OlamiResources.com is honored to present free to the Olami Community and beyond, Rabbi Avraham Edelstein’s new landmark sefer, The Laws of Outreach. We are featuring the sefer to the readership of OlamiResources.com in downloadable installments over the next few months. We are greatly appreciative that Rabbi Edelstein has kindly offered to share this important publication, including extensive Hebrew footnotes, with rabbis, educators and mekarvim worldwide. This installment is Chapter II: Kiruv as a Rescue Mission. You can download the first chapter that we featured earlier here. Please click here to purchase a copy.
There is a Torah obligation to save a person’s physical life. This is deduced either from the verse, “Do not stand by [idly] over [the spilling of] the blood of your neighbor,” or as an extension of the obligation to return lost objects. The mitzvah to return a lost item includes the obligation to return a lost body, i.e., to save his life when it is in danger of being lost.
The mitzvah of saving a single life is considered one of the greatest things we could do. Chazal teach that anyone who rescues a single Jew is considered as if he rescued the entire world.
There is an additional source —וחי בהם. This conveys that we must save a life (including our own) even if it requires transgressing a Torah prohibition in the process. We must even violate Shabbos to briefly extend the life of a person who will not observe any more mitzvos. So great is the intrinsic value of a Jewish life that we are allowed to break Shabbos to extend that life even for the shortest duration.
What about saving a life in a spiritual sense? Is it obligatory to rescue the Yiddishkeit of a Jew who would otherwise be lost to the Jewish world?
The Torah views spiritual existence to be of greater value than physical life. Accordingly, some authorities maintain that this is the basis for the requirement to save a spiritual life as well. Other authorities, however, maintain that we may not apply mitzvos that were directed at a Jew’s physical well-being to their spiritual existence.