Medicines and Cosmetics for Pesach
With the abundance of Kosher for Passover foods on the market today, it has
become relatively easy to stock one’s kitchen for Passover. But when it
comes to inedible items such as medications and cosmetics, there is still
much confusion about what is permitted and what is not. In the following
review, we will attempt to clarify some of the principles which govern the
Pesach laws for such items.
It is a Biblical prohibition to keep any edible chametz item in one’s house
over Pesach. Even an item which contains only a small admixture of chametz
is prohibited. One must either get rid of it before Pesach or sell it to
a non-Jew together with the rest of his chametz.
“Edible” is defined as an item which is fit for consumption by a dog. If an
item becomes so spoiled that even a dog will not eat it, it is not
considered chametz any more and it may be stored over Pesach. [Chametz items
which a dog would eat but are not fit for human consumption are generally
considered prohibited chametz.
It is permitted, therefore, to store and use all types of ointments, hand
lotions, nail polish and medicated drops (for the ear or nose), etc., even
if they contain an active chametz ingredient. These items are not fit for
consumption and as the Rambam writes, “nifsedah tzuras ha-chametz,” they
have lost their chametz “form.” Similarly, certain cosmetics (eye
shadow, eyeliner, mascara, blush and rouge) and foot and face powders may be
stored and used during Pesach.
Although, as stated, an item which is not fit for consumption and has lost
its chametz “form” may be stored and used on Pesach, it still may not be
eaten. By eating it, its status is elevated from “inedible” to “edible.”
This re-classification is referred to by the poskim as achshavei,
literally, an “elevation,” or an “upgrading” of this item’s halachic status.
For instance: One is not required to get rid of a charred piece of bread,
since it is no longer fit for consumption. One is not, however, allowed to
eat it since by doing so, he is “elevating” it to the status of “edible.”
There is a debate among the poskim whether the prohibition of achshavei
applies to items like foul-tasting pills or unflavored liquid medications.
Some poskim hold that although these items are not fit for consumption,
it is still forbidden to eat them because the person eating such medication
elevates their status to “edible.” But many other authorities maintain
that achshavei applies only to food items which have become unfit and are
now being re-classified as food by the person eating them, such as the piece
of charred bread previously mentioned. Therefore, achshavei does not apply
to medications or drugs. The person taking those medications does not intend
to reclassify them as edible; rather, he is treating his pain or sickness
with something which is inedible. While many poskim are lenient, it has
become common practice that whenever possible, only chametz-free medications
are ingested in deference to the poskim who are stringent. When a
chametz-free, foul-tasting medication is not available, a sick person may
take the medication, but only under the guidance of a rabbi.
Coated tablets, flavored medications, pleasant-tasting cough syrups and the
like are generally considered items which are fit for consumption. Unless
one is dangerously ill, they may not be taken on Pesach unless it is
determined that they are completely chametz free. Flavored
lipsticks are also considered fit for consumption and are therefore
forbidden as well.
There are certain items on the market which at the time of purchase are not
fit for consumption, but could be “fixed” and made fit, either by cooking
(distillation) or by adding certain ingredients to them. The poskim debate
the status of these items: Do we consider them as “unfit for consumption,”
since presently that is what they are, or do we view them according to their
potential to become “fit”? The majority of contemporary poskim rule
stringently on this question. Accordingly, pure grain-based alcohol –
which in its raw state is unfit for drinking – is prohibited to keep on
Pesach since, by undergoing a physical change – distillation – it will
become fit for consumption.
Many products use denatured alcohol as an ingredient. Denatured alcohol is
alcohol which is mixed with small quantities of various chemicals or
substances. Some of those products can be restored to their original “fit”
status, which in the opinion of the poskim quoted above classifies them as
“fit for consumption” even though presently they are not. While not all
items containing denatured alcohol can be restored to “fit” status,
especially products using completely denatured alcohol (CDA), it is
difficult to judge the potential status of every single item. Accordingly,
whenever possible, items containing denatured alcohol should be sold with
the chametz and not be used on Pesach.
The issue of restorable denatured alcohol applies only to products which are
in a pure liquid state. Some possible examples include cologne, hair spray,
deodorants and shaving lotion. Items like soaps, creams, hand lotions
and ointments do not present a problem. Certain other liquid products, such
as shampoo, ink, and paint are also not restorable to their
original alcoholic state and they may be stored and used on Pesach even
though they may contain chametz ingredients.
