I Understand that a Jew is not allowed to ask a Gentile to do work for him specifically on Shabbat.

Thus, one cannot bring a car to the Gentile mechanic on Friday and tell him specifically, "Fix my car, tomorrow, because I will need it Sat. night."

However, a Jew is allowed to violate Shabbat for his or someone else's life-threatening situations.

So let's say Hatzalah (the Jewish ambulance corp) has two ambulances. If an emergency occurred on Shabbat, they have one that they can use, but, having both available obviously, makes things more efficient. as it's certainly possible to have multiple emergencies at the same time.

One ambulance broke down just before Shabbat. The Jew brings the ambulance to the Gentile mechanic and tells him, "I need you to fix this on Shabbat, and call me as soon as you can, because we need it pronto."

Is this a "life threatening" situation exemption that would allow the Gentile to do the work? Furthermore, when the ambulance is fixed, can another Jewish Hatzalah member drive someone on Shabbat to the mechanic so that he can get the ambulance?

To ponder: At the moment, no life threatening situation exists (not even a doubtful one). But, an ambulance needs to always be ready.

  • I would expect that this kind of question is addressed a great deal in the responsa literature generated by Israeli hospitals, military, police, and other vital public services.
    – Isaac Moses
    Nov 13, 2015 at 17:04
  • @IsaacMoses Hmm .. you listed some other areas that I hadn't considered, particularly the army. I'm expanding / editing my question to ask if even a Jew, himself can fix the ambulance. I'll leave it at just that, for now. I think areas such as the army, may create a bit too much "clutter" in one question, for now. Actually, on 2nd thought, it seems that the Jew himself, should be allowed to fix his own ambulance on Shabbat, no?
    – DanF
    Nov 13, 2015 at 17:29
  • According to dafdigest.org quoting the Chazon Ish in the column "Stories off the Daf" a Jew would be forbidden from doing the repair himself. Nov 13, 2015 at 17:35
  • @GershonGold I have to read your link, after Shabbat. Offhand, that somewhat surprises me. Normally, I understand that there has to be a current situation which would obviously allow fixing the ambulance. But an ambulance is a necessary item needed immediately to save lives. I guess the "immediacy" rule is exactly that in all situations.
    – DanF
    Nov 13, 2015 at 17:50
  • At some point, it becomes too 'disconnected' from Pikuach Nefesh to overrule Shabbos. We don't say one can work on Shabbos, since then he'll have money to support his family, and they won't starve to death. I don't see it as that far-fetched to say that we wouldn't be allowed to fix the second ambulance for that reason (and possibly even the first). Since the Pikuach Nefesh isn't currently happening, and there are other options if a situation does come up, we don't push off Shabbos so easily. Granted, your question is asking about asking a gentile to fix it, which isn't the same situation. Nov 13, 2015 at 18:00

2 Answers 2


The Noda Beyehuda (YO"D 210) writes that one may not dissect a Jewish corpse (which is forbidden) in order to discover the cause of death, even if it is the only way to uncover information that will help save lives in the future. He explains:

אבל בנידון דידן אין כאן שום חולה הצריך לזה רק שרוצים ללמוד חכמה זו אולי יזגמן חולה שיהיה צריך לזה, ודאי דלא דחינן משום חששא קלה זו שום איסור תורה או אפי׳ איסור דרבנן, שאם אתה קורא לחששא זו ספק נפשות א״כ יהיה כל מלאכת הרפואות שחיקת ובישול סמנים והכנת כלי איזמל להקזה מותר בשבת שמא יזדמן היום או בלילה חולה שיהיה צורך לזה... וחלילה להתיר דבר זה

Basically, unless there is a חולה who needs it, one cannot transgress any prohibition - even one of Rabbinic origin - on the off chance that it may save lives later.

The Chasam Sofer (Y"D 336) and Binyan Tzion (V1, §137) rules the same. (See also similar ruling in Shu"t R' Akiva Eiger §60, although marginally different)

[This may be the explanation why we are not obligated to all become doctors and learn emergency first aid, although this could potentially lead to saving lives in the future.]

