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Breaking Door on Shabbos

Breaking Door on Shabbos

Question:
A student asked me the following. A guest got locked in his bathroom on Shabbos and she started to hyperventilate. He and his wife couldn’t find the superintendent to take off the door, so he unscrewed the door. He asked me if what he did was correct.

I first thought of the Gemara in Yoma about a child locked in the room, and Rashi explains that it is permitted since the child is scared, you can knock down the door. Though I wasn’t sure if this applied to an adult as well. Perhaps, even if they are scared, an adult has more tolerance. But hyperventilating might be enough to allow the door to be removed.

I was then thinking about what Rav Osher discusses about violating Shabbos and other Isurim for the sake of a Choleh’s mental well being. But it seems from the sources that would only apply if the person is already Choleh such as a Yoledes. In this case she was not a Choleh. Though it is possible to say that when she gets into the state of hyperventalating, she might become a Choleh suffering from a mental illness.

Answer:

Hyperventilation and panic attacks do not pose any danger to life in the common scenario [unless there is some other known condition, heart ailment or the like]. As such this case would not have the leniencies of pikuach nefesh, and Biblical prohibitions should not be violated to get her out. However this certainly qualifies as a case of a tzorech gadol for which we can perform a “shvus dshvus” [double drabanan]. Perhaps this could qualify as a choleh shein bo sakana [due to her mental anguish and suffering] for which we can violate a drabanan at times.

Removing the door by unscrewing it is [according to many opinions] a Biblical prohibition of Soser al mnas Livnos [demolition with intent to build again], and hence would not be the proper method in this case. If the door was removed in a destructive way this would be drabanan [mekalkel and shelo al mnas livnos], this could be done by a non Jew or by a Jew through means of a shinui if possible [shvus dshvus]. If we rely on her being a choleh shein bo skanah a non Jew could take the door off in a non destructive way [perhaps we could rely on this keeping in mind some opinions that this Soser would not bu Biblical as it will not be built in a way better than the original].

Sources:

See Chaye Adam 39:13 with Nishmas Adam, Mishna Brura 308:39, with regards to the issur of removing doors on Shabbos.

Magen Avraham 307:7 who allows shvus dshvus by a Jew, and Gra”z in Siman 328 who allows a shinui [on a deoraisa] for a choleh sheain bo sakana.

See Tosfos Shabbos 94a s”v Rebbi Shimon that soser al mnas livnos needs to be an improvement from the original binyan.

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