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The Obligation of Desecrating Shabbat in Order to Save a Person’s Life

The Daily Halacha Moment - The Obligation of Desecrating Shabbat in Order to Save a Person’s Life 🤧

״כל השונה הלכות בכל יום - מובטח לו שהוא בן העולם הבא״ (נידה עג ע״א, מגילה כח:)

“Anyone who studies Halachot every day is guaranteed that he is destined for the world-to-come” (Megilla 28b, Niddah 73a)


When is one obligated to desecrate Shabbat?


It is a mitzvah to violate the Shabbat and to do any melachah that is needed in order to save another Jew’s life.[1] It is even prohibited for one to delay in saving someone’s life for the sake of Shabbat.[2] In fact, the more expeditious one is to save the person, the greater his reward will be in Olam Habbah. [3]

Even if the person who is sick wants to be stringent and avoid desecrating Shabbat, it is considered a sin to do so, and one must explain to the person that desecrating Shabbat for the sake of saving one’s life is a mitzvah.[4]

Even if it turns out after-the-fact that it was not actually a life-threatening situation, a person who violated Shabbat in order to save someone whom he thought was in a life-threatening situation is not liable for doing any sin and is even praiseworthy for desecrating Shabbat. [5]

Adapted From R' Yonatan Nacsons "Laws Of Shabbat" vol. 2, p. 282


[1]. Shulchan Aruch 328:2; Chazon Ovadia, Shabbat, vol. 3, p. 229

[2]. The Ohr HaChayim, Shemot 31:13 states that one who desecrates Shabbat in order to save a person’s life is not even considered as if he desecrated Shabbat, and in fact, he is even considered as if he kept Shabbat in its entirety and has even saved the person and enabled him to keep many more Shabbatot. Furthermore, _Chazon Ovadia_, _Shabbat_, vol. 3, p. 231 states that a person who desecrates Shabbat in order to save another person’s life does not require any sort of atonement at all. See also Mishnah Berurah 334:78 and in Kaf HaChayim 329:25.

[3]. Halichot Olam, vol. 4, pp. 141-143; Yalkut Yosef, Shabbat, vol. 4, p. 191. The Yerushalmi, Yoma 8:5 even goes as far to say that a person who takes the time to go and ask a rabbi if he is permitted to desecrate Shabbat in order to save a life is considered as if he killed the person. See also Tzitz Eliezer 16:16 in the name of the Vilna Gaon, Mishlei 15:23.

[4]. Yalkut Yosef, Shabbat, vol. 4, p. 197, in the name of the Ramban in Torat HaAdam, Shaar Hasakanah. See also Rambam, Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah, ch. 5. See also Tzitz Eliezer, vol. 8, siman 15, ch. 3, 6-7; ibid., vol. 9, 17:2:17. Regarding the obligation to eat on Yom Kippur for one who is dangerously ill, see in Yechaveh Daat 1:61 and Yabia Omer, vol. 4, C.M. 6:4.

[5]. Shulchan Aruch 328:15; Chazon Ovadia, Shabbat, vol. 3, p. 283. The case given in the Shulchan Aruch is if a doctor said that the person is dangerously ill and he needs one item or food in order to live, and upon hearing this, ten different people ran and desecrated Shabbat in order to get the item to save the person. In such a case, none of the ten people are held liable for desecrating Shabbat since they all did so with the intention of saving someone’s life, even though the person was healed by the first person who brought him the item that was needed.

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