NEW NCSY PAMPHLET URGES TEENS TO PROTECT THEIR LIVES BY AVOIDING HIGH-RISK BEHAVIOR
“The Torah tells us in a number of places that we are responsible to protect our bodies, our lives and our health. It says quite clearly: ‘You must zealously protect yourselves…’” (Deuteronomy 4:15).
To get that message out to teenagers, NCSY, the national youth program of the Orthodox Union, has just published “Protect Your Life,” the 15th in its Torah on One Foot Series of pamphlets. The series deals with a wide variety of Jewish issues, such as “Keeping Kosher,” “Jewish Education,” “Eretz Yisrael,” and “Dating Jewish,” and like its predecessors, is replete with quotes from Biblical and Talmudic sources.
In addition to being part of the Torah on One Foot series, the new pamphlet is an aspect of the OU’s Safe Homes, Safe Shuls, Safe Schools initiative and was vetted by social workers and psychologists.
Earlier this year, NCSY also confronted high-risk teen behavior through negiah.org, its website that calls for sexual abstinence until marriage.
The at-risk behavior discussed in the new pamphlet includes suicide, eating disorders, cutting and piercing, tattoos, substance abuse and low self-esteem. It concludes with a section, “Choose Life.”
“These are real issues to teens. They should know that the Torah isn’t only about spiritual matters – it’s also about the things they deal with every day. Protecting ourselves from harm in all ways should be a high priority,” declared Rabbi Jack Abramowitz, the author of all 15 chapters in the series.
“As it says in the pamphlet, nobody already engaged in a high-risk behavior will just stop because a pamphlet says not to do it. But it shows that God cares about what we do to ourselves. Maybe it can help keep someone from starting a risky habit, or motivate someone to help a friend,” he added.
Rabbi Steven Burg, International Director of NCSY explained, “Often these problems are hidden and teenagers aren’t sure if they have a problem or how to identify it. This pamphlet will help to educate the public to recognize these situations and to seek help.”
Some of the sources cited are the verse’s self-evident meanings, such as God’s message to Noah, “Also, I will hold you responsible for your own blood and your own lives…” (Genesis: 9:5), which is the Torah’s prohibition on suicide. Other sources reflect a more creative view, such as referencing the “seven ugly, emaciated cows” in Joseph’s dream (Genesis 41:2-3) for eating disorders as a sign that the Torah does not consider being too thin to be beautiful.
Regarding tattooing, Rabbi Abramowitz explains, “Tattooing may not be a danger to health in the same way as cutting or eating disorders, but it does harm the body that God gave us. Tattooing is so common among teenagers nowadays – and it’s such a long-term move – that teens should definitely think twice before getting inked.”
The pamphlets can be obtained free of charge from NCSY. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.