Medical care on the Sabbath

The question of whether a Jewish doctor violates the Shabbat laws by treating a non-Jew on the weekly rest day has recently hit the headlines again in Israel. The daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported that a prominent rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, allegedly said the following in a shiur: “If a gentile who was injured in a car accident on Shabbat is taken to hospital, Israel does not have to treat him. «

He is also said to have dealt with loopholes in the law which nevertheless enable the Jewish doctor to treat a non-Jewish patient on Shabbat under certain conditions.

Discredit But in any case it is regrettable that the Halacha was interpreted in this way by Rabbi Yosef at all, provided that the first quotation correctly reproduces his words, which I would definitely doubt. Far be it from me to discuss his halachic view. However, for centuries this law has been mistakenly used by opponents of the Jewish people and Judaism to discredit the Jewish religion.

The most notable case dates back to 1965 when Professor Israel Shahak claimed he witnessed an incident where an Orthodox did not allow his phone to be used to call an ambulance for a non-Jew on Shabbat. Shahak himself admitted only a year later that he had just made it up and that there was no such incident. Recently, however, the same alleged incident was revisited by Christopher Hitchens in his book God Isn't Great.

Hitchens was apparently unaware that Shahak's story had been retracted by himself. But as is the case with myths in general - they persist. The fact that the only story used by opponents of Judaism to prove their point of view is fictional speaks volumes.

Dogmas According to my observation, religions, dogmas and philosophies do not make people good or bad. Rather, it is the case that the former concentrate on positive dogmas and philosophies, while the latter encounter negative ones, which they also emphasize in particular. In this case it's exactly the same. There is a long list of prominent rabbis, past and present, who disagree in any way with Rabbi Yosef's position.

The main authority that explicitly required Jewish doctors to treat non-Jews on Shabbat was a famous rabbi from the previous century, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein. In addition, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel, I.J. Unterman, expressly ordered that all Jewish doctors were obliged to treat non-Jews on Shabbat as well.

Indeed, this is a basic Jewish principle. Jewish scholars have long regarded it as an overarching belief that "all ways (of the Torah) are ways of kindness", "and all its paths are peace" (Proverbs 3:17).

Maneuvers Over the centuries, rabbis have adopted this principle as an ethical principle when it comes to passing a law. So also in this case. In order to be able to act with an "ethical corrective", the rabbis used a "courageous and ingenious" legal maneuver to completely "overwrite" the biblical law that seems to forbid the treatment of Gentiles by Jewish doctors on Shabbat (quotations from a Article by the former British Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits).

According to this view, Judaism not only enables Jewish doctors to treat Gentiles on Shabbat. Rather, it obliges them to do just that. There may be some who do not believe that the principles of "peace and friendliness" are absolutely paramount in Judaism. Yet their view does not include any aspect of what I love Judaism for and why I believe in it.

Reprinted with the kind permission of the author.