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Weekly Halacha

Selected Halachos Related to Parshas Mishpatim

By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt

The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.


QUESTION: Are there any cosmetics that a woman is permitted to use on Shabbos?

DISCUSSION: There are two forbidden Shabbos Labors which may be transgressed when using makeup; one is memareiach, smoothing, and the other is tzoveia, coloring(1).

All poskim, without exception or debate, agree to the following: Any cream makeup, liquid makeup, lipstick(2), or makeup of any sort which contain cream or oil is strictly prohibited to use. These forms of makeup may not be applied even on top of existing makeup to touch up. etc.

When it comes, however, to face powder or powdery substances which have no cream or oil base, such as certain brands of blush and eye shadow, there is some unclarity among contemporary authorities. The basis for the confusion is a responsum written by Harav M. Feinstein in 1957(3) in which he writes that "to throw (sprinkle) across the face white powder which does not last at all is not a violation of the prohibition of coloring". Some interpreted his words to mean that all powders which do not contain cream or oil may be used since they do not cling to the skin for long(4). But it remains highly doubtful if that is what Rabbi Feinstein meant. In a subsequent responsum, written in 1984(5), he clarifies that in his original responsum he was referring to "simple white powder called talc which is made without oil and does not last"(6). He also writes that "most of the powders which are sold as makeup are oil-based, and that some of them last temporarily, and therefore using most of them is a QUESTION of Coloring". It is stretching things, therefore, to attribute to Harav Feinstein a blanket heter to use any powdery makeup on Shabbos.

While Harav Feinstein's view remains somewhat unclear(7), Harav S.Z. Auerbach leaves no room as to his opinion on this QUESTION. He writes that "so long as the purpose is to color [the skin], even if it lasts only a short while, there is no basis to be lenient, especially when the powder was intended for makeup and women color their faces in this manner, we find no source to be lenient(8)."

There are yet other poskim who prohibit using any tinted powder but permit using white powder(9).

Based on all of the above, the practical Halachah is as follows: As a rule, women should not apply any makeup on Shabbos. But since not wearing makeup is a personal issue which could, under certain circumstances, affect relationships, etc.(10), it is recommended that those who find themselves in such a situation consult a rav for guidance.

QUESTION: Is it permitted to brush one's teeth on Shabbos, with or without toothpaste?

DISCUSSION: The consensus of contemporary poskim is that it is forbidden to use toothpaste on Shabbos(11). Their main concern is that putting toothpaste on the teeth or the brush could result in a transgression of the prohibited Shabbos Labor of memareiach, smoothing.

Brushing without toothpaste is permitted, provided that the following conditions are met:

Use a toothbrush that is designated for Shabbos use only(12). Some poskim require that the Shabbos toothbrush also look different from the weekday one, e.g., a different color or style(13).

Use a soft brush so as not to irritate the gums and cause bleeding. [People with extremely sensitive gums who bleed whenever they brush their teeth may not use a tooth brush at all.]

To avoid the prohibition of sechitah, squeezing, a dry toothbrush should be used. It is, however, permitted to rinse the mouth with cold water first and then use the toothbrush(14).

The tooth brush may not be rinsed off after it is used unless it is going to be used again on that same Shabbos(15).

QUESTION: How can one make guacamole (a semi-liquid dip made from mashed avocado, lemon juice, dressing or mayonnaise) on Shabbos?

DISCUSSION: Making an avocado dip might entail a violation of the forbidden Shabbos Labor of tochen, grinding. In order to avoid tochen according to all of the poksim, one should mash the avocado with the handle of a fork spoon or knife immediately before the avocado dip is to be eaten(16). To better understand why this is recommended, we must first list three points of dispute among the authorities:

There is a dispute among the poskim as to whether or not mashing is considered grinding(17).

There is a dispute among the poskim as to whether or not grinding food immediately before it will be eaten is permitted or not(18). There is a dispute among the poskim whether or not it is permitted to grind in an abnormal manner, i.e., using the handle of a knife, fork or spoon(19).

So in order to satisfy all of the views, it is advisable to mash an avocado in an abnormal manner and to do so right before the meal. But clearly, one may rely on the authorities who allow even normal grinding right before a meal or abnormal grinding even not immediately prior to a meal(20).

