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A major storm hit New England starting this past Friday. While people knew this was coming and precautions were already in place, apparently (according to a news article I read tonight) some areas were declared for mandatory evacuation on Saturday morning. This led me to wonder what one must, may, and must not do in such a situation (assuming no immediate threat to life/health, just a "get out of here" decree):

  1. Should (may? must?) you use a vehicle if it will get you out more quickly, or do you leave on foot?

  2. What may you take with you? Is it the same as what you may take from a burning house on Shabbat, or different? (The talmudic discussion of the burning house seems to be about removing things a short distance, which is not this case. In an evacuation, even if there's a still-intact eiruv you're almost certainly going to go past the boundary.)

  3. If you don't know a matter of halacha you should of course CYLR. When you're in the midst of the situation on Shabbat, is it better to phone your rabbi (guaranteed melacha) in order to minimize further violations, or to use your best judgment and risk more, unintended violations? (Assume you don't have time to walk to your rabbi and back.)

An informative article by R. Kenneth Brander (h/t DoubleAA and Ze'ev Felsen) addresses some halachic issues of severe weather on Shabbat, but doesn't specifically address (non-medical) evacuation issues.

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If you can find it, Rabbi Kenneth Brander has an excellent article about extreme weather related issues in The Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society vol 64. –  Double AA Feb 10 '13 at 2:46
Re eruv: if the weather is that bad, the eruv has likely been or will soon likely be knocked down by downed trees and heavy winds. –  Double AA Feb 10 '13 at 2:47
Worth noting is Rabbi Brander's Florida connection. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Brander –  Seth J Feb 10 '13 at 3:55
The article under discussion can be found here:rabbanan.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/… –  Ze'ev Felsen May 12 '13 at 5:33
If there is a mandatory evacuation, then the government obviously thinks there's a significant enough risk to life or property. If the govt. is worried, kal vachomer you should protect your safety. From what I've heard (this is not a p'sak and hence not an answer) in a case of safek pikuach nefesh, you do whatever you need to do. If you have to drive out of the city, so be it. Just don't start posting photos to your instagram. –  A L Jul 28 '13 at 19:20

1 Answer 1

This is why it is important to learn Torah as much as possible.

G-d has endowed us with common sense, when there is no other way to get answers.

When in doubt and when there is no Rab to ask, then ask yourself:

Will this act violate any of the the sins you must die for first: adultery, idol worship, murder?

Will it cause serious stress if I leave things behind that will affect my health and emotional well being to continue observing future mitzvoth and helping others?

We shouldn't live in fear of God, but awe and love of God. And remember, we have His mercy and should remember we only merit because of His grace, not brownie points. Observance and effort are what He is looking at, not boasting how many mitzvahs we keep. It is all about quality, but not to excuse the quantity.

G-d looks at our potential, not mistakes, He already knows them and is bored seeing them. Our potential is more interesting to focus on to see where we go and if we fulfill our destiny.

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Do you have any evidence to back up these claims? It sounds like you are saying it's not such a big deal if you violate Torah prohibitions. –  Daniel Apr 26 at 19:30
Not at all trying to justify violating Torah prohibitions. It is most important to be careful of the the sins one must die for before violating: idolatry, murder, adultery. I am not saying hide under a merciful creator as an excuse to make one's life more glamorous and sin carelessly, but to extend one's life and health to continue to observe more Mitswot. –  Harsimrat Kaur May 19 at 18:34

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