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Ki Tisa – The Rosh Yeshiva Responds – Ordering Fresh Food On Shabbat for Someone with an Eating Disorder

by Rabbi Dov Linzer (Posted on February 28, 2024)
Topics: Ki Tisa, Rosh Yeshiva Responds, Sefer Shemot, Torah

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וְאַתָּה דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, לֵאמֹר, אַךְ אֶת-שַׁבְּתֹתַי, תִּשְׁמֹרוּ

“However, you shall keep My Shabbats” (Shemot 31:13).

“From where do we learn that saving a life overrides Shabbat?… Rabbi Yossi bar Rabbi Yehudah says, from this verse: ‘You shall keep my Shabbats, – perhaps for all matters? The verse teaches, ‘However’ (there are times when you do not observe Shabbat – when a life is at stake).” (Yoma 85b)

QUESTION—Austin, TX

Someone in our community is engaged in a long-term treatment program for eating disorders. She lives with a group of other women who are patients at the hospital in an apartment down the street from the center where she will spend most of her days. She will be discharged back to her own apartment on Shabbat afternoon, but with no capacity to prepare food. She could eat sandwiches etc., but she raised the possibility of ordering something hot and fresh on GrubHub or a similar app.

Given that eating disorders have a 5 year survival rate, could ordering the food that she is interested in eating every day  be considered providing for the needs of a cholah, sick person, who is in sakanah, a state that presents some risk to her life? With GrubHub she’d be get something hot and fresh.

ANSWER

Your analysis is correct. If eating hot food is important for her health, then she can definitely order it through GrubHub. It is minimally a case of a sick person who is not in danger of their life and the halakha is that a non-Jew may be asked to do a melakha to provide for this person’s needs (see Shulchan Arukh OC 328:17). If she can arrange before Shabbat for delivery on Shabbat, that would be even the better. I assume that she will be eating kosher.

If she needs to order on Shabbat itself, and use her phone to do so, then – assuming that using electronic devices would fall in the d’rabanan (rabbinically prohibited) category, which is the general consensus – she would be permitted to do this as well. (see Mishnah Berurah 328:57, who rules that in such a case a d’rabanan can only be performed by a Jew if it is done with a shinuy, in an unusual manner, which would be difficult with a smartphone. But see Nishmat Avraham OC 328:3a, who rules that if it is not possible to do a d’rabanan with a shinuy, it may be done in the normal manner. See also Shmirat Shabbat KiHilkhata, ch. 33, fn. 23, who rules similarly).

In truth, however, when dealing with an eating order, we are likely dealing with a case of a sick person with a life-threatening illness, as you write. In such cases, one may perform even acts that are forbidden on Shabbat mi’di’oraitta, a Biblical level. Whether this characterization of her status is accurate needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis. It is important to stress in this regard that a case of even possible risk of life is halakhically identical to a case of definite risk of life, and that we always must be cognizant the serious health risks involved with an eating disorder.

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