• Time for Anash to Reconsider Medical Training?

    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 • Full Article 

    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).


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    1. Thanks for this insight — I’m so shocked that rabbonim don’t speak more about that this is assur.

    2. I am a shommer shabbos cardiologist who has gone through residency, fellowship as well as sub-fellowship. I have completed all of my training, BH, with being shomer shabbos. With all do respect, you are giving the public mis-information.
      To preface, medical training is not easy, especially if you want to do it al pi halacha. One needs to discuss this with their mashpia whether this is the correct career for them or not. With that said, there are residency programs that offer “shabbos positions”. That means you are guaranteed shabbos off. These programs are more competitive, but they are available. Not for all specialties, but quite a few. I do agree, a “shabbos friendly” position is very risky and questionable. You are at the mercy of your superiors.
      One needs to speak to people who are actually in the field, i.e. in residency, who have the proper commitment to halacha. Furthermore, there are websites which list shomer shabbos residency programs and their ratings.
      This is not an easy career, and when people are considering a career in medicine ask my advice, I tell them I would only go into medicine if one cannot imagine themselves doing anything else. But with that said, it could be done in a proper halachic way if one is committed. Hatzlacha

    3. Check with a Rov because it can be more than Eiva. it could be safek Sakona if you don’t treat because of the danger of pirsum, also you could make all the melachos with a shinuy and it will not be a melocha deoraysa.

    4. Re: Michoel,

      Thanks for your insight. Kudos to you for being shomer shabbos throughout your medical training.

      My Op-ed is to raise a few key points for anash:

      1) The idea of Eivah (as developed in gemora, poskim etc) is ONLY in regard to derabonan. One CANNOT extend it to a deoraisa only under the most extraordinary circumstances such that Jewish life will be threatened as a result. (See Chasam Sofer YD 131)

      2) Obtaining a completely shomer shabbos residency is very difficult and rare as I) many fields don’t have shomer shabbos residencies. II) With the current residency match system, one has no guarantee as to where one will be a resident. III) Even if one does obtain a shomer shabbos residency, (and has been “guaranteed” that one will not have to work on shabbos/YT), one is nonetheless entirely at the mercy of one’s supervisors who may not be accommodating to shmiras shabbos. Thus there is basically no guarantee that one can be entirely shomer shabbos in ANY residency program.

      3) Is one really ready to be kicked out one’s residency program for refusal to work on shabbos/YT? Meaning the very real possibility of 8 years of school wasted together with 250K+ in debt in order not to break shabbos? People ought to be asking themselves these questions BEFORE they start medical training.

      People (like yourself) have certainly been completely shomer shabbos during medical training. Unfortunately that is a very small minority of cases.

      Levi Y.
    5. Re: Shimon

      With all due respect I find both points put forth flawed.

      1) How is there a danger of pirsum that you don’t intervene on shabbos for non-life threatening issues on shabbos (e.g., writing a prescription for painkillers post-discharge, putting in billing codes, talking to patient’s family on the phone etc etc…)?

      2) How can one practice medicine with a shinuy?! Can one type/write full medical histories with a shinuy? Can one perform surgery with a shinuy (without mutilating the patient)? The idea of practicing medicine with a shinuy is quite naive in my opinion.

      Levi Y.
    *Only proper comments will be allowed
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