Fri | Apr 12, 2024

Every life is precious

Published:Sunday | February 25, 2024 | 12:07 AMRabbi Yaakov Raskin - Contributor

THERE IS nothing more sacred than human life. Nothing more beautiful and uplifting than seeing humankind interacting with love and living in harmony. So, when the US State Department recently issued a travel advisory, warning its citizens to reconsider travelling to Jamaica after 65 people were killed in just the first four weeks of 2024, I was deeply pained.

This recent string of murders is part of a larger issue of violent crime, with the State Department reporting that Jamaica has had one of the Western Hemisphere’s highest homicide rates for the past several years.

But something doesn’t add up. Jamaica is a friendly, beautiful country with a vibrant culture and globally recognised cuisine. How is it that our reputation does not reflect this? We deserve to live in a country that morally reflects the natural beauty of our stunning landscape. One which represents a place of peace, safety, and prosperity for all. Not criminality and chaos. But, given the distressing picture of Jamaica today, what can be done.

Following the story of creation, the book of Genesis recounts that “The earth became corrupt before G-d; the earth was filled with lawlessness.” G-d then said to Noah, “I have decided to put an end to all flesh, for the earth is filled with lawlessness because of them: I am about to destroy them with the earth.” (6:11-13)

G-d then sent a flood to the land, essentially pressing the refresh button on humanity. Following the flood, in the hope that there would not be a repeat of this episode, Jewish tradition teaches that G-d gave a clear prescription for fostering harmonious and well-functioning societies, through focusing on the inherent goodness in the human condition.

They are called the Seven Noahide Laws and are named for Noah, who stood alone as a righteous man in a world sunken in lawlessness and immorality. As the sole survivor – with his family – of the flood, Noah is the ancestor of all humanity, and therefore these laws are equally applicable to all his descendants.

The seven laws are:

1. Not to profane G-d’s oneness

2. Not to curse G-d

3. Do not murder

4. Do not eat a limb of a living animal

5. Do not steal

6. Do not commit adultery or engage in other forms of sexual impropriety, and

7. Establish courts of justice.

These laws set the foundation for moral living and place principles like respect, gratitude, selflessness, and justice at the forefront of social consciousness. The importance of these laws of universal morality lies in the traits and principles that undergird them, the belief that every life is precious and deserves protection and respect.

Judaism teaches that every human is created in the image of G-d and carries a piece of Him inside. Human life is indispensable; not worthless. We need to re-establish the value of every person in our society, and educate our children to see, appreciate and care for the soul that each of us has.

Each person has within them the immense potential to impact the world positively, and each life lost robs the world of a shining light. The Rebbe, Rabbi Meanchem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, said that the day a person is born is “the day G-d decided the world could not exist without you”. Each person has a mission, a purpose, something only they can achieve to make the world a better place.

It is on us as a society to recognise this. To choose to view our fellows with love and respect, and see them for who they are: human beings with inherent goodness. When a person is killed, the world mourns this deep tragedy.

Earlier this month, the world celebrated the 79th birthday anniversary of Bob Marley. Marley’s message of peace, love and brotherhood continues to inspire me and millions around the world. When he said that “what’s important is man should live in righteousness, in natural love for mankind”, he gave a voice to the worldview that every person needs to live with respect toward others.

If we want to make our country and society a place where all people can live in peace, safety and prosperity, we must look to the fundamental values that moral communities are built on. Here at Chabad of Jamaica, we plan to bring more attention to this subject by hosting classes on the Seven Noahide Laws. And just as these laws are intended for all people, not only Jews, this class will be open to all.

May it be that through our heightened awareness and spreading of the timeless moral principles spelled out in the Seven Noahide Laws, we will merit to be the custodians of a more kind, peaceful, and just society.

Rabbi Yaakov Raskin is Jamaica’s only rabbi and directs the Chabad of Jamaica with his wife Chaya Mushka. To learn more, please visit www.jewishjamaica.com