Eyeglasses that Break on Shabbos

 Courtesy of Ohr Olam Mishnah Berurah

Before we establish if and how broken eyeglasses can be repaired on Shabbos, let us list the halachic violations that may be incurred when doing so. Our Discussion covers the two most common mishaps—a temple (earpiece) breaking off from a frame, and a lens popping out of a frame. There are three areas of concern:

1.   It is Biblically forbidden to firmly attach two objects on Shabbos and Yom Tov, either because of Boneh or Tikun Mana, a form of Makeh b’Patish.187 It makes no difference whether the objects are fitted into each other tightly or screwed into each other tightly. [Even though a minority view holds that the Biblical prohibition applies only when the items are forced together but not when they are merely screwed into each other,188 in practice we should follow the stringent view.189] Accordingly, it is strictly forbidden to screw a temple onto a frame on Shabbos and on Yom Tov.190

2.   Even inserting the screw into the hinge without tightening it is forbidden, since the normal tendency is to tighten the screw, and one can easily forget himself and inadvertently tighten it automatically after inserting it.191 This rabbinic prohibition is called shema yitka, which literally means, “liable to firmly attach [them].” The decree of shema yitka applies only on Shabbos, not on Yom Tov, since the Rabbis felt it would cause undue hardship and interfere with simchas Yom Tov.192

3.   As an added precaution, the Rabbis forbade handling the detached objects by rendering them muktzeh. The case which the Shulchan Aruch193 discusses involves a kirah, a four-legged stove, whose leg (or legs) became detached. The halachah is that both the base and the detached legs may not be moved,194 since one may easily forget and reattach the legs to the stove, thus violating a Biblical prohibition. Since this rabbinic prohibition originated with the case of a stove, it became known as gezeiras kirah, “the decree concerning the stove.”

In the following cases gezeiras kirah does not apply:

  • If the leg is broken or missing and can no longer be re-attached. In such a case the stove is not muktzeh, since we no longer fear that the detached parts will be re-attached.195
  • If the leg was detached before Shabbos and the stove was being used even though it was missing a leg.196
  • On Yom Tov.197

As mentioned above, the Shulchan Aruch uses a stove as his case in point. The Rama adds that the same rules apply to a bench whose legs became detached. Contemporary poskim198 agree that all similar objects are included in this rabbinic prohibition.199 It follows, therefore, that the halachos concerning a temple which becomes detached from its frame will be similar to the cases of the stove and the bench mentioned above.

Based on these principles, we can now answer the following questions:

Q: Can the temple be screwed back onto the frame?

A: Strictly forbidden, according to all views.

Q: Can the screw be inserted into the hinge without tightening it?

A: No. The prohibition of shema yitka applies. On Yom Tov, however, it is permitted.

Q: May one wear the glasses while only one temple is attached?

A: On Yom Tov, yes. On Shabbos, however, it depends: If the detached temple or screw is lost, it is permitted to wear the frames minus the temple, since gezeiras kirah does not apply. If the detached temple and screw are accessible, the frames may not be worn. If, however, it is acceptable to be seen in glasses that have a missing temple, the glasses may be worn.200 If it would be embarrassing to be seen in such glasses, gezeiras kirah applies and the frames are muktzeh.201

If the temple broke off before Shabbos and the glasses were already worn in their broken state, all poskim agree that it is permitted to wear them on Shabbos, regardless of whether the other temple or screw is missing or not.202

Q: Can the temple be attached to the frames using a wire or a pin?

A: If the original screw, or a replacement, is available, then the frames, temple, and screw are muktzeh, based on gezeiras kirah. Consequently, they may not be moved on Shabbos.

If the screw is lost and no replacement is available, then gezeiras kirah does not apply. It is permitted to attach the temple to the frames using a safety pin, provided that it will be removed after Shabbos.203 The poskim, however, do not permit attaching the temple to the frames using a wire or a needle, even if the wire or needle is not firmly tightened around the frame.204

On Yom Tov, since shema yitka and gezeiras kirah do not apply, it is permitted to attach the temple using a safety pin, regardless of whether or not the screw is lost.

Q: There are frames (usually plastic ones) that hold the lens in place merely by exerting pressure on the lens; there is no screw involved. What can be done if a lens pops out of such frames?

A: If the lens pops out because the pressure on it has slackened (e.g., the frame expanded slightly due to wear and tear), then it may be reinserted.205 If, however, the lens is knocked out forcibly and would have to be forced back in, most poskim are stringent and forbid re-inserting it on the grounds of tikun keli.206 Accordingly, the frames and lenses are now muktzeh, due to gezeiras kirah.

Q: What can be done if the frames break in half?

A: Nothing. Since they can no longer be worn, the frames are muktzeh and may not be moved for any reason.

187. Mishnah Berurah 308:37.

188. Sha’ar Hatziyun quoting Taz, O.C. 313:7. See Minchas Yitzchak 4:122-21.

189. Sha’ar hatziyun 313:32, based on the view of the Magen Avraham. [See also Binyan Shabbos, Boneh, pg. 309, who quotes Rav E. Auerbach’s view that the lenient opinion was referring to objects which—although screwed into each other—can still be adjusted or turned, but not to tightly connected objects like a temple attached to frames.]

190. Sha’ar hatziyun 519:12.

191. Rama, O.C. 313:6. Chazon Ish, O.C. 50:10, however, disagrees and permits loosely inserting the screw without tightening it. In his opinion, shema yitka only applies when the pieces are tightly fitted together.

192. Mishnah Berurah 519:9; Hilchos ha-Moadim 13, note 4; Binyan Shabbos, Boneh, pgs. 63-65.

193. O.C. 308:16. See also 313:8.

194. The base is a kli shemilachto l’issur, since it is still a functioning utensil; the legs will generally be considered muktzeh since there is no use for them as they are; see Shulchan Shlomo 308:44, 3-5 and Chut Shani, vol. 3, 56:1.

195. Mishnah Berurah 308:69.

196. Rama, 308:16.

197. Since gezeiras kirah only applies if shema yitka applies as well.

198. Ketzos ha-Shulchan 109:10; Rav S.Z. Auerbach and Rav Y.S. Elyashiv (quoted in Shalmei Yehudah, pg. 86); Knei Bosem 1:19.

199. A minority view maintains that gezeiras kirah applies only to the two cases specifically mentioned in the original sources: a stove and a bench. This is the opinion of Imrei Yosher 1:102, Chelek Levi, O.C. 101, and Beis Yisrael, 12, all quoted in Tzitz Eliezer 9:28-9.

200. Rav M. Feinstein (Sefer Tiltulei Shabbos, pg. 148); Az Nidberu 8:33.

201. Rav S.Z. Auerbach and Rav Y.S. Elyashiv quoted in Shalmei Yehudah, pgs. 85-86.)

202. Rama, O.C. 308:16.

203. Rav S.Z. Auerbach (Shulchan Shlomo 314:11-2).

204. Rav S.Z. Auerbach (Shulchan Shlomo 314:11-2); Rav Y.S. Elyashiv (Shalmei Yehudah 4:50); Knei Bosem 1:19.

205. Rav Y. S. Elyashiv (Shalmei Yeudah, pg. 88); B’tzeil ha-Chochmah 6:123; Az Nidberu 8:33

206. Rav Y. S. Elyashiv (Shalmei Yeudah, pg. 88); Sheraga ha-Meir 3:43; Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasah 15:82; Binyan Shabbos, Makeh B’patish, pg. 168. A minority opinion dissents and permits reinserting lenses if they can be reinserted with minimal pressure; see Tzitz Eliezer 9:28-9; Az Nidberu 8:33.