Earlier this week, the Boston Marathon went on without incident. One year after deadly bombings rocked the event, we had opportunity to look back at the attack and reflect on the courageous responses of the city of Boston, the running community, and other heroes who emerged from the story.
This week’s parshah, Kedoshim, contains many famous phrases, but few are as relevant and crucial as the second half of Leviticus 19:16: “Lo ta’amod ‘al dam rei’ekha–do not stand idly by the blood of your fellow.” So critical is this phrase in the eyes of our tradition that the midrash Sifra derives three distinct rules from its words:
“From where do we know that if you have evidence that you are not permitted to remain silent about it? Because Scripture says ‘Do not stand idly by.’ And from where do we know that if you see someone drowning, or about to be attacked by bandits, or about to be eaten by a wild animal, that you must act to save his life? Because Scripture says, ‘Do not stand idly by.’ And from where do we know that if you see someone about to commit murder, or adultery, or incest, that you must stop that person, even by killing him? Because Scripture says, ‘Do not stand idly by.” (Sifra Kedoshim Section 2, 4:8)
It’s actually rare for the rabbis to assign so many different applications to one Biblical phrase, so something was clearly motivating them here. It could also be argued that the principles in the midrash motivated Bostonians, both a year ago and earlier this week. On Shabbat morning, we’ll meet some of the heroes who acted in ways consistent with the words of our tradition.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise