There's a man who's חייב מיתה by the kingdom. He's in jail waiting to be executed when he slips and falls and bashes his head on Shobbos. There a guards that could save him.

Do the guards have to save him on Shobbos (פיקוח נפש) or since he was a גברה קטילה (dead man walking) פיקוח נפש doesn't apply.

Please use sources.

  • 2
    Why would this be any different to somebody with a life-threatening, incurable illness? Even a momentary life is still life, and one is still obligated to do everything within one's power in order to save them.
    – Shimon bM
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 2:25
  • Dead man walking isn't really considered a life that's why he can be killed by anyone. שבה בן ביכרי rebelled against King David and the people of the town cut off his head and gave it to יואב
    – huddie96
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 2:28
  • 1
    @ShimonbM We see that being mikadesh a shor haniskal AFTER the judgement has been passed is irrelevant - the shor is considered already dead. Similarly, the erech of one who has been sentenced to death is meaningless - he has no value since we consider the sentence as already carried out. Since we treat someone sentenced to death by Beis Din as already dead for these purposes, it's not clear that they're "alive" for hatzalas nefashos (and thus your argument of "momentary life" is inapplicable)... Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 9:42
  • @IsaacKotlicky Very interesting, love the logic is there any chance you have the sources where this is mentioned.
    – huddie96
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 17:45

1 Answer 1


This is addressed by Rashi's comments to Sanhedrin 72b. Rashi there says:

לפקח עליו את הגל - אם כשהיה חותר נפל עליו (את) הגל מפקחין עליו היכא דלא בא על עסקי נפשות אבל אם בא על עסקי נפשות כיון דניתן להרגו בלא התראה גברא קטילא הוא משעת (סתירה): If when the [ba bamachteres] was digging, the pile of stones fell on him, we clear it off him [on Shabbos] if he was not coming [with the intention] to kill the houseowner [if an altercation would occur]. But if he is coming [with the intention] to kill the houseowner [if an altercation would occur], when it would be permitted to kill him [the ba bamachteres] without warning, he is considered a "gavra keteilah" from the time of the entry [and may not be saved on Shabbos].

Rashi gives the reason that we don't clear the stones off of him as "because he is a dead man walking", as opposed to the reason of Rodef (likely because when buried under rocks, he isn't a rodef), showing that you wouldn't have to save a dead man walking on Shabbos.

(This is also the understanding of some acharonim, see here for example.)

  • So, officially this was posted at exactly midnight UTC. Are we counting this to day three or day four?
    – DonielF
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 0:35
  • @DonielF I already have a bunch for day three, and I'll post a bunch more for day 4, so no worries... (Anyways no one upvoted it) Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 0:47

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