Whenever two mitzvos come into conflict with each other, and one is given precedence over the other (such as in the case of bris milah on Shabbos, or any עשה דוחה לא תעשה (=positive commandment that "pushes away" a negative one)), there is usually discussion over whether it is "הותרא/hutrah" or "דחויה/dichuya," whether the mitzvah that gave way effectively ceases to exist (הותרא), or if it's still there, but we're allowed to override it anyway (דחויא).

We know (Yoma 85a-b, and several other sources) that when someone's life is in danger on Shabbos, and the Shabbos laws have to be violated in order to save his life, that we not only may but must violate Shabbos to save his life. However, it's unclear to me whether this is הותרא or דחויא.

Is פיקוח נפש on Shabbos הותרא or דחויא?

To clarify; I'm looking for sources from the Rishonim and Acharonim that discuss this question.

  • I seem to remember a מחלוקת between רמב"ם and מהר"ם מרוטנברג about this point, with the נפ"מ being whether one could shecht for a חושיב"ס to eat, when a נבילה was available....but I don't remember sources, nor which side would hold what.
    – MTL
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 19:37
  • This is a rather famous Yeshivish Chakira. Answering this is basically opinion based. But for a long discussion with all the footnotes there ...
    – Yishai
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 20:01
  • 2
    @Yishai I'm aware of that it's a famous chakira; I don't think it's primarily opinion based -- I'm looking for sources ("Rambam says X, Ritva says Y, R' Elchanan says....."). IAE, thanks for the link!
    – MTL
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 20:33
  • Perhaps you should put that into the question: You are seeking a review of sources about this famous question. A lot of them are in the footnotes at the link, if someone wants to actually do a literature review, it is a good start.
    – Yishai
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 20:39
  • @Yishai I didn't see your comment until after I posted this Meta question. ....thanks again for that link!
    – MTL
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 20:41

3 Answers 3


This is a rather large dispute among the Rishonim, the early commentaries.

See the Rashba (שו״ת ח"א תרפט):

ולי נראה שהכל תלוי במחלוקת אם נאמר שבת דחויה או נאמר שבת הותרה אצל חולה. אם נאמר שבת הותרה אצל חולה שוחטין לו שלא אסרה תורה מלאכת שבת אצל חולה. ושוחטין לחולה בשבת כדרך ששוחטין אנו לעצמנו... אבל למ"ד דחויה היא מאכילין לו הנבילה שהוא צריך לאכול ואין אנו עוברין לשחוט לו. שבמקום שיש לו בשר לאכול לא נעבור אנו ולא נדחה את השבת. וכמדומה שהלכה כמאן דאמר שבת דחויה היא ולא הותרה. מכל מקום כל שאין שם נבילה אמרינן לגוי לשחוט כיון שהיא דחויה אצלו. ותדע לך שהרי שנינו בברייתא אין עושין דברים הללו לא על ידי גוים ולא על ידי קטנים אלא על ידי גדולי ישראל" (שו"ת ח"א, תרפט)‏

It would seem to be that everything is dependent on whether we say that [melacha] on shabbos is Hutra or Dechuya for a sick person. If we say that it is hutra for the sick, we would slaughter for the sick person as the Torah did not prohibit it for the sick. We would slaughter in the same manner that we slaughter for ourselves. However according to the opinion that it is dechuya, we would feed them a non kosher animal carcass, for he needs to eat, but we would not slaughter for him. in a situation where he has meat available, we do not transgress shabbos. It would appear to me that the Halacha is in accordance with the opinion of Dechuya and not Hutra. Nevertheless, if their is no non kosher meat available we would ask a Gentile to slaughter, for the Shabbos is pushed off for him. And you should know for that which was taught in the Braisa are not done through a Gentile, and not through a minor, rather by an Israelite adult.

The Shulchan Aruch rules:

שולחן ערוך אורח חיים סימן שכח

היה חולה שיש בו סכנה וצריך בשר, (לט) שוחטים לו ואין אומרים: נאכילנו נבילה; אבל אם הי' החולה צריך לאכילה לאלתר, והנבילה מוכנת מיד והשחיט' מתאחרת לו, מאכילין אותו הנבילה

If someone is a Choleh Sheyeish Bo Sakana (a gravely ill person) and he needs meat. We slaughter for him and we do not say "feed him the readily available non kosher meat". However, if the sick must eat right away, and the non-kosher meat is readily available, and if by slaughter the kosher meat the patient would have to wait (Putting him in danger), we feed him the non-kosher meat.

See the Mishna Berurah:

