(This question was inspired by my comment on this question - Are you allowed to save a non-Jew's life on shabbos? (The comment is quoted at the bottom of my question.))

R. Simeon b. Menassia is quoted in Tractate Yoma 85b (Babylonian Talmud) as saying that it is better to desecrate one shabbat to save a Jew's life in order that s/he may live one more week in order to observe shabbat again.

I am seeking to determine whether or not this statement of R. Simeon applies even to Jews who are not sabbath-observers.

So, if one must break shabbos to save another Jew's life... What if the Jew whose life he is saving is that of a Jew who is not shomer shabbos? – Adam Mosheh Apr 11 at 4:09

(My question had gone by unanswered in that comment thread, so that is why I am asking it as a question here.)

  • I'm not sure how I should phrase what I am seeking... "Jews who are not sabbath-observers" or "Jews who are not sabbath-observant"? Or is there no practical difference between the meanings of those two? Jun 13, 2012 at 20:39
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    we know that this statement from Yoma doesn't hold strong nowadays, because we even desecrate shabbat for a non-Jew, who will keep no future shabbatot. Jun 13, 2012 at 20:43
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    Are you assuming that a Jew who is not shomer shabbat never will be? Jun 13, 2012 at 20:45
  • @MonicaCellio - I am talking about a Jew known to be a sabbath-desecrator. Maybe that is relevant stipulation. After all, mitzvot tzrichot kavanah implies that aveirot tzrichot kavanah. Perhaps the only reason why some people do not keep shabbat is because they need to work seven days a week in order to make a living. Other people might hate a Judaism that requires them to observe many "apparently" pointless rituals that have been commanded by a "God" Who exacts ultimate vengeance against sinners for every single transgression (even minor ones). (cont.) Jun 13, 2012 at 20:52
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    @AdamMosheh my point is not regarding their place in olam habah. My point is just that if there is such an overwhelming majority (which is an annan sahadi [lit. we are witnesses, means that we can assume things as being true 100% without actually seeing it happen. For example, a woman is allowed to remarry if she heard that her husband was sent to Aushwitz, even though there were survivors]) against the chance that the person will become Shomer Shabbos, perhaps one can then ask your question. If not, (if we assume that one may become shomer Shabbos), then your question has no basis. Jun 13, 2012 at 23:29

2 Answers 2


The gemara actually asks (basically) your question. A few lines later, Rava asks R. Simeon ben Menassia: based on your reasoning I understand why we break Shabbat when it will for sure lead to more net Shabbat observance. But how do you learn that we break Shabbat even when it is only doubtful that there will be more net Shabbat observance? Rava (and the conclusion of the gemara) thus rejects R. Simeon ben Menassia's logic as the real reason for the rule that we break Shabbat to save lives.

So yes, R. Simeon ben Menassia's proposal is incomplete; it does not prove the rule that the gemara wants and therefore is rejected.

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    @AdamMosheh Always glad to help.
    – Double AA
    Jul 16, 2012 at 15:51

According to the Pri Megadim (OC 328 M”Z 6) we do not desecrate Shabbos in order to save the life of someone who publicly breaks Shabbos for his own enjoyment [as the Gemora (Eruvin 69b, Chullin 5a) considers such a person like a gentile]. However the Maharam Shik (OC 140) disagrees, and brings the Shu”t Chasam Sofer (YD 341) that even an idolater has thoughts of Teshuva at near death and similarly one who desecrates Shabbos, when he is in a life threatening situation will have thoughts of Teshuva and one is permitted to break Shabbos to save him; he concludes that one must use his discretion to discern whether the person at stake indeed had Teshuva thoughts. The Shu”t Kol Yehuda (Halperin Siman 7) differentiates between a Torah desecration of Shabbos (where we do not save him) and a Rabbinic desecration of Shabbos (where we do save him). The K’tzos Hashulchan (139 Badei Hashulchan 5) writes that from Mishna Berura 329:9 it seems that we would break Shabbos even for one who publicly desecrates Shabbos.

(Based on Mishna Berura Hamevuar (Oz Vehadar) on 359:9 footnote 48)


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