“Whoever saves a single human life, it is as if they have saved a whole world”

Rabbi Richard Jacobi, Co-Chair of Rabbinic Conference of Liberal Judaism
9 September 2016

This famous statement, from the second century Mishnah (Sanhedrin 4:5) occurs in the context of ensuring witnesses in the trial of someone accused of a capital crime. There its purpose is to demand that any such witnesses combine truth with compassion.

As the Jewish calendar took us into the month of Elul last Sunday, we are also becoming more aware than usual that everything we think, say or do has consequences. The image of God as judge is the God’s attribute of mercy is no less than five hundred times more powerful than God’s attribute of justice.

As Liberal Jews, I suggest we add these two images to the message of “connection, communication and care” that is the theme of this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day, Saturday 10th September. Established in 2003, this joint initiative of the International Association for Suicide Prevention and the World Health Organisation is motivated by the WHO’s estimate that one person in this world commits suicide every forty seconds. Further, the number who attempt suicide is calculated to be about twenty-five times as many! Every one and a half seconds, someone, somewhere attempts suicide.

The data alone should motivate us to connect, communicate and care. How much more so when we pause to consider the agony of the person driven to make the attempt! How much even more so when we then consider all those relatives and friends who are affected by the suicide or the attempt at it!

This Shabbat is World Suicide Prevention Day. As we pause to reflect on the day of rest, may we all stop to consider those whose turmoil prevents their finding of rest of Shabbat. May we look beyond ourselves to anyone we know or come across who is in need of connection, communication and care. Maybe, one simple action to connect, to communicate, to show that we care about them might be enough to save a single human life and, through that, save an entire world.

More information about World Suicide Prevention Day can be found at www.iasp.info/wspd/ or you can download the brochure here.

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