In today's news (18 March 2020), the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel ruled that Jews may use their cellphones on Shabbat to receive developments and alerts regarding the coronavirus.

This is an invocation of pikuach nefesh to enable people to receive news that might save their own lives' or others'.

Does the invocation of pikuach nefesh to break Shabbat have to come from a rabbi (if there is time to consult one), or can it be a personal decision? What is the halacha?

  • If there is time one usually asks a rabbi but it is unnecessary.
    – interested
    Commented Mar 19, 2020 at 8:14
  • Do modern rabbis have any special halachik status different than any other person?
    – mroll
    Commented Mar 19, 2020 at 9:05

1 Answer 1


See here

One who is faced with a situation that might be construed as a matter of pikuach nefesh, and goes to consults with a rabbi about the situation is considered a murderer—because due to his excessive "piety," and the resultant delay in implementing the proper measures, he might be endangering a life. And the rabbi who is asked is disgraceful—because he should have taught his community the proper manner of action when dealing with pikuach nefesh, i.e., to take action without delay.

  • 2
    Your answer refers only to a urgent/ time sensitive situation when there is not time to ask. That is not the case referred to in the question Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 1:50

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