Confirmation Academy’s You Be the Judge Project

The confirmation academy has been working on a project over the past few weeks to come up with real-life dilemmas and the Jewish answers to these questions.  Please have a look below at the wonderful creations of our student!

Apollo 13B

You and your friend are astronauts on a malfunctioning spaceship. There is only one working escape pod left, and only one person can fit in the space pod to get back to earth. Your friend has left the decision to you, and will not be offended by your choice.

Do you take the pod home yourself or let your friend go home? You be the judge.

Sanhedrin 37a says that “he who saves one life, it as if he has saved an entire world.” If you were to give up your the pod to your friend you would be saving not only him, but an entire world as the people who know and love him would be happy that he has been saved. That being said, by taking the pod yourself and going back to earth you are still saving your own life, and so an entire world, so we must look deeper into the text to determine whether or not to take the pod back to earth.

The Sanhedrin asks in 74a “who says that your blood is any redder than his blood?” This says that you should let your friend have the pod and let him go home. The Torah says that we should not commit suicide, yet by saving someone are you committing suicide? The Ten Commandments say that you should not kill, and by leaving your friend on the ship you are essentially killing them.

The Jewish texts suggest that we should let our friend go home, and save them instead of ourselves. Despite this it would still be an incredibly difficult decision to make, as our human instinct would tell us to save ourselves and go back to earth. I think that I would let my friend go home, but it would be a very difficult decision, one that is very hard to answer.

The Security Guard Scandal

Tom is out at a school dance.  He claims he is a security guard of the dance.  How nice.  A girl named Stephaney, who is very pretty, walks in and Tom winks at her.  He is fond of her looks and she also is fond of Tom.  She walks up to him and asks him if he wants a Bud Light Lime and get wasted with her.  Tom is underage and he is a freshman in high school.  Should he get wasted with her or continue to be a security guard?  Keep in mind he really likes Stephaney.

You be the judge… Should he go get wasted with Stephaney or be a good little boy and continue to be a security guard?

This question can be answered.  Judaism understands and is sensitive to the powerful pull of peer pressure from one’s friends.  For example, in the Korah rebellion, 250 people from the Tribe of Reuven team-up with Korah, who is from the Tribe of Levi (Numbers 16: 1-2) to rebel against Moses.  Rashi (commentary on Numbers 16:1) explains how the Reuvenites linked up with Korah: they were camped right next door.  Ultimately, it was Korah’s peer pressure that brought the 250 neighbors into the rebellion.

Therefore, we believe that Tom should fight off the urge to go with Stephaney because she is just trying to use him.  He is being peer pressured.  Tom should continue to be the security guard.  He should not get wasted because he is underage.

The Discount Dilemma:

Bon Qui Qui and Phecia are besties. 5 years ago, Bon Qui Qui went into Phecia’s store and made a big purchase, for which Phecia gave her a big discount. At the time Phecia’s store was doing great. Now it is 5 years later and Phecia’s store isn’t doing well. She is ashamed of her financial troubles therefore she hasn’t told Bon Qui Qui. Bon Qui Qui comes back to Phecia’s store and wants the same discount.

Should Phecia give Bon Qui Qui the same discount although her store isn’t doing well? You be the judge!

The Mishnah (Pirke Avot 5:16): tells us that any friendship based upon only one factor cannot possibly survive. If that one factor disappears, nothing is left. A friendship based on multiple factors, though, will endure forever.

But Judaism also understands and is sensitive to the powerful pull of peer pressure from one’s friends. For example, the rebellion of Korah had influenced 250 people to rebel which resulted in the death of all of those rebels.

We feel as though if their friendship was strong enough then Phecia should be able to tell Bon Qui Qui about the productivity of her store and Bon Qui Qui should understand the situation. Therefore, Bon Qui Qui should not expect a discount.

Oliver’s Dad

Oliver’s dad is sick, so Oliver is raising money to try to save his life. But to no avail, his attempts fail and he is on the verge of desperation, so he steals a large sum of cash from Darius. The money saves his dad’s life, But six months later the police catch Oliver and arrest him.

YOU BE THE JUDGE: Should Oliver go to jail?

We are aware that it is written (Sanhedrin 37a) that “he who saves one life, it is as if he has saved an entire world.” Thus, each life has the value of a world-each life has infinite value. If one life has the value of infinity, 120 lives also have value of infinity (since any number multiplied by infinity is still infinity). Therefore, based on the math and the general concept, it is not clear that 120 lives are more valuable than one life.

On the other hand, by following Derech Eretz (law of the land), he should follow the country’s law. The Ten Commandments clearly state that you shall not steal.

The final judgement says that by US law and by law of Ten Commandments, the two biggest laws for American Jews, Oliver should go to jail. But he did do a mitzvah by saving a life.

Hot Air Balloon Hooligans

Juan is out in his hot air balloon. An airplane is coming at him; if he stays where he is the plane will hit him and kill him. Juan must drop a sandbag off of the hot air balloon to avoid the collision. However, Juan knows that if he drops the sand bag it will injure and likely kill someone.

You be the judge: What should Juan do?

It certainly is a mitzvah to save a person in danger of dying, as it says, “You shall not stand by the blood of your neighbor.” (Leviticus 19:16 and Sanhedrin 73a)

But there is also a mitzvah to preserve one’s own life, as it says, “And you shall live by them (The Commandments)” (Leviticus 18:5) The Talmud expands on this and explains, “You shall live by them (the mitzvoth) and not die by them (Sanhedrin 74a).” Therefore, one may not sacrifice one’s life to save someone else. The real dilemma comes into play, then, when there is definite danger to someone else and only possible danger to you. Is the obligation to save the person or to keep yourself out of harm’s way?

So, therefore you should save yourself, due to the fact that, in a way, the sandbag may not kill the person, but only injure them, while the airplane will kill Juan definitely. Thus, Juan should let the sandbag go.


The Dealer

Mitch does drugs and wants to sell them at school.  Maya is interested in buying the drugs, so Mitch sellssome to Maya.  They both get caught, but Mitch gets expelled and Maya only gets suspended.

You Be the Judge: Should Maya have gotten expelled along with Mitch?
One of the commandments in the Torah is “you shall not place a stumbling block before a
blind”. It is expanded to refer to any person who knowingly causes another person to “stumble”in any act or into any sin while the sinner is “blind” to the sin as it is being committed. (Leviticus19:14)

The Talmud tells a story of a Nazarite, a person who takes an oath not to drink wine. If you offerhim wine then he drinks it then you have violated the prohibition against placing stumblingblock before the blind. The Nazarite is aware of the sin, but is “blinded” by his desire to drinkwine, which you enable him to do so.

Therefore, Mitch was more at fault and was right to be more severely punished because he wasenabling Maya to do drugs by tempting her to do so.

Annoying Girl Problem

Sasha is inviting a whole bunch of friends to go shopping with her at the mall. They are all buying dresses for the big school dance. Tanya really annoys Sasha and her friends, but she doesn’t want Tanya to be alone, and Tanya really wants to go with them. The girls keep telling Sasha not to invite Tanya, but Sasha feels bad for Tanya.

YOU BE THE JUDGE. What should Sasha do?

1. Sasha should invite Tanya because it is the right thing to do and they might actually become friends. They don’t even really know Tanya so they could be judging her the wrong way. Sasha’s friends should keep an open mind and give Tanya a chance.  And she should let her go because it will save drama.

Talmud: Pesahim 113b- Every friendship involves hate.

Therefore, according to Judaism and all of our opinions, we think that Sasha should invite Tanya.