Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
The Schmooze

Saving (Jewish) Lives on the Sabbath

Yosef, spiritual leader of Shas, the Orthodox Sephardic political party, has tackled that hot potato of what, exactly, Judaism says about saving life on the Sabbath. Everyone agrees that religious law lets you break Sabbath restrictions to save a life — but for whom?

Many rabbis, including the late American religious authority Moshe Feinstein, have ruled that, of course, a life is a life and you can save anyone. But Yosef has ruled that it’s Jews only.

In a lesson he said that you cannot break Sabbath to save gentiles, just Jews.

He did leave room in some situations to save non-Jews. Breaking a Biblical rule would be a no-no, but breaking a rabbinic command would be okay. This would probably allow actions like telephoning for help, even though telephones are usually banned on Sabbath.

This, no doubt, will prove a great comfort for any gentiles in grave danger who happen across one of Yosef’s many followers. Upon seeing such a person, they are apparently meant to delve in to the historical origins of the particular Sabbath law they would need to break. Utterly practical.

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.