Halacha » Refusing Vaccination

Refusing Vaccination

There was a man who refused to get vaccinated, yet also refused to wear a mask. He would frequently go to stores and crowded places without any form of social distancing or protection. He subsequently caught corona, and one Shabbat, he collapsed. May one call an ambulance for him on Shabbat? May one violate Shabbat for someone who was negligent and caused themselves to get sick?

The Chidah in Birkei Yosef brings an interesting story. There was a town which had a resident well versed in Kabbalah and in the art of writing protective amulets. Once in a while, a child or foolish person would mistakenly drink poison. This man would be summoned, and he would write them an amulet.

Shortly after putting on the amulet, the one who drank poison would begin to vomit, and soon after, would recover. One Shabbat, a girl got into a fight with her parents. In a fit of anger, she drank poison to spite her parents. Her parents immediately called the Kabbalist, who wrote an amulet for the girl, and she recovered. The next morning, the townspeople were in an uproar. How could this man violate Shabbat for this girl? After all, she had brought the danger upon herself! Why was she deserving of the help at the cost of desecrating Shabbat?

The Birkei Yosef rules that we would only violate Shabbat in such an instance for normal healing methods. However, one may not violate Shabbat through charms and supernatural healing, even if they are proven to work. In other words, even in this situation – that the girl brought the danger upon herself – one would still be permitted to transgress Shabbat to save her, albeit only using normal medical procedures.

In a similar vein, the Chelkat Yaakov rules that one may violate Shabbat to prevent someone from committing suicide. He explains that a person does not have the right to take their own life as every life belongs to Hashem, and is thus intrinsically precious. Therefore, even if one is intentionally trying to take his or her own life, halacha would allow for one to violate Shabbat to save that person.

The Chochmat Shlomo however, disagrees and rules that one may not violate Shabbat to prevent a suicide. If someone intentionally attempts to take his life, he is putting himself in a situation that requires violating Shabbat. One cannot violate Shabbat for someone who intentionally puts themselves in such a situation.

That being said, it would seem though, that one is permitted to violate Shabbat for a person who puts themselves in danger. This certainly applies if what the person did was not certain to put him in a life-threatening situation, and would similarly apply if merely doing something different would have prevented the danger. The halacha stipulates that we are lenient in situations of danger to life. Therefore, it would be permitted to call an ambulance and do anything necessary to save a man who did not wear a mask and subsequently contracted COVID-19, especially because it is not certain that wearing a mask would have prevented him from contracting the virus.