There was this mathematician Kurt Goedel who died of starvation because he ate nothing but food prepared by his wife who was hospitalised for a long period. This is a fact. There are people who die for such reasons.

So now we have this jew who was supposed to be an atheist and happy about it, who moved to a building where an utterly alone sickly old blind man lived next door. The good hearted jew engaged happily in helping out the old man and they eventually buddied up. Every saturday afternoon the jew would come to the old man's flat, bring some food, put the kettle on, put the telly on and they would watch the afternoon film together. At last after years the old blind man had someone to tell him what's going on on the telly. These saturday afternoons became the old man's delight! One day the jew even agreed to accompany the old man every sunday morning to the temple of idolworshipping and sit by the side of the old man watching the priests and the congregation drooling over their idols. At last after years the old blind man had someone to take him by the hand through the streets. These sunday mornings became the old man's delight! Then suddenly one day the was-supposed-to-be-a-happy-atheist-forever jew felt a click in his head and he found his whole life out of place and decided to put things back in order. There will be no more visits to the temple of idolworshipping. Sorry, old man. And as for saturday afternoons... could we make it sunday afternoon instead? This is what the jew told the old man one day, though he knew the old man would take it very badly. The next day the old man jumped out from his window and expired on the pavement. Now, the old man was doing as fine as he could before the jew came along. It was the good hearted atheist jew who offered support and company.

The question is did the jew commit oblique murder? Should have the jew kept violating a whole range of commandments in order to save the old man from the inevitable suicide? Is this a case of pikuach nefesh?

In short: there was a time when this jew wasn't observant and actively created around him a ring of dependence, people who depend on him. This ring he can't keep if he's to become fully observant neither he can destroy it without destroying a life, really, physical death involved.

This is not hypothetical, it happens all the time, either with old people or with other circumstances.

By the way, old people really sometimes jump out of windows for such petty things as their cats gone missing. And there's no free will involved or need for psychiatrists. This is just how 90 year old brains sometimes work.

  • 5
    "save the old man from the inevitable suicide" -- why is it inevitable? The old man has free will here.
    – Scimonster
    Mar 22, 2017 at 12:58
  • 3
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this appears to be a hypothetical that does not really address a question that can be answered. There is a concept that many questions cannot be prperly addressed unless they actually occur. Mar 22, 2017 at 13:06
  • 4
    Sheil, welcome to Mi Yodeya! As @sabbahillel indicates, this question as it stands is not a great fit for our Q&A model, since it combines a bunch of different issues and relies a great deal on the specifics of the situation. Would it be possible for you to edit it down to focus on a particular issue rather than on the story?
    – Isaac Moses
    Mar 22, 2017 at 13:30
  • 5
    Sheil, if this is a practical issue that you face in real life, I strongly recommend that you consult a rabbi for personal guidance. The story in this question clearly contains multiple issues that are quite sensitive, complex, and situation-dependent.
    – Isaac Moses
    Mar 22, 2017 at 14:44
  • 1
    Perhaps a medical professional should be consulted as well. @IsaacMoses
    – MTL
    Mar 26, 2017 at 1:32

1 Answer 1


A similar question was asked to the Melamed LeHoil (R' Dovid Tzvi Hoffmann):

A child was being forced to write in school on Shabbos by his father, the child didn't want to (break Shabbos). The mother said that if their will be a fight in the house, she'll kill herself.

The question is whether the child may violate Shabbos out of Pikuach Nefesh.

The Rov answered no, a person threatening to commit suicide isn't Pikuach Nefesh as in such a case, anyone could violate any commandment by having someone threaten to commit suicide.


  • 2
    At least as currently edited, the OP doesn't sound like he's dealing with a threat, but rather a mental condition. The teshuva sounds like it's dealing with more shmad-like issues. (Rav Moshe has many teshuvoth where he treats mental illness like physical illness in this regard.)
    – Loewian
    Mar 22, 2017 at 16:19
  • 1
    The sources at judaism.stackexchange.com/a/50324/759 say one should violate Shabbat to prevent suicide. The threat to commit suicide would have to be credible of course.
    – Double AA
    Mar 22, 2017 at 16:49
  • 1
    +1 for the fascinating Mareh Makom. I happen to somewhat agree with @Loewian that mental illness may be classified a little differently; however one can argue that anytime someone would claim that they would kill themselves is some sort of mental illness, so it would take careful deliberation of each scenario to decide how to respond to it. Mar 22, 2017 at 16:49

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .