Cases that are defined as life threatening situations

A. A wound in an inner limb is assumed to be deadly unless known otherwise:

The definition of an inner limb[1]: Any internal wound, which includes all wounds in limbs that are located from ones teeth and inward, including the teeth [and ones gums[2]], one is to desecrate Shabbos on behalf of [healing them].

The definition of a wound[3]: However this only refers to [a type of wound that has either] impaired ones teeth or any one of the other inner limbs due to a wound, or that has a blister and the like. However mere aches and pains alone [which one knows is not associated with a wound or blister[4]] are not considered a wound and one may not transgress Shabbos for them even if it involves tremendous pain.  [However if one feels great pain and is unaware of whether or not it is a result of a wound or of a blister, then he may desecrate Shabbos for it.[5]] [As well], if one is in such pain that his entire body feels [weak and] sick then it is allowed to desecrate Shabbos through a gentile even by [having him do] a Biblical prohibition. (If he is not in so much pain then he is [nevertheless] allowed to have done through a gentile any [form of treatment] which is [only] Rabbinically prohibited) as will be explained [in chapter 2 Halacha 2-4].

An inner wound is assumed to be life threatening and does not require medical evaluation to determine this:[6]A wound in an inner limb does not need to be evaluated [by a professional] and rather even by a standard wound in which there is no [available] professional to recognize [the danger in such a wound], that it needs an immediate cure [on Shabbos], as well as [even] if the patient himself does not mention anything, one may do for [this patient] anything which is regularly done for [a sick person] during the week.

If the inner wound is known to not be of danger: [7] However when one knows and recognizes that this illness [can be] delayed [from being treated now] and thus does not need to have Shabbos transgressed for it, then one is not allowed to transgress Shabbos to treat it even though it is a wound in an inner limb. Certainly this applies if the patient or a medical professional says that it does not need immediate attention.

 

B. A wound on an outer limb-Some require evaluation

A general outer wound requires evaluation of a doctor or patient to determine if lethal [other than those to be mentioned below] [8]: By a wound which is not in an inner limb, one [needs to] council with a medical professional and the patient [to determine if it’s lethal]. If one of them say that it requires desecration of Shabbos or says that if one does not desecrate Shabbos then it is possible that the sickness will get worse, and it is  a scenario that is possible that if the sickness were to worsen that it may become lethal, then one transgresses [for the wound].

However if [the illness will] not [eventually become lethal if left untreated] then we do not transgress Shabbos.

 

C. A wound on the back of the hand or foot:[9]

A wound which is on the back of the hand or back of the foot [not including the fingers[10]], even if it occurred on its own without getting hit by iron,….they are considered like an internal wound [of which one is to desecrate Shabbos for].

 

D. A wound from iron:[11]

As well Shabbos is to be desecrated for any wound that resulted from iron, even if the wound is on the exterior of one’s skin and is not on the back of one’s hand and feet. [See Q&A if this applies even if one got a simple cut with a knife and cases of the like]

 

E. Blisters by the rectum:[12]

As well one is to desecrate Shabbos for boils which sprang up by the rectum.

 

F. Furuncle [by the rectum[13]]: [14]

As well one is to desecrate Shabbos for furuncle[15] (which is called flunkero in the vernacular).

 

G. Fever accompanied with shivering: [16]

As well one is to desecrate Shabbos for one who has a very heavy fever or even if it is not such high fever but the fever is accompanied with shivering, meaning with [feeling] cold (called shvidrin in the Yiddish) in a case that the fever and shivering came simultaneously. However the common fever which is at first hot and then cold involves no danger. 

[See Q&A regarding high fever not accompanied by common cold. For fever due to common cold or virus- see end of Chapter 3]

 

H. Swallowed a leech:[17]

One who has swallowed a leech, which is a small worm that is found in water and when it comes in contact with the skin of a person it sucks out the blood until it inflames to [the size of a] small barrel, and when a person swallows it in water it sucks moisture out from his stomach and causes his stomach to become swollen, is to be considered like an internal wound [of which one is to desecrate Shabbos for].

