The Sceptic Blog

Random thoughts of a random chappy

Bungee jumping for charity – the Jewish view

with 3 comments

1.  On 10th June the Jewish Student Chaplaincy organisation is arranging a charity event in which chaplains and past and present students will jump from a 140ft Bungee Crane.

2.  A parent of present students asked me to comment on whether this is permissible in halochoh.  Clearly, it is not.

3.  Searching the internet reveals a commonly-advanced statistic for bungee jumping of a fatality average of 1 in 500,000 jumps.  That, of course, is generally compared favourably with driving a certain distance or crossing the road or being struck by lightning.

4.  But the comparisons miss the point for halachic purposes.  I am required to guard the life that God has given me and not to expose myself to unnecessary risks, for which purpose “necessary” is determined by reference to whether the risk is reasonably proportionate to the need to undertake the potentially dangerous activity.

5.  Since there is no need to fall off a crane attached to a piece of elastic, the acceptable level of risk in doing so is nil.

6.  “But it’s for charity” – this makes no difference.  If it would be wrong to do something without the excuse of raising money, it is wrong to do it despite that excuse.  Indeed, charities should generally be more careful than they are about profiting only from permitted activities (and not, for example, selling £100 tickets for a chance to win a car, which is gambling of a kind strongly disapproved of in halochoh).

7.  Worse than that, if a charitable motive encourages people to do something that they would have enough sense not to do otherwise, the charity is transgressing the Biblical prohibition of putting a stumbling block before the blind.

8.  Someone who wants to bungee jump as part of an athletic exercise, or for sight-seeing purposes, and as part of a carefully calculated assessment of the small risk against the great pleasure they expect to feel, they may have a halachic justification.  (Whether that would apply to a person with dependent family is, of course, more doubtful.)  But in this case people who would otherwise have no wish to jump off a crane, and may actually be frightened of doing so, are being encouraged to conquer their instincts (which some may recognise as common sense) because of the gratitude that they feel for the chaplains.

9.  The Jewish chaplains are uniformly wonderful people whose dedication and service are exemplary.  Their care of our students is superbly inspirational; it should, however, extend to discouraging past and present students (and themselves) from jumping off a crane, which is generally regarded as an unwise thing to do.


Written by Daniel Greenberg

May 1, 2012 at 5:38 pm

3 Responses

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  1. I think this blog is an excellent extension to your previous comments on the Grand National.
    In that blog you mentioned 3 logical points:

    We have a duty to take care of ourselves.
    We have a duty to ensure that other people are similarly taken care of.
    We have a duty to ensure that animals, like people, are also taken care of.

    Clearly, the bungee jump organisers are taking as much care of the students as the organisers of the Grand National are taking care of the participating horses!

    Esther Bergman

    May 2, 2012 at 10:45 am

    • A tad harsh perhaps …

      Daniel Greenberg

      May 2, 2012 at 11:32 am

      • Well, yes, a little harsh maybe, in view of the fact that the organisers claim to have risk assessed the whole event.
        But, and this is only my opinion, it would have been better never to have staged this event in the first place and that is where the irresponsibility comes in. Not to mention that the cost of crane hire has to be recouped.

        Esther Bergman

        May 2, 2012 at 12:46 pm

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