Note, of course, that not all alcohol is chametz. Methanol and Isopropyl
alcohol have no chametz components and even ethyl alcohol (ethanol) is not
always derived from grain but is sometimes synthesized from chemicals. Only
a true expert in these matters can advise one about the exact nature of all
these items. Experience has shown that even the manufacturers themselves do
not – or cannot – always give reliable, up-to-date information.
A word of caution about perfumes, since the “base” product is “unfit” but
the scent added to it may be a “fit” chametz derivative: Some poskim
maintain that since the entire purpose of perfume is to exude a fragrance,
and the fragrance is “fit for consumption,” the perfume cannot be classified
as “unfit for consumption.” While many other poskim do not agree with
this opinion since, after all, the perfume base itself is not fit for
consumption, still it is proper to be stringent and use only such products
that contain no fragrance derived from chametz.
[Medications which contain kitniyos may be consumed on Pesach when needed.
Toiletries and cosmetics which contain kitniyos may be used on Pesach.]
In conclusion, the leniency of “unfit for consumption” is not a blanket
heter to use any medicine or cosmetic on Pesach. Although many products do
fall into this category, there are other factors to consider before an
inedible product can be permitted for use on Pesach. Products which contain
alcohol that can be restored to “fitness” and products which are scented
with a chametz derivative are examples of items which should not be stored
or used over Pesach, even though, upon superficial examination, they may
appear to be “unfit for consumption.”
1. Under certain conditions, even a minute amount of chametz will render an
entire batch not kosher for Pesach [even if the chametz was added to the
mixture before the advent of Pesach]; see Rama, O.C. 447:4, Mishnah Berurah
35 and Chazon Ish 119:12.
2. Provided that it reached that stage of spoilage before midday of erev Pesach.
3. While normally an item which is unfit for human consumption is no longer
considered non-kosher, chametz is different, since that level of spoilage
would still allow the item to remain as sourdough, which can make other
doughs chametz; Beiur Halachah 442:9. See Chazon Ish, O.C. 116:8, who rules
that if the spoiled chametz can no longer start other dough, it is
permitted, even if it is still fit for consumption by a dog.
4. O.C. 442:1; Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav 24; Igros Moshe, O.C. 3:62.
5. Sefer Hilchos Pesach, pg. 26.
6. O.C. 442:4 and Mishnah Berurah 20 and 43.
7. Sha’agas Aryeh 74-75; Achiezer 3:31-4.
8. Kesav Sofer O.C. 111; Darchei Teshuvah Y.D. 155:28; Chazon Ish 116:8;
Orchos Rabbeinu, Pesach 24; Igros Moshe O.C. 2:92; Rav S.Z. Auerbach (quoted
in Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 40:74). See also Kol ha-Torah, vol. 59, pg.
28, ruling by Rav M. Gifter.
9. See Yechaveh Da’as 2:60; Tzitz Eliezer 10:25-20; Kinyan Torah 4:44;
Nishmas Avraham, O.C. 466:1.
10. The rabbi should first determine if the person taking the medication can
be classified as a choleh. In addition, certain medications can be mixed
together with other food items, rendering the chametz bateil. Some rabbis
may also be aware of an alternative medicine.
11. Sha’ar ha-Tziyun 466:6.
12. Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 40:76; Sefer Hilchos Pesach, pg. 23.
13. This issue was already debated by the poskim of the previous generation;
see She'arim Metzuyanim b’Halachah 112:8, who quotes the various opinions
but does not clearly decide the issue.
14. Rav Z. P. Frank (Mikraei Kodesh 54); Rav I. Z. Meltzer, Rav A. Kotler,
Rav M. Feinstein and Rav Y. Kamenetsky, quoted in Sefer Hilchos Pesach, pg. 25.
15. Rav S.Z. Auerbach (Meor ha-Shabbos, vol. 2, pg. 605).
16. Sefer Hilchos Pesach, pg. 26.
17. O.C. 442:10. See Knei Bosem 1:25, who permits using mouthwash even
though it has chametz ingredients.
18. See Shoel u’Meishiv (Kamma 1:143) and Divrei Malkiel 4:24.
19. See She'arim Metzuyanim b’Halachah 112:7 and Mikraei Kodesh 54. See also
Ha-elef Lecha Shlomo, O.C. 204.
20. One should not automatically assume about any given item that it is
“unfit for a consumption by a dog.” If a dog might possibly consume a given
item, it may lose its status as “unfit”; see Minchas Shlomo 1:17.
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