וְהַמֶּ֤לֶךְ דָּוִד֙ זָקֵ֔ן בָּ֖א בַּיָּמִ֑ים וַיְכַסֻּ֙הוּ֙ בַּבְּגָדִ֔ים וְלֹ֥א יִחַ֖ם לֽוֹ׃ וַיֹּ֧אמְרוּ ל֣וֹ עֲבָדָ֗יו יְבַקְשׁ֞וּ לַאדֹנִ֤י הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ נַעֲרָ֣ה בְתוּלָ֔ה וְעָֽמְדָה֙ לִפְנֵ֣י הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ וּתְהִי־ל֖וֹ סֹכֶ֑נֶת וְשָׁכְבָ֣ה בְחֵיקֶ֔ךָ וְחַ֖ם לַאדֹנִ֥י הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃
King David was now old, advanced in years; and though they covered him with bedclothes, he never felt warm. His courtiers said to him, “Let a young virgin be sought for my lord the king, to wait upon Your Majesty and be his attendant; and let her lie in your bosom, and my lord the king will be warm.”

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Food, clothing, and shelter are the commonly listed basic needs; food provides us energy, clothing additional insulation, shelter protection from the elements of nature that might interfere with well-being. All three work towards an unspoken basic need: warmth.

Warmth speaks to a state of comfort with the world around us - a place of comfort and safety. The universe teaches us (at least those of us that are from anywhere other than southern California) from an early age that warmth is not a given but rather something that needs to be worked for.

Rashi offers two possible reasons King David could not warm himself - regret over an action he had taken (the cutting of the corner of Saul's cloak, which God had told him not to do,) or fear of death. Both options speak to a near-spiritual component to the objective of getting/maintaining warmth.

When we describe a person as warm, we generally are describing some combination of compassion, empathy, and kindness in an unambiguously positive way. Judaism also sees the warmth offered by companionship, both in the practical sense and the emotional one.

וַתְּהִי אֶסְתֵּר נֹשֵׂאת חֵן אָמַר רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר מְלַמֵּד שֶׁלְּכׇל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד נִדְמְתָה לוֹ כְּאוּמָּתוֹ וַתִּלָּקַח אֶסְתֵּר אֶל הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ אֶל בֵּית מַלְכוּתוֹ בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָעֲשִׂירִי הוּא חֹדֶשׁ טֵבֵת יֶרַח שֶׁנֶּהֱנֶה גּוּף מִן הַגּוּף

It was by act of divine providence that Esther was taken to Ahasuerus in a cold winter month, in which the body takes pleasure in the warmth of another body, and therefore she found favor in his eyes.

גַּ֛ם אִם־יִשְׁכְּב֥וּ שְׁנַ֖יִם וְחַ֣ם לָהֶ֑ם וּלְאֶחָ֖ד אֵ֥יךְ יֵחָֽם׃

Again, if two lie together, then they have warmth; but how can one be warm alone?

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Infinitesimally small atoms travel around and within us. Life seeks out forms of energy to power those atoms, and the speed of their movement warms us and the universe.

Humanity's ability to control the speed at which those atoms move has been a central concern of existence since the dawn of man. Consuming food powers the atoms within us; refrigeration slows atoms to delay the decay of what we eat. Shelter protects us from the super-charged energy of the sun; fire provides warmth in the sun's absence.

Central to all of this is the sun, which, in addition to providing heat and light, provides energy to plants, which serve as the beginning and end of the food chain. The life-sustaining power of the sun was not lost on King David, who used it as a metaphor for God's power in a psalm.

מִקְצֵ֤ה הַשָּׁמַ֨יִם ׀ מֽוֹצָא֗וֹ וּתְקוּפָת֥וֹ עַל־קְצוֹתָ֑ם וְאֵ֥ין נִ֝סְתָּ֗ר מֵֽחַמָּתוֹ׃

[God's] rising-place is at one end of heaven, and his circuit reaches the other; nothing escapes his heat.

