FROM THE RABBI’S DESK – ACHAREI MOT -KEDOSHIM:
The Torah’s mandate requiring that Shabbat be violated to save a life stands in stark contrast to the prevalent wisdom in Canada to allow physician assisted suicide. The concept of Pikuach Nefesh, the saving of a life, finds its source in this week’ Torah reading which declares that one shall live and not die through the performance of mitzvoth.
So sacred is the concept that the Rambam declares that one who engages in the dangerous dismissal of pikuach nefesh is an Apikorus, a non- believer. It is ironic that while certain segments of Jewish society hastens to condemn liberal Jews as heretic, the Rambam declares who engage in this type of ultra piety to be evil and deniers of G-d.
On the other hand, the taking of a life even with the best of intentions is proscribed except in particular situations. Can a doctor refuse to involve himself or herself in physician-assisted suicide? Can a doctor refuse to refer a patient to a colleague who expresses no compunctions in carrying out this task? These are the questions that become practical considerations as opposed to hypothetical.
With the recently released report that there are more elderly Canadians than young children, the move to further accelerate assisted suicide opportunities will continue to gain momentum. Ostensibly rational reasons will be given to promote this activity which in reality might be a subterfuge for the hospital’s bottom line. Society will further develop politically correct verbiage to justify assisted suicide, and there will be a new moral order dispensing with the matter of the sanctity of life replacing it with an amorphous term labeled as the dignity of life. “If there is no dignity, there is no value to life”, will become the new adage in our society.
The Torah warns us not to walk in the pathways of the heathens. While the law deals with the adaptation of cultural mores foreign to our faith, it by definition eschews the adoption of values that threaten the sanctity of life that serves as one of the bases of our faith in this week’s Torah reading.