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Chapter 91:5
Non-Critical Illness on Shabbos

5. One who suffers from [the type of] heart pain that is cured by sucking milk directly from a goat's udder (1), may do so on Shabbos. (Sucking the milk in this way is performing the forbidden activity called "mefarek" in an unusual manner, and the Sages did not prohibit the act in situations where a person feels pain) (2).

FOOTNOTES:

(1) This case appears in the Talmudic tractate "Kesuvos" (60a), and was a well-known cure thousands of years ago. Apparently, in order for the cure to work, one had to suck directly from the goat so that the milk was consumed at the temperature it retained while in the udder.

(2) This halacha requires a little background. All authorities agree that one cannot perform a Biblically prohibited activity on Shabbos in order to help a sick person who's life is not in danger. All authorities also agree that someone who does not have a life-threatening illness, but nevertheless, is bedridden ("nofal Le'mishkav") or, sick enough to be bedridden, may ask a Gentile on Shabbos to perform all their needs. There is a dispute, however, as to which type of rabbinical prohibition a Jew may violate in order to help a sick person on Shabbos, and under what circumstances, and in what manner, this violation can take place.

Now, in general, the Talmud does not explicitly state general legal principles. Instead, it provides a variety of specific cases through which we can derive an accurate general principle. Today's halacha is an example of such a process. Milking an animal is biblically prohibited on Shabbos due to the melacha of "mefarek," itself a derivitive ("toldadah") of the melacha of "Dosh" ("threshing"), which prohibits extracting an item from its natural container. Performing a melacha in an unusual manner, for example, a human suckling from a goat, is only rabbinically prohibited; Therefore, some authorities infer from our case of suckling from a goat, that a sick person who's life is not in danger, may do any melacha in an unusual manner in order to treat the illness; in other words, they infer from our case that the Sages didn't prohibit performing a melacha in an unusual manner in situations where severe pain or sickness is involved (See Shulchan Aruch Harav 328:19)..

However, some authorities rule that one may not perform a BIBLICALLY prohibited activity in an unusual manner for a sick person who's life is not threatened; one may only perform a RABBINICALLY prohibited activity in an unusual manner (See Mishna Berura 328:54).

Practically speaking, if one cannot find a Gentile to help out, one may be lenient and perform a biblically prohibited activity IN AN UNUSUAL MANNER, in order to help a sick person who's life is not in danger (See Shmiras Shabbos Ke'hilchosoh 33:2, footnote 17). Due to the complexity of this issue, please consult your local Rabbi with practical questions about specific cases.

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