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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 2/15/08

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Dear Rachel,

A few weeks back, an incident so infuriated me that I am finding myself still fuming.

My parents rent a home where the basement apartment is rented out to a kollel couple with three children. My married siblings had come for Shabbos with their families. In the afternoon, we began to sense the unmistakable odor of gas and checked the house for any possible source of leakage. Coming up empty, we wondered about the tenants downstairs. My mother went to see if maybe there was a problem there. When the door opened, there was no doubt as to where the smell of gas was coming from.

It turned out that a stove fire that had been left burning for Shabbos had gone out, but the burner’s knob was left to remain in the “on” position. When my mom inquired of the young woman why they didn’t simply turn the knob off, she replied that her husband, the man of the house, was adamant about not touching it on Shabbos!

My mother felt bad for their small children and asked if she could bring them upstairs, but her offer was rejected. And so she returned home where we were all, four children in diapers included, trying to cope with the increasingly nauseating stench and oncoming headaches.

My brother finally couldn’t take it anymore and marched down with his three-year old son. Much to the consternation of the ‘righteous and learned’ young man who eyed him with disdain, my brother had his son turn the stove burner (which wasn’t burning) off.

Hello??? Has anyone heard of the mitzvah of Pikuach Nefesh, of saving a life, a commandment that supersedes other prohibitions? How, in today’s day and age, can an adult be so incredibly naïve?!

Whew! Thanks, Rachel, for letting me vent.

Incredulous in Lakewood

Dear Incredulous,

It takes all kinds, for sure – sometimes, unfortunately, to the detriment of the innocent at the mercy of the naïve adults who bring them into this world.

Truth be told, part of the fault in this case lies with the learning institutions (not limited to Lakewood) which foolishly do not emphasize the proper study course for young men who need to prepare for their responsible head-of-household roles.

Instead of just focusing on training minds, yeshivos need to ensure that their male students be well versed in Hilchos Shabbos, Hilchos Bishul and the like. It is not enough (some would even say “over the top”) for our girls to be taught the Torah laws that encompass the ins and outs of daily living. The laws of kashrus as pertain to a household kitchen, for instance, should be considered mandatory studying in our young men’s yeshiva curriculum. A wife needs to be able to turn to her husband with confidence in his ability to address complex halachic issues.

Sitting and learning is, for the right person, a most praiseworthy endeavor. But priorities should be in place when it comes to the vital knowledge of practical and necessary laws as pertain to the role of a husband/father.

As to the incident you cite, there is absolutely no question that the stove could have and should have been turned off just as soon as it was discovered that the fire had gone out. Every wasted moment increased the hazard to precious lives. (Readers are reminded to check the working order of their carbon monoxide detectors or to make certain that they are appropriately installed.)

Thank you for writing and alerting us to the pitfalls in our midst.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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