Shabbat Parashat Shemot| 5764
Ask the Rabbi
Question: Should a woman who is close to her birth due date find a place for Shabbat to prevent the need to travel to the hospital?
Answer: An expectant mother certainly does not have to find a place close to the hospital for Shabbat (Shmirat Shabbat K’hilchata 36:7). On one hand, it is proper to make preparations before Shabbat to minimize the need of doing foreseeable forbidden activity on Shabbat to save lives (Mishna Berura 330:1). On the other hand, there is a rule in pikuach nefesh (steps to save lives) on Shabbat that one need not take unusually difficult steps to obviate the need for permitted chillul Shabbat. (This rule is beautifully explained in an article by Rav Sh. Z. Orbach in “Torah Sheb’al Peh, vol.14).
What constitutes unusually difficult steps is subjective and difficult to spell out. However, when discussing only a possible need for chillul Shabbat and when dealing with a mother who is soon to give birth (with Hashem’s help), there is every reason to consider things with leniency. Therefore, a woman should pack before Shabbat a bag of things she will take with her (things that should not be taken on Shabbat should be separated from before), as this is a very simple step. But there is no need to find a place for Shabbat nearby, all the more so if it will detract from the spirit of Shabbat.
The most important thing to consider at this stage is the health of the expectant mother, including her level of rest and her psychological state.In the case of an important psychological need, Rav M. Feinstein even allowed a husband to travel to the hospital with his wife (see the circumstances in Igrot Moshe OC I, 132; Shmirat Shabbat K’hilchata 36:8). Some women may wait until the last minute before traveling on Shabbat even when far away from the hospital, which is not a good idea. Others may go at the first signs of what might turn out to be false labor and end up in a situation where they are stuck in the middle of nowhere for the rest of Shabbat (see more in Shmirat Shabbat K’hilchata 36:10). Such women should consider these factors in their choice of a hospital and their Shabbat plans. But again, the concern is how the various scenarios will affect her health.
[There are several issues for a couple to consider, depending on the circumstances.]
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