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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11. Scheduling Surgeries and Circumcisions on the Days Preceding Shabbat

Sometimes, one may need to schedule a surgical procedure that will then require follow-up care involving the performance of various melakhot. Similarly, some procedures, such as the extraction of a wisdom tooth, cause pain for several days, which may impair … Continue reading

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12. Fighting Wars on Shabbat

It is a mitzva to wage a defensive war against Israel’s enemies. This mitzva is even greater than the mitzva of saving human life, as one is not required to risk his own life in order to save the life … Continue reading

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13. A Commanding Officer’s Authority During Wartime and Normal Times

During a war, one must do everything possible for the sake of victory, on Shabbat as well. One may not delay matters by referring questions to rabbis, nor should he bother commanding officers by asking them what is or is … Continue reading

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14. Common Army Questions

Soldiers who are patrolling in a vehicle on Shabbat may not deviate from the established route in order to eat in a more convenient outpost or to meet up with friends, because driving is permitted to them only for the … Continue reading

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15. What Must One Give Up to Minimize Shabbat Desecration?

One need not forgo his Shabbat rest or anything else that is dear to him in order to minimize the Shabbat desecration of another person who is involved in lifesaving activities. In addition, there is a concern that if one … Continue reading

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16. Police Activity on Shabbat

All agree that police officers must desecrate Shabbat to save lives. Thus, if a suspicious object is found, or if dangerous people are seen engaging in suspicious activities, one must call the police. If a serious fight breaks out that … Continue reading

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17. Mobile Phones and Weapons Necessary for Health and Security

In an area enclosed by an eruv, emergency medical professionals and volunteers who always carry beepers or cell phones may carry these devices on Shabbat. Similarly, one who always carries a pistol or rifle may carry it on Shabbat. Muktzeh … Continue reading

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