The Turban

The following is quoted verbatim from a story by Jonathan Pearlman in The Telegraph:

A 22-year-old Sikh man in New Zealand has been hailed as a hero after putting his religious beliefs aside and removing his turban to help cradle the bleeding head of a 5-year-old boy hit by a car.

Harman Singh, 22, was at his home in Auckland when he heard the sound of an accident on the street and rushed out to find Daejon Pahia, 6, lying by the roadside after being struck by a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Mr Singh has been strongly praised by the Sikh community

He immediately removed his turban and lay it under the boy’s head – an action which the boy’s mother said helped to save her son’s life.

“I saw a child down on the ground and a lady was holding him,” Mr Singh told The New Zealand Herald.

“His head was bleeding, so I unveiled my turban and put it under his head … I wasn’t thinking about the turban. I was thinking about the accident and I just thought, ‘He needs something on his head because he’s bleeding.'”

Mr Singh has been strongly praised by the Sikh community but modestly insisted that “anyone else would have done the same as me”.

Gagan Dhillon, a Sikh passer-by who also assisted, said he saw Mr Singh without a head covering and “thought ‘that’s strange’”.

“But then I saw one hand was underneath the boy’s head supporting it and his siropao [turban] was stopping the bleeding,” he said.

“But being a Sikh myself, I know what type of respect the turban has. People just don’t take it off – people die over it … He didn’t care that his head was uncovered in public. He just wanted to help this little boy.”

Sikh leaders said Mr Singh’s decision to remove the turban in public was a rare and significant act but was consistent with their faith and its emphasis on kindness and humanity.

This true story of a Sikh man helping a stranger in need hits us with all the force of a good parable. It calls to mind the priest and the Levite in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, who are unwilling to help the man bleeding by the side of the road because of their purity codes. It also calls to mind The story of Jesus healing on the Sabbath. When confronted about his disregard for the religious prohibition against work on the Sabbath, Jesus asks, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” In other words, Jesus knew that his inaction would profane his religious principles far more than action. Harman Singh saw a little boy in need and was willing to put compassion above prohibition. We would all do well to follow his Christ-like example.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

Standing On One Foot

During the period of the second temple, there was a gentile man who decided to devote himself to becoming a Jew. He had heard that the two greatest teachers of Judaism living in Jerusalem were Rabbi Shammai and Rabbi Hillel. The man was unsure of which Rabbi to study under so he devised a test to choose his teacher

First, the man knocked on the door of Rabbi Shammai. When Shammai came to the door, the man said, “I am interested in becoming a Jew but I don't nearly have the time to devote to it that your followers do. Could you please sum up the Torah while I stand on one foot?”

Shammai replied, “What a ridiculous request! Look at all my students studying inside! They have devoted their entire lives to reading Torah and you propose to learn it in mere seconds? Begone!”

So the man continued on to Rabbi Hillel's house and knocked on the door. When Hillel opened the door, the man again said, “I am interested in becoming a Jew but I don't nearly have the time to devote to it that your followers do. Could you please sum up the Torah while I stand on one foot?

Hillel thought for a second, then said, “Alright.” As the man stood on his one foot, Hillel spoke these words: “That which you hate, do not do to your neighbor. This sums up the entire Torah and the rest is just commentary.

When the man put his other foot back down, he entered Hillel's home and became one of his most devoted disciples.

Most of the world's religions have some version of the “golden rule” and yet the world continues to be rife with conflict. For the Christian, loving God and loving neighbor ought to be the twin poles that keep us oriented and yet we too often fail at the latter out of our zeal for the former. Loving others is the essence of loving God. Doing good is the essence of serving God. The Torah (and indeed the Christian scriptures) are summed up in the call to “do unto other as you would have them do unto you.” The rest, as Hillel reminds us, is just commentary

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…