שוחטים לו - הרבה טעמים נאמרו ע"ז י"א משום דשבת הותרה אצל פק"נ ולכן שוחטין לו כדרך ששוחטין ביו"ט ואפילו איסור דרבנן אין מאכילין אותו במקום שאפשר לו לשחוט מטעם זה אבל הרבה ראשונים כתבו דשבת רק דחויה היא אלא הטעם הוא דשמא יהיה קץ באכילת נבילה ולא יאכל ויסתכן ובב"י הביא עוד טעם בשם הר"ן דבנבילה עובר על כל כזית ממנה וחמיר מאיסור לאו דשבת ועוד טעם עי"ש ולפ"ז בודאי מוטב לעבור ולהושיט לו איסור דרבנן משנחלל שבת באיסור סקילה. והנה אם החולה אומר שאין קץ באכילת נבילה ויש נבילה מזומן לפניו אם מותר לשחוט עבורו עיין באחרונים ועכ"פ לענין קטן בודאי נראה דטוב יותר להאכילו בשר נבילה ולא ישחוט אדם עבורו בשבת. כתב בהגמ"ר אם צריך להרתיח יין עבור חולה ימלא ישראל ויחם הא"י ומוטב שיתנסך היין משיתחלל שבת והטעם עיין בד"מ שכתב כיון שאיסור סתם יינם אינו אלא מדרבנן וגם איסורו קל ואין החולה קץ בו לא דמי לנבילה ולכך מוטב שיחם הא"י אם הוא מזומן לפניו שלא ישהא עי"ז וכנ"ל בסי"ב בהג"ה ותו דקי"ל ביו"ד סי' קכ"ה ס"י דא"י המוליך כלי פתוח וישראל משמרו שלא יתנסך שרי א"כ אפשר לחממו ע"י א"י בלי נסוך ומ"מ המיקל בחולה שיש בו סכנה להחם בעצמו אין למחות בידו דיש לו על מי לסמוך עיין בט"ז בסק"ד

The Mishna Berurah says that the it is not clear exactly how we rule as the Shulchan Aruch is vague, since there are 3 possible explanations why to slaughter the animal rather then serve him neveila (prepared non kosher meat):

  1. Shabbos is Hutra for saving a life, so doing an extra melacha is permitted

  2. It disgusts the endangered person to eat treif, so slaughtering is the only means to save his life

  3. It might be better to do 1 issur kareis/sekilla of shechita, rather than let the choleh eat many olive sized portions of neveila that have an issur lo taaseh/malkos for each kezais i.e many smaller sins could outweigh a larger sin.

See the Aruch Hashulchan on this topic as well. He gives a very full treatment to this sugya.

H/t DoubleAA: See too Yechaveh Da'at 4:30 for extensive sources.

See here and here (hebrew) for articles on this topic including sources.

  • 1
    See the Rosh Yoma, paragraph 14, and the Ran there. This is a very interesting Sugia. It's not clear if the Maharam Mirottenburg, cited in Rosh and Rashba rules that hutra. The Korban Nesanel says that yes. There is perhaps a remez in tosfot Yoma for this
    – kouty
    Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 16:19

See the Minchas Chinuch mitzvah 32 after he lists all 39 melachos, right after Hotzaah, page 177 in the new editions, he goes into pikuach nephesh he says the Rambam and most poskim (according to the Kessef Mishna) hold it is dechuyah while Rabbeinu Meir brought in the Rosh say it Hutrah.

  • 1
    The Rambam's position is subject to some dispute IIUC.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 14:53

The Sugia of hudcha or hutra is in Yoma 6b up to 8a and in Pessahim 77a. The issue there is the proportion in which uncleanliness is allowed for a korban tsibbur with fixed time. The gemara shows two opinions, the first, טומאת מת הותרה בציבור and the second, טומאת מת הודחה בציבור. This is not a radical controversy. We see two versions of the controversy in gemara. The hudcha in the second version is equivalent to the hutra in the first version. Additionally, the machloket seems to be in svara, not based on a controversial learning of verses. For instance, if there are Tahor (Ritually pure) and Tameh cohanim (Ritually impure), should the avoda be made by tahorim only? If tahor cohanim are not present in the bet av today, need we call cohanim from an other bet av?

There are similar dilemmas in pikuach nefesh doche Shabbat (regarding Shabbat the word is always "doche" but it is not relevant). Rishonim report questioning about in responsa of Raavad (the question is not the same in Rosh and in Ran) and responsa of Maharam Mirottenburg. The issue there is the choice between schita Shabbat and nevela for an ill man who needs to eat meat.

One of the rishonim, the Rashba, explains that the same controversy, seen regarding Tum'a is relevant for pikuach nefesh doche Shabbat. Last rishonim when they discussed the halacha didn't refer to the machloket regarding Tum'a.

The Rashba himself didn't say clearly that lenient Rishonim (the Maharam Mirottenburg) did pasken as the lenient opinion regarding Tum'a (i.e. they perhaps didn't link the issue of pikuach nefesh with tum'a hutra). But the Bet Yosef an Korban Nesanel understand this is the pshat in Rashba.

So, following this last lecture, Rambam rules hudcha in Shabbat and Tum'a, the Maharam Mirottenburg rules hutra in both.

I can add for fun only a personal chiddush. Tosfot in Yoma 6b, says that Rava probably follows the opinion that hutra, because, this is a Stam mishna (in his opinion). Someone taught me in mi yodeya that the Tosfot in Yoma is from the Maharam Mirottenburg. So, this indicates that Rava, who is basraa (chronologically late r than Rav Nachmann and Rav Sheshet) ruled the halacha following HUTRA. So, we can say that the Maharam Mirottenburg learned the Sugia as the Rashba but follows halachikally hutra and not hudcha.

The Shulchan Aruch OC 328, 14, rules hutra (Magen Abraham sk 9).

Generally we see several cases of asse doche lo taasse, which can show similar discussion s. EG if I can make a 4 canfot garment in wool or in linen. Can I lechatechilla make it in linen and use the asse to make shaatnez with the peril techelet.

A cohen that can make the funeral of his wife with non cohanim friends (מעשה ביוסף הכהן)...

So the answer is that the degree of leniency of chilul Shabbat is not necessarily linked with the words hutra and hudcha seen in the Sugia of Tum'a.

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