15-1 Addressing Conflicts between JewishLaws and Rituals and the Study and Practice of Physiotherapy

Addressing Conflicts between JewishLaws and Rituals and the Study and Practice of Physiotherapy / Moshe Rivlin, Tamar Jacob, EliakimLevanon




Background -Physiotherapists and students of physiotherapy who strictlyobserve Jewish laws and rituals (Halacha)face aunique dilemma: on the one hand they wish to obtain the best training possibleandprovidepatients withthe highest level of care, while on the other hand they wish to upholdthe religious rulings. The most problematic issues thatarise in this context are related to observing the Sabbath (Shabbat) and maintaining standards of modesty.


Goal - To review contemporary materials on the subjects of Shabbat and modesty related to conflicts encountered by religious Jews whopractice or study physiotherapy.   


Methods - Search through religious literatureon medicine and science, perusal of Internet sites on which Rabbis address questions regarding acceptableHalachic practices and respond to requests for Halachic articles or Rabbinical opinions, and  a comprehensive,one-on-one study of the issues with a Rabbi. The review of Halachicliterature included articles written overthe last thirty years that addressed these specific issues and dilemmas as they relate to the practice and study of physiotherapy. 


Results –Findings regarding the Shabbat focused on two subtopics: treatments and exercises that may be practiced on the Sabbath and how these should be conducted; and the dilemma about driving on the Sabbath (which is forbidden in Orthodox Judaism) in order to complete one’s shift at a medical facility. The major divergence in rulings was about treating patients who are in pain but not bedridden; there was complete agreement that in severecases, essential exercisesmay be conducted, but with a slight change. Vehicular transportation to a Shabbat shift is allowed for the purpose of treating a patient whose life might be in danger if such treatment were withheld, although the life threatening condition need not be proven.
As regards the issue of modesty, it appears that the common agreement is that one is allowed to treat patients of the opposite gender who are in critical condition (following the ruling that sees the expert as engaged in his or her craft); opinions vary regarding the treatment of opposite-gender patients who are not in critical condition. As to practicing with a partner of the opposite gender during training, the ruling states that one should make every effort to avoid such situations.


Conclusion- There is a consensus that training in physiotherapy should be at the highest possible level; consequently, it is recommended that students try toreach an agreement withthe faculty members, while taking into account any potential logistical difficulties.



Key words: Physiotherapy, students, Halachic questions, Shabbat, modesty

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