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By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt | Series: | Level:

QUESTION: Besides for cooking and baking, what other types of food preparation are prohibited on Shabbos but permitted on Yom Tov?

DISCUSSION: The following types of food preparation are permitted on Yom Tov– provided that the food will be used on that same Yom Tov day [or, if Yom Tov falls on Friday and an eiruv tavshilin was made, for Shabbos]. It is permitted to:

  • Peel eggs, fruits or vegetables at any time (not only just before mealtime) and without restriction, either with a knife or with a peeler.(1)

  • Debone chicken, fish or meat.(2)

  • Remove melon or fruit seeds from the melon or fruit.

  • Vegetables may be diced, either with a knife or a vegetable dicer.(3)

  • Grind or mash cooked potatoes, onions, bananas or apples, even with a grater or a masher.(4)

  • Sort cutlery in order to set the table.(5)

  • Oil, mayonnaise or other liquids can be added to egg or tuna salads or any other food mixture without restriction.(6)

  • Prepare instant potatoes or baby cereal.

  • Squeeze excess oil out of canned tuna or fried fish [not only just before mealtime].

  • Prepare whipped cream or mayonnaise, using either a fork or a rotary beater.(7)

  • Make pudding, jello, ice cubes,(8) or salt water.(9) L’chatchilah, these food items should be prepared before Yom Tov.

    QUESTION: Do the majority of contemporary poskim permit smoking on Yom Tov?

    DISCUSSION: No, they do not. In the past, there were conflicting opinions whether or not smoking is permitted on Yom Tov. The general principle of Hilchos Yom Tov is that Kindling is permitted not only for cooking or for lighting candles, but also for any activity which is “common and beneficial to most people.” Years ago, when smoking was commonplace and socially and medically acceptable, some poskim viewed it as being a “health benefit” and permitted it on Yom Tov. Other poskim prohibited it even in those days. Today, however, when the dangers of smoking are well- known and documented, smoking can no longer be classified as a “common activity”, and is, therefore, prohibited even according to the opinions who permitted it in past generations.(10)

    QUESTION: On Shabbos [or Yom Tov], is it permitted to use suntan lotion in order to prevent sunburn?

    DISCUSSION: Suntan lotion which is in cream, ointment or thick, slow- pouring oil form, is forbidden to be used on Shabbos, as it may be a violation of the Shabbos Labor of Smoothing.(11) It is permitted, however, to use suntan protection which is in a liquid spray form, since Smoothing does not apply to runny, non-viscous liquids like liquid spray. Although there is a Rabbinic injunction against taking medicine on Shabbos, suntan protection is not considered medication, since its purpose is not to heal but to protect. It is similar to using insect repellent on Shabbos, which is permitted since its function is not to heal but to protect.(12) Taking medication for ordinary sunburn, however, even if it is in spray or liquid form, could be a violation of the rabbinic injunction against taking medicine on Shabbos. In the atypical case where the sunburn is so severe that one feels “weak all over” or bad enough to require bed rest because of it, liquid or spray medication is permitted.(13) Note: Our discussion regarding suntan protection pertains to those who might get sunburned while fulfilling a Shabbos mitzvah, e.g., those who need to walk a long distance to shul on Shabbos. But to deliberately sit in the sun in order to get a suntan is not in keeping with the spirit of Shabbos, and indeed, is forbidden on halachic grounds by some contemporary poskim(.14)

    QUESTION: What is the correct procedure to follow regarding washing the hands on Shavuos morning after remaining awake all night?

    DISCUSSION: The widespread custom of staying awake the first night of Shavuos to study Torah presents a halachic problem – what to do about washing the hands and reciting the blessing of al netilas yadayim. The following background information will help us understand the problem and its solution: The Rishonim offer two basic reasons for the Talmudic law (15) of washing our hands in the morning and then reciting the proper blessing:

  • The Rosh tells us that washing is necessary because a person’s hands move around in his sleep and will inevitably touch some unclean part of the body.

  • The Rashba says that since each one of us becomes a biryah chadashah –

    a “new person” – each morning, we must sanctify ourselves anew in preparation to serve Hashem. This sanctification is similar to that of a kohen who washes his hands before performing the avodah in the Beis ha- Mikdash.

