Thursday, January 13, 2011
The Value of a Life Part I: The texts
For the next two weeks or so, with the help of G-d, and with your assistance, I want to explore some of the implications of these two texts, one from the Talmud and one from the Qur’an. I think they contain very fundamental insights into how we should regard and value human life, including our own. For the moment, let me put them out there for your contemplation and comment. In a few days, I will try to share some thoughts about them.
I am especially counting on my Muslim friends to point me to appropriate tafseers and related Hadiths to help me understand. Please don’t be shy.
Here are the texts…
For this reason was Adam created alone, to teach us that whosoever destroys a single soul * , the Torah regards as guilty as though he had destroyed an entire world; and whosoever preserves a single soul the Torah ascribes merit to him as though he had preserved an entire world.
Furthermore, [he was created alone] for the sake of peace among men,
That one might not say to his fellow, ‘my father was greater than
yours, and that heretics might not say, there are many ruling powers
Again, [we are taught that we descend from one man] to proclaim the greatness of the Holy One, blessed be He: for if a man strikes many coins from one mould, they all resemble one another, but the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be
He, fashioned every man in the stamp of the first man, and yet not one
of them resembles his fellow. Therefore every single person is obliged
to say: the world was created for my sake.
-Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin 37a
[* In many versions, the term “of Israel” will appear here, narrowing the application only to Jews. In the context though, given that it is talking about Adam as the progenitor of all mankind the more narrow wording just doesn’t make sense to me. I am certainly open to hear other’s insights.]
Because of that We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land - it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind. And indeed, there came to them Our Messengers with clear proofs, evidences, and signs, even then after that many of them continued to exceed the limits (e.g. by doing oppression unjustly and exceeding beyond the limits set by Allah by committing the major sins) in the land!.
-Qur’an 5:32 (The Noble Qur'an)