shabbos candles

The Shabbos Weekly
Halachos Series on Hilchos Shabbos

shabbos candles

Published by
Pirchei Shoshanim

A Project of
The Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Based on the Shiurim Given by

Rabbi Dovid
Ostroff, shlita

developed from the Chabura of the
Pirchei Shoshanim Shulchan Aruch Learning Project

These Halachos were shown by Rabbi Ostroff to
HaGaon HaRav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita


Questions for the Week of Parshas Shoftim

May one violate the Shabbos for someone who is ill?

Since there are many types of illnesses and ailments we must first categorize them and then see whether the Shabbos may be violated for each category.

The first category belongs to the critically ill.

This includes a very large range of cases, beginning with the terminally ill (Hashem Yishmor) and concluding with injuries of various degrees that are life threatening.

The Torah says as follows (Vayikra 18:5): 'u'shemartem es chukosai v'es mishpatai asher ya'ase osum ha'adam v'chai bahem ...'. The gemora in Yumah 85b learns from this possuk that one is not to surrender ones life in face or on account of a mitzvah (unless it involves one of the 3 cardinal sins: idolatry, adultery and murder). [1]

Shabbos is not one of the cardinal sins and therefore Shabbos must not stand in the way of saving a Jewish life.

Accordingly, when faced with the choice of either not violating the Shabbos or saving a persons life, one must save the persons life.

I understand this when dealing with an injury, assault attack etc. How does this relate to ill people?

People lying in the ICU (intensive care unit) are critically ill to the point that their life is in danger. When treating these patients on Shabbos, one must not withhold any treatment that could or might have a positive effect on the patient. Even if the effect of the treatment would only be apparent after Shabbos, if it stabilizes his condition or improves it in any way, it must be done.

Does it make a difference whether one violates an issur doraisso or drabanan?

Not when treating the critically ill.

May Shabbos be violated in the normal manner for an ill person?

This is far more problematic, and although we will beH attempt to lay down a few basic rules, one is obliged to learn these halachos thoroughly. As a matter of fact the Shulchan Aruch says the following: [2]

One who is faced with a life threatening situation has a mitzvah to violate the Shabbos, and whoever is quick in doing so is praiseworthy, and one who asks (a Rav) is like a murderer. The Yerushalmi adds [3] and the one who is asked is disgraceful.

The one who asks is like a murderer because if one is afraid to violate the Shabbos, when faced with a life threatening situation, before asking ones rav whether one is permitted to do certain actions, one will inevitably endanger that person more than necessary and thus bring about his demise. In such circumstances one must not ask any questions.

This does not mean that one is exempt from learning the halachos of how to treat an ill person on Shabbos, because if one is able to do it in the correct manner, as we will see that there are many details involved, one is obliged to do so.

The rav who is asked is disgraceful because he should have organized shiurim in hilchos Shabbos and thus teach his community the correct manner of action when dealing with pikuach nefesh life threatening situations. [4]

If everything may be done in a case of a pikuach nefesh, what is there to teach (or ask)?

There are many details, as we will see. We must differentiate between the treating of patients who require immediate medical attention and others who do not require it immediately, and between direct and indirect treatment.

The gemora [5] says the following: Pikuach nefesh is not attended to by gentiles or children, [6] rather by the elders of Israel. Who are the elders of Israel?

From the Rambam we see that he understood it to mean the sages of Israel and not merely the adults, as he used the term . The Shulchan Aruch HaRav 328:13 explains that when the sages attend to pikuach nefesh it serves as a lesson as to the correct attitude one is to have when attending to pikuach nefesh and it shows the halacha lmaaseh.

The Beis Yosef understands that it means adults of Israel, i.e. males who are of bar-mitzvah age. Accordingly he rearranged the wording of this statement in the Shulchan Aruch and wrote , Jewish adults and of sound mind.

BeH we will continue with this in the next shiur.

[1] One can understand the possuk as follows: Hashem commanded us to keep the mitzvos, as this possuk states, and one must live with these mitzvos . If keeping one of the mitzvos will cause one to forfeit ones life, it will be contrary to the and one must not keep that particular mitzvah.

[2] Simon 328:2.

[3] See MB 6.

[4] The bottom line is that one must ask ones rav to organize shiurim in hilchos Shabbos.

[5] Braisso in Yumah 84b.

[6] The version in the gemora says not by gentiles or Kutiyim and the Vilna Gaon substitutes the word Kutiyim with the word children.

Food For Thought

Should one preferably have a gentile violate the Shabbos for an ill person?

Why should a child not be used when possible?

Are women different to men when dealing with pikuach nefesh?

What about violating the Shabbos bshinui (in a backhanded manner) when possible?

Answers coming next week.

Vort on the Parsha

The halacha says that False Witnesses who are caught in the act (complying with certain conditions) are meted out the punishment they intended laying upon the person they falsely testified. However, when they falsely testified that an unintentional murder was commited, where the punishment is banishment to an 'ir miklat', the witnesses are not banished to the 'ir miklat', rather they are lashed instead.

The sefer Maalos Hamidos says that a liar and fraud has no room in society, as it says on the possuk (Tehilim 101:7) 'lo yeshev b'kerev beisi oseh remiah' - a liar may not dwell in my house. The people living in the 'ir miklat' do not want him!

For a printed version, click here.


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Note:  The purpose of this series is intended solely for the clarification of the topics discussed and not to render halachic decisions. It is intended to heighten everyone's awareness of important practical questions which do arise on this topic.  One must consult with a proper halachic authority in order to receive p'sak.