Liquid Soap

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Liquid Soap

One of the controversies in hilchos Shabbos revolves around the use of liquid soap on Shabbos. While many prominent Poskim permit using liquid soap on Shabbos, Rav Moshe Feinstein wrote1 “In my home we do not rely on this leniency, and it is advisable to be stringent regarding this issue [of using liquid soap on Shabbos].” This dispute amongst the Poskim revolves around the melacha of Memachaik- Smoothing an object or a substance on Shabbos. In order to understand why using liquid soap may involve the melacha of Memachaik, let us quickly review the basics of this melacha.

Memachaik in the Mishkan
The Mishkan had a number of coverings that were made from the hides of rams. Before these hides could be used they first had to be smoothed out; this act of smoothing the hides was the melacha of Memachaik (smoothing)2. Therefore, any act of smoothing violates the melacha of Memachaik3. For example:

· One may not sand down an uneven piece of wood4.
· One may not sharpen the edge of a knife on Shabbos4a.
· One may not use steel wool to scrape off rust spots from a metal knife or spoon5.

In these examples, one smoothes out an object. Therefore, these activities violate the melacha of Memachaik.

However, the melacha of Memachaik does not apply equally to all substances. The Mishnah Berura explains5a that there are really three levels of substances concerning the melacha of Memachaik:

1) Solid substances: Prohibited m’d’Oraysa.

2) Semi-solid substances: Prohibited m’d’Rabanan.

3) Viscous Liquid substances: Permissible

1) Solid substances: Prohibited m’d’Oraysa
Smoothing a solid substance whose consistency is moldable and can hold a form is subject to Memachaik m’d’Oraysa6. For example,
Ø The Shulchan Aruch writes6a that one may not use a piece of wax to clog up the hole of a barrel on Shabbos, since one must smooth out the wax in order to seal the hole of the barrel. Smoothing out the wax violates the melacha of Memachaik. Similarly:

· One may not use a Chapstick for chapped lips on Shabbos7. Since when using the Chapstick one inevitably smoothes out the solid stick, using it on Shabbos violates the melacha d’Oraysa of Memachaik. [Note: Using a Chapstick on Shabbos may also violate the prohibition of Refuah-Healing.]

· The Mishna Berura8 cites the Tiferes Yisroel who ruled that one may not use a bar of soap on Shabbos. Since one inevitably smoothes out the bar of soap as it is used, using it on Shabbos violates the melacha of Memachaik. [See footnote9].

· One may not use a solid deodorant stick or lipstick on Shabbos10. [Note: Using lipstick also violates the melacha of Tzoveya-Dying10a.]

· One may not shape or smooth “playdough” on Shabbos11.

· One may not use hard shoe polish to polish one’s shoes on Shabbos11a. [Note: Polishing one’s shoes (even with liquid shoe polish) involves the melacha of Tzoveya-Dying11b].

In these examples, one smoothes out the solid object or substance as it is used; therefore, performing these activities on Shabbos violates the melacha m’d’Oraysa of Memachaik.

2) Semi-solid substances: prohibited m’d’Rabanan
Smoothing a substance whose consistency is a semi-solid (such as a cream or paste) is prohibited m’d’Rabanan12. Since these substances are not dense enough to form a solid surface, smoothing them does not violate the melacha m’d’Oraysa of Memachaik. However, since these substances are dense enough to hold a mass and they resemble solid-substances, Chazal prohibited smoothing even semi-solids on Shabbos. This was done in order to safeguard the melacha of Memachaik; if one were allowed to smooth a semi-solid substance on Shabbos, one may mistakenly smooth out solid substances as well and violate the melacha m’d’Oraysa of Memachaik13. For example,

Ø The Shulchan Aruch writes14 that one may not use thick oil to clog up the hole of a barrel on Shabbos, since one must smooth out the thick oil in order to seal the hole of the barrel. The Mishnah Berura explains15 that although smoothing out the thick oil does not violate the melacha d’Oraysa of Memachaik, smoothing out the thick oil is prohibited m’d’Rabanan since it resembles smoothing out solid substances (such as a piece of wax). Accordingly:

· One may not apply facial creams on Shabbos since one smoothes them out as they are used16.

· One may not use hand creams (i.e. Eucerin) and skin creams (i.e. Desitin)17 or petroleum jelly18 on Shabbos.

· Rav Moshe Feinstein rules19 that brushing one’s teeth with toothpaste on Shabbos violates the melacha m’d’Rabanan of Memachaik since one inevitably smoothes out the paste as he brushes.

Since these substances are semi-solids, smoothing them on one’s body violates the melacha m’d’Rabanan of Memachaik. [Regarding the prohibition of Memachaik as it relates to foods, see footnote20.]

A permissible method to apply creams: Someone who needs to apply cream on Shabbos may do so in the following manner [provided that one avoids the prohibition of Refuah (Healing)]:

The cream or jell may be applied to the desired area as long as he is careful to not smooth out the cream or jell as the cream is applied21. One can only violate the prohibition of Memachaik if he smoothes out the cream. Merely applying the cream without smoothing it out does not constitute an act of Memachaik22. Therefore, it is permissible to apply cream to a desired area (even on a number of places), as long one is careful to not smooth out the cream in the process.

After the cream or jell is applied, one may cover it with a bandage23. Any smoothing which occurs as a result of covering the area with a bandage is unintentional and accomplished in an irregular manner, and is, therefore, permitted24. For example;
· One may apply diaper cream or ointment to a child who has a diaper rash (even to a number of places) as long as he is careful to not smooth out the cream when he is applying it25. Since the cream is merely placed on the area without smoothing it, the melacha of Memachaik is avoided. After the cream is applied, one may cover the cream by wrapping the child in a diaper26; any cream which is smoothed out as a result of covering the child with the diaper is unintentional and accomplished in an irregular manner.

