I saw a few weeks ago that there are no security checks at the Kotel for religiously dressed Jews on Shabbat. This is to avoid having to walk through a metal detector, apparently.

My question is, why doesn't the metal detector fall under pikuach nefesh? The purpose is literally to save lives from the potential of a terrorist attack. As written in this Q&A:

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

Please provide sources as to the halacha and reasons behind it.
I'd also be curious to know of any special cases -- such as if it's ordinarily assur but allowed if it's the only way into the only shul in town, for example.

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    Who said that you have to go to the Kosel? Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 20:50
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    What lives are being saved by the individual (who knows he himself is not a terrorist) going through a metal detector? What possible danger to life is he averting?
    – Rish
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 21:34
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    Why can't a Cohen dissect cadavers to attend medical school to save lives? Because the issur being committed is not directly connected to the lives being saved in the future. Operating the detector would entail many violations in the present for a speculative preservation of lives in the future. Thus, as in our example, it doesn't fulfill the prerequisites for pikuach nefesh Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 2:31

1 Answer 1


There are metal detecting devices that are allowable on the sabbath. Perhaps they are being used discreetly so that their use is not obvious.

You can rest assured that the security forces are profiling people going through the checkpoints, along with using body language, etc..

"The Tzomet organization for automated Shabbat devices has developed special detector gates which could be used on Shabbat. These gates were installed once at the entrance to the Western Wall compound and at the entrance to the Shaarei Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem. The gates work with a compass instead of a sound device and even when they do not detect any metal items, electricity passes through them. In this way a person passing through these gates with a metal item would only change the level of the charge passing through the gate but would not activate or extinguish any electrical device. A special sign informs all those passing through the gate that they do not need to be concerned about passing through the gates on Shabbat."

Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/224525

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    I don't see how this answers the question. The question asks about those that are forbidden. This answer just says that there are some which are permitted. | This looks like it should be a comment on the question. When you have 50 rep. you will be able to comment on others' posts.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 2:00
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    @mevaqesh The information in this answer seems to impeach the case for pikuach nefesh in this case, thus undermining the basis for the question.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 2:03
  • @IsaacMoses No it doesn't. First of all, the question exists just fine in a vacuum regardless of the facts on the ground. Second of all, this post doesn't say that every machine is permissible on Shabbat, nor even that those at the kotel (which inspired the question) are. Therefore, it appears that my initial comment is correct. This is simply not an answer.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 2:14
  • Why is it permissible to alter the amount of current flowing through the detector on Shabbat? For example, you can't turn an electric stove up or down on Shabbat even though you're not turning it all the way on or off.
    – user13937
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 4:02
  • @IsaacMoses it seems to depend if they avoid metal detectors because using them would actually violate Shabbat, upsetting some religious people or because some religious people would object to them because they THINK it violates Shabbat.
    – Ze'ev
    Commented May 20, 2020 at 18:24

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