 

I. Bitten by rabid dog or other deadly creature:[18]

One who was bitten by a rabid dog or one of the deadly creeping creatures [such as a scorpion or lethal snake[19]], even if it is questionable whether they kill or not, they are considered like an internal wound [of which one is to desecrate Shabbos for]. [See Q&A regarding wasps and bees]

Charming snakes and other deadly creatures to prevent injury;[20] One may charm[21] snakes and scorpions on Shabbos so they do not cause injury even if they are not pursuing oneself, and doing so does not contain the trapping prohibition even according to those opinions which hold liable one who does an action that is not needed for itself.[22] 

                                                             

J. Treating blood accumulation:[23]

One who has blood build up (in a scenario that could be life threatening) is to have his blood let even if he is able to walk on his feet, and even if it is the first day that he has had the blood build up.

(And if there is no danger involved then he is allowed to cool himself down in water being that doing so appears like he is cooling himself off and not that he is intending to do so for healing)

 

K. Eye Pain:[24]  

One has not yet begun to heal: One who has a pain in his eyes or in one of his eyes and there is fluid in it or there are tears pouring out of it as a result of the pain, or there is blood pouring out of it or it has pus which continuously congeals, or the pain [feels] like the prickling of a needle or it is burning and feverish, then one is to transgress Shabbos on the outset of all these sicknesses.

The reason for this is: as there is danger at that time because if the eyeball will become removed he will die because eyesight is dependent on the heart.

One has begun to heal: However towards the end of all these sicknesses, which is defined as when he is already on his way to being healed and there only remains a small amount of the sickness, [such as that] it [only] slightly burns, then one may not transgress Shabbos even through a gentile with exception to a Rabbinical prohibition, such as to apply [to the eye a remedy of] herbs which had been ground the day before [meaning before Shabbos]  as will be explained.

 

L. A baby which has gotten locked in a room:[25]

If a baby has gotten locked in a room one may break down the door and take him out, because there is chance that the baby will get frightened and die. [See Q&A regarding a lost child]

 

M.  A sinking ship; drowning person; a Jew being chased by a gentile:[26]

One who sees a ship, which contains Jews, drowning in the sea, as well as [one who sees] a river that is drowning [another person], as well as [one who sees] a Jew being chased by a gentile then it is a commandment upon every individual to desecrate Shabbos in order to save them, even if there is doubt as to whether they will be saved.

 

N. Extinguishing a lethal fire:[27]

Any life threatening situation overrides [the] Shabbos [prohibitions] and whoever is quick [to transgress in order to save a life] is praised. Thus…

Children or sick people are endangered: Even if a fire ignited in a different courtyard and one is worried that it may spread into one’s own courtyard and it will pose danger, such as for example if there is a sick person or children [in his courtyard] and there is no time [for them] to run away before it will reach [them], then one is to extinguish [the fire] to prevent it from spreading.

It is possible to carry them out: Even if it is possible to escape [by carrying the children and ill person] through a Biblically considered public domain, then it is [still] better to extinguish [the fire, rather than escape].

The reason for this is: because extinguishing [a fire] is an action which is not done for its own use [and is thus only Rabbinically forbidden] as mentioned in chapter 278 [Halacha 1], while carrying out a sick person or children which are not able to walk is a Biblical prohibition as explained in chapter 308 [Halacha 81].

 

O. Fighting Robbers/Enemy Soldiers:[28]

Robbers which attack a town[29]: Gentiles which have placed in siege a city of Jews, if they have come for monetary purposes [to loot the town] then one may not desecrate Shabbos.

Other Opinions[30]: There are opinions which say that in these days that we live between non-Jews which loot and kill, then even if they have only come [to steal] money, [nevertheless] one is to desecrate Shabbos due to them.

The reason for this is[31]: because if the Jew will not allow the robbers to steal and loot then they will kill the Jew, and it is presumable that a person does not stand by and allow his money to be taken and there is thus worry that perhaps one person will stand up against the robbers and they will kill him, and this is thus a situation of life and death.

The Final Ruling[32]: Nevertheless it all depends on the situation.

