When Religion Trumps Common Sense

I was once told that to the Orthodox Jew who follows the Sabbath the rules that were born during a period of slavery were a challenge.

See the Sabbath required two things to keep, either slaves or wealth. Slaves could work on that day and Wealth allowed you to keep servants. But said servants could not be Jewish. A lot of “troubles” arose due to this, a Catholic Nanny could baptise a baby and many Jewish families lost kids to the Church (Since they had to rescue the saved soul!).

Orthodox Jews use loop holes and stretch the law of the Sabbath and contort to fantastic levels to maintain the Sabbath. To most it’s a strange foible. An annoyance but it never harms anyone, well not until now.

An elderly woman died because employees of her nursing home refused to call a doctor or emergency services because doing so would desecrate the Sabbath.

The malpractice lawsuit was filed with the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court against the Hadassim Nursing Home in Bnei Brak, and alleges that the 85-year-old woman did not receive medical treatment because workers refused to violate the laws of Shabbat by calling the doctor.

The elderly woman has been living in the long-term care nursing home since 2001, after suffering from a stroke. Her health was stable during these years except for one brief hospitalization.

One day, when her family visited her at Hadassim, they noticed a radical change in the old woman. She breathed heavily, shook and refused to eat. The family members tried to alert medical personnel about the situation, but they refused to call the doctor for this specific reason.

Later at the insistence of the family the home called for an ambulance. The woman died four days later at the hospital.

This case of gross negligence at the behest of a 3000 year old law has cost someone their life. To the more sensible Jews this is a travesty of justice, the excuse of utilising a religious law to deny an old woman the most basic of medical care. To those who would defend the Sabbath this is the will of an unfathomable god.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    So one out of seven problems occurring at that facility go unaddressed for up to 24 hours?

    How did they not get sued out of existence years ago?

  2. A. Noyd says

    Wait, why were the nursing home staff even there on a Saturday if they weren’t going to work? Did they take home a paycheck for it?

  3. see_the_galaxy says

    I’m no expert, but I thought human life was supposed to trump the law during a time like that. There is supposed to be a principle called ‘pikuach nefesh’ and on this basis I unfortunately have to take issue a little with the characterization of Jewish law above.

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  5. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    A shabbat goy is a gentile who is employed to do the things jews cannot do on the sabbath. I’m astonished the nursing home didn’t employ them for just this eventuality.
    Edgardo Mortara is probably the best-known instance of a jewish child being baptised and so removed from his parents. He died in 1940. He was also the last. To their credit, roman catholic priests carried out deliberately fake baptisms of jewish children in WWII to try to save them from the nazis. It did no good- the Nazis definition of jews was hereditary not religious.

  6. yoav says

    #4 is right, and while there is a lot not to like about jewish religious law (and I mean a lot) in this case, assuming the details described are accurate the staff can’t even hide behind the claim that they followed religious law.

    See the Sabbath required two things to keep, either slaves or wealth. Slaves could work on that day and Wealth allowed you to keep servants.

    Actually the use of servants, and other trickery, to get around the sabbath is a rather modern development, if you read the actual bits of the bible describing the rules than it is clear that the rules apply to servants and slaves as well.
    Exodus 20:10 – But the seventh day [is] the sabbath of the LORD thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates:

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