The seriously (or dangerously) ill patient

17. One must try to convince a seriously ill patient who refuses to set aside Sabbath rules necessary to save his own life, or that others should do so, that it is a positive commandment of the Torah to save life even if all Sabbath rules have thereby to be set aside. Should he still refuse, one must act against his wishes[33].

18. A seriously ill patient, or one who is probably so, is to be given any treatment necessary, be it to cure him, to reduce the danger, or even if only to prevent him from getting or feeling worse. This is so even if the treatment involves setting aside Torah laws, and it is not certain that such treatment will in fact remove or decrease the danger to life[34], and even if the chances of success are slim[35].

19. Sabbath laws are set aside to save life even if the danger is not certain; a patient who is possibly seriously ill is to be treated exactly as if he were actually in danger of his life[36].

20. Everything that a doctor says must be done for the treatment of a seriously, or possibly seriously ill patient, or that must be done to prevent deterioration of his condition, and which cannot wait until after the Sabbath, must be carried out, even if this involves the setting aside of Torah laws. This is true even if the doctor himself is not an observant Jew or is a non-Jew[37].

21. Not only that which is directly related to treatment, but even that which is needed in order to make such a seriously ill patient feel more comfortable, or to strengthen his body, may be carried out on the Sabbath. This is true even if Torah rules have to be set aside to do so, and even if not doing so will not directly worsen his condition[38]. Moreover, if there is reason to think that not doing something for such a patient would lead him to believe that he is not receiving the maximum care and attention that his condition demands, and thus depress his spirits, then it must be done even if Torah laws have to be set aside, and even if the patient does not specifically ask for it to be done[39].

22. When a Festival occurs on a Friday, it is preferable to wait and not set aside Festival laws (even though these are of less severity than Sabbath laws) so long as there is no cause to think that this will result in the patient becoming seriously ill on the Sabbath. However if doing so will certainly result in the patient becoming seriously ill on the Sabbath, it is preferable to set aside Festival laws rather than wait until the patient becomes seriously ill on the Sabbath[40].

The non-seriously ill patient.

23. There is no essential difference between the Sabbath and the Festivals regarding the treatment of a non-seriously ill patient and whatever may not be done for such a patient on the Sabbath may also not be done on a Festival[41].

24. Sabbath laws that are of Torah origin may not be set aside for a non-seriously ill patient. This is so even if there were risk to a limb so long as there is no, nor will there be any, danger to life. Regarding the setting aside of Rabbinical laws for such a patient:

If there is danger to a limb (with absolutely no danger to life - see paragraph 10 above) one may treat as necessary (setting aside Rabbinical laws only) just as on a weekday.

If a limb is not endangered, Rabbinical laws may be set aside provided that what is necessary is done in an unusual fashion. If this is not practicable a non-Jew should be asked to do whatever is necessary, and only if a non-Jew is not available, may a Jew do so in the usual fashion[42].

25. If the patient's medical needs for the Sabbath are such that a Jew cannot care for him within the framework described in the paragraph above, a non-Jew should be asked to provide such care even if Torah laws have to be set aside. On the other hand all that a Jew is permitted to do for such a patient may be done without the necessity of asking a non-Jew to do so, even if he were immediately available[43].


[33] Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 32:5.

[34] Par. 18.

[35] Par. 20.

[36] Par. 19.

[37] Par. 21.

[38] Par. 22.

[39] Par. 26.

[40] ibid., note 103. See Nishmat Avraham Pt. 5, Orach Chayyim 328:1.

[41] Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 33:24.

[42] Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 33:2

[43] Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 38:4.