Haimishe [home] Remedies - Shabbat 66
Other cures permitted on Shabbat: putting a hot cup on the stomach for stomachache, swaddling a baby, or wearing a “preserving stone” (to prevent miscarriage). We also learn that one may rub oil or salt into the skin. In fact, three famous Rabbis would rub oil and salt into their hands and their insteps to sober up! Once they were feeling tipsy, they would rub in these materials and recite: “just as this oil becomes clear, so may the wine become clear.” Or, if this didn’t work, they’d soak clay from a wine vessel in water, asking for the same result. We still have “home remedies” today, but it’s interesting to see what they were centuries ago.
Abaye even shares some tricks he learned from his mother: all incantations that must be repeated many times should include the name of the sick person’s mother, and whenever the number of repetitions is not specified, it should be 41. And if you have a daily fever, you take a new coin and equivalent weight in salt, and tie both to your neck with a twisted cord. Or sit a crossroads and catch an ant with a large burden in a brass tube that you seal with lead, then shake it and magically transfer your burden to the ant. Or go to a river, take a pitcher of water, swing it around your head 7 times, then throw it over your back, all while asking the river to borrow some water and then announcing its return. Since I don’t believe the river is really listening these days, I think I prefer ibuprofen.
Rabbi Adam Chalom