This is my second blog in a series leading to the November election that shines a light on Biden-Harris policies and corresponding historic Jewish values. Please read my “Note” at the end.
Judaism affirms that health care is a human right, not a privilege, and that the community has a moral and religious obligation to care for the ill and dying.
Below are passages from Jewish tradition that affirm the obligatory role of health care workers and the community vis a vis the sick and the dying. Following these texts are the highlights of the Biden-Harris Presidential Campaign’s proposed health care policies, consistent with Jewish tradition’s values and directives. I am grateful to “Rabbis for Biden” that gathered many of these texts:
“Anyone who saves a single soul is deemed by Scripture as if that person had saved a whole world.” –Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5 – 200 C.E., Palestine
“The duty to return a lost object to another (Deuteronomy 22:1-3) includes returning ‘a person’s body, for if one sees people dying and can save them, one should save them, whether physically or with money or with knowledge.’” -Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (aka RAMBAM or Maimonides), Comment to Mishnah Nedarim 4 – 12th century, Spain and Egypt
“One who has medical ingredients and one’s neighbor is sick and requires them is forbidden to raise the price above the standard value.” –Shulkhan Arukh, Yoreh De’ah, 336:3 – 16th century C.E., Safed, Israel
“The Torah gives permission to the physician to heal; moreover, this is a mitzvah (commandment) and it is included in the mitzvah of pikuach nefesh (saving life); if physicians [and health care workers] withhold their services [to the ill], they are considered shedders of blood [i.e. murderers].” –Shulkhan Arukh, Yoreh De’ah 336:1 – 16th century C.E., Safed, Israel
“In relation to the obligation to pay the costs of saving the life of a sick person who is in danger of dying: From the straightforward reading of [the Babylonian Talmud] Sanhedrin 73a [saving a life], we see that one is obligated to do everything to save that person, and if not, one transgresses the negative commandment: “Do not stand idly over the blood of your fellow human being (Leviticus 19:16).’” -Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Minkhat Shlomo, V.2, 86:4 – 1910-1995, Jerusalem
“It has been enacted that in every place in which Jews live, the community sets aside a fund for care of the sick. When poor people are ill who cannot afford medical expenses, the community sends them a doctor [or healthcare worker] to visit them, and the medicine is paid for by the communal fund.” -Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg, Tzitz Eliezer 5:4 – 1915-2006, Jerusalem
“And it was learned that ‘any city that does not have in it these ten things, a Torah scholar is not permitted to live within it: …. a physician; [and] a surgeon…’” –Palestinian Talmud, Kiddushin 4:12 [66b] – 350-400 CE, Tiberius and Caesarea, Palestine and Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 17b – 500 CE, Babylonia
JOE BIDEN’S POLICY PLATFORM CONCERNING PROTECTING AND BUILDING ON THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
“Joe Biden believes that every American has a right to the peace of mind that comes with knowing they have access to affordable, quality health care, and he opposes every effort to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. As President, he will protect and build on the ACA to ensure everyone has access to quality, affordable health care. Specifically, Joe Biden as President will:
- Give Americans a new choice, a public health insurance option like Medicare, if their insurance company isn’t doing right by them or they don’t have coverage.
- Automatically enroll low-income Americans who would have Medicaid but for their state’s inaction on the public option, premium-free and with the same scope of benefits as Medicaid.
- Expand tax credits to help more families afford better coverage with lower deductibles.
- Stand up to the abuse of power by prescription drug corporations.
- Defend the rights of all people — regardless of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity — to have access to quality, affordable health care free from discrimination.
- Ensure health care is a right for all, not a privilege by expanding access to contraception and protect the constitutional right to an abortion, reducing our unacceptably high maternal mortality rate, and doubling funding for community health centers.”
Note: In the weeks leading up to the November election, I am posting relevant Jewish texts articulating liberal Jewish values and principles as applied to all the significant challenges facing America along with the policies of the Biden-Harris ticket that comport with those Jewish values. I do so as one of hundreds of “Rabbis for Biden” who believe that the Trump-Pence Administration is threatening our democratic system of government and democratic norms, the U.S. Constitution, Jewish moral values and ethical principles, and America’s preeminent standing as a respected world leader.
I ask you to consider distributing these blogs to anyone who is interested in what the vast majority of liberal American Jews believe (according to all polls) to Democrats, Independents, lapsed Republicans, Never Trump Republicans, and people who do not like Trump but are not yet convinced to support the Biden-Harris ticket, especially those living in the states identified by the Democratic presidential campaign where the closest results will likely occur: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
I ask that you especially distribute these blogs to young potential voters who, historically, turn out in smaller numbers relative to their percentage of the population. Ask them to vote not only for the Biden-Harris ticket but for Democratic Senate and House candidates as well as Democratic state and local candidates.
Nothing is more important than getting out the vote and winning the above states and the Electoral College. Though Joe Biden will likely win the popular vote by millions of votes, he may yet lose the Electoral College and the election. Therefore, he must win by huge numbers in the above states. Everyone should be encouraged to vote early unless you are willing to stand in line at polling places despite the health risks.