'Hold scalpel together'
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Rabbi Yosef: Treating gentiles violates Sabbath
Shas' leader says religious physicians cannot violate Sabbath in order to save gentiles' lives, but offers halachic solution to avoid legal repercussions

What should religious doctors do if a gentile is injured in a car accident on Shabbat and is rushed to the hospital? According to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, this does not warrant violating the sanctity of the Sabbath.


During a class on Sabbath halacha relating to religious physicians, the spiritual leader of Shas said that while doctors are expected to do everything in their power – even if it requires violating the Sabbath – in order to save Jews whose lives are in danger, the same does not apply for gentiles.


"If a gentile were to get injured in a car accident during Sabbath, and he is brought to the hospital – Israel must not treat him," he said, explaining that "if the particular procedures come from rabbis (de-rabbanan), then they might be permitted, but if they stem from prohibitions in the Torah (de-'oraita), then they are not allowed, as the Torah forbids to violate the Sabbath for gentiles."


Rabbi Yosef expounded on the problem, saying that the Mishnah Berurah explicitly says that "all religious physicians who treat gentiles on the Sabbath or violating the Sabbath; however, in reality the patients are brought to the hospital and must be treated. The doctors' license says they must treat all patients without distinction of faith or race, and if they don’t, the State could revoke their license and also punish them. So what should the poor doctors do?"


The rabbi offered a halachic solution that follows a rule by which if a single person is doing the act, he is violating the Sabbath, while if two people are doing it together, they are exempt.


"The doctor who needs to operate will call on another doctor, or nurse, to hold the scalpel together and make the incision," said Rabbi Yosef, saying that "it is necessary in order for religious physicians to refrain from being put on trial for distinguishing between a Jew and a gentile on Sabbath."



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