There was a great courtyard in
Rabbinic law restricted the movement of a Jew on Shabbat to two thousand cubits from his or her techum boundary—usually the town. If he or she left the boundary, the limit was a mere four cubits (seven feet). But there were established exemptions. In order to serve as a witness to the new moon, or to help save a life, all restrictions on movement were dropped. What next? Having testified or performed the rescue, could one travel home, or must he or she stay put until the end of Shabbat? Rabban Gamliel’s decree (takkanah) was apparently motivated by a social concern that people not refrain from helping others.
Can you think of examples in our day where a rescuer is penalized? Should so-called good Samaritans be exempted from liability for damages caused by their rescue efforts? Should Rabban Gamliel’s decree be used to permit rescue workers and physicians who travel to the hospital on Shabbat to drive home afterward?