Guard Your Life Exceedingly

by Rabbi Audrey Pollack, April 1, 2021

Dear Solelniks,

As Ontario is now in the midst of a third wave of coronavirus infections, we are urging you to register for your vaccine as soon as you are eligible. Ontario is now earnestly vaccinating the public against COVID-19, each week adding additional eligible categories. We are trying to send out regular updates to our Solel community as soon as we are made aware of new updates and booking information. The public health recommendation is to accept the first vaccine you are offered in order to save lives. The province of Ontario is reporting thousands of vaccination appointments left open this coming week, while infections are surging and ICUs are in danger of overwhelm.

This week representatives of Peel Health reached out to me directly to urge me to get the vaccine and to publicize it to the greater community. I am grateful to have received the vaccine this week as part of the rollout to faith leaders in the GTA. At the same time, I am very concerned that there are many vulnerable members of our community who have not yet received their vaccine. As chair of the Interfaith Council of Peel, I am working with our interfaith leadership and our region of Peel to urge everyone who is eligible to get their vaccine as soon as possible.

Jewish tradition has long required us to maintain our health as a pathway to spiritual truth. The great commentator and physician Maimonides, taught more than 800 years ago that medical care is an obligation, not a choice, so that we might continue to fulfill our highest purpose on Earth.

Just as important, is the Talmudic teaching that saving a life is the same as saving a world. This teaching is about communal responsibility, how our own actions affect those around us.

So Jewish tradition tells us it is a mitzvah to get vaccinated. There are two reasons for this: we are obligated to protect ourselves, and we are obligated to protect other people. The Torah commands us רַ֡ק הִשָּׁ֣מֶר לְךָ֩ וּשְׁמֹ֨ר נַפְשְׁךָ֜ מְאֹ֗ד Rak hishamer l’cha u’shmor naf’sh’cha m’od (Deut 4:9) “Look out for yourself and guard your life exceedingly.” The rabbis teach that this verse refers not only to our souls but specifically to look after one’s physical body. We are obligated to take actions that protect ourselves from danger and health hazards.

The mitzvah that reminds of that we must guard ourselves, that we must be careful also extends to causing harm to others. While an individual must first make sure he/she is safe, he/she must ensure not to inflict physical or emotional harm on others. Getting vaccinated not only protects ourselves, it protects others as well. The Torah commands us in Lev.19:16, לֹ֥א תַעֲמֹ֖ד עַל־דַּ֣ם רֵעֶ֑ךָ lo ta’amod al dam re’acha, do not stand idly by your neighbour’s blood. This means that if we can take actions to save another person’s life, we are obligated to do so.

Here are region specific links to see when you are eligible and to register:

Peel: Residents who do not have the internet, or have questions or other challenges related to getting vaccinated can call the Region of Peel COVID-19 Vaccination Line at 905-791-5202 (open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., 7 days a week). Seniors who need assistance getting to and from the vaccine clinic can use TransHelp by calling 905-791-1015 at least 48 hours before their appointment. Residents do not need to be a TransHelp client to use this service.

Halton: Halton residents can call 311 if they require booking support. If you need transportation, you can arrange a ride with one of the local service providers listed on the web page. Transportation is free of charge for Halton residents 65 years of age or older.

Residents who require transportation assistance for vaccine appointments can contact YRT Mobility On-Request at 1-866-744-1119 to arrange a ride.

Ontario Provincial Booking Site:

Pharmacy sites that are booking appointments
If you need help registering, the UJA Federation vaccine hotline can help you: 416-636-5813.
And of course, when you are preparing for your vaccine, don’t forget to bring with you a blessing to say for this Shehecheyanu moment (

Rabbi Audrey S. Pollack

Filed under: Rabbi's Message

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