03 Dec, 2020

Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner were given rabbinical permission to fly on Shabbat with President Donald Trump on his first foreign tour, Politico reported Thursday night, failing to disclose the identity of the rabbi behind the “heter” (permission).

The concept of pikuach nefesh, or permission to break Shabbat in order to save a life, is defended by the Talmud as follows: “Desecrate one Shabbat for his sake, so that he would keep many Shabbat days.” (Shabbat 151:2). But Jewish law has long since evolved to the point where even the chance of saving an endangered life is enough to justify desecrating Shabbat, as in the case of a Hatzolah (emergency medical services) volunteer who is allowed to answer a call on Shabbat even if it might turn out to be a false alarm.

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However, more than one Orthodox Jew raised a critical eyebrow back in January, when, on Inauguration Day, Jared and Ivanka received a pikuach nefesh permission to ride in a car on Shabbat to attend the inauguration balls around town.

At the time, Mark Zell, the chairman of the Republican Party in Israel, said that the couple had received permission from a rabbi to attend since walking home from the event could create a situation that puts them at risk, though he could not give details.

Politico noted on Thursday that “it was not clear on what grounds the exception was made to accompany the president on his first international trip.”

With additional reporting by Breaking Israel News staff