Robbers which attack an individual[33]: However robbers which came upon a single person to rob his money, then he is to let them take everything he has and may not desecrate Shabbos even to do a Rabbinical prohibition, with exception to ways explained in chapter 301 [Halacha 38]. [See Q&A regarding a robber robbing a bank, ones friends house, and fighting back the robber]

Robbers which attack a  border town[34]: A city that rests near the border, then even if the gentiles only want to come for purposes of [taking] hay and straw, one is to desecrate Shabbos as [otherwise] perhaps the city will be conquered [by the gentiles] and from there it will be easy to conquer the remainder of the land.

Returning home with the weapons:[35] Whoever is going out to save [others] may return with their weapons to their towns if they fear from the gentiles to remain in the area of conquest as is explain in chapter 407 [Halacha 3].

 

Saving one’s belongings from robbers: [36]

If robbers are coming to search and rob from one’s home, it is permitted for one to move valuable Muktzah items[37], in order to save them from the robbers. It is forbidden according to all to move Muktzah items which are not of much value.[38]

May one carry the items outside if there is no Eiruv? It is forbidden for one to carry the items into a Karmalis.[39] Hence one may only save the items into an area that has an Eiruv.

 

P. Murderers:[40]

If gentiles have come to kill the inhabitants, even if they have come as they do typically but there is worry that perhaps they have come to kill, and even if they have still not yet come but they are preparing to come, then the town may go out to greet them with weapons and they may desecrate Shabbos on their behalf [to defend themselves].

Returning home with the weapons:[41] Whoever is going out to save [others] may return with their weapons to their towns if they fear from the gentiles to remain in the area of conquest as is explain in chapter 407 [Halacha 3].

 

Q. Saving a Jew from forcibly giving up his religion:[42]

One who gentiles are trying to force him to give up his religion, then regarding whether one may desecrate Shabbos to save him is explained in the end of chapter 306 [the last Halacha].

 

R. Saving people within a collapsed building:[43]  

One which fell upon him a mound and there is doubt as to whether he is still alive or already dead, [and] a doubt if he is under there or he is not under there, and even if one were to say that he is under there is doubt as to whether he is a Jew or a gentile, one is to undo the mound from upon him even though that there involves here a lot of doubts.

The reason for this is: because the Torah says “you should live by them” that it cannot be made to lead under any circumstances towards the death of a Jew through keeping the Mitzvos.
Saving a life even only momentarily: Even if [the victim] was found to be crushed and is thus only able to live momentarily, [nevertheless] one is to undo the mound up to his nose and check him [for if he still has life] and if he is still alive then one is to undo the mound and take him out for him to live whatever amount longer [that doing so will allow him to live]. [However] if one did not feel life in his nose, then he has certainly already dead even if he was not crushed.

 Checking if the person is already dead: [44] Whether [the victim] got hit first on his head or first on his feet and one sees that there is no life in his heart, even so one is to check up to his nose, as the main evidence of whether there is life is in the nose, as it says [in the verse] “all that have a soul of life in their nose”.

If the upper part of the mound had dead people found in it:[45] If one found the upper [bodies in the mound] to be dead one does not assume that the lower ones have already also died and rather is to undo the mound from on top of them as perhaps they are still alive.

There was an incident [which proves this point as a mound fell and the searchers found] the top ones to be dead and the bottom ones were found alive.

 

S. Extinguishing candle for ill which need sleep:[46]

It is permitted to extinguish a candle for an ill person to sleep, if he is sick in a way that there is worry of danger if he does not sleep.

The reason for this is because: Danger of life pushes away [the] Shabbos [prohibitions] even by a worry of questionable danger.

 

T. Extinguishing candles due to fear of bandits:[47]

Similarly one who fears that bandits may come to kill him is permitted to extinguish a candle to prevent them from seeing him.

The reason for this is because: Danger of life pushes away [the] Shabbos [prohibitions] even by a worry of questionable danger.

Prohibition to extinguish to prevent theft or for the non-lethally ill: However if there is no worry of danger of life but rather danger of one’s money, as well as for an ill person which is not in danger, it is Rabbinically forbidden to extinguish the candle [although] if he [transgressed and] extinguished it he is exempt [from Biblical liability].

