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For the ascent of their souls, let's put safety first

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Shavua tov. I do not understand how our accounts are settled in heaven, but perhaps on this difficult morning it's worthwhile to settle our accounts right here on earth. Here, on the ground, in the face of the horrible disaster in Meron. Will we simply take upon ourselves the obligation to diligently obey safety rules? To be concerned about elementary security measures? We should never minimize them and must always pay close attention to the Torah's decree: Venishmartem me'od lenafshoteichem (Be very protective of your lives).

The Arad Festival disaster, the Maccabiah disaster, the Carmel disaster, the Nahal Tzafit disaster, the Versailles disaster, and now the Meron disaster. They all remind us – at the price of our blood – to make sure we receive an engineer's seal of approval on our structures, to plan in advance for an emergency evacuation if needed, and to limit the number of people allowed to enter public events. This is not about a cumbersome bureaucracy of yekke nudniks, or about not appreciating the holiness of Meron. This is a sacred mitzvah in which we are meant to excel.

And so, too, in our personal lives, perhaps we need to change for safety's sake: to install railings and security bars, to drive at the speed limit, to check our tires' air pressure. To do so is an obligation. To do so is halacha. To do so is critical. In fact, is not adoption and strict enforcement of safety protocols the best way to ensure that the souls of those who perished will have an ascent on high, as well as to protect all of us from such tragedies in the future?

In the end, this is all connected to the Torah portion, Emor, that we read this past Shabbat. One of its main subjects is the sanctity of life. There is an emphasis on those prohibitions that separate the Kohanim, the leaders of the people, from contact with death. Until today, Kohanim do not enter cemeteries. Our commentators explain that while Egyptian culture sanctified death (through mummification and burial in pyramids), our spiritual center of gravity would differ, as a Jewish culture would be built that would sanctify life, would value life above everything else, and would protect life at all costs. I can only hope that – for the sake of these 45 precious souls – we do not only strengthen our spiritual side through soul searching and self-refinement. It is essential that this catastrophe also bring our awareness regarding our physical safety to a new level.


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