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From where does the saying "Save a life, save a whole world" originate?

by Rabbi Simcha Bart

  

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Question:

Where does the saying, "save a life, save a whole world" come from? I'm not even sure it's Jewish. Thanks, Milty N.

Answer:

The Talmud asks why the human race was created as a single human being, as opposed to creating many people at once (like the animals which were created en masse1 )?

This teaches us that just as Adam was created in the beginning, and he was the entire human population of the world, likewise we need to look at each individual as if he/she were the entire population of the world. Therefore, when you save one life it is as if you saved the entire world.

Talmud, Sanhedrin 37a states:

"FOR THIS REASON WAS MAN CREATED ALONE, TO TEACH THEE THAT WHOSOEVER DESTROYS A SINGLE SOUL... SCRIPTURE IMPUTES [GUILT] TO HIM AS THOUGH HE HAD DESTROYED A COMPLETE WORLD; AND WHOSOEVER PRESERVES A SINGLE SOUL..., SCRIPTURE ASCRIBES [MERIT] TO HIM AS THOUGH HE HAD PRESERVED A COMPLETE WORLD."

Footnotes

  • 1. Genesis 1:24-26

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Philosophy » Creation
G-d » Creation

Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Sanhedrin
The Jewish Supreme Court. The court would convene in a designated chamber in the Holy Temple, and was comprised of 71 of the greatest scholars of the time. Continued after the destruction of the Temples, but was dissolved in the 5th century when due to Roman persecution the seat of Torah scholarship relocated from Israel to Babylon.
Adam
The first man, created by G-d on the sixth day of creation. He was banished from the Garden of Eden after eating from the forbidden fruit of the forbidden knowledge. Died in 2830 BCE.