כ״ד בכסלו ה׳תשע״ג (December 8, 2012)

Shabbat 66a-b: Healing on Shabbat

The Mishna on today’s daf discusses whether it is permitted to go out on Shabbat with an amulet or other folk remedy, permitting those that will not be removed by the person who is wearing them. This leads the Gemara to a broader discussion of medical procedures that were performed on Shabbat.

On the topic of the use of various forms of healing and medicinal practices and their permissibility on Shabbat, the Gemara cites additional statements related by Avin bar Hunain the name of Rav Ḥama bar Gurya on these topics.The Gemara teaches:

Avin bar Huna said that Rav Ḥama bar Gurya said: With regard to overturning an empty cup in which there had been hot water and placing it on one’s navel for healing purposes on Shabbat, he may well do so.

According to Rashi’s explanation, the Gemara is apparently discussing a treatment similar to cupping glasses, which was common practice until recent times. From a medical perspective, the treatment works by increasing the flow of blood to a certain area. In the Rambam’s opinion, it is speaking in this context of using cupping glasses to restore the intestines to their place by drawing the skin outwards.

The Gemara continues with other examples, including this one:

And Avin bar Huna said that Rav Ḥama bar Gurya said: It is permitted to strangle, i.e., tightly bandage the neck of one whose vertebra was dislocated in order to reset it, on Shabbat.

According to Rashi, this refers to the realignment of a displaced vertebra in the neck. A similar treatment is still in use today. However, the ge’onim explain that this strangulation involves applying pressure to the veins in the neck for medicinal purposes. In various cases, such as paroxysmal tachycardia, pressure is indeed applied to the veins in the neck and to the vagus nerve.

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