Recently a mother questioned our school’s peanut-free policy. “Would you send your child to school with a loaded gun?” I asked her, as a way of pointing out the danger. “Of course not,” was her reply. We discussed how the inadvertent consequences of a loaded gun and a peanut butter sandwich were unfortunately similar for some people in society.
The Torah tells us that “if you save one life, it’s as if you have saved the world.” We see this in Moses, who protected the Jewish slave and in Queen Esther who saved the Jewish nation. These role-models who preceded us reinforced the Jewish tradition of sanctifying every life. It is now incumbent upon us to maintain it. It is best to find an alternative to peanut butter that won’t cause a classmate to go into anaphalytic shock.
In this crazy world where religious wars still wage, where social media leaves nothing private, where our lives are invaded by technology and our food is genetically grown, we still have to remember to care about one another. It is a basic tenet of humanity and the center of Judaism. “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” People with peanut or any other life threatening allergies didn’t ask to be born that way. They were handed a different set of circumstances through which to navigate life. In our village of humanity, it is up to us to make the path easier for everyone to follow, to stand beside and support those who struggle more than us, and to try to leave the world a somewhat better place than we found it.
Let’s do more than read the megillah and the hagaddah, let’s discuss the meanings of the stories. Let’s take the messages from the stories and make them relevant to today’s world. Let’s put our inconveniences aside and take care of one another as we carry forward our Jewish traditions. _
Sue Penn is a mother of three, Director of Congregational Learning at University Synagogue, president of Jewish Reconstructionist Educators of North America and a member of the Jewish Educators Assembly.