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Is it Permitted to Carry a Firearm on the Sabbath?



Is it Permitted to Carry a Firearm on the Sabbath?
By
James Scott Trimm



I was recently asked if it is permitted to carry a firearm on the Sabbath.  Normally it is prohibited to carry objects “out of your houses” on the Sabbath.  As Jeremiah writes:

21 Thus says YHWH: Take heed for the sake of your souls, and bear no burden on the
Sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Yerushalayim.
22 Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day; neither do you
any work, but Set-apart you, the Sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers.
(Jer. 17:21-22 HRV)

So does this prohibit carrying a firearm on the Sabbath?  The answer lies in the intended purpose of the firearm.  

We read in the Torah:

“If a thief be found breaking in, and be smitten so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguiltiness for him.” (Ex. 22:1(2))

It is from this verse that we have the Baraita which says:

“When a man comes to kill you, rise early and kill him first.”
(b.Berachot 58a, 62b; Numbers Rabbah XXI:4; Zohar 1:138a)

Rashi writes of this verse:

"He has no blood. [This signifies that] this is not [considered] murder. It is as though he [the thief] is [considered] dead from the start. Here the Torah teaches you: If someone comes to kill you, kill him first. And this one [the thief] has come to kill you, because he knows that a person will not hold himself back and remain silent when he sees people taking his money. Therefore, he [the thief] has come with the acknowledgement that if the owner of the property were to stand up against him, he [thief] would kill him [the owner]. - [From Talmud Sanhedrin. 72a]".

Thus it is a mitzvah to keep and bear arms to defend ourselves as well as our property.

It is also a mitzvah to keep and bear arms so that we may defend others. As we read in the Torah:

"You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor: I am YHWH.”
(Leviticus 19:16)"

Rashi says of this verse:

"You shall not stand by [the shedding of] your fellow's blood. [I.e., do not stand by,] watching your fellow's death, when you are able to save him; for example, if he is drowning in the river or if a wild beast or robbers come upon him. — [Torath Kohanim 19:41; Talmud, Sanhedrin 73a]"

It is of course permitted to intervene to save a human life on the Sabbath.  Pharisaic Halacha placed human life above the Sabbath. As we read in the Mishna:

Rabbi Mattiah ben Harash said, “He who has a pain in his throat, they
drop medicine into his mouth on the Sabbath, because it is a matter of
doubt as to danger to life. Any matter of doubt as to danger to life
overrides the prohibitions of the Sabbath.”
(m.Yoma 8:6)

Yeshua’s halacha on this matter was very similar to that of the Pharisees.  For example the Talmud says:

R. Jonathan b. Joseph said: For it is holy unto you; I.e., it [the Sabbath] is committed to your hands, not you to its hands.
(b.Yoma 85b)

While Yeshua says:

“The Sabbath was created for man and not man for the Sabbath.”
(Mk. 2:27)

The Talmud days:

“R. Eleazar answered and said: If circumcision, which attaches to one only of the two hundred and forty-eight members of the human body, suspends the Sabbath, how much more shall [the saving of] the whole body suspend the Sabbath!”
(b.Yoma 85b)

While Yeshua said:

“If a man is circumcised on the day of the Sabbath that the Torah
of Moshe be not loosed, do you murmur against me because I have healed
a whole man on the Sabbath day?”
(John 7:23)

There are very definitely differences between Yeshua’s halachah and Rabbinic Judaism regarding the Sabbath, but one thing they absolutely agreed upon was that saving human life is always permitted on Sabbath, even if it involves using tools normally prohibited on Sabbath.

It is also certainly permitted to fight to defend human life on the Sabbath, as we read in Second Maccabees:

31  And it was reported to the king's officers, and to the troops in Jerusalem the city of David, that men who had rejected the king's command had gone down to the hiding places in the wilderness.
32  Many pursued them, and overtook them; they encamped opposite them and prepared for battle against them on the sabbath day.
33  And they said to them, "Enough of this! Come out and do what the king commands, and you will live."
34  But they said, "We will not come out, nor will we do what the king commands and so profane the sabbath day."
35  Then the enemy hastened to attack them.
36  But they did not answer them or hurl a stone at them or block up their hiding places,
37  for they said, "Let us all die in our innocence; heaven and earth testify for us that you are killing us unjustly."
38  So they attacked them on the sabbath, and they died, with their wives and children and cattle, to the number of a thousand persons.
39  When Mattathias and his friends learned of it, they mourned for them deeply.
40  And each said to his neighbor: "If we all do as our brethren have done and refuse to fight with the Gentiles for our lives and for our ordinances, they will quickly destroy us from the earth."
41  So they made this decision that day: "Let us fight against every man who comes to attack us on the sabbath day; let us not all die as our brethren died in their hiding places."
(2Maccabees 2:31-41 RSV)

Therefore if the intended use of the firearm is to fulfill the mitzvah of protecting human life then it is not only permitted to carry a firearm on the Sabbath, but it is fulfilling a mizvah to do so.  

This is why Rabbi David Yosef, one of the four members of Israel’s Orthodox Shas Party’s Council of Torah Sages to say:  

“In light of the current danger, I think that anyone who has a gun license should carry it [his gun] on Shabbat…There should also be a telephone available in synagogues... If the premises are big, then there should be two or three,”


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