Originally published at 10:00 pm CDT 5-28-2012
The quotes come from from Ynet's article, but I've cleaned up the English and the grammar in order to make Rabbi Yosef's meaning clearer, more properly reflecting what Yosef actually said in Hebrew.
You'll probably remember that we discussed this issue last week, because Rabbi Levi Brackman wrote an op-ed about Yosef's remarks.
Here are the quotes that prompted Brackman to write his piece:
"If a non-Jew were to be injured in a car accident during Sabbath, and is brought to the hospital – Jews must not treat him. But if the particular procedures [needed to be done to treat the non-Jew] are forbidden for a Jew to do on the Sabbath only by rabbinic legal interpretation and case law, then it might be permitted to do them. However, if the forbidden acts are forbidden by the Torah itself, then they are not allowed to be done because the Torah forbids violating the Sabbath for the sake of non-Jews.
The Mishnah Berurah explicitly says that "all Orthodox physicians who treat non-Jews on the Sabbath violate the Sabbath by doing so. However, in reality the patients are brought to the hospital and must be treated. The physicians’ license says that physicians must treat all patients without distinction of religion or race. If they don’t, the state could revoke their license and also punish them. So what should the poor doctors do?
"The doctor who needs to operate will call on another doctor or a nurse to hold the scalpel together with him* and make the incision. It is necessary to do this to prevent Orthodox physicians from being put on trial for distinguishing between a Jew and a gentile on the Sabbath.”
*There is a rule in halakha, Jewish law, that if two people together do an act normally accomplished by one person and that that also normally violates the Sabbath, then neither are held culpable for breaking the Sabbath. Why? Because since either could have done the act alone without any difficulty, it is impossible to say which person is responsible for the act taking place. So if two people each held and simultaneously flipped a light switch on the Sabbath, neither would be culpable – if the reason for turning on the light is considered serious enough by halakha.
Rabbi Yosef is trying to find his way around what he understands to be the prohibition of violating the Sabbath to treat or save the life of non-Jews while still staying within the halakhic system.
And he's doing so without relying on the Me'eri's understanding that Christians and Muslims are not true pagans in the eyes of halakha, and the that the law forbiding saving the lieves or treating non-Jews on the Sabbath only really applies to pagans – it does not, in the Me'eri's view, apply to all non-Jews.
The Me'eri's view is unique in halakha and therefore most rabbis are reluctant to rely on it alone – or even to rely on it at all. (There's even a nonsensical claim that the Me'eri, which was lost for several centuries and then rediscovered, is forged – although the evidence appears to be firmly opposed this claim.)
Most rabbis, including Rabbi Yosef, rely on the halakhic principle of darkei shalom, the idea that the Torah's ways are ways of peace, and that if we do something to anger non-Jews – like allow them to suffer or die on the Sabbath – they will do at least that to us in return. Therefore, to preserve peace between us and between them, we must treat their sick and injured on the Sabbath.
But Yosef goes further and requires a physician to cut with a scapel jointly held with someone else – which is dangerous for both the patient and the doctors, meaning that he does not fully agree with darkei shalom being applied to situation in Israel, where Jews control the country and the medical infastructure.
And Rabbi Yosef is not alone. His thoughts about this issue are shared by many other haredi rabbis in Israel – especially hasidic and Sefardic ones.
How many Jews would become Orthodox or respect Orthodoxy if they knew that a large chunk of Orthodox Judaism would, if possible, allow a non-Jew to remain untreated on the Sabbath, even if that meant the non-Jew would die?
In fact, I'd wager that many current haredim – especially ba'al teshuvas – would be repulsed if they knew the truth.
Related Post: Is Judaism Really A Religion Of Peace?