According to the Gemara (Yoma 85a-b) and Poskim (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 328, Rambam, Hilchot Shabbos 2 [English Rambam]), one is allowed to violate Shabbos in order to preserve his life. This is learned from the verse (Leviticus 18:5) "וחי בהם," "and one should live in them [the laws of the Torah]," on which Shmuel says (in the above Gemara) "ולא שימות בהם" "and one should not die by them [the laws of the Torah.]"

So one is allowed to violate Shabbos to save his life. What if a person should decide he doesn't want to? What if someone wants to "be strict" on themselves, and keep Shabbos even in the face of danger to life?

May a person choose not to treat a life-threatening disease on Shabbos?

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    aloowed to violate Shabbes??? REQUIRED!!! – havarka Dec 13 '14 at 17:11
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    @havarka I know that -- see my answer ;-) ......I posted this Q/A set because someone on this site thought otherwise, and I wanted to show them exactly how they were wrong. – Shokhet Dec 14 '14 at 1:03
  • Ehm, seemed strange to see such a question from you. – havarka Dec 14 '14 at 9:22
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    @havarka Sometimes you have to ask the stupid questions so that you could show people the right answers. – Shokhet Dec 14 '14 at 19:45
up vote 22 down vote accepted
+50

Short answer: NO. Long answer: also NO.


Here's why: Rabbi Yosef Karo writes (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 328:2):

מִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ חֹלִי שֶׁל סַכָּנָה, מִצְוָה לְחַלֵּל עָלָיו אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת; וְהַזָּרִיז, הֲרֵי זֶה מְשֻׁבָּח; וְהַשּׁוֹאֵל, הֲרֵי זֶה שׁוֹפֵךְ דָּמִים

Someone who has a life-threatening illness is commanded (מצוה) to violate the Shabbos to preserve his life; someone who hurries to do this is praised; someone (who pauses and) asks about this is a murderer.

Mishna Berura there (328:6) follows up:

....ואם החולה בעצמו מתירא שיעברו עליו את השבת, כופין אותו ומדברים על לבו שהוא חסידות של שטות.‏

....if the patient is afraid to have Shabbos violated for him, we force him to violate Shabbos, and try to convince him (lit. "speak to his heart") that this [not violating Shabbos in a dangerous situation] is idiotic.


See also Shemiras Shabbos K'Hilchasa (by Rabbi YY Neuwirth) 32:5 (in my third edition [Feldheim, 2010 (blue cover)], volume 1 [Most of the time when I cite Shemiras Shabbos K'Hilchasa, it's from the second edition (red cover); I misplaced it today, and borrowed someone else's for the purposes of this answer]) says that if someone were to decide that he would rather not have Shabbos be violated on his behalf, we try to convince him to save his life, telling him that he has to; if he doesn't listen, "אף כופין אותו," we'll even force him to save his life through Shabbos violation. (MB 328:6)

חולה שיש בו סכנה....שמסרב לחלל את השבת להצלת חייו....אף כופין אותו

A patient who is in danger of his life....who refuses to violate Shabbos in order to save his life....we even force him (to violate Shabbos to save his life).

In a footnote there (16), Rav Neuwirth cites Pri Megadim (328:6) who writes that this is the case even in a case of possible danger to life.


I would also violate Shabbos to save the life of someone who is committing suicide -- see Hilchos Rof'im uRefuah (rulings of Rabbi EY Waldenburg on medical halacha, compiled by Rabbi Dr. Avraham Steinberg; Mossad Harav Kook, 1978), 2:2:11:

מי שמאבד נפשו לדעת....מותר לחלל עבורם את השבת.‏

Someone who willingly endangers his life....we may violate Shabbos for him.

He cites Magen Avrohom to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 329 (number 5), as well as many תשובות (responsa) from many and varied rabbis in support of this argument.

For more about suicide on Shabbos, see Violating Shabbos for a suicide emergency.


Human life is more sacred than Shabbos -- Shabbos must be violated to preserve life, in any instance. One is not allowed to opt out of this מצוה.

  • Someone reminded me that I ignored שעת השמד. I will put that in as soon as I find proper sources ( if you can help me with the sources that would be great ). – Shokhet Nov 25 '14 at 23:20
  • YD 157 is the locus classicus – Double AA Nov 26 '14 at 6:12
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    +1, although there was a camp of Rishonim who held you could give up your life rather than violate any mitzvah. – Y     e     z Nov 26 '14 at 18:48
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    @YeZ Who were they? ( I could integrate them into this answer, or you could post your own; whichever you prefer ) – Shokhet Nov 26 '14 at 19:12
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    Mainly teshuvos (like the teshuva of the maharam rottenburg) but I think there's a hint in a tosfos in Sanhedrin as well. Again, I'm not downvoting since I think your right that your answers reflects the modern psak, but I'd hope for better for a +20 answer getting a bounty.... (A general gripe I have on the Judaism.SE is that I don't think points are good judgements of an answer's value since the site doesn't have a large enough population of people who'd be familiar with relevant sugyos... I feel like there's no use in my writing my own more complete answer since it won't out-vote yours) – Matt Jan 5 '15 at 14:32

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