Is It Proper To Jaywalk?
At the outset this is a serious matter that requires a deeper discussion, which I will attend to in my Q&A column, which appears in these pages, in the near future. Now, we assume one is jaywalking as a means of cutting one’s walking time to get from here to there in the fastest way possible. Giving one the benefit of the doubt at times he might be doing so because of a pressing need such as to perform a mitzvah, most often to arrive on time for tefillah.
We all wish to save time, but watch what you wish for.
It really doesn’t matter whether one is attempting to traverse a busy thoroughfare or a quiet residential street, when one jaywalks he is surely in violation of a local ordinance in almost all jurisdictions. Therefore, one is in violation as well of the Talmudic ruling of Shmuel (Gittin 10b) Dina D’malchusa Dina – the law of the land is binding law [except where it is oppressive and contravenes our religious practice]. Thus we have established that jaywalking is in violation of both civil law as well as our Jewish religious law.
More specifically in the course of crossing the street in this haphazard manner he might be the cause of his own injury or possibly death. The ramifications go beyond his own personal safety. Most people who operate an automobile don’t wake up in the morning and decide let me see how I can harm someone who illegally crosses the path of my vehicle. Now, if the jaywalker does sustain a serious injury or death, how does the operator of the offending vehicle deal with this – possibly bearing guilt for the rest of his life? This would be a clear violation of the Torah’s command, V’lifnei iver lo titen michshol – before a blind person do not place a stumbling block (Parshas Kedoshim, Leviticus 19:14).
Now, let’s rethink: does it really pay to jaywalk even if you reason that the odds are on your side? Do you really want to place your life in odds hand?
– Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.
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The truth is that it is not proper to jaywalk for a number of reasons…
It can be dangerous to do so. When we jaywalk, we disobey the reasonable laws of the land. By jaywalking, we set a poor example for our children. The list goes on and on…
The only problem is that forbidding jaywalking completely falls, I believe, into the category of a gezeirah sh’ein ha’tzibbur yachol la’amod bah, a decree that the community cannot fulfill. Not in the true halachic sense, but in a practical sense. The temptation to simply cross an empty street when no cars are coming is simply too great.
Today, for example, I walked down the busy street of Keren HaYesod in Yerushalayim, performing a series of errands. I must have jaywalked at least six times; even though I sensitized to the issue by the question I had already received from The Jewish Press. I was getting good exercise through my brisk walk, and, when possible, I did not want to break my stride.
I would suggest, therefore, that the advice to be given concerning jaywalking is that one should be sensible and cautious. Always cross safely; be aware of your surroundings; don’t try to outrun approaching vehicles; wait for the light at particularly busy thoroughfares; and when children are with you, don’t jaywalk at all.
— Rabbi Goldin is author of “Unlocking the Torah Text” series and past president of the RCA.
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It is certainly inadvisable for any person who cherishes life, the preservation of which is a fundamental Jewish value.
From a halachic perspective, there is a principle of chamira sakanta me’issura (Masechet Chullin 10a), we apply greater stringencies to dangerous situations than we do to legal prohibitions. As such, we have to be even more careful of not endangering ourselves than, for example, of avoiding non-kosher food. And we need not even entertain the principle of dina d’malchuta dina, “the law of the land is law,” which generally doesn’t apply when the law in question is not enforced. And jaywalking is certainly not enforced.
Yet, there is an even greater standard that should inform our judgment: the rule of common sense. We are mandated to be a wise and understanding people, a nation that uses its wisdom and common sense to find appropriate responses to life’s questions when the Shulchan Aruch does not address them specifically. This is one such example. Traffic regulations, as irritating as they can sometimes be, are designed for our protection. They generally work. “Crossing at the green and not in between” is not just a ditty we (should) teach children but something that makes sense and saves lives.
It goes without saying (all right, I’ll say it) that far more pedestrians in Israel are killed every year by vehicles than there are victims of terror. Of course, not all these pedestrians are jaywalking but vehicles are such a prevalent danger that we need to take special heed – not only not to jaywalk but even to look both ways before crossing at a green light.
Is it proper? Don’t even think of it.
– Rabbi Steven Pruzansky is Israel Region Vice-President for the Coalition for Jewish Values and author of Repentance for Life now available from Kodesh Press.
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What if I told you that resisting the temptation to jaywalk, especially when cars are generally passing by, could be worth a spiritual fortune?
It’s all based on how you look at a mitzvah. A mitzvah is more than an obligation or good thing to do, mitzvos provide us opportunities for fulfillment [pun absolutely intended!]. They offer us greater consciousness and engagement with life and of course the enrichment they provide to our soul in this world and the next is unbelievable.
When one avoids jaywalking, especially in the situation described above he is fulfilling the Mitzvah of taking very good care of oneself, Venishmartem meod l’nafshosechem [Devarim 4:9]. In fact, by taking care to look both ways before crossing the road one should have in mind to fulfill this commandment [reported in the name of Rav Boruch Bear Lebovitz in the sefer Kasher Tzeva Hashem by Rabbi Daniel Garfinkel and psak of Rav Chaim Kanievsky, ibid.].
So when you hold back from jaywalking, and as a hiddur mitzvah you look both ways before crossing, have in mind the Mitzvah of taking very good care of yourself as Hashem has commanded and celebrate that you just brought Hashem into your life by looking out for your life.
– Rabbi Asher Baruch Wegbreit is an author of four seforim and Founder of Kavanah L’Mitzvos Foundation (kavanahlmitzvos.com), an initiative offering tools for deepening our connection to Hashem. He can be reached at RabbiWegbreit@gmail.com.