The Halacha is well-known: in general, one violates Torah prohibitions in order to save a life. I will specifically focus on Shabbos in this question, but the question can probably be extended if I can think of a relevant case.

I see that the Shevet HaLevi (Shu”t 8:65) discusses a case where a critically ill person who asks for something to be done, and if it’s not his stress levels will increase, leading to things such as higher blood pressure, etc., which, for someone in his condition, could be life-threatening. He paskens that if there is a strong indication that he will die as a result of his wishes not being heeded, then one may do so (“יש רגלים לדבר שיכול לצמוח מזה ספק פקוח נפש״). Barring that, one may ask a non-Jew to perform the action for him.

What is the Halacha regarding one who is suicidal? If someone is known to be suicidal, and he needs his medicine, which requires carrying through a reshus harabim (let’s say, and let’s say further that, for whatever reason, the patient can’t get it himself). Can this be compared to the Shevet HaLevi, in that it’s a psychological/emotional issue that leads to his death, or perhaps it’s different, in that the Shevet HaLevi’s case it happens on its own for physiological issues, whereas in this case it’s directly caused by the patient, with the psycholigical issues being the motivation rather than a direct cause?


1 Answer 1


Im Yirtzeh Hashem we should never find ourselves in this situation. May Hashem help those who are.

This question was addressed by R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe Even Ha’Ezer 1:65) where he says:

ובדבר אם הרופאים אומרים שאם תתענה תחזור לשטותה אם רשאה לאכול בי״כ פשוט שמותרת משום דשטות הוא סכנה, ואף שהמחלה עצמה לא תמיתנה אבל כיון שמצד המחלה אפשר שתמית עצמה ואת אחרים הוא ג״כ פקוח נפש

Regarding if doctors say that if a woman fasts she will return to her insanity, is she permitted to eat on Yom Kippur, it’s obvious that she should be allowed since insanity is considered a danger. While the ailment itself isn’t what’s killing her, since it’s because of the ailment that she could possibly kill herself or others, that’s also considered a danger to life.

In other words: while in this case it’s only the motivation rather than the direct cause, it is still permissible, since it’s because of the ailment that the patient is suicidal.

R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Shulchan Shlomo 328 note 6) writes similarly:

ולכן בהתפרצות או בהתקפה הרי זה פקוח נפש לכל דבר

Therefore, regarding a psychotic outburst, this is considered a danger to life for all matters.

I originally came across this information in Halachos of Refuah on Shabbos, on pages 108-109, with footnote 123.

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