 

Practical definition of life threatening wounds,  illnesses and situations which are included in the above Mitzvah to desecrate Shabbos:

A wound in an inner limb: A wound in an inner limb is defined as all wounds to limbs that are inwards from ones teeth, including ones teeth, which have impaired the use of the limb, or if the limb has grown a blister and the like.[48] Such wounds are considered deadly and do not require any medical evaluation to determine this, although if one knows that the wound is not deadly, then one may not desecrate Shabbos for it.[49]

Mere aches and pains in the inner limbs which are for certain not a result of a wound or blister are not considered a lethal wound and thus do not have the laws of ones whose life is in danger.[50]

A wound in an outer limb: Is only considered lethal if evaluated by a professional which confirms this to be the case or that this will be case if left untreated, or if the patient himself says so.[51] This is with exception to a wound on the back of his feet or hands which are always considered lethal just like an inner wound.[52] As well any wound which resulted from iron is considered lethal, even if it is only an exterior wound.[53]

Swallowed a leech[54]: Is considered lethal.

Bitten by a rabid dog[55]: Is considered lethal.

A boil on the rectum[56]: Is considered lethal.

Fever[57]: If the fever is very high, or even if not very high but was simultaneously accompanied with shivering is considered lethal. However a typical fever is not considered lethal.

Blood accumulation: Is at times lethal[58], and one is to thus light a bon fire for him even in the summer, even if he has warm clothing.[59]

Eye Pain:[60] One has pain in his eye and there is fluid in it or there are tears pouring out of it as a result of the pain, or there is blood pouring out of it or it has pus which continuously congeals, or the pain [feels] like the prickling of a needle or it is burning and feverish, then it is lethal and one is to transgress Shabbos on the outset of all these sicknesses. However if it has already begun to heal then it is no longer lethal.

A baby locked in a room[61]: Can be life threatening if the child is scared and thus the door may be broken down.

A scorpion sting[62]: Is dangerous and one may desecrate Shabbos for it. A known cure is to capture the scorpion, kill it and fry it and then place it on the wound. This thus may be done even on Shabbos.

A poisonous snake[63]: Is lethal and one may desecrate Shabbos for it.

A lethal fire:[64]Any fire which is threatening the lives of people which do not have the ability to escape, such as old and sick people as well as children, then one is to extinguish the fire on Shabbos. If the old, sick or children are unable to walk out but are able to be carried out, then if one will carry them to a public domain, he is to extinguish the fire rather than carry them.[65]

Fighting off a robber on Shabbos:[66] If [one knows for certain that] they came to rob his money and not to take his life then one is to let them take all of his possessions and may not desecrate Shabbos even with a Rabbinical prohibition. [If however there is any worry that the robber will attempt a physical attack then one may desecrate Shabbos and call the police.[67]]

 

Fighting battle against gentiles on Shabbos:[68]

By a border town even if gentiles come to steal hay and straw they are to be battled on Shabbos.

By a non-border town, if they are coming for monetary purposes then one may not desecrate Shabbos to fight them unless one fears that it may lead to a dangerous situation where lives may be threatened in which case he is to desecrate Shabbos.

In all cases that battling on Shabbos is permitted the people may return with their weapons if they fear remaining where they currently are.[69]

A dangerously ill person which needs sleep: May have the light turned off for him if there is danger involved in not doing so.

 

Q&A

May one desecrate Shabbos for the above mentioned symptoms defined as life threatening even today when modern medicine has diminished the severity of these symptoms?[70]

All the above mentioned illnesses are considered life threatening even if the doctor and patient both say that it is not, as this was the tradition of the Sages.[71]

However some have written[72] that those symptoms which all doctors today have agreed that they are not life threatening lose their life threatening status.

 

May one desecrate Shabbos for even a mere cut due to a metal knife?[73]

A previously used knife: One may desecrate Shabbos in all cases by a cut from a used knife due to suspicion that they may have rust on them which could enter into one blood stream and be lethal.

A new knife: However by a new knife [as well as a freshly sharpened knife] in which the rust suspicion does not apply, then if it one got a shallow cut one may not desecrate Shabbos for it[74]. However by a deep cut[75] one may desecrate Shabbos unless there is a doctor present which states otherwise.[76]

 

May one desecrate Shabbos if he was hit by a metal or wooden[77] item and no blood came out but a bruise was formed?[78]

If a doctor is readily available then he is to be spoken with and one is to do in accordance to his diagnosis.

