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Parshas Vayakhel: The Preservation of Human Life on Shabbat

Parshas Vayakhel: The Preservation of Human Life on Shabbat

Pikuach Nefesh means that all life is special and belongs to God and that the preservation of human life overrides any other religious rule of Judaism, including Sabbath restrictions.

Our Torah portion this week, Vayakhel, Shemot (Exodus) 35:1–38:20, illustrates how to apply God's word in human action. The manual skills and hard physical labor needed to construct the Tabernacle are described in great detail, and these activities are prohibited on the Sabbath.

In modern times, opinions vary as to what constitutes Sabbath observance. Current day guidelines suggested by some rabbinic authorities resemble but differ from the restrictions originally enumerated in the 39 Melachot, the thirty-nine general categories of labor that are forbidden on Shabbat according to our Torah portion.

We all need a physical rest and spiritual renewal after six days of demanding work. Resting for a day to focus on studying Torah and reconnecting with family and friends heals us and makes life sweet. The quietness and lack of busy activity imposed by a power outage can be practiced voluntarily to some degree as a way to humble ourselves and respect God's word.

Sabbath observance differs according to circumstance. For example, activities required to care for children, the elderly and the sick are allowed. Relevant also is the Jewish legal principle of pikuach nefesh, that all life is special and belongs to God and that the preservation of human life overrides any other religious rule of Judaism, including Sabbath restrictions. Talmudic opinions give special emphasis to saving the life of an unborn child on the Sabbath by caring for a pregnant woman or even attempting to deliver a live baby whose mother has just died in childbirth.

The child in the womb is alive so pikuach nefesh applies to protecting pre-born humans from destruction. I refer you to several sources below.

Isaiah 49:1

"The Lord called me when I was in the womb, before my birth He had pronounced my name.”

The Fetus is Taught the Entire Torah

https://www.sefaria.org/Niddah.30b.21?

Judaism Is Emphatically 'Pro-Life' | Opinion by Rabbi Yaakov Menken 

As lifesaving activity is the only situation in which a Sabbath violation is permitted; were a fetus not deemed alive by the Torah, this behavior would be entirely prohibited.

https://www.newsweek.com/judaism-emphatically-pro-life-opinion-1514868?

Scientific Fact: Human Life Begins at Conception, or

Fertilization https://www.lifenews.com/2013/11/18/undisputed-scientific-fact-human-life-begins-at-conception-or-fertilization/

Science in the Service of Halacha

Rav Tendler explains the importance of teaching science, and how Torah and Halacha cannot be fully understood without a grasp on the workings of the world around us. https://download.yutorah.org/2010/3728/742002/science-in-the-service-of-halacha.mp3

or https://www.yutorah.org/lectures/742002/ wait for download.

Cecily Routman

May there be abundant peace from Heaven, and good life upon us and upon all Israel. Amen.

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