There is a principle in Jewish law that prohibits participation in activities that are dangerous. Danger cannot always be avoided, but there is a demand that one should weigh the value of participation against the risks inherent.
This Jewish rule may seem to be common sense to some, but it is so deeply sensible that one might wonder why anyone in his right mind or any government would ignore it.
When one considers the principle, one can also so easily see it at play in recent news events, some as recent as today.
Schools throughout Columbus are closed today as all local counties have declared level two snow emergencies. Indeed many businesses are closed. This author is not immune to the decision – he is writing this column instead of hazarding the roads to drive to a daytime job.
As the world looks to the Olympics in Sochi, news came down the pipe today that Shaun White will not participate in the slope style event. The venue is treacherous and has already been the site of major injuries. Olympians have been carted away with a broken collar bone and concussions that they suffered while taking trial runs. Those athletes know the inherent dangers of their sports. When one of the greatest stars backs out, that should alert course designers.
Back in America the world has witnessed the downward spiral of Justin Bieber’s life. He has been arrested on several occasions in the last month for reckless behaviors that put all around him in potential risk. He has been caught driving under the influence. NBC reported on Today that while travelling on his own private jet to the Superbowl that behavior on board put the flight in danger. Bieber and his father were reported to have harassed the flight attendant so badly she had to hide from them. The pilots are reported to have asked the passengers to extinguish their marijuana cigarettes as the smoke was so thick and the temperature so high that the flight was endangered. Pilots also reported that they donned oxygen masks so that they could fly the jet safely. Bieber’s actions put those around him in life-threatening danger, and thankfully his crew was able to take the needed evasive measures.
On TV today Al Roker chastised the mayor of New York for keeping New York City schools open despite deep snow and ice so thick that businesses and schools were shut in every state in the Northeast.
Everyone knows the risks of tobacco usage. Today the CVS drug store chain took a step that will deeply affect its profit margin. It is removing all tobacco products from its shelves, explaining that an organization selling medication for heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes ought not also hazard customers health with tobacco.
Avoidance of excessive risk is not only a matter of good sense; it shapes government policy. Last week the Air Force reported the implication of 92 missile officers in a cheating scandal. Today the Navy suspended thirty instructors for allowing cheating by nuclear reactor trainees. Had cheating been permitted to continue, how safely could the Navy or Air Force defend the country? Consider the deaths avoided because cheaters will not be permitted to operate equipment for which they did not qualify.
On a more mundane level, avoidance of risk is the reason parents childproof homes to prevent potential risks.
Take a lesson from generations old Jewish advice. Stay safe, drive safely, act with forethought. If risks do need to be taken, be careful in doing so and take advantage of every protection available.