This article says:

Any procedure which is necessary to perform for the patient, but it is clear that it does not at all need to be performed on Shabbat, should be delayed until after Shabbat.

How is "need to be performed" defined? Let's say a person is taking a daily medicine for some condition (and assume taking it involves doing a melacha). Can he take it on Shabbos because of pikuach nefesh concerns? Skipping a dose each Shabbos will not immediately kill him, but it will shorten his lifespan (so you can say it will 'kill him' later).

  • Why is he taking the medication? Is it for a life-threatening illness (in the long run, at least)?
    – DonielF
    Commented Nov 22, 2019 at 17:20
  • @DonielF Correct - a condition that is life-threatening in the long run. Meaning that having the condition does damage to the body any time it's not kept at bay, and to keep it at bay the medicine needs to be taken frequently [say, every 3 hours]. The damage doesn't kill immediately, but shortens the lifespan.
    – user9806
    Commented Nov 22, 2019 at 18:11
  • I also assume this question follows Rav Moshe and not the Chazon Ish, as the latter holds medicine taken regularly even for a non-life threatening illness can be taken on Shabbos?
    – DonielF
    Commented Nov 22, 2019 at 18:13
  • This question is not particularly about medicine. It's about what constitutes 'pikuach nefesh' - how close in the future does the threat to life have to be for it to be considered "danger to life". Depending on the specific scenario, it could be a medicine that removes the threat, or it could be some action (which might involve an av melacha).
    – user9806
    Commented Nov 22, 2019 at 18:33
  • To put it yet another way - if you drive someone critically ill to the hospital, you're prolonging his life (let's say from t+few hours to t+many years). While in this case, you do a melacha/give medicine/etc. so that his life is prolonged from t+few years to t+many years. Is there really a difference halachically between the two scenarios, and if so what are the relevant time parameters.
    – user9806
    Commented Nov 23, 2019 at 23:49

1 Answer 1


The laws of pikuach nefesh differentiate between a patient at risk for his life, a patient at risk of losing a limb, one who is unwell and needs to lay down, and a patient who doesn't feel well but operates.

The article you quote speaks of postponing an operation when the delay won't impact the patient life.

Your question seems to address a case of pikuach nefesh and one when desecrating Shabbat will extend a person life. The halacha is very clear that one should desecrate Shabbat in such a case.

See for instance Aruch Hashulchan 328:9

חולה שיש בו סכנה שאמדוהו בשבת שצריך לעשות לו רפואה ידועה שיש בה מלאכת חילול שבת שמנה ימים, אין אומרים נמתין עד הלילה ונמצא שלא נחלל עליו אלא שבת אחת, אלא יעשו מיד אף על פי שיחללו עליו שתי שבתות. ולכבות הנר בשביל שישן נתבאר בסימן רע"ח, דמותר בחולה שיש בו סכנה כשצריך לכך. ואפילו אם ברור אצל הרופאים שימות, אלא שעל פי רפואות יכול לחיות איזה שעות יותר - מותר לחלל עליו את השבת, דגם לחיי שעה מחללין, ויתבאר עוד בסימן שכ"ט.

He explains one transgresses Shabbat for a person in danger who needs daily medicine (transgressing Shabbat) for eight days, and one starts right away, even if it means transgressing Shabbat twice instead of once. [...]

And even if it is clear to the doctors he will die, but the medicine can give him a few more hours of life, one is permitted to transgress Shabbat to give him the medicine.

  • Thank you for the answer. What are the time horizon parameters for the extension of life? In particular consider the statement "even if it is clear to the doctors he will die, but the medicine can give him a few more hours of life". All people eventually die, but some substances (e.g. vitamins, weight loss pills, etc.) will very likely extend their lifespan (probably by even more than a few hours) . Are those substances then also covered by that statement and allowed on Shabbos?
    – user9806
    Commented Feb 20 at 22:51
  • He is speaking of life-saving medicine here, whose timely ingestion is directly linked to extending life. Vitamins and weigh loss pills do not directly extend life - they are one of a myriad of factors (together with food, physical activity) influencing lifespan. So the first is covered, the second not.
    – mbloch
    Commented Feb 21 at 4:03

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