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Ever a document of practical advice, the Talmud notes that the external forces of weather are worthy of consideration from the earliest moments of the day, and that having breakfast (granting energy from within, as opposed to relying on external forces) will help to guard against the harm of external elements. Humanity's agency in maintaining warmth is clear.

ת"ר י"ג דברים נאמרו בפת שחרית מצלת מן החמה ומן הצנה ומן הזיקין ומן המזיקין ומחכימת פתי וזוכה בדין ללמוד תורה וללמד ודבריו נשמעין ותלמודו מתקיים בידו

§ The Gemara cites a related baraita: The Sages taught that thirteen matters of praise were stated with regard to a meal of bread eaten in the morning: It protects the diner from the heat, and from the cold, and from the winds, and from the harmful spirits; and it makes the simple wise, and one who consumes it will be victorious in judgment, he will merit to learn Torah and to teach it, and his statements are heard, and his study will remain in his possession.

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On days of extreme heat or extreme cold, one might be inclined to ponder God's design; Is such weather not a stumbling block on the path of humanity towards righteousness and enlightenment? Is creation not difficult enough to navigate without an unpredictable set of weather patterns?

תַּנְיָא אַבָּא שָׁאוּל אוֹמֵר יוֹם טוֹב שֶׁל עֲצֶרֶת בָּרוּר סִימָן יָפֶה לְכׇל הַשָּׁנָה כּוּלָּהּ אָמַר רַב זְבִיד הַאי יוֹמָא קַמָּא דְּרֵישׁ שַׁתָּא אִי חַמִּים כּוּלַּהּ שַׁתָּא חַמִּימָא אִי קָרִיר כּוּלַּהּ שַׁתָּא קָרִירָא לְמַאי נָפְקָא מִינַּהּ לִתְפִלָּתוֹ שֶׁל כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל

Rav Zevid said: With regard to [the] first day of Rosh HaShana, if it is warm, the entire year will be warm, but if it is cold, the entire year will be cold. The Gemara asks: What difference is there whether one knows this or not? The Gemara answers: The difference is with regard to the prayer of the High Priest, who would pray on Yom Kippur for beneficial weather, and this knowledge enabled him to formulate his prayers accordingly.

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Practical experience and environmental science teach us that each beat of the rhythm of the seasons is vital to continued life on this planet; snowfalls and regulates the temperature of the earth's crust, allowing certain plants and animals to rest and regrow. The thaw in spring feeds rivers and reservoirs. The desire for some ability to predict the weather above has echoed through the generations (see: groundhog's day), but the only constant in the precise rhythm of the seasons is that the specifics are known only to God.

עֹ֖ד כָּל־יְמֵ֣י הָאָ֑רֶץ זֶ֡רַע וְ֠קָצִיר וְקֹ֨ר וָחֹ֜ם וְקַ֧יִץ וָחֹ֛רֶף וְי֥וֹם וָלַ֖יְלָה לֹ֥א יִשְׁבֹּֽתוּ׃
So long as the earth endures, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Summer and winter, Day and night Shall not cease.”

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Since the weather in all of its various extremes is a necessary element of life's survival on the planet, the Talmud is clear: the onus of protecting humankind from the danger of weather extremes falls squarely on our own shoulders.

(דברים ז, טו) והסיר ה' ממך כל חולי אמר רב זו עין רב לטעמיה דרב סליק לבי קברי עבד מאי דעבד אמר תשעין ותשעה בעין רעה ואחד בדרך ארץ ושמואל אמר זה הרוח שמואל לטעמיה דאמר שמואל הכל ברוח ולשמואל הא איכא הרוגי מלכות הנך נמי אי לאו זיקא עבדי להו סמא וחיי ר' חנינא אמר זו צינה דא"ר חנינא הכל בידי שמים חוץ מצנים פחים שנאמר (משלי כב, ה) צנים פחים בדרך עקש שומר נפשו ירחק מהם

The Torah states: “And the Lord will take away from you all sickness” (Deuteronomy 7:15). Rabbi Ḥanina says: This phrase: “All sickness,” refers to the cold, as Rabbi Ḥanina says: All occurrences that befall man are at the hands of Heaven, except for excess cold and heat, as it is stated: “Cold and heat are on the path of the perverse; he who guards his soul shall keep far from them” (Proverbs 22:5). This indicates that cold and heat are forms of harm caused by man, from which one can protect himself.

