Can Working On A Bail-Out Bill Be Considered Saving A Life?

In Jewish law, you are allowed to break the Sabbath to save a life.

Rahm Emmanuel invoked this when asking his rabbi if he could make a phone call on Rosh Hashanah for the sake of the bailout bill.

Rabbi Student writes:

What if something came up on the Sabbath which wasn’t a life-or-death emergency, but which he really ought to take care of then and there? Yeshiva professor of Talmud J. David Bleich says Lieberman would be allowed to delegate just about any urgent but non-lifesaving task to a non-Jew, as long as it was also on behalf of non-Jews. A Jew is forbidden to ask a non-Jew to do something for him on the Sabbath that he wouldn’t do for himself (in other words, a Jew is not allowed to have a Shabbas goy, even though many do) but "to personally give directions to non-Jews for the benefit of non-Jews is permissible," says Bleich. This rule would cover anything that could be construed as for the good of American citizens, since the majority of them are not Jewish.

Nachum Lamm writes:

There’s no way the financial crises can be reasonably called a matter of "pikuach nefesh." Even if it can, there’s no way the bailout bill can be described as such. Even if it can, there’s no way a Congressional conference call about it can be called that. Even if it can, there’s no way Emmanuel’s participation can be called indispensable.

But I’ve heard the same excuse, over and over, from politicians and lawyers. (Doctors, of course, are the only people who can reasonably make such a claim.) Methinks some people think a bit much of themselves. And what’s next? "I have to work on Shabbos so I can support myself and/or my family. Pikuach nefesh…"

Emmanuel then (in a display of his own ego, perhaps uncomfortable that the great He had to ask permission from someone, and in a nice display of the well-known vicious personality we’re supposed to find so endearing) turned around and insulted the Rav, asking if his own finances figured into the equation. And the Rav, nebach, had to laugh it off.

Barukh Hashem I don’t have to perform such Chanifa. And I’m not getting into the questions of conversions for marriage.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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