His students prayed for his life to be extended while his maidservant interrupted their prayers so that his soul could pass and his suffering could end. The Talmud’s sympathies are with the maidservant.

Generally, Jewish law favors utilizing palliative care to ease suffering, as is such as those applied at hospices. This even includes gradually increasing morphine injections as long as one intends to reduce pain and not to hasten a patient’s death. At the same time, Jewish law prohibits suicide or so-called “mercy killings.” For this reason, Israel and many other countries do not permit active euthanasia or even the slightly more moderate model of physician-assisted suicide (in which I wholeheartedly believe) whereby healthcare professionals provide the necessary tools for the patient to take his own life.

The whole topic in Jewish law on withdrawing or withholding treatment from the terminally ill has evolved from early times when a feather under the nose determined whether someone was alive, or putting one’s ear to a chest to listen for a heartbeat.

These outdated techniques remain difficult to correspond with modern technologies, to say the least. However, Jewish bioethicists significantly disagree regarding “passive euthanasia,” which can constitute either the withholding or withdrawing of treatment from the terminally ill. In the 16th century, Rabbi Moshe Isserles codified three major principles: (1) One should not cause them to die more slowly; (2) One may not do any action that hastens the death; (3) One may remove something that is merely hindering the soul’s departure. Unfortunately, these principles remain subject to different interpretations.

While Judaism DOES value the sanctity of life, the widespread perception that Jewish law unequivocally demands that all measures be taken to prolong the life of a dying patient is incorrect.

According to most authorities today — the sanctity of human life and the duty to protect that life does not translate into a duty to prolong suffering for a terminally ill patient for whom there is no hope of a cure.

Make sure that your wishes are in writing — and people know your wishes, and where you put your document!

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