(JTA) — For years I formed in an appointment where, in adjustment to accomplish an alfresco buzz call, you had to punch 9 additional 1 additional your number. At atomic already a week, the badge would appearance up in the antechamber because addition had accidentally dialed 9-1-1. The arch of HR would abuse us for not actuality added careful, and I would think, aloof change the system!
In Jewish law there is a name for rules or accomplishments that would allure alike the innocent to accomplish a aberration — or worse, a sin: “lifnei iver.” It comes from Leviticus 19:14: “You shall not … abode a barrier block afore the blind.” Beyond its accurate meaning, the ballad has been acclimated to authorize the assumption that you should abolish allurement from the aisle of those who may be about weak.
This became a affair in my abode recently, back my wife asked if I could be added accurate back aperture our kitchen cabinets. The cabinets are off-white, and I was abrogation smudges. I replied — with admirable honesty, I anticipation — that I couldn’t breach a lifetime addiction of the way I ability for a chiffonier handle, and if I said I would try I would apparently be lying. Smudges, I said, are the amount we pay for biscuit cabinets and airy handles. Blame the design, not me.
What ensued was what diplomats alarm a aboveboard and honest discussion.
Convinced I was right, I approved an alfresco voice: “Judge” John Hodgman, the actor who writes a abusive ethical admonition cavalcade for The New York Times Magazine. I explained our impasse in an email, and Hodgman replied in the May 20 issue:
Seen from 10,000 feet, I would accede that your wife’s appeal is unreasonable. That said, from 10,000 feet, I can’t see your abominable hands. I can’t see what affectionate of muck you get into, or what affectionate of smears you’re abrogation as you blindly paw at the chiffonier face until you hit the handle. (Maybe you can’t, either. Spouses generally see cleanliness abnormally depending on how they grew up, and some are aloof dirt-blind.) Alike if your easily are apple-pie of all sin, don’t accommodated one conjugal abomination with another. Don’t lie and affiance to try. Aloof affiance to try, and acquaint the truth.
The comments that followed were not affable to my cause, to put it mildly. One clairvoyant compared me to Tarzan. Addition apprenticed me to be a “grown-up.”
But my admired acknowledgment came from a self-described artist and above autogenous designer, who I acquainted got abutting to my aboriginal point, writing, “if your home’s artful is so brittle that it’s broke by accustomed circadian use it’s a austere architectonics flaw. Anybody active in a home should feel at affluence interacting with their environment, and anybody has altered sensitivities and habits. The architectonics should abutment them all.”
In added words, home architectonics shouldn’t be a barrier block afore a guy with Tarzan hands. The burghal artist Jane Jacobs advocated this array of user-first architecture, writing, “There is no argumentation that can be superimposed on the city; bodies accomplish it, and it is to them … that we charge fit our plans.” For example, if you appetite to accumulate mail from axle up on the dining allowance table, you charge addition little table afterpiece to the advanced aperture (another alternating altercation from what is, astoundingly, my aboriginal and still absolute marriage).
Probaby the best-known affirmation of user-first architectonics comes from alleged “desire lines”: the footpaths created by bodies who avoid the absolute sidewalks about a architecture or esplanade and actualize their own routes of atomic resistance. The acute artist pays absorption to the routes bodies absolutely appetite to take, and again pours the concrete.
A abutting accessory of this admission is behavioral design, which tries to admission the way bodies use spaces and objects. Acceptable behavioral architectonics might, for instance, put a duke sanitizer appropriate abreast the abode area you are acceptable to aces up or advance germs. Or, in the case of my kitchen cabinets, it would accomplish the handles big abundant or agreeable abundant that my affairs of smudging the doors is minimized.
I captivate about this affair not alone because I appetite to win the altercation with my wife, but because I ahead “lifnei iver” has important accessible activity implications. As Jacobs understood, good, automatic architectonics can about-face clandestine and accessible spaces into friendlier, safer places by putting users first. For decades accessible apartment was a adversity in allotment because designers abandoned the means bodies absolutely congregated, airy and kept an eye on anniversary other. My son the architect helps architectonics hospital accessories advised to accumulate tired, busy doctors and nurses from blame the amiss buttons or apathy a acute step.
On the cast side, adverse behavioral architectonics ability beset addition into, say, cutting up debts on an addictive bank app, or hooking kids on vaping, as the Food and Drug Administration argued in acclimation Juul to abolish its e-cigarettes from the U.S. marketplace.
The closing is absolutely the book that “lifnei iver” proscribes: ambience a accessible being up for failure. In an commodity for Chabad.org, Yehuda Shurpin discusses the possibilities – and dilemmas — of applying lifnei iver to the accepted agitation over gun safety. On the one hand, he writes, “The Talmud tells us that one is banned to advertise alarming items — including weapons, or annihilation frequently acclimated to accomplish weapons, as able-bodied as their accessories — to any being who may accept the absorbed to use them to account abuse or perpetrate a crime.”
On the added hand, the law is understandably circuitous back it comes to free how to ahead that “intent” — and beneath what affairs the agent is culpable. And yet, the attitude understands that the abstraction that “guns don’t kill, bodies do” is specious: “We do not appetite bodies accepting aching or dying,” writes Shurpin. “And akin evil-doers’ admission to abstracts that accomplish this accessible is an accessible advance of action.”
Whether we are talking about gun control, appointment phones or kitchen design, the assumption is the same: Bodies are inherently clumsy and fallible, and relying on their best intentions to break a botheration is a compound for failure. Sometimes you accept to ban the alarming apparatus — or change the cardinal from 9 to, well, any. other. number.
Ultimately, I didn’t argue a clergyman to break my kitchen dilemma. But I did acknowledgment to a college authority: It’s now my job to apple-pie the cabinets.
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