Stopping A Thief On Shabbos – A Halachic Perspective

ciu_home_burglaryIn the recent weeks there has been a rash of robberies in Lakewood, as extensively reported on TLS. Many of them have taken place on Shabbos. Police officials have long said that many unsavory characters know that the Orthodox Jews will not call Police on them on Shabbos, thus they are far more brazen.

A while ago there were reports of someone who came in a car in broad day light on Shabbos morning, and as 3 mothers watched, they stole two bikes and drove off. 

In fact this may not be the case. Many Halachic authorities state that one may be allowed to call Police on Shabbos even to stop a burglar. TLS has received permission from Israel Book Shop Publications to post excerpts from their popular Sefer Emergencies in Halacha which deals with this matter. The Sefer – by Rabbi Moshe Rotberg of Lakewood – can be purchased by clicking here.

II. Stopping a Thief 

A thief may be stopped even if it requires one to be Mechallel Shabbos such as calling the authorities. Obviously a thief who realizes that he was spotted must be stopped by calling the authorities and taking other security measures, since it’s possible that the thief may fight back which may result in a fatal altercation. 

Even when one spots a thief breaking into a vacant property, he may alert authorities. As Rav Shlomo Zalman zt”l explains; since there is the risk of him entering an inhabited home next where he will pose as a risk to inhabitants, one can be proactive and he does not need to wait until that happens. 

Once the thief has fled, it is forbidden to perform any melacha (even mid’rabanan) to retrieve valuables. 

It is permissible to install and activate an alarm at one’s business or home before Shabbos even if it will cause the alarm to sound if it is burglarized. (Obviously, one should not alarm a place where it will cause him to be mechalel Shabbos needlessly when he or someone else will enter with no ill intent.) However, if the alarm system is hooked up to the police department or security company which are typically staffed with Jewish personnel it is prohibited to activate it for Shabbos since an issur d’Oraisa  will be performed by a Jew. In America and other countries where this is not the case, one may certainly do so. TLS.




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  1. Thank You TLS for this post. This has become a big problem which leaves us vulnerable. I was glad to see that there is a source to back this opinion I held for quite some time.I’m just wondering if you could post excerpts with regards to medical items as well. As Jews we r very hesitant to violate Shabbos and at times we violate the most basic tennet of Torah which is that life comes first. The pure stupidity (of course well intended)of some people at times of danger is something which needs to be addressed!

  2. the chances of Sakonas Nefashos is much greater when there`s a burglar in the area, than the danger of a cut to the finger which we call Hatzalah and have countless yidden be Mechallel Shabbos!

  3. Mr Lamdan ask any Rav or Hatzolah member about the many people facing true sakanos yet they wouldn’t call!!

    I got Emergencies in Halacha as a gift I think everyone must own one and read it before an Emergency happens!!

  4. I hope you also call a few Poskim to make sure the things you say aren’t ever Lashon Harah. Why do people only kvetch when it’s nogeah someone ELSE?

  5. of course a person should be allowed to call police on shabbos if there’s a thief around. a person has to make sure they are safe and it’s totally permissible. you call 911 right away and report it. safety always comes first and everyone should know that. it doesn’t matter what day it is that you spot a thief, you call 911 immediately and get help.

  6. #5 well said. Isn’t it amazing that when it comes to issues regarding life and death published in a sefer with well respected haskamos and ure only question is which other Poskim…do you do the same when it comes to other aspects of your life?

  7. I was very glad to see this article and hope people start understanding the dangers that may befall this community if we continue to let these shabbos robberies take place. I recently purchased this sefer and subsequently have used it as a gift item. Unfortunately many people are not familiar with these halochos and then it’s too late. I found this sefer to be very well written, great sources and very informative. Thank you to Israel bookstore and to the author R’ Moshe.

  8. Kudos to the Lakewood Hatzolah members that now get together to learn hilchos shabbos pertaining to their milachos hakodesh. I think it’s very important for us individuals to learn by example and do the same. Thanks for an instructive and important article.

  9. Ashreinu Toishvei Eer Hatoiroh that we have such reliable and knowledgeable talmidei chachomim in our midst and spread throughout all areas of Lakewood! Yasher Koiach to Rabbi Rotberg and Hatzlocho in all his present and future limudim and may we be zoicheh to see many more publications!

  10. Due to the fact that the burglars go house to house some poskim in lakewood have notified me that one may call the police if they find an attempted breakin in the night as his friend/ neighbor is in sakana.

  11. non-jew says: We’re always on the lookout and will report anything we see (always have) anytime, any day to protect your/our homes. Not going to let this happen here!

  12. I purchased the sefer Emergencies in Halacha and I find myself referencing it more often than I thought – it is a sefer that belongs in every home. Thank you TLS for posting a piece from the sefer – the kehilla can definitely benefit from this wonderful sefer!

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