If one sees a rattlesnake on Shabbos what
should he do?
involves pikuach nefesh saving lives and must therefore be taken in the
correct perspective. Although Shabbos is one of the fundamentals of our religion
nevertheless preserving Jewish life was placed by the Torah on an even higher level.
Common sense has it
that when being pursued by a poisonous snake or scorpion one is permitted to exterminate
them on Shabbos due to pikuach nefesh. The innovation of the halacha is that
even if that particular animal is not pursuing anyone and even if it is scurrying away
in the other direction, one is permitted to chase and exterminate it.
It is obvious that Chazal
were afraid that the animal might harm someone else and they permitted its extermination
to prevent harm to human life.
applies to all dangerous species and hence one may kill a rabid dog even when it involves
transgressing biblical prohibitions. This does not mean that one
should personally get involved with actually killing the dog if he has no experience or
know-how as to the way it is accomplished. In any event he is permitted and obliged to
contact the authorities and notify them of the potential danger.
What if there are other solutions present which would
dispose of the snake etc without having to transgress any prohibitions?
It does not always
pay to be too clever. For example, if possible to confine a poisonous snake in a sealed a
room until after Shabbos which appears to be a probable solution and yet
might still pose a threat. It would require one to stand guard to prevent anyone
unknowingly open the door. Therefore the optimal plan of action is to dispose of the
threat as quickly and efficiently as possible.
What about a snake or scorpion whose bite causes pain and distress but
is not deadly, is one permitted to trap or kill them?
preface and say that if there is any doubt as to whether a certain animal, reptile or
insect is poisonous it should be killed on sight and any unnecessary risks must be
If a harmful,
non-poisonous animal is pursuing a person it may be killed. This is because killing an
animal under such circumstances is only a melacha sheeina tsricha
and in order to prevent pain and harm it is permitted.
In the event that
the harmful reptile is not chasing anyone one may not kill it in the normal fashion. He
may though purposely step on it on condition that he does it in a way which outwardly
looks like an unintentional manner.
This is to prevent
unlearned people from saying that he is desecrating the Shabbos for no reason.
The Mishna Berura
is, by the way, opposed to killing spiders on Shabbos merely on the hearsay that they are
dangerous. Of course this would not apply to poisonous spiders; he is only dispelling a
common fallacy that all spiders are deadly.
If ones dog rebelled and will not return home, is one permitted
to trap it on Shabbos and bring it home?
If the dog has
rebelled to the point that it does not return home at night, its trapping
involves a biblical transgression and is forbidden to be trapped. If it does return home
at night but at the moment refuses to heed its owner, it is rabbinically forbidden to be
According to the
Rama, one is forbidden to trap ones pet in all circumstances unless fully
domesticated - i.e. the animal is so familiar with its owner that it answers to his
bidding at all times.
What if a parrot flew out of its cage, may it be trapped?
here is compounded with muktze, because a dog can be cornered without handling but
it is quite hard to do that with a parrot. It is a problem opening the cage door on
Shabbos as well, because once the door is open the parrot is relatively free and upon
shutting it one is basically trapping it again. If the bird would return to
its cage at night there is more room to permit shutting the cage but nevertheless any
opening of a parrot or birdcage should be preceded with rabbinic guidance as to the