Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Out On A Limb
‘The Halacha Is One May Reset a Fracture’
(Shabbos 148a)



The Sages (supra 53b) forbade taking medicine and performing non-emergency medical procedures on Shabbos due to the concern of sechikas sa’me’manim – one might crush herbs to make medicine.

Based on this prohibition, the Mishnah (147a) states that one may not set a broken bone – ein machzirin es ha’shever – and one may not massage a dislocated bone with cold water in an effort to reset it.

Shmuel, on our daf, asserts that the halacha is that one is permitted to reset a bone on Shabbos. Rashi (sv. “machzirin es ha’shever”) explains that Shmuel had an alternate reading of the Mishnah, which reads that one may reset a bone on Shabbos.


Avoid Delay

The Ritva (novella ad loc.) write that Shmuel knew by tradition that the tanna’s position in this mishnah represented a minority view, which is disputed by most Tanna’im. He also writes that delaying the setting of a bone until after Shabbos could result in irreparable damage and possibly loss of limb. Therefore, Shmuel permitted resetting it on Shabbos. Massaging it with cold water, however, is not permitted.


Displacement Or Fracture?

The Tur and Mechaber (Orach Chayim 328) indicate that resetting a fracture also means resetting a displaced joint. The Magen Avraham (sk 51) disagrees and maintains that “machzirin es ha’shever” refers only to a fractured bone, not a dislocated joint.

Resetting a dislocated joint is not an emergency, which is why halacha prohibits even massaging a displaced joint to get it back into its place. Thus, the Magen Avraham rules that only setting a broken bone is permitted; resetting a displaced joint is prohibited.


A Gentile, A Jew, A Physician

The Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chayim 328:145) disagrees. He writes that many authorities allow a gentile to reset a displaced joint. He notes as well that the Shulchan Atzei Shittim even allows a Jew to reset a displaced joint. He also writes that even the Magen Avraham would be lenient if a physician says the dislocation is severe and possibly dangerous if not reset.


No “Smoking” Glue Gun

The Aruch HaShulchan (328:39) writes that the Tur and Mechaber rule as they do because the proper term for fixing a break or fracture is “debek” (join or glue). Since it doesn’t use this term – and uses “machzirin” (reset) instead – obviously it is implying resetting a limb in its joint.