    [In addition to these two reasons, there is still another reason for washing one’s hands in the morning – because of ruach ra’ah, the spirit of impurity that rests on one’s body at night and does not leave the hands until water is poured over them three times(16). Indeed, touching various limbs or organs of the body is prohibited before hand-washing, due to the danger which is caused by the spirit of impurity.(17) This third reason alone, however, is insufficient to warrant a blessing,(18) since a blessing is never recited on an act which is performed in order to ward off danger.(19)] Does one who remains awake all night long need to wash his hands in the morning? If we follow the Rosh’s reason, then washing is not necessary, for as long as one remains awake he knows that his hands remained clean. If we follow the Rashba’s reason, however, washing may be required, since in the morning one becomes a “new person,” whether he slept or not.(20) [In addition, it is debatable if the spirit of impurity that rests on the hands is caused by the nighttime hours – regardless of whether or not one slept – or if it rests upon the hands only during sleep.(21)] Since this issue remains unresolved, the Rama suggests a compromise: washing is indeed required, as the Rashba holds, but a blessing is not recited, in deference to the view of the Rosh. Not all the poskim agree with the Rama’s compromise. In their view, the blessing should be recited. (22) Since we again face a difference of opinion, it is recommended that one of the following options be exercised:

  • One should listen – with intent to be yotzei – as another person, who did sleep, recites the blessing.


    1 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 4, note 27); Harav Y.S. Elyashiv (Mevakshei Torah, Yom Tov, vol. 1, pg. 257); Be’er Moshe 8:203.

    2 O.C. 510:2 and Beiur Halachah, s.v. ha-borrer.

    3 Mishnah Berurah 504:19.

    4 Harav Y.S. Elyashiv (Mevakshei Torah, Yom Tov, vol. 1, pg. 251); Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 7:2. See also Orchos Rabbeinu, vol. 2, pg. 73, quoting Chazon Ish and Harav Y.Y. Kanievsky.

    5 This is permitted only for cutlery that was used on Yom Tov night and will be used for he next morning’s meal.

    6 Since Kneading is permitted on Yom Tov; O.C. 506:1-3.

    7 Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 11:31-32.

    8 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 12, note 29, and Tikunim u’Miluim).

    9 Mishnah Berurah 473:21.

    10 Beiur Halachah 511:4, s.v. ein; Chazon Ish (quoted in Orchos Rabbeinu, vol. 2, Yom Tov, 20) She’arim Metzuyanim B’halachah 98:19; Minchas Shelomo 2:11; 2:58-6; Harav Y.S. Elyashiv (Mevakshei Torah, Yom Tov, vol. 1, pg. 264); Teshuvos v’Hanhagos 1:316.

    11 Based on Da’as Torah O.C. 328:26, Chazon Ish O.C. 52:16 and Tzitz Eliezer 7:30-2.

    12 Based on O.C. 328:23. See also Mishnah Berurah 301:108.

    13 See The Monthly Halachah DISCUSSION, pgs. 90-91.

    14 See Chelkas Yaakov 4:17, Minchas Yitzchak 5:32 and Az Nidberu 2:30.

    15 Berachos 15a and 60b.

    16 The source for the “spirit of impurity” is the Talmud (Shabbos 108b; Yoma 77b) and the Zohar, quoted by the Beis Yosef O.C. 4.

    17 O.C. 4:3.

    18 Mishnah Berurah 4:8.

    19 Aruch ha-Shulchan 4:4 based on Rambam, Hilchos Berachos 6:2.

    20 The rationale for this is: 1) Lo pelug, which means that once the Sages ordained that washing the hands is necessary because one is considered a “new person”, they did not differentiate between an individual who slept and one who did not (Beis Yosef quoted by Mishnah Berurah 4:28); 2) The blessing was established to reflect chiddush ha-olam, which means that since the “world” as a whole is renewed each morning, it is incumbent upon the individual to sanctify himself and prepare to serve Hashem each morning; whether he, personally, was “renewed” is immaterial (Beiur Halachah quoting the Rashba).

    21 Mishnah Berurah 4:28.

    22 Ruling of Aruch ha-Shulchan 4:12.

    23 Mishnah Berurah 4:30 and Beiur Halachah 494:1. This should be done immediately after alos amud ha-shachar in order to remove the spirit of impurity; O.C. 4:14.

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    Rabbi Neustadt is Rav of Young Israel in Cleveland Heights. He may be reached at 216-321-4635 or at [email protected].