By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld
Tosfos in Meseches Bava Metziya, daf kuf yud daled refers to the story of how Eliyahu Hanavi went and was mechaye meisim to the son of Tzarfis. Tosfos asks the following question. How was Eliyahu Hanavi able to be metamei to do techiyas hameisim if he was a kohen? Tosfos answers that since it was pikuach nefesh (saving a person’s life) he was permitted to do so.
Reb Elchanan in Kovetz Haoros, siman tes, ois ches klers a chakira. Is the reason why pikuach nefesh is docheh kol haTorah because the mitzvah of saving a person’s life is so great that it is docheh all other mitzvos, or one may save a life even if there is no mitzvah at all? The Kovetz Haoros brings proof from the above Tosfos that the mitzvah is not a necessary component since the child in the story with Eliyahu Hanavi was already dead so there was no mitzvah of pikuach nefesh! Since we do not have a mitzvah for one to do techiyas hameisim, it is a proof that one may save a life even if it will cause him to be oveir an issur like a Kohein becoming tamei.
The Kovetz Shiurim asks; if the child is already dead, how can we call it pikuach nefesh? The Igros Moshe in Yoreh Deah, chelek bais says if a person would have access to the famous stone that can be mechaye meisim one would not have a mitzvah to go and be mechaye meisim. We see from this that only a doctor or Hatzala member who can save a person from dying has the mitzvah of pikuach nefesh, but once a person is dead there is no mitzvah of pikuach nefesh. We need to understand why Tosfos held that Eliyahu Hanavi was able to be mechaye the meis despite the fact he would become tamei since he was a Kohen.
There are two reasons for pikuach nefesh. One is seen from the posuk “Vi’Chai Ba’hem -” we need to live (and not die) doing mitzvos hence we may be mechallel Shabbos. The other reason is that we say “Veshamru… haShabbos.” One may be mechallel one Shabbos so that the person will be able to keep many Shabbosos.
According to the second pshat it would make a lot of sense why Eliyahu Hanavi was able to be mechaye meis so the child could keep a lot of Shabbosos.
There is a nafka mina whether the person who is coming to save another is in doubt whether or not he will be successful. If the sick person is still alive, there is a mitzva of pikuach nefesh and then the one who has come must try to save the sick person at all costs even at the expense of Shabbos. The one who came to save another is doing the mitzvah of Vi’Chai Ba’hem. In the event that the sick person is already dead, and there is no mitzvah of Vi’Chai Ba’hem, then it would depend upon whether the person who came to save him feels he can for sure be mechaye meisim like Eliyahu Hanavi. If he feels confident, then the savior would be allowed to be mechallel Shabbosand become tamei as a Kohen so the sick person who is being brought back to life can keep many Shabbosos. In the event where it would be only a safek, like by a baby born prematurely and the baby appears dead, then the Kohen would be forbidden unless he is sure that he can be mechaye meis.
May we be zocheh to Techiyas Hameisim.