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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Question 7.10:
If your home is burning, can you put out the fire on Shabbat?


Yes, you can. Putting out a fire on Shabbos is just one example of a more general rule. With rare exception, saving a life takes precedence over any prohibition. Among the exceptions: murder, idolatry, certain sexual sins, and war in certain cases. In other words, if given the choice between murdering another or getting killed, one must choose to get killed.

In addition, one is permitted, but not obligated, to risk one's life to perform any other observance that was banned by Antisemites for the purpose of suppressing Judaism. The textual origin for the general rule is at Deut 4:5: "and you shall guard well your lives." In context it means something totally different, but that's where the derash begins. Since allowing a fire to spread to the rest of the house is a major threat to both the people in the house as well as people in neighboring houses, one is OBLIGATED to put the fire out on Shabbat.

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

[Got Questions?]Hopefully, the FAQ will provide the answer to your questions. If it doesn't, please drop Email to The FAQ maintainer will endeavor to direct your query to an appropriate individual that can answer it. If you would like to be part of the group to which the maintainer directs questions, please drop a note to the FAQ maintainer at

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© (c) 1993-2002 Daniel P. Faigin <>