Chapter: 27 – Sick People and Saving Lives

01. The Principles of Piku’aĥ Nefesh (Saving a Life)

Saving a life overrides Shabbat, as the Torah states: “Keep My decrees and laws, which a person shall do and live by; I am the Lord” (Vayikra 18:5). The Sages expound: “‘live by’ – and not die by” (Yoma 85b); … Continue reading

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02. Determining Danger

Any illness that doctors normally consider dangerous or that regular people would make haste to save a patient suffering from it is deemed dangerous halakhically, even if only a small minority of people die because of it, and therefore justifies … Continue reading

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03. For Whom Do We Desecrate Shabbat?

The Sages offered a rationale for desecrating Shabbat to save someone’s life: “Desecrate one Shabbat so that he will observe many Shabbatot” (Yoma 85b). However, in practice, even when it is clear that the person being saved will not observe … Continue reading

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04. Using a Non-Jew or Child to Minimize Shabbat Desecration

As we have seen (above, 25:1), a Jew who performs melakha on Shabbat violates Torah law, whereas a Jew who asks a non-Jew to perform melakha for him violates rabbinic law. Similarly, a minor who performs melakha on Shabbat only … Continue reading

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05. Using a Shinui to Minimize Shabbat Desecration

When dealing with saving lives on Shabbat, a serious dilemma arises. On the one hand, it would seem to be preferable to use a shinui when doing whatever melakhot are necessary. After all, when a melakha is done in the … Continue reading

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06. Traveling to the Hospital

When rushing a patient to the hospital, one drives normally, as he would during the week. He should not try to drive with a shinui, as this may cause delay or be dangerous. One may travel to the hospital in … Continue reading

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07. Choosing a Hospital and Doctor

When one must drive a gravely ill person or a woman in labor to the hospital, he should drive to the nearest hospital, in order to avoid additional Shabbat desecration. Even if there are better hospitals available, for routine matters, … Continue reading

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08. Accompanying a Sick Person or Woman in Labor to the Hospital

A patient who is rushed to the hospital generally needs a chaperone, to offer support and to ensure that he is given proper care by the medical staff. Unfortunately, due to heavy volume of patients at a hospital, patients who … Continue reading

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09. Driving Home on Shabbat

If the patient is released after it is determined that he is not in danger, he and his chaperones may not desecrate Shabbat to return home. If necessary – for example, if the patient needs rest – he may be … Continue reading

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10. Doctors and Nurses Driving to Work and Back Home on Shabbat

If a doctor has a shift on Shabbat morning and lives too far away from the hospital to reach it on foot, he must drive to the hospital before Shabbat so he will not have to desecrate Shabbat. Be-di’avad, if … Continue reading

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