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Answering the Call, Day and Night

Answering the Call, Day and Night


A few weeks ago, a friend invited my family for Shabbat dinner. On the table, I noticed a highly unusual item. Alongside the delicious food and beautiful dishes was a live walkie-talkie placed close to the father.

My friend’s husband is a volunteer for Hatzalah, a Jewish volunteer ambulance service that provides emergency pre-hospital care. As a paramedic, he is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing life-saving assistance. The Torah permits (actually, commands) us to break the laws of Shabbat to save lives.

My friend told me that her husband often gets called in the middle of the night, occasionally, a few times a night. Sometimes, just as he is falling into a deep sleep, he’ll need to jump out of bed again. As the only paramedic in the area, he averages two to three calls every Shabbat.

Though her husband has a full-time job and is the father of a busy household of many children, including a toddler, he still finds time and energy for this holy work. My friend (who also works) and her children are incredibly proud of him. The kids speak passionately about his activities even though it means that their father might leave a family celebration, and that each of them has to pitch in more to help. The family understands the precious mitzvah of saving lives, and knows that their encouragement and support enables him to do it.

In this week’s Torah portion, Joseph’s brothers sell him as a slave. While deliberating what to do with him, the brothers decide to throw him into a pit. “The pit was empty; there was no water in it.” (Gen 37:24)

If the pit was empty, isn’t it obvious that there was no water in it? The Talmud (Shabbat 22a) learns from this unusual wording that although there was no water in the pit, there were scorpions inside.

The Chassidic masters comment on this passage: The mind and heart of man are never empty. If there is no life-nourishing “water,” there are “snakes and scorpions in it.”

In our lives, we need to be busy with something meaningful. Our minds and hearts are not empty vacuums; they will quickly fill. “Water” refers to Torah and its nourishing teachings. If our minds are occupied with Torah teachings—and our hearts and schedules are jam-packed with good deeds—there won’t be any space for negativity to creep in.

Not all of us need to be like my incredibly selfless friend, on call day and night saving lives. But as I left my neighbor’s home, I realized that despite how busy we all think we are, how much fuller our schedules can actually become.

Let’s find something positive that we feel passionate about and let’s work on filling up our days (to the brim!) with meaningful acts.

Chana Weisberg is the editor of She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Jules Scher Monroe Twp, NJ December 26, 2016

Meaningful I agree that every life should be meaningful, and everyone should do meaningful things.
Meaningful to who?
I only know what's meaningful to me. I do what's meaningful to me and hope that the world finds it acceptable, and hopefully beneficial to them.
Of course I can't do only what's meaningful to me if the world wants no part of it. I have to conform and produce something that people are willing to pay for. I have to eat in order to continue to do what's meaningful to me.
I don't know what's meaningful to you, so I'll continue doing whatever is meaningful to me. I'll do what's in my best interests, within the parameters of the law.
Isn't that what we all do? Reply

Anonymous nyc December 25, 2016

dr. peltz convince your medical brethren---do not lecture the congregation, for we got the message! Reply

Judith 5 Bethel Park PA December 24, 2016

Not Exactly on Call, Moderns This parshah shows Jacob's family as a bunch of misfits, brothers jealous of one brother to the point of persecuting Joseph in a way that could have killed him. Chana's interpretation shows a family man who finds a continuous way to save lives as a paramedic. The obvious problem to me is that most people are always different than I'd expect. I don't have a car, just a driver's licence. When all people are theoretically supposed to be brothers/sisters, what on earth am I supposed to do with those drastically less gifted or more gifted than myself? I guess most of us have to wait somewhat quietly to rescue someone from boredom; then we teach that one how to play the violin, how to macrame with square knots, how to read a knitting pattern, or how to find an easy French story to read. Ours is a world where the noisy just might not have as much fun as us quieter ones. Reply

Anonymous December 20, 2016

Hatzalah B"H we have in Bet Shemesh and Jerusalem Our grand son in law is part of the team and works in JM in the main office They are unusual young people who are always ready to help Our great grandchildren already know about Hatzala and Hatzala treats their volunteers very well When our grandtr married she told me that she knew beforehand that dinner would not always be on time, but she was more than willing for this to happen then to allow a tragedy to happen So, its not only the guys who are great They each have an Eishet Chayil backing them in what they do! Kol Hakavod Reply

Dr L.J. Peltz Margate December 20, 2016

I worked as a reservists. I also studied Biblical Studies at Unisa and Wits where the instruction was from a Christo-centric view. The New Testament, quoting Christ criticizes the Jews for refusing to heal on the Sabbath. This teaching and others incites anti-semitism, including other statement against the Jewish faith. Reply

jim dallas December 20, 2016

josephs brothers they should have been keeping busy with some more immediate personal problems and solutions, but then there is what HaShem knew regarding the future of the whole of humanity! Reply

JDV Paramus December 19, 2016

Husband is paramedic A wonderful role model. Up with positivity. There needs to be more examples like this and more publicity for them. The media has us so drowned with negativity, that I'm having trouble breathing! Reply

Mlk Brockton Ma December 19, 2016

Answering Someone to admire giving so much of ones self . Not many people would be so caring . Thank heaven there are people are so willing to share . Reply

Fay Kranz Greene boca raton December 19, 2016

A huge thank you to all hatzalah volunteers I too have been admiring the incredible Hatzalah volunteers, men AND women in some places. I am very proud of my son in law Yossi Ciment in Richmond, Va and my son in law Shmuel Mozorosky and his sons in Staten Island for their dedication to Hatzalah, as you have so beautifully described.
We owe them all a big yasher koach. Reply

em nyc December 19, 2016

too many of our orthodox brethren of the medical profession forget that life/health trumps shabbos. Reply


My husband O.B.M. enjoyed our Shabbos dinner and went to bed at 12AM. At 2 A.M., I heard him in the shower. When he came out he was stumbling and his speech was incoherent. A shul member had just recovered from a stroke and I remembered the hospital. I left the car running and ran into the emergency room."My husband had a stroke!" "Are you a doctor?" they said. "Get him now!" I screamed. Within an hour they had administered medication effective only administered within 3 hours of a stroke. B"H he lived many years after without any effects from the stroke! I drove on Shabbos saving his life, sort of CPR for his neshema. I review Hilchos Shabbos weekly to remember what is permissible. "He who saves one life saves the world" Pirke Avos. Byron was my world! Reply

Rick Miller La Mesa December 18, 2016

Such inspiring words about such a fine man. Reminds us all that we have the time to give if only we use it. Reply

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