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The Talmud goes further still: it is our duty to protect every living thing that cannot protect themselves from the cold, even if that means violating Shabbat to do so.

רַב פָּפָּא אָמַר: כָּאן לְחַמְּמָהּ, כָּאן לְצַנְּנָהּ. לְחַמְּמָהּ, אִית לַהּ צַעֲרָא. לְצַנְּנָהּ, לֵית לַהּ צַעֲרָא. וְהַיְינוּ דְּאָמְרִי אִינָשֵׁי: חֲמָרָא אֲפִילּוּ בִּתְקוּפַת תַּמּוּז קָרִיר לַהּ.

Rav Pappa said: Where the Sages permitted placing a saddlecloth on a donkey on Shabbat, it is to warm the animal...Placing the saddlecloth to warm the animal is permitted because otherwise it experiences discomfort from the cold.

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That of course brings us to an age-old question: how to balance the keeping of the sabbath with the need to protect ourselves from cold?

(א) הַמַּבְעִיר כָּל שֶׁהוּא חַיָּב. וְהוּא שֶׁיְּהֵא צָרִיךְ לָאֵפֶר.

A person who lights a candle or wood, whether to generate warmth or light, is liable [of breaking shabbas].

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To get the easy part out of the way first: obviously, if someone is going to freeze to death, the Torah and Talmud are in agreement and are very clear: break whatever other laws are necessary to save them.

רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן מְנַסְיָא אוֹמֵר וְשָׁמְרוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת אָמְרָה תּוֹרָה חַלֵּל עָלָיו שַׁבָּת אַחַת כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּשְׁמוֹר שַׁבָּתוֹת הַרְבֵּה אָמַר רַב יְהוּדָה אָמַר שְׁמוּאֵל אִי הֲוַאי הָתָם הֲוָה אָמֵינָא דִּידִי עֲדִיפָא מִדִּידְהוּ וְחַי בָּהֶם וְלֹא שֶׁיָּמוּת בָּהֶם

“You shall keep My statutes and My ordinances, which a person shall do and live by them” (Leviticus 18:5), and not that he should die by them. In all circumstances, one must take care not to die as a result of fulfilling the mitzvot.

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The Shulchan Arukh, written by Joseph Karo one thousand years after the writing of the Talmud, offers further clarification to this rule that offers us some additional insight in dealing with matters of extreme cold: act first, ask questions later.

מי שיש לו חולי של סכנה מצוה לחלל עליו את השבת והזריז הרי זה משובח והשואל הרי זה שופך דמים:
For someone who has a dangerous illness, it is a commandment to break Shabbat for him. One who hurries to do this is praised. One who asks about this is a murderer.

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This brings us back to the beginning; a warm person, a person of compassion and empathy and kindness, upon seeing someone suffering from the cold, might say: "While lighting a fire may go against my beliefs, I must prioritize the safety of my fellow human, and suffer whatever recompense my breaking of the sabbath may earn me." It is this type of loving-kindness that warms the world.

שִׁמְעוֹן הַצַּדִּיק הָיָה מִשְּׁיָרֵי כְנֶסֶת הַגְּדוֹלָה. הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר,

עַל שְׁלשָׁה דְבָרִים הָעוֹלָם עוֹמֵד, עַל הַתּוֹרָה וְעַל הָעֲבוֹדָה וְעַל גְּמִילוּת חֲסָדִים:

Shimon the Righteous was one of the last of the members of the Great Assembly. He used to say:

The world stands upon three things: the Torah, the Temple service [prayer], and acts of loving kindness.