Yom Kippur and hurricane preparedness

As sunny (HA!) Florida faces another hurricane, I read a newspaper article about Orthodox Jews facing a dilemma this weekend.

It’s Yom Kippur, one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar. As I understand it (I am not Jewish), during this time Jews are not allowed to carry cash or do physical labor.

The article speculated this might be a problem as Jews living in Florida have to get ready for Hurricane Jeanne.

What does one do if religious doctrine impedes one’s ability to protect one’s life and property? Can any Jewish Dopers shed light on this subject? Is it even a dilemma? Does Judaism make exceptions for life and death situations?

IANAJ, but my understanding of Judaism is that most laws can be put aside in a life-or death situation - for example, a Jew trapped on a desert island with nothing else to eat could munch on Spam if rescue seemed unlikely.


That’s one of the great things about being a Jew. God will work with you. Sure, it’s the vengeful ‘kill them all’ God…but he’s reasonable about the laws when push come to shove.

All kidding aside, in times of real trial one’s rabbi is likely to give one a pass one the laws.

But hey…two Jews, three opinions. ;j

In the article, it implied that Jews can’t watch TV or listen to the radio during Yom Kippur. Am I understanding that correctly?

Does that mean they can’t post on the internet either?


Look over there!


Yes, observant Jews (of which I am not one) should use no tools at all during Yom Kippur (and sabbath days, for that matter). I have some orthodox friends back in Maryland who leave their radio on the entire time. The prohibition is one USING the tool…not benefitting from it. So turning the radio ON is forbidden…but if you happen to be in a room where a radio just happens to be functioning there’s nothing wrong with that.

Would one then be allowed to use the radio if there was a hurricane in the area and one needed to listen to updates? (For evacuation notices and such?)

The standard trope on the subject in interpreting Jewish law is that one is obligated to live by the law, not to die by it. In other words, preservation of life takes precedence over observance of the law, but only to the extent necessary to preserve life (or prevent injury that could conceivably threaten life). I am not a rabbi, nor even particularly observant, but my understanding of things would be that no observant Jew would condemn another for doing what was necessary to get themselves and their families out of harm’s way, but they would probably stop short of endorsing spending the day boarding up windows or in other activities intended primarily to preserve property.

You should also understand that while Yom Kippur is often called “the holiest day of the year for Jews”, most rabbis and Jewish scholars would argue that every Shabbat is equally holy. Perhaps “the most solemn day of the year for Jews” would be a better way to understand it. Getting in a car and driving somewhere else or paying for a bus or plane ticket on Yom Kippur to escape a hurricane wouldn’t be essentially different from calling an ambulance and riding in it to the hospital on Shabbat if you were having a heart attack.

The Egyptian and Syrian forces launched their initial offensives in the so-called “Yom Kippur War” at 2 pm on the day of Yom Kippur, and while the Israeli defense forces were somewhat slow to react, they did fight and perform their jobs, regardless of what day it was – just as they have on countless Shabbats during the last 56 years.