Sanctity Of Life - Pkuach Nefesh
Group Size: 5-30
Estimated Time: 90 minutes
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To introduce the topic of Kiddush Hashem; to understand the high value we put on life; To learn about Pikuach Nefesh
2-3 soft balls to be used in dodgeball (nerf balls work best)
Noseh: Kiddush Hashem
Topic: Sanctity of Life/Pikuach Nefesh
Written By: Josh Skarf, based on Chevraya Aleph Choveret from 1964
Goals: To introduce the topic of Kiddush Hashem; to understand the high value we put on life; To learn about Pikuach Nefesh
Materials: 2-3 soft balls to be used in dodgeball (nerf balls work best)
Background: There are many concepts that can be related to Kiddush Hashem, in different modes of life and under various conditions and circumstances. In this week’s snif, we will begin by talking about some basic, underlying principals of Kiddush Hashem that will build up to topics in weeks to come. We are trying to impress on the chanichim the importance of life and how the Torah wishes us to live by the laws and not to die by them.
When Matityahu called “Mi L’Hashem Elai” his pleas were directed towards Chasidim who were hiding at the time. Until this time the Chasidim hid in caves in fear of the Greeks. The Greeks would deliberately seek out the Jews on Shabbat. The Chasidim considered it a greater act of faith to be killed rather than to resist on Shabbat. Countless Jews were killed in cold blood in this manner.
The time had come when the Jewish People was in danger of being destroyed. Therefore, Matityahu had decided that in order to defend all of Judaism it was necessary to give up, temporarily, one of its fundamental principles. Not for purposes of attach, but where it was a question of self-defense, the Chashmonaim invoked the decree that Jews should fight on Shabbat.
Various mekorot (sources) about this concept:
- The Torah teaches us that man was created – alone to let us know that he who destroys one human life in
- He who sees a child drowning in the river and says to himself, as soon as I remove my tefilin I will save him, and in the meantime the child drowns, it is he who took his life.
- On Shabbat, if one falls into a well, one must break through to extract him. If a child falls into a lake, one should immediately throw him a lifesaver.
- Break one Shabbat (to help a sick person) that he may serve many Shabbatot.
Game 1: Cat and Mouse
Set up the area into a square or rectangle. Pick four chanichim to each stand in a corner of the field. Then pick one Cat and one Mouse. The cat is trying to chase the mouse and tag him. The mouse tries to run away. If at any point the mouse is afraid s/he is going to get caught, s/he can run to a corner and tag one of the chanichim standing there. This person becomes the new mouse, while the old mouse takes the place in the corner. When the cat succeeds in catching the mouse, the mouse is out and the cat becomes the new mouse. A new cat is chosen from among the chanichim who are not in the game, and play continues. This works well if you have all non-active chanichim in a line, so that as soon as a mouse is caught, the next person in line can run into the game as the new cat.
Tell the mouse that tagging someone is a last resort, and they should try everything before resorting to a tag-up.
Discussion: In our game, the mouse always tried to not tag people in the corner, but in situations where it meant life or death – they would get out otherwise – they had to resort to tagging up. We have a large number of mitzvot to do. Not all of them are easy, and often we have lots of adversary conditions that make doing mitzvot difficult. We might want to go to shul, but it is raining or snowing outside. Obviously, in a condition like that, we would hope to overcome the conditions and still go to shul. In most situations we hope to succeed in keeping mitzvot, despite bad conditions. However, in situations where are life is at risk, not only is it okay not to keep mitzvot that endanger us, it is forbidden to do so. If you see someone drowning on Shabbat, you must immediately go to save them, even if this means you will break Shabbat. If you are not physically able to fast on Yom Kippur, you must not do so. The reason behind this is because life is so important – we should not risk it to do a mitzva. If we were to die doing that mitzva, the result would be a loss of the opportunity to do many more mitzvot. This concept is known as Pikuach Nefesh.
Game 2: DodgeBall
Play a regular game of dodgeball:
Discussion: Often in dodgeball we try not to catch the ball – it’s more dangerous and we have the potential to get out. However, especially at the end of the game, when there is only one player left, it’s almost a given that you have to try to catch it, as it’s the only way to give your team a chance. Similar to what we talked about before, in situations of self-defense it also becomes important to make sure you are not in danger. For this reason, it is often important in
Game 3: Alibi
Pick two people to be the criminals. They must go outside and plan out what their crime was, going over details to ensure that their stories will match. One at a time they are brought back in. One at a time the people in the circle must ask questions to them to see if their stories match up. For example, they might be asked, “What type of car were you driving?” or “What were you wearing?” Once the first person answers all the questions, the second one returns and is asked the same questions. If their answers do not match for three questions, they lose.
To increase the chinuch and fun, choose contestants by having them bid how fast they can come up with a story. (For example, two people may decide that they can do it in one minute, while another may bid 30 seconds. Whichever has the lowest bid gets to go out. However, perhaps only do this once or twice, to make sure everyone gets a chance.)
Discussion: In this game we carefully cross examine the witnesses to test if they are correct. In Jewish Law, when it comes to cases involving the death penalty, courts were super-careful to make sure no one was falsely killed. Even in situations where they were sure someone was guilty, they would often go out of their way to find a loophole so as not to have to execute the person. If a court executed two people in 7 (or according to some, 70) years, they were considered an bloodthirsty court. Once again, the reason behind this is because we place such a high value on life.