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From Rabbi Moshe Heinemann:

Riding to the Hospital
A woman need not spend Shabbos/Yom Tov at a location close to the hospital or arrive at the hospital before labor starts to avoid riding on Shabbos/Yom Tov. The order of preference in arranging transportation for an expectant mother is as follows:

A. 1st - Pre-arrange with a non-Jew.

B. 2nd - Use a taxi service. (When phoning for a taxi, one should not reveal that a woman is in labor. Some taxi drivers hesitate to transport a woman in labor to the hospital. This is a suggestion, not a Halacha.)

C. 3rd - Have a Jew drive the pregnant woman. The Jew should drive normally, e.g. using signals, brakes, lights, etc. The Jew should drive in the usual manner because if he chooses to perform fewer Melachos, he might cause an accident.

My question is, pertaining to B, would using the Uber app be preferable to calling on a regular old fashioned telephone and using a taxi service? Is using the app doing less or more Melacha?

  • I don’t get it. If her life is in danger (which, if she’s in labor, it is), don’t you do whatever is the quickest way to get her out of labor? – DonielF Jun 13 at 14:20
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    @DonielF For general Pikuach Nefesh, if it's equally effective, we still try to do the least amount of Issurim possible. Also, a woman going into labor has a slightly different status than a standard Pikuach Nefesh, since it's considered a 'natural' process, assuming it's a standard situation with no complications, etc. (see O"C 330). – Salmononius2 Jun 13 at 14:27
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    @Salmononius2 ride sharing apps do not require any interaction once the ride is requested, so you'd only have to interact with it once. Having said that, uber is a truly abhorrent company and I'd highly recommend not using them (there are other ride share companies) – Daniel Jun 14 at 1:32
  • Note old fashioned telephones are pretty rare. In most cases landline phones are just computer phones without WiFi roughly speaking – Double AA Jun 14 at 12:46
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Something to consider here is - which of these methods leave more of a permanent record? Rabbi Gil Student writes concerning text messages on shabbos:

When you send a text or e-mail, you are causing it to be saved not only on your phone or computer (usually) but also on intermediary servers. The text or e-mail is permanently stored electronically and will always be available for retrieval (e.g. by the police). It seems that this falls under a safek de-oraisa, a question of a biblical prohibition.

(I'd thought it was "writing"; fascinatingly, he quotes R. Auerbach that it may be "building.")

By that logic, the good-old-fashioned taxi doesn't have your direct actions leaving a permanent record the way an app would. (Something else to consider, though -- an app tends not to care why you're going to the hospital. I've heard some taxi dispatchers don't want to pick up a woman in labor!)

I asked Rabbi Mordechai Willig shlit'a whether it's better to pay a taxi driver by credit card or cash, and he said definitely cash, it's faster. (He didn't get into the halachos behind it, but one could argue that handing over a fifty-dollar bill is known to be exactly two rabbinic prohibitions -- muktzeh, and business transactions. Whereas the permanent record of a credit card could be biblical.)

  • I don't understand the permanent record of a credit card could be biblical to write is not a definite melacha? – kouty Jun 14 at 9:16
  • Following that logic, it's forbidden to study Torah on Shabbos because it's stored in our brains - why is it different from a digital computer? Just kidding. Just saying, throwing around unsupported claims can hardly count as Halacha. – Al Berko Jun 14 at 9:41
  • Uber would be even faster in terms of payment – Double AA Jun 14 at 10:49
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Personally, I was told by my posek that one may take an Uber or a Taxi to the hospital when in labor (and he also gave me Rabbi Heineman's sheet as a reference guide for some of the other halachos). His reasoning was that it is virtually impossible to weigh out the minimization of Chillul Shabbos when figuring out calling for a taxi vs. ordering an Uber (but also seemed to agree that if payment had been set up in advance, and the taxi company on speed dial, it might still be better to call a taxi, but that may have been due to other factors as well, see below).

I have heard of others being encouraged to use Uber, especially when no payment has been pre-arranged with a taxi company.

However, there are far too many factors and halachic preferences at play to render a general psak. As mentioned, here are some of the considerations that poskim and parents-to-be will take into account, as I found from my posek and personal experiences:

  • minimizing melachos, both in terms of ordering the ride, as well as in paying for it
  • who is performing the actions of calling and/or paying (certain actions may be permitted or less severe for the laboring woman, but more severe for another)
  • speed of which the ride arrives
  • comfort level of the driver with a laboring woman (in regards to danger during the ride, or the possibility that they will refuse to take her)
  • training of the driver in case the woman gives birth, and he has to help deliver the baby
  • based on the two above points, how comfortable the laboring woman may be in either of the rides
  • Can you put in the name of your Posek? Then we can accept your answer. – Gershon Gold Jun 14 at 19:02
  • @GershonGold I'm not sure that he would feel comfortable with that, unfortunately. – רבות מחשבות Jun 14 at 20:05
  • I understand. It just would make your answer more valuable. – Gershon Gold Jun 14 at 21:51
  • @GershonGold I certainly agree, but nevertheless... – רבות מחשבות Jun 14 at 21:54

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