Halacha for Tuesday 18 Av 5781 July 27 2021

“Do Not Stand Idly by the Blood of Your Fellow”

Question: There are occasionally signs posted in the synagogue requesting that the public pray for a specific ill individual and the sign states his/her name. Is one obligated to pray for an individual one knows is sick?

Answer: The Gemara (Sanhedrin 73a) states: “From where do we derive that if one sees one’s friend drowning in the river, being dragged by a wild beast, or being attacked by bandits that one must save him? This is why the Torah teaches, ‘Do not stand idly by the blood of your fellow.’”

This means that if one sees one’s friend in a situation that he may die as a result of and one is in a position to save him, one is obligated to do so. If one does not do so, one has transgressed the above Torah prohibition.

Based on the above, some have offered that if one knows someone is sick, just as there is an obligation to save him with medications and other methods necessary to save his life, one is likewise obligated to pray for his recovery, for prayer certainly benefits the ill individual and is certainly one of the things that brings about healing and salvation from death to life.

Nevertheless, there is a distinction between these issues. The great Rishon Le’Zion Hagaon Rabbeinu Yitzchak Yosef Shlit”a writes in his Yalkut Yosef (Chapter 116) that it is more understandable that the prohibition of not standing idly by the blood of one’s fellow applies only to natural means of saving one’s life, such as if one sees one’s friend drowning in the river, one must save him. Similarly, if one knows of an ill individual and can heal him with medication and the like and one does not, one transgresses the prohibition of standing idly by one’s fellows blood. However, it does not seem that one who abstains from praying for an ill individual is liable for transgressing this Torah law and it only seems to be a manifestation of withholding kindness, for everyone is commanded to perform kind acts to others and prayer for another is certainly an act of kindness above all others.

Indeed, the Navi in Sefer Shmuel (Chapter 12) states that one who is able to pray for a friend and does not do so is considered a sinner. When the Jewish nation requested that Shmuel Ha’Navi pray for them, he replied with the issues that they would have to repent for. He added, “Moreover, as for me, far be for me that I should sin against Hashem in ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.” Our Sages (Berachot 12b) derived from here that anyone who has the opportunity to pray for one’s friend and does not do so is considered a sinner.

Thus, when one knows that an individual is ill, one should pray for this person, even briefly. In this way, one performs the Mitzvah of performing acts of loving-kindness. We have indeed witnessed how Maran zt”l would occasionally raise his eyes from his books while studying Torah and would notice a note with the name of person that required Heavenly salvation, he would immediately pray briefly for that individual and would bless him from the bottom of his heart.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Taking Haircuts and Shaving During the Omer Period

Abstaining from Taking Haircuts During the Omer It has become customary among the Jewish nation to refrain from taking haircuts during the Omer counting period: According to the Ashkenazi custom, until the 33rd day of the Omer and according to the Sephardic custom, until the morning of the 34th day......

Read Halacha

Producing Sound and Whistling on Shabbat

The Gemara in Masechet Eruvin (104a) tells us that our Sages banned producing sound on Shabbat and Yom Tov, for instance, by playing a musical instrument, for they were concerned that while the tune is being played, the player will come to fix the instrument. This decree would certainly apply eve......

Read Halacha

Clapping and Drumming on a Table on Shabbat and Yom Tov

The Gemara in Masechet Beitzah (30a) states that one may not drum, clap, or dance on Shabbat lest one come to fix a musical instrument (ibid. 36b). This means that just as we have discussed in the previous Halachot that our Sages have decreed that one may not play musical instruments on Shabbat ......

Read Halacha

Toys Which Produce Sound and those Which Operate Using a Spring or Coil

Question: Is it permissible for one to allow one’s young children to play with toys which produce sound, such as a doll which makes noise when shaken, on Shabbat? Answer: In the previous Halacha we have discussed the prohibition of producing sound on Shabbat, such as by banging on a board, ......

Read Halacha


Praying in Pajamas

Question: Can one pray while wearing pajamas? Answer: Approximately one week ago, we have discussed that, before praying, one must prepare a fitting place, proper attire, and cleanse one’s body and thoughts, as the verse in the book of Amos states, “Prepare yourself before your G-d, I......

Read Halacha

Praying Barefoot

Question: May one pray while wearing sandals or while one is barefoot? Answer: When one prays, one must prepare one’s environment, clothing, body, and thoughts accordingly, for one will be standing before the King of all kings. Respectable Garments While Praying The Gemara (Shabbat 9b) ......

Read Halacha

Question: How many “Kezayit”s (olive’s volume) of Matzah must one consume during the Pesach Seder?

Answer: One is obligated to eat altogether three “Kezayit”s of Matzah during the Pesach Seder. Every Kezayit amounts to approx. 30 grams of Matzah. Nevertheless, there is room for stringency to eat four or even five “Kezayit”s of Matzah, as we shall now explain. The Order......

Read Halacha

Kissing One’s Parents’ Hands on Shabbat Night- The Students of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai

Question: Should one kiss the hands of one’s parents and receive a blessing from them on Shabbat night and does the same apply equally to one’s father and mother? Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Avodah Zarah (17a) tells us that when Ulah (a sage who lived during the Talmudic era) would......

Read Halacha