Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Difficult Halachic problems

Over Pesach I was thinking about the places where halacha and my ethical intuitions clash - not in big abstract ways like the Amalekite baby problem, not in controversial ways like homosexuality issues, but the day to day problems that both halacha and I regard as settled, but where each of us have settled on contradictory answers.

One of the reasons I call myself 'traditionally observant' is that I tend (at least in the abstract) to act according to what the halacha dictates, even as I strongly feel I am doing the wrong thing. I don't have the ability to do polls, so here are some hand made ones:

1) Your cat is chas v'shalom hit by a car on Shabbat and needs the attention of a vet. None live within walking distance. Do you
a) drive your cat to the vet/phone the vet yourself
b) ask a non-Jewish neighbor to drive your cat to the vet/phone the vet
i) and stay behind yourself/don't talk with the vet
ii) and get in the back seat with the cat/talk once the call is in progress
c) stay beside your cat and comfort it as it dies
d) euthanize your cat to put it out of its pain

For the record I think 1.b.i is just over the border of not being defensible within halacha, 1.c is plainly ok, and all the others are plainly against halacha.

2)Imagine (may it not happen for 120 years) you are at the funeral of one of your in-laws and your spouse is completely bereft. They really need a hug or some other form of non-sexual physical support. Unfortunately, the niddah laws completely prohibit this at the moment. You don't think they will kill themselves without comfort, but at the moment they are unable to function except to wail their grief and beg for support. Do you
a) comfort your spouse physically,
b) abandon them for a moment to find a friend who can provide support
c) provide verbal comfort alone, while frantically looking for someone who can halachically touch them?


Сергей said...


Please consider writing news pieces or an op-ed for Jewrusalem: Israeli Uncensored News. We strive to present different views and opinions while rejecting political correctness. Ideally, we try to make the news "smart and funny." Thus, your input is very welcome.


Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

There is actually ample precedent for using the phone to contact a veterinarian to come to the assistance of an animal on Shabbat. Use of the phone is at worst a Rabbinical prohibition and most likely just a violation of minhag.

I regularly tell pregnant women that if they are feeling funny on Yom Kippur they should pick up the phone and call a doctor for a consultation before eating or drinking.

cool yiddishe mama said...

"Use of the phone is at worst a Rabbinical prohibition and most likely just a violation of minhag."

Rabbi Maroof, where is the source that says that use of a phone may be a violation of minhag?

(This is not intended as an attack. My husband is a government employee. One of his job requirements is to be on call M-F until 9PM, no matter the time of year. He's been torn between his job obligations and Shabbat to where we do not have Friday night guests unless they are sympathetic to his situation.)

Larry Lennhoff said...

Cool Yiddishe Mama:

If you click on the link containing Rabbi Joshua Maroof's name it will show you he runs a blog called Ask Rabbi Maroof. It is more likely he'll respond there then here.

If you'd like to look into the question for yourself, I'd suggest you look into Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach's writings on the use of electricity on Shabbat.

The Use of Electricity on Shabbat and Yom Tov by Rabbi Michael Broyde is another good place to start.

As always, you should consult with your local halachic authority before doing anything you read about on the internet.