Messiah Yeshua’s application of the “pikuach nefesh” principle

People who didn’t grow up into Jewish culture often fail to understand the Gospels in their true context. If you want to study the Bible properly, it is mandatory to learn the culture and the language, in order to avoid huge misunderstandings.

Christianity often stated that “Yeshua abolished the Law, the Torah”, which is completely wrong ( see Matthew 5:17).

Moreover Yeshua is often presented a “Shabbat breaker/basher”, which is totally untrue again.

This may be a shocker to some people, but Yeshua didn’t come to start a new doctrine called “Christianity”.


Rabbi Yeshua applied Torah, because He is Jewish!


After reading this article, you will understand that rabbi Yeshua’s application of the Torah is orthodox. A Jewish orthodox rabbi who is Torah-savvy would do the same in our contemporary world.



Yeshua opposes to the Pharisees whose rigid practice often excludes compassion. When Yeshua seemingly breaks a rule, especially during Shabbat, it is NOT to profane Shabbat, but rather to apply a specific halachic rule called ” pikuach nefesh”פיקוח נפש“.


What exactly is “pikuach nefesh”? How does one apply it?


Torah references: Leviticus 18:5 ” You shall therefore keep my statutes…which if a man do, he shall live by them”

Talmudic reference from the Babylonian Talmud: ” That he shall live by them, and not that he shall die by them.” ( Yoma 85b)


When facing a matter of life and death or each time life should be preserved, Shabbat laws are to be adjourned.


The reason why I am adding a talmudic reference is that I am convinced that not only did Yeshua know Torah perfectly, but He was also very much aware of the application of oral laws back in the first century. The Talmud only has bad press among the people who don’t understand its purpose and who misinterpret some of its words. It is often stated that the Talmud contains bad words about a “Yeshu” who was condamned for sorcery and who is said to have had 4 disciples. This is not Yeshua of Nazareth. Yeshua of Nazareth was known to have 12 disciples and the motives of his condemnation was blasphemy because He quoted Daniel 7:13 and 14 and stated that He was Ben Elohim.


Rabbi Yeshua and “pikuach nefesh”



There are many examples of rabbi Yeshua’s application of “pikuach nefesh” on Shabbat.

One must be very careful in interpreting the Gospel text. Somebody who is not familiar with the Hebrew context may think that Yeshua “broke” or “profaned” Shabbat, which is totally untrue.

Because of His perfect knowledge of Torah in the detail, Yeshua can oppose the Pharisee’s rigid practice, that so often lacks compassion.

Back in the 1st century, Yeshua is very likely to have objected to the Pharisees: “ze pikuach nefesh”, this is pikuach nefesh ( and I am entitled to do it!)


Yeshua favors life and doing good on the holy day of Shabbat. He restores what is sick and broken.


By checking the following resource, you will understand that Yeshua exactly did what was commanded ( the rule of pikuach nefesh) in cases of illness or life threatening conditions during Shabbat.



“He passed on from there to their synagogue. A man was there whose hand had withered. In order to find wrongful words to hold against Him, they asked him: “Is it permitted to heal on Shabbat?”

He said to them:

“Is there a person among you with a sheep, that if it were to dall into a cistern on Shabbat, you would not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more precious is a man than a sheep! Therefore, it is permitted to do good on Shabbat.”


He said to the man, ” Stretch out your hand”. He stretched it out, and it was healed and returned to being like his other hand.


Then the Prushim ( Pharisees) left and deliberated about how to destroy Him.


( Matthew 12: 9-14)



John Chapter 9, verses 1 to 38 depict the healing of a man born blind on Shabbat, which of course, provokes a lot of animosity among the Pharisees, who describe Yeshua as a person who desacrates Shabbat. But then again, some others declare that nobody can do such otioth ( signs) if he is not sent from Above. 


Please note: not all the Pharisees step up against Yeshua. They are actually divided about Him.


I won’t expand on this chapter, as it is quite complex, but I suggest that you read the story from the Orthodox Jewish Bible and from the English Standard Version (ESV).


There are so many other examples of Yeshua applying the rule of “pikuach nefesh”. John, Chapter 5 describes the miraculous healing of a sick man who had been plagued for 38 years at the pool of Beit-Chasda. 


Verse 18 in the Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels posed me a problem, because it states that Yeshua ” profaned” the Shabbat, but then I realized that John placed the reader in the perspective of the Pharisees. It is essential that you remember this point, because a misinterpretation of  Gospel verses led a lot of people ( including horrible nazi propaganda minister Goebbels) into antisemitic thought.

Yeshua cannot go against His own kinsmen and let me tell you that Yeshua was there when people eliminated them. Yeshua has been to the depth of horrors and suffering Himself and He would never discard His own people.



Points to remember:

  • Rebbe Melech Moschiach Yeshua is addressed as ” rabbi”, because this is what He is. Yeshua has been raised as a practicing Jew. His words have to be understood into context, otherwise you will miss the point.
  • Yeshua does not break Shabbat! He applies the rule of “pikuach nefesh” to bring relief to the sick and to save lives, as it is prescribed in Torah. When He appears to be breaking Torah, the Gospel writer exposes this from the Pharisees’ angle.
  • Yeshua’s followers are Jewish, most of the people backing Him are Jewish. Most of His opponents come from the religious establishment in Jerusalem. The crowds, especially in Galilee, love Him!
  • Yeshua did not create a new “doctrine”, but always showed people how to apply Torah perfectly with much compassion. From a Christian point of view, Yeshua discards Torah with a very relaxed approach-this point of view is very misleading about our Messiah’s intent! While Yeshua is very compassionate and forgiving, He always asks people to comply with what Moshe said and also, to stay away from sin.




© 2017 by Isabelle Esling

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