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Is it ever permissible to break Shabbos in order to relieve someone (a human or an animal) of suffering? I am talking about excruciating suffering, not merely discomfort, and I am not talking about situations in which human life would be saved at the same time.

I am interested in to what extent Shabbos could be broken in such a situation--for example, minhag, chumras, Rabbinical prohibitions, more?

Please assume no Gentile is available to relieve the suffering.

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See MB 328:57. – msh210 Mar 10 '13 at 16:59
Re. animals, see N'mukei Yosef (Bava M'tzi'a 17b): משום צער בעלי חיים. פסקו הגאונים ז"ל ורב אלפס ז"ל כרבא דאמר צער בעלי חיים דאורייתא והכי מוכח בפרק מפנין (דף קכח ב) דשרינן בטול כלי מהיכנו דרבנן משום צער בעלי חיים דאורייתא ומיהו דוקא בצער גדול אבל צער מועט לא דתנן בפרק משילין (דף לז א) גבי אותו ואת בנו שנפלו לבור דלא שרינן ליה להעלותו אלא יעשה לו פרנסה במקומו דלאו צער הוא כולי האי – Fred Mar 10 '13 at 17:22
@Fred could you (or someone) summarize this in English? Sorry for my ignorance. – SAH Mar 10 '13 at 17:24
@Fred Thanks!.. – SAH Mar 10 '13 at 17:26
@SAH I made an error in my above comment (that I just deleted); he says that you can violate a d'rabbanan in general for an animal in great distress (bittul k'li meiheichano is soseir d'rabbanan, not a violation of muktzah). The citation from the gemara in Shabbos (128b) is: סבר מבטל כלי מהיכנו דרבנן צער בעלי חיים דאורייתא ואתי דאורייתא ודחי דרבנן (He holds that making a k'li muktza is a rabbinic prohibition and that cruelty to animals is a biblical prohibition, and a d'oraysa overrides a d'rabbanan). – Fred Mar 10 '13 at 17:32
up vote 2 down vote accepted

it seams that the shulchan aruch harav summaries these laws like this


to relieve a human of suffering if no Gentile is available

if the he is so sick that he fell because of it into laying (due to his sickness he needs to lye down) or he has an ache that is so painful that his whole body became weak (even though he is walking he is considered laying) ... a jew can "break (shabos)" for him Rabbinical prohibitions if with a shinui (doing it unusually) not excluding medicine


if he did not fall laying and it is not causing his whole body to became weak but he has big pain

a jew can do for him Rabbinical prohibitions if with a shinui excluding the prohibition of eating foods that it is recognizable that they are for healing (i.e. medicine) (but it is forbidden to feed him medicine)

if he is only a little sick a jew is not permitted to do anything that is usually forbidden *

concerning to relieve an animal of suffering if no Gentile is available


  1. you are not allowed to help it give birth at all

  2. to take care of a wound you can only toil to help it with pain but for it to have pleasure no

  3. their is no prohibition of medicine (i.e. feeding it foods that it is recognizable that they are for healing) by animals since he is not so nervous about it to do a biblicaly prohibited work

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So it still sounds like violating a d'oraysa for suffering is never possible... – SAH Dec 3 '15 at 22:33

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