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Op-Ed: Don’t Be a Rodef

by Anonymous

It’s heartbreaking.

Those  absolutely heart-stopping horrific sounds: screeching brakes, slamming crash, shattering glass, screams…

A racing ambulance, flashing, blaring, whining, and getting closer, announcing trouble.

Instant panic and tefillah.

Please Hashem let it be ok. And not be anyone I know.

But it is someone.

A person. A life. An irreplaceable part of humanity.

And then the tehillim pleas, the chesed, the remorse and anguish, the hospital vigils, lives forever changed in that split second.

Wouldn’t it be better if we could rewind and erase…if we could prevent yet another tragedy?

It’s so easy to have just a bit of callousness. It’s part of the New York culture, we tell ourselves.  A bit of callousness. A bit of brazeness. We feel you have to be an aggressive driver or get left behind in the dust.  To just push it, just a bit. To glance at your phone while driving. To be annoyed at those throngs of pedestrians and just a little, sort of forget they’re human. To rush around the corner, or past that school bus.

And it’s easy to think the problem is someone else’s,  or just too big to change.

But that’s a profoundly un-Jewish attitude. Change starts with me. Now. And if we slow down, put the phone away in the glove compartment or trunk, are just a bit more cautious and courteous, and model and spread that attitude to our families, it can only help. Wouldn’t saving one life be infinitely worth it?

Peer pressure and cultural influences definitely work in the negative. When I’m in New York, I drive faster, more aggressively, and take more chances than I normally would.  We can choose to exert positive pressure on those attitudes. Here’s a place we can, and must JUST SAY NO. It’s easy to forget that it’s not about convenience, or getting there five minutes earlier. It’s about lives.

Yes, attitude matters. A Crown Heights news site posted an article about a frum woman who hit a child, saw he was Baruch Hashem physically okay, and drove off, without apologizing. We’ve got to slow down, think, and feel.

Recent posts on Crown Heights websites: Neighborhood unnerved by string of hit and runs.  Delivery man critically injured by hit and run driver. Another child struck by a car on Brooklyn Ave.

There are severe halachic ramifications as well. An article entitled A Driver’s Liability in Halacha and Civil Law states: A reckless driver is liable under halachos of negligence, “ A person has liability for all of his actions, both accidental and intentional.”

“According to halacha, if one were acting in a manner that was completely reckless, to the point of being a danger to life, he takes on the status of being a Rodef. As a Rodef, he is chayav misa for the duration of time that his actions present a direct threat to the lives of others.”

This article is about us. Me and you. In a hurry. On the phone. Getting a little callous to the fact that we are driving a lethal weapon. And those way-too-slow and annoying pedestrians are real, irreplaceable lives.

And 30% of the pedestrian accidents are a result of poor judgement on the part of the pedestrians. We must educate our kids to be defensive, alert pedestrians. I teach my kids to wait at the corner till there’s a green/walk symbol, no matter how little traffic there is, and to walk all the way down to  the corner,  rather than cross mid-block, no matter how annoying.  Adults and kids alike laugh at them.  And please, folks, put your phone away while walking and crossing.

It is challenging.  But we gotta do it. Each close call, injury, and chas v’shalom death is one too many.

Let our community take safety to heart, and lead the way in making even our streets places of courtesy, goodness and kindness, worthy of Geula.

9 Comments

  • 1. School bus driver wrote:

    Lately the police have been cracking down on drivers passing school busses and also seatbelt violations. Over the past week I saw 3 cars getting pulled over for passing my stop sign, one them was Jewish.

    Wait the 20 seconds don’t pass a school bus it’s a big fine with lots of points and If you were to chas vesholom hit a child while passing a school bus you will be arrested.

    Same thing if you hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk you will cause another lots of pain and you will be arrested.

    Reply
  • 6. Anonymous wrote:

    Very good point!!! Recently, while standing on the corner of Empire and Albany, crossing on the “walk” sign, I was nearly hit by a speeding car. He not only veered out of his direction of traffic ( towards Kingston)into the oncoming traffic lane (towards Albany) where I was standing, so that he could cut off the cars in front of him and cross the red light!! After being shaken up, I was horrified to see that the driver was someone from our community, with his wife in the front seat as well. BH for a miracle but shame on the driver!!

    Reply

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