Halacha for Wednesday 8 Cheshvan 5780 November 6 2019

The Laws of Taking Medicine on Shabbat-Continued

In the previous Halacha, we have explained in general that our Sages enacted that one may not take any sort of medication on Shabbat, for they were concerned that as a result of one’s distress when a family member is ill, one may transgress Torah prohibitions in order to heal him, such as by grinding herbs in order to prepare medicine. We have likewise explained that our Sages enacted this decree only with regards to an individual who can still walk around like a healthy person; however, if one feels so ill that one’s entire body is in pain or if one must lie down in bed as a result of the pain or illness, our Sages did not establish their enactment in this situation and the individual may take medicine.

Antibiotics and Hormone Medications
Another situation where there is room for leniency regarding this matter is when an individual has already begun a medication treatment before Shabbat and stopping the dosage on Shabbat will cause one great suffering. For instance, if one is taking antibiotics which are usually taken for several days consecutively and stopping to take them on Shabbat will impair the individual’s treatment, most Poskim agree that the medication may be taken on Shabbat as there are several reasons for leniency regarding this matter. Indeed, Hagaon Harav Shlomo Kluger writes that as long as one has begun taking the medication before Shabbat, there is generally no concern that one will prepare the medicine on Shabbat, for one has certainly prepared whatever he needs beforehand and therefore no reason to act stringently.

Additionally, nowadays, there is not such a great concern for crushing herbs, for we are almost not accustomed to this at all. Thus, although we have a rule that even when the reason behind a given edict of our Sages no longer applies, the edict still stands, nevertheless, in a situation involving great suffering, such as taking antibiotics on Shabbat, there is room for leniency. The same applies to hormone medication, for abstaining from taking such pills on Shabbat can cause great suffering and harm. One may thus continue taking such medication on Shabbat as long as one has begun doing so before Shabbat.

Summary: If one began taking medication before Shabbat and stopping to take it on Shabbat will cause the ill individual great suffering, one may continue taking the medication on Shabbat. One may therefore continue with one’s antibiotic or hormone treatment on Shabbat, for these kinds of medications are usually taken for several days consecutively. In the next Halacha, we shall discuss some more details of this law.

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