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Thought for the Day: Violating Shabbos to Prepare Food for a Choleh Sh'Yeish Bo Sakana

This is purportedly a true story and I have no reason to doubt it; I just don't remember all the names and dates.  A frum lady was deathly ill and was told (based on the medical knowledge and practice of the day... likely late 1800s) that the only cure involved eating some concoction that was made from pig liver.  She was aghast, but her rav assured her that she was not only allowed to eat it, but that halacha required her to eat it to save her life.  She agreed, but only on condition that they pig be properly shechted.  The rav said, "It's a pig; you can't make it kosher."  But she was insistent.  They found a shochet who agreed.  Then she said, "I want the lungs checked."  At that point, the rav said, "No.  It's a pig.  You can't even make it kosher; you certainly can't make it glatt kosher!"

Halacha has a lot of lenience for someone who is a choleh sh'yeish bo sakana/deathly ill; but there are limits.  Siman 328 (which I remember because 328 is shin-chaf-ches, which means to forget; hey!  It works...) discusses dealing with illness and pains on Shabbos.  Generally speaking, there is an issur d'rabanan to treat minor ailments on Shabbos.  The decree dates back to when ailments were largely treated by making poultices that involved grinding spices.  However, the original decree was for treating minor ailments by any means, so the decree is still in place.  A minor ailment is basically one that does not cause one enough distress that he would need to lie down.

On the other hand, if someone is deathly ill, then we allow -- nay, require and encourage -- any violation of Shabbos necessary to save the life.  That leads to the following interesting halacha. Suppose the patient needs food and you have two choices at hand, : (1) feed him non-kosher food, (2) slaughter an animal and prepare a fresh, kosher snack for him.  Since one is allowed to violate Shabbos, and the only reason not give him kosher food is that slaughtering an animal is a malacha on Shabbos, you slaughter the animal.  Similarly, but less dramatic, if it is a choice between getting him non-kosher food from the hospital kitchen or bringing him kosher food by carrying it through a public thoroughfare, you get him the kosher food.

One might ask: if someone is deathly ill, is Shabbos just not an issue (aka "hutra"), or does his treatment push away the issur of Shabbos (aka, "d'chuya")?  Surprise!  It's a machlokes!  One side reasons that since one is allowed to violate Shabbos, a transgression which in ordinary circumstances is a capital crime, it must be that Shabbos is hutra.  Other say, no, Shabbos is only d'chuya, but it can only be pushed off if there something pushing it away.  What's pushing?  Two reasons are brought by the Mishna Brura (328:14, sk 39).  One sides reasons that a violation of the Torah is a violation, better to violate the Torah once (with sh'chita or carrying) than to violate the Torah again and again (every bite of non-kosher food).  The other side says the problem is that the patient will be so disgusted with the non-kosher food that he will not eat what he really needs and will remain dangerously ill.  According to the first side we would only push off Shabbos in the face of another Torah violation, but for to avoid transgressing a Rabbinic decree we would not push off Shabbos.  If the problem is the patient being disgusted by the food, then it wouldn't matter whether the violation were d'oraisa or d'rabanan -- non-kosher is non-kosher and the patient's psychological needs take precedence.

The majority of poskim, says the Mishna Brura, hold that Shabbos is only d'chuya, but we only worry about the patients psychological revulsion to non-kosher food if eating the food would be a Torah violation.  R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach says that once the food is not kosher d'oraisa, then one is not even allowed to say to the patient, "You know, if I have to bring you the kosher food it will involve carrying it through a public thoroughfare.", since that could cause the patient to feel compelled to eat the non-kosher food even though the thought appalls him and he'll end up not eating enough.  Even more, one is not even allowed to lie to him and tell him the food is kosher; because we are afraid he will find out after the fact and not be able to keep the food down.  On the other hand, says the Chazon Ish, if the concentration of non-kosher ingredients in the mixture is so low that the patient would consume less than a k'zayis in a time of k'day achilas pras (~9 minutes or so), and so eating the food is only forbidden at the Rabbinic level, then better to eat the non-kosher mixture.

Bottom line, eat healthy, get plenty of exercise, keep your weight under control and avoid getting sick on Shabbos -- much easier that way.


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