Ukraine: Religious Jews will keep phones on, drive this Shabbat

When the life of a specific person is in danger, almost any negative commandment of the Torah becomes inapplicable.

Close up of a man using mobile smart phone (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Close up of a man using mobile smart phone
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Most observant Jews dedicate Fridays as a day to prepare for Shabbat. But this week in Ukraine, Jews are just trying to survive.

Rabbis and community leaders that spoke to The Jerusalem Post Friday say that this Shabbat will be different than any other they ever experience: Many of them will be on the road; driving or even just sitting on a bus – something the Halacha, the Jewish law doesn't permit.

A rabbi that spoke to the Post said that he permits all Jews to travel on Shabbat and the use of cellular phones because of what's called Pikuach Nefesh," the principle in Jewish law that the preservation of human life overrides virtually any other religious rule. When the life of a specific person is in danger, almost any negative commandment of the Torah becomes inapplicable.

Hillel Cohen, the head of the Hatzala organization in Ukraine, will spend the Shabbat in the city of Odessa even though he lives in Kyiv.

"My wife and kids are in Israel so I came to volunteer and help out with anything needed here," he said. Cohen says that most Jews who could - left the city, many of them are stuck in major traffic jams near different borders "we are all going to keep our phones on during Shabbat, even though we are religious Jews. Many of our congregations will be driving on Shabbat unfortunately - to save their lives."

Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm Zhitomer of Zhytomyr said today, "There were bombings near a military camp near the city, but now it's quiet. We sent our entire orphanage to the northern border of the country. They are living in a refugee camp of 120 people, 90 of them children.

 Kharkiv Subway station Ukraine (credit: REUTERS) Kharkiv Subway station Ukraine (credit: REUTERS)

"We didn't leave the city, I am here at the moment with my family and children. We brought food for those who needed it. Families from Kyiv were supposed to arrive but didn't leave yet because of heavy attacks. At least 100 people were supposed to come and we have spaces for them to live for now."

With the outbreak of war in Ukraine, the Jewish community in Moldova has started absorbing refugees from the battle zones. Hundreds of Jewish families have started pouring in from Ukraine, where they were welcomed and cared for by members of the Moldovan Jewish community. The refugees and their children are being housed in motels and provided with hot food and essential supplies.

With rising costs surpassing hundreds of thousands of dollars, Israeli philanthropist Adv. Inbar Nacht contacted Moldova’s Chief Rabbi Pinchas Salzman and notified him that the Inbar and Marius Nacht Family Foundation will immediately be providing emergency assistance to this rescue mission.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Nacht Family Foundation has funded a wide range of Medical, Welfare and Cultural initiatives. Last year, they provided emergency assistance to victims’ families of the Mount Meron disaster, and recently it was reported that the Foundation initiated and funded the rescue of hundreds of refugees from Afghanistan.

Salzman thanked the Nacht Family Foundation and its CEO, Nachman Rosenberg, for "providing the emergency grant that will help absorb hundreds of other Jews who will be arriving in Moldova in the coming days."