I rarely admit that I am wrong. Not on account of any reticence to admit wrongdoing on my part, but merely on account of a general lack of wrongdoing. However, I am taking this opportunity to be modeh al haemes. I made a mistake. When I created my blog title it was with the very best of intentions, but the title, "Primum Non Nocere" (First, do no harm), champions a stance that is contrary to that of Judaism. This Latin phrase, one of the principle precepts of medical ethics, the basis of the doctrine of Nonmaleficence, is utter and complete rubbish.
Koheles teaches us that "ayn tzadik ba'aretz asher oseh tov v'ein yechetah", there is no tzadik who does good and doesn't sin. Notice that it doesn't say there is no tzadik who doesn't sin. There are people who don't sin. But, these are individuals who also do no good. It is not difficult to do no harm. I have a surefire recipe for anyone to ensure that they never cause any harm. It involves moving into a cave in the deepest, darkest recesses of the most uninhabited region in the world and staying there until you perish.
But that's not what the Torah demands of us. We are tasked to interact with the world, to attempt to improve it, knowing full well that at times we will stumble. Making sure you never do anything wrong is a surefire recipe for never accomplishing anything good. We live in the olam d'sfeikah, the world of uncertainty, not everything is black and white and the only thing that is certain is that we will all make mistakes. Yet, our guiding principle should be to do good, while obviously still attempting to minimize the harm we cause.
There's a quote often attributed to Edmund Burke which sums up this thought, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." So, having completed my mea culpa, please disregard the title of my blog and go forth and do harm.