“Glorify yourself over me, for when shall I pray for you?” (Shemot 8:5)
Prayer over There
It was Shabbat afternoon. Eliyahu had just come home from synagogue with his family, and now he was standing, kiddush cup in hand, ready to recite the blessing. Suddenly, the peaceful scene was disturbed by the blaring of a siren. His children ran to the window.
“Daddy, it’s an ambulance!” Eliyahu’s son, Refael, called. “It’s pulling up right next to our house.”
“Yeah, there are men coming out and going to our neighbor’s house!”
Eliyahu ran outside. There was his dear neighbor and friend, Yaakov, being carried out of the house on a stretcher. As the paramedics carefully brought Yaakov into the waiting ambulance, Yaakov’s wife apprised Eliyahu of the situation. Things were not looking good. Yaakov was in serious danger.
After the ambulance had pulled away, Eliyahu ran back inside his house. He told his family about Yaakov’s situation. Eliyahu told his children that they needed to pray to Hashem to ask Hashem make Yaakov feel better. He said a chapter of Tehillim together with them.
“Daddy, didn’t you say that, if a person is sick, it’s a good idea to ask a great rabbi for a blessing?” Eliyahu’s son, Uri asked. “Let’s do that now!”
“But now is Shabbat!” called out Refael. “You can’t call or email anyone now, to ask for a blessing.”
“I have an idea!” exclaimed Eliyahu’s wife. “Let’s ask the DaCostas! We can go next door and ask them to send an email for us. It’s Shabbat here in the United States, but in Israel, Shabbat is already over. So we can send an email to a rabbi there!”
Yaakov ran over to his neighbor, Ray DaCosta. He explained the situation, and dictated the email address of a well-known rabbi in Israel. “Please pray for Yaakov the son of Chana, to have a complete recovery.”
Did Eliyahu act correctly, in asking a non-Jew to send an email on Shabbat, in order to ask a rabbi to pray for Yaakov’s recovery?
Answer of Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik (Rabbi Chaim Brisker), zt”l:
Because there is a possibility that the blessing of the rabbi will save Yaakov’s life, Eliyahu’s actions fall under the category of safek pikuach nefesh (possibly saving a life), and he acted correctly. (from Nefesh Harav by Rabbi Hershel Shachter, page 167. Note: the question Rabbi Soloveitchik answered regarded the sending of a telegram on Shabbat.)
Answer of Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer), zt”l:
Eliyahu acted incorrectly. It is incorrect to violate Shabbat in order to secure the blessing of a rabbi, because it is not guaranteed that the prayer will yield positive results. The concept of safek pikuach nefesh is in regard to only natural measures taken to lead to a sick person’s recovery. There are two rationales for this ruling:
1) The Heshiv Moshe: Hashem knows a person’s thoughts, and is aware that, if it were not Shabbat, the person would write to a rabbi and request a blessing, and Hashem will save the person, even without the blessing.
2) Rabbi Shlomo Kluger (U’bacharta Bachayim): There is no need for this prayer, because Shabbat itself has the power to help, in place of the blessing of the rabbi.
In Summary: According to Rabbi Chaim Brisker, Eliyahu acted correctly, because his actions were an attempt to possibly save a life. According to the Tzitz Eliezer, Eliyahu’s actions were improper.