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This week’s Torah portion, Acharei-Kedoshim, teaches us that “… you shall not stand by your fellow’s blood. I am G-d.” Rashi explains the meaning of “standing by your fellow’s blood in the following manner. You shall not “watch your fellow’s death when you can save him. For example, if he is drowning in the river or if a wild beast or robbers come upon him.”
We need to understand the meaning of this. What the Torah means is that we must help our fellow who is in danger. We must do (i.e., take affirmative action) whatever possible to save him. Why does the Torah phrase this in the negative, not standing by his blood?
The explanation is that the Torah already contains numerous exhortations commanding us to help save our fellow’s possessions. The Torah says that “if you see your enemy’s donkey lying under its burden, would you refrain from helping him? You shall surely help together with him.” The above is just one example of many in the Torah. If the Torah commands us to save another’s possessions, how much more so must we exert ourselves to save his life! It must be that “not standing by our fellow’s blood” is coming to teach us an additional lesson.
There are times that it may be possible to think that one must not attempt to save his fellow. Suppose one would be putting himself in a life-threatening situation. He may feel that it is alright for him to stand idly by. Therefore, the Torah teaches us that “you may not stand by your fellow’s blood.” You must do everything possible to save him.
However, what is the law if one sees that as a result of his placing his own life in danger, he will not be able to save his fellow? Therefore, Rashi writes, “when you can save him.” If you are not able to save him, this commandment does not apply.
However, nothing happens by chance. The Baal Shem Tov taught that whatever a Jew sees or hears provides him with a lesson in the service of Hashem. The very fact that I “chanced” to “watch my fellow’s death” was for a purpose. It means that I must do what I can to save him. Otherwise, Hashem would not have shown it to me. How much more so is this true of spiritual death. The fact that we see Jews around us who are spiritually drowning obligates us to save them. Our reaching out to save them in a friendly and pleasant manner will certainly bring “Moshiach now.”
I wish you all a good Shabbos and healthy summer!
Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn
Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 32, Pages 120-126
מוקדש לזכות כ”ק אדמו”ר נשיא דורנו מליובאוויטש
חיילי “צבאות השם” חיים ועדן עודד שיחיו מאריס
נדפס ע”י הוריהם
הרה”ת ר’ מנחם מענדל
וזוגתו מרת חי’ מושקא שיחיו מאריס
. Our Parshah, Vayikroh 19:16.
. Parshas Mishpotim, Shemos 23:5.
. See the appendix to Kesser Shem Tov beginning with Section 127.