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The Decapitated Calf and The Ice Bucket Challenge

Friday, 29 August, 2014 - 3:34 pm

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What’s this about a decapitated calf? And what could it possibly have to do with the viral Ice Bucket Challenge?

Unless you live under a rock, you probably have heard about - or even participated in - the Ice Bucket Challenge; it has raised close to $100 million for research for a cure to ALS. Some people have chosen to opt out of the challenge, many with valid reasons - they already support other causes, there’s a drought in California and it’s a waste of water, and the list goes on.

Before there were Ice Bucket Challenges or ribbons to raise awareness, there was the Decapitated Calf. The Torah describes the process that would be followed if a murdered corpse would be found in a field and no one knew what had happened. The leaders of the city would bring a calf to a place where the corpse was found and decapitate it. They would then wash their hands over it and say, "Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see [this crime]."

The purpose was twofold; firstly, to emphasize the responsibility that the residents of the surrounding area had to an unknown passer-by, and secondly, to raise awareness to the crime and hopefully find the one responsible and bring them to justice.

Today, we don’t have any calves being decapitated but we can still learn an important lesson: When you see something, say something!

The leaders of the surrounding cities must come and pronounce that they did not “shed this blood,” not because we suspect them, rather to emphasize their responsibility - had they properly ensured that this traveller had food, was he properly dressed for the elements? Did he need protection? Although this took place out of their direct sphere of influence, outside of their immediate surroundings, they still have a responsibility. When something goes awry, they’re held accountable.

This summer, we’ve seen a war between Israel and a terrorist organization bent on destroying Israel and murdering every Jew in the world. We’ve seen the terrorist organization ISIS gain notoriety through it’s brutal murder of innocent people (including an American journalist). And there’s also the Ice Bucket challenge.

The common denominator? All are important and all, I could argue, are beyond my scope of influence. What effect can I actually have?

The Decapitated Calf narrative informs us that no matter how insignificant we view our influence, no matter how far beyond our daily routine, we have a responsibility to voice our concern and outrage when terrible things are happening. On the positive side, when we learn of someone who can use a hand, when we learn of a need - step up and help. Visit someone in hospital, even if they have family. Donate, even if there are so many others that can help.

And the Ice Bucket Challenge? If you don’t want to dump ice water on your head, whether due to conservation or for another reason - do your part and raise awareness another way. And if you support other causes? That’s fine too! Channel the giving inspiration to send an extra donation to a cause that you already support.

Most importantly - don’t just dump ice water on someone and cool them off from the important work they’ve set out to do, encourage them and then go do something that you think is worthwhile. The bottom line - don’t just sit there, do something!

Anything is better than nothing.

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