If no doctor is available then one may desecrate Shabbos due to the doubt, however one must try to diminish as much as possible in the desecration being done.

If a red streak has formed from the area of the wound then one may desecrate Shabbos due to fear of blood poisoning.[79]

Regarding placing a bandage soaked with medical ointment over the wound: One must be careful to avoid the laundering prohibition. Thus one is to only dip a very white and clean cloth into water which had wine or other colored liquid poured into it before Shabbos [or on Shabbos if one did not do so before hand]. As well if one needs to squeeze the liquid out from the cloth then one may only do so if the liquid goes to waste.[80]

 

May one desecrate Shabbos to search for a lost child?[81]

If there is worry for the safety of the child then one may do all Shabbos prohibitions in order to find him.

 

May one contact the police or the relatives in a case of a lost child which one has found?[82]

If the child is hysterical to be with his relatives then this may be done.  

 

Q&A on robbers

If the robber is simply coming for the money, must the owner comply with his commands, such as giving him the key to the safe if he is asked for it, or may he fight back and desecrate Shabbos?[83]

If there is suspicion that this robber may come to physically hurt him [such as a typical unknown robber] then one may desecrate Shabbos as whenever the unknown robber gives commands to the owner he receives the status of a Rodef and may even be killed by the owner, let alone have Shabbos desecrated on his behalf.

 

May one fight off the robber to prevent his money from getting stolen if he knows the robber does not intend to harm him?

Being that this can lead one to need to desecrate Shabbos, as the robber will certainly fight back and will then have the status of a Rodef, it is questionable whether it is allowed.[84] However see above that if the robber is giving him commands then the robber has the status of a rodef and one may desecrate Shabbos.

             

May one call the police if he sees a robber entering another person’s house?[85]

If the house is empty of people and there is no suspicion that the robber will enter into a house in which someone is at home then one may not call the police or desecrate Shabbos in any way. If however there are people in the home or there is suspicion that he will try to enter into a nearby home with people inside, then if one suspects that this may lead to a confrontation between the robber and the owner he may call the police.

 

May one call police if he has discovered his house was burglarized?

If one entered his home and discovered it was burglarized it is forbidden to call police until after Shabbos.

 

May one call the police if he sees robbers entering into a bank or the like?[86]

If the bank is empty then no, as there is no physical danger involved for anyone.

 

A list of different symptoms which are to be considered life threatening:[87]

  • Burn: A strong burn which has spread to a large portion of one’s body.
  • Poison: The consumption of any poison or a large amount of medicine which is determined as poison.
  • Swallowing a needle
  • Bees/wasps: A bee or wasp sting to one who is allergic to them or is currently having an allergic reaction.
  • Cat’s: The scratch of a cat.
  • Cut under one’s nail: A shard or splinter which has entered under ones nail.
  • Furnucle: If large then anywhere on the body is lethal. On the lips even if small.
  • A fever that is not the result of the common cold or virus[88]: If the fever is above 39C [102.2 F] then it may be lethal as it may be a result of some inner illness and one may thus desecrate Shabbos for it.
  • A Fever above 40 C [104 F]: [89] Is considered life threatening which one may desecrate Shabbos for.
  • Cut in a vein or artery: Is life threatening.[90]

 

May one call the electric company if wires have fallen in a public area?[91]

Yes.[92]

 

May one call police if he sees a suspicious object due to fear it may contain a bomb?[93]

Yes.

 

May one call police to capture a wild dog?[94]

If one suspects the dog may contain rabies, it is permitted to do so.


May one call police in case of a fight
 between two people? [95]

If there is possibility that the fight can lead to danger of life, one is to do so.

 


[1] 328/3

[2] Ketzos Hashulchan 126 Halacha 3

[3][3] 328/3

[4] Ketzos Hashulchan 126 footnote 6, and so rules Mishneh Berurah

[5] see previous note

[6] 328/4

[7] 328/4

[8] 328/5

[9] 328/6

[10] Ketzos Hashulchan 126 Footnote 1

[11] 328/7

[12] 328/7

[13] So is implied from Admur, however see Q&A that also on the lips is dangerous.

