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Violating the Shabbos in a case a life threatening situation is a mitzvah (Yoma 84)

However what if one comes across a dead person on Shabbos. Normally one would report this to the police. However on Shabbos where the person is already dead. May one call the police and notify them?

  • 1
    What pikuach nefesh exists to permit breaking shabbat? – chacham Nisan Sep 15 '18 at 18:13
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    Would one suspect there is a murderer on the run looking to murder other people? Or is it natural death – mbloch Sep 15 '18 at 18:31
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    @mbloch I don't know that's a good question – Shoel U'Meishiv Sep 15 '18 at 18:35
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    Isn't there a Biblical prohibition to leave the deceased unburied? – Lee Sep 15 '18 at 18:56
  • @Lee you don't call the police to bury the body. – Al Berko Sep 15 '18 at 19:39
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The question is not about the body - the police do not resurrect (as of now), but about its condition and the consequences of the discovery:

  1. First, if the body looks fresh and recent - you must call the ambulance first, as the person might be not as much dead as you think!

  2. If it's fresh there might be a following Pikuach Nefesh danger for others (think of a serial killer) or for you to be found near the body (if the killer is near). In this case, you must call the police.

  3. If the body is old and there's no reason to believe that an immediate danger emerges for you, for the body or for others, there's no permission to break Shabbat.


PS on #2: I came across (what looked to me like) a dead homeless person some 12 years ago in Jerusalem, and I ran to a secular guy to use his phone to call an ambulance. Turned out he passed out and it saved his life!

  • What does a downvote mean - you don't agree with my reasoning? We should stop letting people downvote without commenting! – Al Berko Sep 15 '18 at 20:32
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    I haven't downvoted. However I think, "My common sense" doesn't count as a valid source. B"H you were zoche to save someone's life. – user218076 Sep 16 '18 at 2:57
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    I was just explaining why someone might have downvoted. The Rishonim didn't use common sense, they used Daas Torah. The current edited answer is better. – user218076 Sep 16 '18 at 15:32
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    @David You just said one could downvote if they disagree and you also ask why should we downvote. Clearly someone disagrees. This shouldn't be perplexing or unexpected – Double AA Sep 17 '18 at 12:34
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    I downvoted. Regarding #1; if the body is fresh, and there is even the slightest sign of hope, one must call(and not just because it's fresh). Re: #2; to call the police on shabbat when seeing a body, there has to be some sign of foul play. Just because it's fresh, doesn't mean there's a serial killer around. Just plain wrong...And #3; if it is old, there is some leniency with shabbat(not like you wrote). – chacham Nisan Sep 17 '18 at 17:59

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