Ask the Rabbi: May Jews Save All Lives on Shabbat?

From the outset, let me state very clearly: Jewish law obligates Jews to save the lives of all humans, Jews and gentiles alike, even if it entails violating Shabbat. This is the universal conclusion of all contemporary decisors, despite confusing media reports of a recent public lecture by a senior Israeli scholar.

While this ruling is not disputed, scholars do disagree regarding the legal argumentation that leads to this consensus position.

While Judaism embraces the extreme value of life, it is not always the supreme value. God, the Bible tells us, took the Jewish people out of Egypt so they could serve Him. This service entails giving up one’s life rather than committing idolatry as well as the other unconscionable transgressions of murder and illicit relations.


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