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Live by them

It’s beautiful and sunny outside today, with a high of 21 degrees.  Grade 5-7 is having a wonderful time right now at the PNE / Playland, and our students at school are enjoying the beginning of what feels like summer.  And one province over, in Fort McMurray, Alberta, we have this:


The wildfire, which has gown to 101,000 hectares in size, is truly devastating, the scale of the tragedy is enormous.  As I write these words, efforts are underway to get thousands of evacuees who took shelter at oilfield camps north of Fort McMurray out and to safety in Edmonton and Calgary.  As reported by Global News:

“At 6 a.m. Friday, RCMP began escorted convoys, 50 vehicles at a time. The convoys are moving through Fort McMurray on Highway 63, carrying on for another 20 kilometres south, and then drivers are being released to go on their own. At that point another convoy of 50 cars will begin. About 500 vehicles are expected to be escorted out on Friday, and the entire convoy efforts are expected to take about four days.”

People have lost so much, so quickly.  We as Canadians, as family and as members of the Jewish community have to do our part to help out.  The 5th aliyah of this week’s parsha ends with one of the more well known verses in all of the Torah:

“וּשְׁמַרְתֶּ֤ם אֶת־חֻקֹּתַי֙ וְאֶת־מִשְׁפָּטַ֔י אֲשֶׁ֨ר יַעֲשֶׂ֥ה אֹתָ֛ם הָאָדָ֖ם וָחַ֣י בָּהֶ֑ם אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֽה׃”

“You shall guard My statutes and My ordinances, which a man shall do and live by them. I am the Lord.” (Vayikrah 18:5)

There are many, many ways in which the sages and rabbis have tried to understand the curious phrase “and live by them“, “vachai bahem“.  The teaching I would like to dwell is from the Talmud in Tractate Yoma 85, which says that the words “vachai bahem” in this passuk teach that the obligation to preserve human life overrides the obligation to observe other Mitzvot (with few exceptions).  Judaism teaches that preserving and saving lives trumps all.

After watching the following clip featuring Rex Murphy from the National, I am sure you will agree:

Let’s do our part.  We have an opportunity to do right by the people of Fort McMurray, and help support efforts to save and rebuild lives.  To use Rex’s words: “Every citizen is your neighbour.”

The Canadian Red Cross has set up an emergency ‘Alberta Fires’ appeal. You can also text REDCROSS to 30333 to make a $5 donation. The Alberta and federal governments have announced it will match donations to the agency.

Finally, we as a school will be raising money through our upcoming Rosh Chodesh dress-down day on Monday and other Student Council fundraising activities.  Stay tuned for more information.

The words of the Torah only have meaning if we do indeed live by them, and become something truly special when we are inspired by them to take action, and reach out and help others in turn.  “Live by them.”

Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorach.

Abba Brodt, Principal




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