March 2018 -- Adar-Nisan 5778,  Volume 24, Issue 3

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Rabbi Gordon Tucker

Rabbi Tucker Issues “Rabbinic Declaration on the Imperative to Preserve Life”

By Stephen E. Lipken


In line with the shooting in Parkland, FL that killed 17 students and teachers, Temple Israel Center, White Plains,  Rabbi Gordon Tucker issued a petition for signature of the Westchester Board of Rabbis.


Citing many statistics, including the fact that the rate of American gun homicides is some 20 times the rate in other wealthy countries of the world and that the Stoneman Douglas High School killer who had a troubled record of mental stability was still able to purchase an assault weapon, 100% legal under both Florida and Federal law, Tucker referred to Matters of Jewish Law:


“The Torah says (Deuteronomy 4:9): ‘Take utmost care and watch yourselves scrupulously’ and the rabbinic tradition assigned to that clause to free our dwellings from dangerous conditions…


“An extension of the above to responsibility for creating hazards in the public domain is given in the Babylonian Talmud (Avodah Zarah 15b).  There, we are told explicitly that it is forbidden to sell or otherwise provide weapons…to kill or maim, to anyone who can be suspected of intending to use such instruments to do violence to innocent people…

“On the basis of all that is established above, we conclude the obligation to protect the public from dangerous weapons must take precedence over an absolute right to bear arms…


“Thus: (1) selling or otherwise providing firearms to people who have not been subject to background checks is a violation of Jewish law; 2) selling…military assault weapons  to any person not in the military or in law enforcement is a violation of Jewish law (and this is especially egregious  when the person acquiring the weapon is a minor…and/or has given plausible signs of mental instability); and 3) when a person invested with legislative or executive power in society accepts- without protest conscientious effort to change them, laws that authorize the acquisitions…that …official has abetted—whether by action or inaction—a violation of Jewish law (what is called in in Jewish law ‘’Syu’a Lidevar Aveirah’).”


“Finally, we address our primary audience, the Jews of the United States…We have been moved to make this Declaration out of a conviction that the Jewish legal and ethical codes provide crucial direction regarding our national epidemic of gun violence,” Tucker said.


Numerous Westchester rabbis have signed the Declaration.