By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com
Yesterday, I received a phone call from a Rosh Yeshiva concerning an article that the frum websites had posted about President Biden falling down after a speech he made at the US Airforce Academy commencement exercise in Colorado.
The Rosh Yeshiva asked, “Is this what we are try to teach our children, that it is perfectly okay and valid to ‘make choizek’ of our nation’s leader tripping and falling down? Does this reflect the ‘promotion of Torah values’ that we are all trying to inculcate within our children and talmidim?”
I asked that perhaps the frum websites meant well in that they feel that a Biden win in 2024 would bring back the dangers of an Iranian nuclear bomb, while a Desantis win might be the proper hishtadlus to help ensure the safety of our brethren in Eretz Yisroel.
He responded that there was no mention of this in the articles.
There is, however, an altogether different message here that needs to be pointed out. That message is that we should all take the matter of people falling down – very seriously. Indeed, there are possibly seven Torah Mitzvos involved in this, and that should be the message in President Biden falling down.
This message applies to anyone interacting in any way with the elderly or with compromised health. Let us keep in mind that any simple accident, such as tripping on a staircase, or a toy left on the floor, or a rug that is slightly folded over, or slipping on a wet floor can have life-changing consequences for that person.
The president was speaking outdoors. He was using a teleprompter. The teleprompter is lightweight and could have fallen over in the wind. A sandbag was used to hold it in place. It was this sandbag which caused the president to slip.
Every year, tens of thousands of older adults fall. They break a hip or a bone or a rib, and this can be the start of some very serious health problems and can lead to long-term disability. Each year, slightly more than one in four people age 65 years and up fall each year. What causes these falls?
- Declining eyesight
- Declining hearing
- Declining reflexes
- Heart disease
- Conditions that cause people to rush to the restroom
- Mild cognitive impairment
- Problems with balance and walking
- blood pressure that drops too much when getting up quickly (postural hypotension)
- Numerous other health-related issues
So what are the Mitzvos? Below is a list of them.
- Hashavas Aveidah. The verse in Parashas Ki Seitzei (Devarim 22:2) discusses the mitzvah of hashavas aveidah, returning a lost object, with the words, “V’hasheivoso lo,” “and you shall return it to him.” The Gemara in Sanhedrin (73a), however, includes within its understanding of these words the obligation of returning “his own life to him as well.” For example, if thieves are threatening to pounce upon him, there is an obligation of “V’hasheivoso lo.” This verse is the source for the mitzvah of saving someone’s life. It is highly probable that it is to this general mitzvah that the Shulchan Aruch refers in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 325. This is certainly the case with ensuring that no one trips over items in one’s home, workplace or other venue.
- ‘V’Nishmartem me’od l’nafshoseichem.’ The Maharsha states definitely this pasuk from Devarim (4:15) refers also to following medical advice and would also apply to safety advice..
- ‘Thy Brother’s Blood.’ There is a negative mitzvah of not standing idly by your brother’s blood —“Lo sa’amod al dam rei’echa” (Vayikra 19:16). This is mentioned in Shulchan Aruch (C.M. 426:1) and in the Rambam.
- ‘Lo Suchal L’hisalem.’ There is yet another negative commandment associated with the positive commandment of hashavas aveidah, and that is the verse in Devarim (22:3), “You cannot shut your eyes to it.” This verse comes directly after the mitzvah of hashavas aveidah. The Netziv, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin, in his HeEmek She’eilah, refers to this mitzvah as well.
- ‘V’chai Achicha Imach.’ The She’iltos (She’ilta #37), based upon the Gemara in Bava Metzia 62a, understands the words in Vayikra (25:36), “v’chai achicha imach,” “and your brother shall live with you,” to indicate an obligation to save others with you. The Netziv in his HeEmek She’eilah understands it as a full-fledged obligation according to all opinions. He writes that one must exert every effort to save his friend’s life, until it becomes a matter of pikuach nefesh for himself.
- ‘V’ahavta L’rei’acha Kamocha.’ The Ramban, in Toras HaAdam Sha’ar HaSakanah (pp. 42–43), understands the verse of “And love thy neighbor as yourself” as a directive to save our peers from medical danger as well.
- Lo sasim Damim b’vaisecha – Based on this verse (Dvarim 22:8), the Shulchan Aruch in Choshain Mishpat 427:7 rules that anything that could cause someone to stumble in your home must be removed.
- Remove tripping hazards such as toys on the floor.
- Never place anything on a staircase
- Remove all clutter and tape down or remove potential hazards
- Re-arrange small pieces of furniture to ensure a clear and unobstructed pathway
- Remove all cords, and frayed carpeted areas
- Provide enough walking space in all areas by re-arranging furniture
- Ensure that all areas of the home be well-lit
- Always clean up spills as soon as they happen
- Make bathrooms safe by installing stability bars in showers and near toilets
- Place rubber mats in showers and on bathroom floors
If these issues would be taken more seriously, then we will be zocheh to greater health among our older family members.
The author can be reached at [email protected]