[14] 328/7

[15] A skin inflammation

[16] 328/7

[17] 328/6

[18] 328/6

[19] Ketzos Hashulchan

[20] 328/50

[21] Snake charming is the practice of apparently [22] As explained in chapter 316 Halacha 17

[23] 328/8

[24] 328/9

[25] 328/15

[26] 329/8

[27] 329/1

[28] 329/6-7

[29] 329/6

[30] 329/7

[31] 329/7

[32] 329/7

[33] 329/7

[34] 329/6

[35] 329/9

[36] 334/2; 301/40

[37] As there are opinions which rule one may move Muktzah in a case of great loss. Furthermore, even according to those which rule Muktzah is forbidden to be moved even in a case of great loss, there are opinions which say in such a case moving Muktzah is allowed, as if it were to be forbidden, out of panic, one may come to transgress an even more severe sin, such as extinguishing the fire. Practically with the joint of these two opinions one may be lenient to move out his Muktzah items from the fire. [ibid]

[38] As in such a case there is no great loss, and one is not panicky about it.

[39] There are opinions which rule that it is even permitted to carry into a Karmalis the items which one desires to save, as if we were to forbid this, they may come, due to panic, to transgress a more sever sin such as burying the money.  Nevertheless many Poskim argue on this opinion and practically one may not be lenient, and it is only by Muktzah that some Poskim also rule that Muktzah is permitted to be moved in a case of great loss, that we combine the opinions and allow one to be lenient. [ibid]

[40] 329/7

[41] 329/9

[42] 329/10

[43] 329/3

[44] 329/3

[45]329/4

[46] 278/1

[47] 278/1

[48] 328/3

[49] 328/4

[50] 328/3

[51] 328/5

[52] 328/ 6

[53] 328/7

[54] 328/6

[55] 328/6

[56] 328/7

[57] 328/7

[58] 328/8

[59] 328/24

[60] 328/9

[61] 328/15

[62] 328/6, Ketzos Hashulchan 137 footnote 1. See also chapter 316

[63] 328/6, and chapter 316

[64] 329/1

[65] However in a Karmalis, seemingly if they have the ability to be carried out, one must do so rather than extinguish the fire. [so is implied from Admur]

[66] 328/7

[67] SSH”K 41/25 Upashut.

[68] 328/6-7

[69] 328/ha 8

[70] Piskeiy Teshuvos 328/3

[71] M”B 328/8; Minchas Shabbos 92/132; Sdei Chemed 9/5

[72] See in Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid

[73] Ketzos Hashulchan 136 footnote 2, so rules Piskeiy Teshuvos 328/5

[74] As is implied from the Issur Viheter 53/22 which only allows a gentile to give care to the cut.

[75] Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid writes that this refers to a cut by ones veins or arteries, however from Ketzos Hashulchan ibid it is evident that it refers to any deep cut.

[76] As the Tevuas Shur 44  rules that even a mere cut with a knife is dangerous, and thus certainly by a deep cut one is to be stringent.

[77] So writes Ketzos Hashulchan 136 footnote 2

[78] Ketzos Hashulchan 136 footnote 2, so rules Piskeiy Teshuvos 328/5

[79] Piskeiy Teshuvos 328/5

[80] Based on Ketzos Hashulchan 136 footnote 2

[81] SSH”K 41/28; Piskeiy Teshuvos 328/11

[82] SSH”K 41/28; Piskeiy Teshuvos 328/11

[83] SSH”K 41/25 footnote 70; Piskeiy Teshuvos 329/4

[84] SSH”K 41 footnote 70 in name of Rav SZ”A

[85] SSH”K 41/25; Piskeiy Teshuvos 329/4

[86] SSH”K 41/25; Piskeiy Teshuvos 329/4

[87] SSH”K 32/11; Piskeiy Teshuvos 328/5

[88] Piskeiy Teshuvos 328/6

[89] Piskeiy Teshuvos 328/6

[90] SSH”K 32/11

[91] SSH”K 41/22

[92] It can be fatal for one to touch a downed electric wire, and being it is difficult to secure that no one will come near the wires, one is to contact help immediately.

[93] SSH”K 41/38

[94] Based on SSH”K 41/23

[95] SSH”K 41/26

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