Hospitals and Halacha

Rabbi Jason Wiener is a young rov who has done an outstanding job as the senior Jewish chaplain at Cedars-Sinai Hospital Center in Los Angeles. His penchant for serious treatment of halacha is obvious in the great public service he has performed by putting together an extremely useful chibur on issues relating to hospital stays. This monograph was supervised and looked over by some of the most impressive names in psak halacha in Los Angeles. It includes the single best treatment of the use of elevators on Shabbos that I recall seeing.

The kuntrus is available as a free download. The author solicits and encourages feedback, with an eye on the second edition. Contact him at Jason.Weiner@cshs.org

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6 comments to Hospitals and Halacha

  • SL Zacharowicz

    While this pamphlet seems very interesting, unfortunately it does not seem to address a major area of concern for many if not most observant patients and their families: dilemmas when one’s religious beliefs conflict with the interests–philosophical or financial–of doctors and hospitals. Concepts such as withdrawal of life support, widely accepted in the secular world, are anathema to orthodox Jews, for example. How and when to respond to attempts by doctors and hospital systems to go against one’s beliefs in end-of-life matters, when one should involve an organization like AIA, the importance of preparing, in advance, a health care proxy designed to protect one’s beliefs, and so many other topics warrant discussion in any guide to orthodox patients and families.

  • Dovid Shlomo

    Yiyasher Kochecha, Rabbi Wiener, on your Guide to Traditional Jewish Observance in a Hospital, which I have started to glance through.

    I was wondering about what you wrote in regards to fluorescent bulbs:

    Many fluorescent lights now contain starters which heat up
    when turned on and are also considered a Torah prohibition, but since it
    is a smaller wire than those in an incandescent bulb, if one has to choose
    between the two, it is preferable to turn on a fluorescent bulb instead of
    an incandescent one.

    When you describe “many” fluorescent bulbs as “now” containing starters, you make it seem that this is a new development and do not differentiate between this type of fluorescent and other types.

    As I am only slightly knowledgeable about these things, I was somewhat confused by that statement.

    I was wondering whether you were of the opinion that the screw-in compact fluorescents that are the most common fluourescents found in most homes today would be subject to the same concerns.

    It is my impression that they do not have a heating element, but an electronic ignition.
    I was therefore wondering whether turning them on does in fact constitute aish d’Orayssa.

    Also, I note that in the section where you discuss turning off a light for a sick person, you make no distinction between incandescent lights and fluourescents.

    I was wondering why this would be, given that I would have thought that no “extinguishing” of fire or glowing metal occurs in ANY type of fluourescent. irrespective of what type of starter it has.

    When people speak of turning off “lights” theses days, those “lights” are less and less likely to be incandescent.
    It therefore seems to me that contemporary expositions of halacha on that topic should take that new reality into consideration.

    Congratulations once again on your fine booklet.

  • David F.

    What an beautiful work and a valuable resource. Many of these shailos arise just after a simple surgery or childbirth and it’s very useful.

  • Jason Weiner

    Thank you very much for these helpful initial comments.

    David Shlomo raises important points that I will have to clarify in the second edition. Much fluorescent technology is prohibited D’rabonon which will have important nafka minas for a choleh she’ain bo sakkanah and for kibbuy. Thank you!

    Regarding Dr. Zacharowicz’ comment, I am indeed working on a booklet related to guiding people through the medical ethics issues that you raise but chose to leave it out of this one since my goal was to produce something that could be accepted as broadly as possible and avoids highly contentious subjects.

    Thanks again for the important feedback!

  • Daniel Shain

    A fantastic resource; Thank you!

    Another question about fluorescent bulbs – in the section about using electric candles or light bulbs for shabbos candles, you don’t mention whether or not fluorescent bulbs (like the common CFLs) are valid for the mitzvah of hadlakas neiros (unless I missed it; I see that you discuss it regarding havdala). Is there a difference, perhaps because havdala requires “esh” and Shabbos candles just require light?

    Also regarding the elevator – you discuss the specifics about the Cedar’s elevator, like the load transducer and the overbalance, but I didn’t see that you draw any halachic conclusions about it – is the Cedar’s elevator better, worse, or the same as any other Shabbos elevator?

  • Jason Weiner

    Daniel,
    Thank you very much!
    I briefly mention this shabbos candle issue in the Hanukkah section. Those who permit electric shabbos candles do so because the point is for kavod and oneg shabbos, and the light of electric candles – assuming they do indeed supply usable light – is the same regardless of it being from fire or an electric (incandescent or fluorescent) source. Though Rav Shlomo Zalman does prefer that it be battery powered and not plug in since enough energy to illuminate for the required time period is already there when you “light” them.
    Regarding our elevators at Cedars, I included the specifics to allow people to draw their own conclusions, but basically you can see that they are not like the ideal “tzomet” style shabbos elevators that address the weighing mechanisms and neutralize any electrical effects related to entry or exit from the elevator while it stops at a floor, and turn off signal and indicator lights etc. but that they are not as bad as all of the concerns that Rav Halperin brings up, so that in a case of need one can still rely on Rav Shlomo Zalman and use them.