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.

  • See MB 328:57.
    – msh210
    Mar 10, 2013 at 16:59
  • 1
    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, 2013 at 17:22
  • @Fred could you (or someone) summarize this in English? Sorry for my ignorance.
    – SAH
    Mar 10, 2013 at 17:24
  • 1
    @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, 2013 at 17:32
  • @Fred So I assume by extension you could violate a d'rabbanan for a human in great distress. But I wonder, could you ever violate a d'oraysa for a human?
    – SAH
    Mar 10, 2013 at 17:42

2 Answers 2


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

  • So it still sounds like violating a d'oraysa for suffering is never possible...
    – SAH
    Dec 3, 2015 at 22:33

Discussed here about the case of an animal--and not even necessarily in a case of excruciating suffering. A fortiori, if it were a human suffering, or an animal suffering badly, I imagine we could do at least as much as is suggested here:

a) Is a Jew permitted to violate a Torah or Rabbinic prohibition for the sake of ‘tza’ar ba’alei chaim’– lit. “(Alleviating) the pain of an animal” – which, according to many opinions, is a Torah precept (Heb. ‘d’oraisa’)? b) If a Jew is not permitted to violate, is he permitted to ask a non-Jew to do it for him?

To address these questions, we can reference Hilchos Shabbos, as the same halachos apply here. We excerpt from MBY Archives 305:18-20 Allowing one’s animal to rest (part 3) – Hey, that’s a (black) hat trick! “The solution is to milk in such a way that only a rabbinically-forbidden act is done, which will be overridden by the principle of ‘tza’ar ba’alei chaim d’oaraisa’. Here are the options for doing that, in order of halachic preference: a) Have a non-Jew express the milk to go to waste or to go directly from the animal into a solid food. (Note: The former is not a Torah-prohibited act, because the intended purpose of ‘mefareik’ – i.e. extracting the milk for its consumption - is not realized; the latter is not technically the melacha of ‘mefareik’ either, because, since the liquid is transferred directly back into a solid, the act of “extracting liquid from solid” is not accomplished.) In this way, only a ‘shvus d’shvus’ – i.e. one rabbinic prohibition, namely instructing a non-Jew to do another rabbinic prohibition (non-melacha milking) is being done! b) The Jew himself may express the milk in one of the rabbinically-prohibited methods mentioned above. As stated above, when necessary, a rabbinic law may be overridden for the sake of ‘tza’ar ba’alei chaim’. c) Have a non-Jew milk the animal in the normal way – i.e. collecting the liquid milk in a container. Although the milking method is a melacha, having the non-Jew doing it (which is a rabbinic prohibition) is permissible for the sake of ‘tza’ar ba’alei chaim’.

  • +1 nice link, but See the source in my answer that your A fortiori is incorrect (we are more strict by humans (since it is harder to control yourself)), how did you decide that this is not a case of excruciating suffering?
    – hazoriz
    May 6, 2016 at 11:01
  • @hazoriz Are you saying that the laws would be stricter or less strict with regards to humans?
    – SAH
    May 10, 2016 at 8:13
  • @hazoriz Re: excruciating suffering -- not sure
    – SAH
    May 10, 2016 at 8:15
  • Yes (see my answer for source)
    – hazoriz
    May 12, 2016 at 8:44

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