Written by Levi Y.
I’m a 23-year-old bochur and currently in my second year of undergraduate pre-health/pre-med
It seems to me that there are quite a few young Lubavitchers who are interested in becoming doctors, with many of them studying at Touro, etc. I’m what you’d call Chassidish, and I try to take halacha seriously. Over the past year, I’ve had the good fortune to schmooze with several frum medical students and residents from the broader Chabad community and elsewhere. I’ve spent a lot of time learning about residency training in the United States and its applications for keeping Shabbos.
Additionally, over spring break I’ve had the opportunity to learn quite a bit of pertinent halachos of treating non-Jewish patients on Shabbos. For the benefit of those interested in pursuing a career in medicine, I want to share what I’ve learned about being properly Shomer Shabbos while in medical residency, and why I think it is time to reevaluate.
The issue at hand is that in medical residency shifts are rotated throughout the entire week/month and one will inevitably be assigned shifts that are on Shabbos. Yes, there are a handful of residencies that are ‘Shabbos-friendly’ residencies, but due to the way that the residency match system works, there is absolutely no guarantee that one will ‘match’ with a ‘Shabbos-friendly’ residency.
Even if one matches to a ‘Shabbos-friendly’ residency, it most often depends on circumstances, and while they’ll try to be accommodating, sometimes one will still, be stuck working late into Friday night or working on Shabbos day. Now, what does halacha say about all of this? Of course, when dealing with pikuech nefesh to save a Jew on Shabbos, we set all laws of Shabbos aside for pikuech nefesh.
However, if the patient is a non-Jew, due to ‘eivah’, one may violate an issur dirabbanun, yet not an issur deroisa. This is the approach developed in the gemorah (A”Z 26A (and Tosafos)) and codified in Shulchan Aruch OC 330.2 (with magan avrohom s”k 5). Furthermore, the Mishna Berurah expresses clearly (OC 330 s”k 8), that eivah only applies to a dirabbanun, and violating a deroisa is considered outright chilul Shabbos. Considering the above, I am writing respectfully to my peers, colleagues, and all those who wish to become doctors and observe Shabbos – please reconsider your choice to undergo medical
training in the United States – as it will almost certainly involve the very serious issue of chilul Shabbos — something so strict that it carries kares c”v. This issue doesn’t just happen once but can happen dozens and dozens of times – every Shabbos during training that one takes a shift! I urge each and every one of you to reconsider your choice and speak with your personal Rav. For those further interested please consult Nishmas Avraham, OC page 187 (2 nd edition 2007).