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Chapter 91:10
Non-Critical Illness on Shabbos

10. [The following applies to] a wound that is not critical (2): one may not place a medicated dressing upon it on Shabbos, even if it was prepared from the day before, nor may one place anything on it that serves as a remedy ("refuah"); this includes a leaf (that is known for its medicinal properties), or an old, dry piece of cloth (3), for it too aids in the healing process (4).

However, one may, on Shabbos, place something upon it which will prevent it from being scratched (or irritated).

If there was a medicated dressing on the wound from before Shabbos, one may open one end of the dressing and clean the wound, and then do the same with the other end of the dressing. However, one may not smear the [medication which is on] the dressing itself, because that would be performing [the melacha called] "memareach" ("smearing") (5). If the dressing fell off the wound onto the floor on Shabbos, one may not put it back on the wound (6); however, if it fell onto an object, one may put it back on (7). If one is suffering a great deal of discomfort (as a result of the dressing falling off), one may ask a Gentile to put it back on. However, it is prohibited to ask a Gentile to prepare a dressing on Shabbos, because the preparation involves smearing [the medication], which is a biblically prohibited activity, and is even prohibited when performed by a Gentile, if the Jew is not completely ill (8).

FOOTNOTES:

(2) This applies to a wound that is neither life-threatening, nor does it cause severe pain, or threaten the normal functioning of a limb. In any of these cases, the prohibition against applying a medical remedy on Shabbos would obviously not apply.

(3) The Talmud implies that old, dry cloth (that has never been used before on a wound), somehow aids in the healing process. Since the Talmud was written about 1500 years ago, its medical advice should not be relied upon without consulting a qualified physician.

(4) Of course, one can and must do whatever is necessary to prevent infection or other deterioration of the wound.

(5) One of the Biblically prohibited activities is "Memareach" ("smearing"), which applies to rubbing or spreading moldable substances (such wax, tar, cream) to give them a smooth surface.

(6) The Sages were concerned that one might come to inadvertently smear the medication which is on the dressing (Mishna Berura 328:81)

(7) This is equivalent to it slipping slightly off its place, in which case it is certainly permissible to re-adjust it.

(8) Either bedridden or sick enough that one feels like lying down.

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Halacha-Yomi, Copyright (c) 2002 Project Genesis, Inc.

 

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