However, the Chazon Ish (Y"D 207.6) writes that the deciding factor is not whether there is an existing חולה, but whether there is a reasonable belief that the action will save lives, and not just the 'off chance':

בפ"ת סי' שס"ג בשם הנו"ב והח"ס דאם יש חולה קמן מותר לנוולו משום פ"נ אבל אין חולה קמן אסור, ואין החילוק בין איתא קמן לליתא קמן, אלא אם מצוי הדבר דבזמן שמתריעין עלה [אף שאין בשעה חולה קמן] משום חולי מהלכת הו"ל כאויבים שצרו בעיר הסמוך לכפר וכדאמר בעירובין מ"ה א' ובתענית כ"א ב', ומיהו בשעת שלו' לא חשבינן ליה פ"נ אע"ג דשכיח בזמן מן הזמנים שיצטרכו לזה כמו שאין עושין כלי זיין בשבת בשעת שלו' דא"כ בטלת כל המצות, אלא לא מקרי ספק פ"נ בדברים עתידים שבהוה אין להם כל זכר, ובאמת שאין אנו בקיאים בעתידיות, ופעמים שמה שחשבונם להצלה מתהפך לרועץ, והלכך אין דנים בשביל עתידות רחוקות

Accordingly, if there is a likelihood that the ambulance would be needed, one would be allowed to do anything necessary to make that possible.

(See also Shu"t Machane Chaim [V2 Y"D §60], who writes that the Chasam Sofer and Node Beyehuda were talking specifically about dissecting bodies because of the severity of kovod hames, but would not say this by other prohibitions. In his words:

רק ניכר כונת הנוב"י שחשש פן יחתכו כל המתים ללמוד מהם וגם ניכר כונת אדמו"ר (החת"ס) כי חשש על דברי הרמב"ן קללת אלקים תלוי וכו)

There are numerous sources where we find dispensations in Halacha משום שלום מלכות, although there was no specific סכנה yet. (See B"K 83a & Beis Yosef YD 178; Rambam Hil. Korban Pesach 3:1 and Kesef Mishne; Sanhedrin 26a [Tos. misherabu])

Summary: According to the pashtus of the Node Beyhuda and Chasam Sofer, it would be forbidden to do something for a future sakanah. However, the Chazon Ish explains that if there is a strong likelihood that this action will help save future lives, it is permitted.

  • I heard from R' Avraham Joshua Solovetchik (in shiur on Menachos 65b), quoting the Brisker Rav as explaining a ruling of R' Chaim Solovetchik that 'there is no sakanas nefashos when there is no choleh lefaneinu - and therefore, building a hospital does not have the status of hatzalas nefashos'.
    – chortkov2
    Jun 18, 2019 at 21:19
  • I appreciate the research. One thing of this analysis troubles me, though. I'm inferring from this, that an EMT would not be allowed to carry his cellphone on Shabbat in a non-eruv area b/c there is no sakana existing. If that were the case, how could someone be notified of an emergency and administer timely efficient help?
    – DanF
    Jun 18, 2019 at 22:11
  • @DanF - According to the Chazon Ish, it would be permitted. As I wrote, both the Chazon Ish and the Machane Chaim [amongst others] suggest that the CS and NB didn't mean it literally.
    – chortkov2
    Jun 19, 2019 at 11:42
  • 1
    @DanF: Some Poskim (Famously, R' Moshe Feinstien hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14677&st=&pgnum=161 v. R' Shlomo Zalman Aurebach) allow a paramedic to drive home after a call, although there is no more sakanah. Besides for his primary rationale, R' Moshe explains that if there is a necessity for the paramedic/ambulance to be local because there is no-one else around, then he is permitted to go back for hatzalas nefashos. This is the same as your phone question, I think.
    – chortkov2
    Jun 19, 2019 at 12:15
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    @DanF "If that were the case, how could someone be notified of an emergency and administer timely efficient help?" Simple. By using the beeper which he has on him since he hasn't left home all day. The EMT would be exempt from going to Shul since he has to stay with the beeper.
    – Double AA
    Jun 19, 2019 at 12:54

Even according to the Noda B'Yehuda, he uses the term chashasha kala, which implies that he agrees with the Chazon Ish.

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