The lemon juice, dressing or mayonnaise may be poured onto the mashed avocado and mixed with it. There is no QUESTION of transgressing lisha, kneading, since kneading is only prohibited when liquid is used to create a single mass from loose particles, which is not the case here.

The lemon juice may also be squeezed from a fresh lemon, since there is no QUESTION of sechitah, squeezing, when the juice of a fruit is squeezed directly into a solid food(21), as long as most of the juice is absorbed by the food(22). It is forbidden, however, to squeeze juice out of a lemon into an empty dish and then add the avocado to it.


1 In this case, where the coloring is being done to a person's skin, the prohibition is Rabbinical in nature; Mishnah Berurah 303:79. See Shulchan Shelomo 303:16 that using nail polish may be Biblically forbidden.

2 Colored or colorless.

3 Igros Moshe O.C. 1:114.

4 See Yechaveh Da'as 4:28 who infers from this responsum that all non- oil-based makeup is temporary and does not last. See also Ketzos ha-Shulchan 146:20 who writes that as long as the color does not become "attached" to the face it is not considered Coloring. But even according to this lenient interpretation, it remains unclear if the makeup powders available today, who adhere to the skin for a long time when applied normally, are permitted.

5 Igros Moshe O.C. 5:27.

6 Even when powder is permitted to be used, it must be in powder form before the onset of Shabbos; ibid.

7 In addition to the written responsa, there are several unsubstantiated and unclear understood oral rulings reported by individuals who discussed this matter with Harav Feinstein.

8 Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 14:59 and Tikunim U'miluim. See also Teshuvos Beis Yisrael 56 who prohibits all powdered makeup.

9 M'haram Brisk 1:23; Be'er Moshe 8:25; Shevet ha-Levi 1:97;6:33.

10 See Teshuvos Ra'avan 354. See also O.C. 613:10. .

11 Igros Moshe O.C. 1:112; Minchas Yitzchak 3:48; Shevet ha-Levi 5:45; Tzitz Eliezer 7:30. A minority opinion permits using toothpaste when in distress, see Ketzos ha-Shulchan 138:31.

12 Based on Mishnah Berurah 327:10.

13 Minchas Yitzchak 3:50.

14 Igros Moshe, ibid.; Shevet ha-Levi, ibid.

15 Igros Moshe, ibid.

16 For a Halachic definition of what "immediately" means, see The Weekly Halachah DISCUSSION, vol. 2, pg. 467.

17 Igros Moshe (O.C. 4:74, tochen 2) rules that mashing is not synonymous with grinding; grinding is only when an item is ground into tiny particles, like flour, not when it is mashed into one [or several] large - albeit very soft - piece. Chazon Ish (O.C. 57) strongly disagrees and maintains that mashing is a more stringent transgression than plain grinding.

18 Mishnah Berurah 321:45 quotes both views and does not object to those who follow the lenient opinion. Many other poskim also rule leniently (see Pre Megadim, Shulchan Aruch Harav, Aruch ha-Shulchan and Igros Moshe ibid.) while Chazon Ish (O.C. 57) disagrees and prohibits grinding and mashing even when done immediately before the meal.

19 Most poksim, including Mishnah Berurah (321:25), Chazon Ish (O.C. 57) and Igros Moshe (O.C. 4:74, tochen 2) rule leniently on this issue. But several others maintain that grinding abnormally is only permitted when done immediately prior to the meal. (Kaf ha-Chayim 321: quoting Olas Shabbos; Aruch ha-Shulchan 321:12; Aglei Tal, tochen 30, 5).

20 It is difficult, however, to rely on the argument that mashing is not grinding, since Igros Moshe himself seems to rely on in only when the mashing is done right before the meal. See also Shevet ha-Levi 7:92 who disproves Igros Moshe's ruling from R' Chananel.

21 O.C. 320:4.

22 Mishnah Berurah 505:5.

Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 1999 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Project Genesis, Inc.

Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne Teachers' College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.

The Weekly-Halacha Series is distributed L'zchus Hayeled Doniel Meir ben Hinda. Weekly sponsorships are available--please send email to the moderator, Dr. Jeffrey Gross

The series is distributed by the Harbotzas Torah Division of Congregation Shomre Shabbos, 1801 South Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118--HaRav Yisroel Grumer, Marah D'Asra



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