3) Viscous Liquids: Permissible substances
Smoothing any liquid whose consistency is so loose that it cannot hold a form does not fall under the prohibition of Memachaik at all27. Although we mentioned earlier that smoothing thick oil on Shabbos is prohibited m’d’Rabanan, the Mishna Berura writes28 that smearing ordinary oil does not violate the melacha of Memachaik. Since the consistency of the oil is so loose, it does not resemble a solid substance at all, and, therefore, Chazal never included these substances under the prohibition of Memachaik. For example:

· One may smear baby oil on Shabbos29.

· One may smear liquid sunscreen on his face on Shabbos30.
Since these substances are watery and thin, they do not resemble solid substances and they may therefore be used on Shabbos.

How loose must the consistency of these substances be?
As we mentioned earlier, there is a controversy in hilchos Shabbos regarding the use of liquid soap on Shabbos. The dispute amongst the Poskim regarding the use of liquid soaps revolves around an important issue: How loose of a consistency must a substance be in order to be included under this permissible category?

The majority of Poskim rule31 that any substance that is so thin that it runs and cannot hold a form cannot violate the melacha of Memachaik when smoothed. Since the substance cannot hold a form, it is not at all similar to a solid substance, and, therefore, Chazal never included these substances in the prohibition of Memachaik. Chazal only included semi-solid substances (such as creams or jells) that can hold a form and are similar to a solid substance.

Accordingly, these Poskim rule that liquid soaps may be used on Shabbos. Since the consistency of liquid soap is so loose that it runs and cannot hold a form, it falls into the permissible category, and, accordingly, smoothing it on Shabbos is permissible.

However, Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled32 that one may not use liquid soaps on Shabbos. Since these substances are made of a viscous consistency and do not pour easily, they would still be included under the prohibition of Memachaik. Unlike ordinary oil, which flows easily, liquid soap pours out very slowly and is included in the prohibition of Memachaik. Accordingly, Rav Moshe rules that one should not rub liquid soap or shampoo on Shabbos.

However, even Rav Moshe agrees that if the consistency of the soap is very watery and thin to the point that it pours easily, it may be used on Shabbos33. Since the consistency of these substances is so loose they do not resemble a thick substance at all; therefore they are permitted to be used on Shabbos. For example:

· One may use dishwashing soap (i.e. Dawn Ultra) on Shabbos, even according to Rav Moshe34, since its consistency is very loose and runs quickly.

· One may use hand sanitizer on Shabbos; since the consistency of these substances is very loose and they pour very easily one may use them on Shabbos.

· One may dilute liquid soap with water in order to turn it into a substance that has a loose consistency36. [See footnote37 regarding diluting the soap on Shabbos.]

· One may use foaming soap on Shabbos; since the consistency of the foam soap is very watery and loose it may be used on Shabbos38. [There is also no problem of Nolad (Creating a new entity) involved in creating the foam since the foam does not last for a long time39.]

Since the consistency of these substances is very loose, even Rav Moshe agrees that they may be smoothed out on Shabbos, just as the Mishna Berura permits smoothing ordinary oil.

 

1 Igros Moshe O.C. Vol.1 113 2 Mishnah Shabbos 73a Rashi d”h Memach’ku Rambam 11,5 3 ibid 4 Orchos shabbos 17,17 39 Melachos pg 915 4a Mishnah Berura 323,40 [Orchos Shabbos 17,18 39 melachos pg 929] 5 39 melachos pg 914 5a Mishnah Berura 314,45 6 Shulchan Aruch 314,11 Mishnah Berura 45 6a ibid 7 39 melachos pg 918 8 326,30. 9 Rav Moshe Feinstein [Igros Moshe 1,113] “In regard to washing oneself with soap on Shabbos and Yom Tov it is obvious that it is forbidden because of the melacha of Memachaik.” However, some Poskim question whether ruling of the Tiferes Yisroel that prohibited the use of a soap bar on shabbos would apply to the bar of soaps that we use nowadays. The soaps that we use nowadays are smooth before they are used, and using them does not make them any smoother then they already were [Ketzos ha’Shulchan; Badei ha’Shulchan 146 (pg 37)]. The SSk”h pg 190 ha’arah 49 brings in the name of Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach that [the custom we follow not to use a bar of soap on Shabbos], is something which may really be permitted yet the custom is to refrain from doing so [on Shabbos]. Additionally the Rama writes (326,10) that using a bar of soap is prohibited under the prohibition of Nolad (creating a new entity). Since the solid bar of soap begins as a solid and “melts” into a “liquid” this constitutes an act of “creating a new entity”. However, the Mishna Berura (326,30) brings opinions who argue on the Rama and rule that using a bar of soap on Shabbos does not involve the prohibition of Nolad. 10 39 Melachos pg 918 10a Igros Moshe O.C. Vol.1 114 11 39 Melachos pg 918 11a ibid 11b Mishnah Berura 327,12 12 Shulchan Aruch 314,11 Mishnah Berura 45 13 Mishna Berura 314,45 14 Shulchan Aruch 314,11 15 Mishnah Berura 314,45 16 39 Melachos pg 319 17 ibid 18 ibid 19 Igros Moshe O.C. Vol1,112. However other Poskim argue on Rav Moshe However other Poskim argue on Rav Moshe regarding the use of toothpaste on Shabbos: Chacham Ovadia Yosef [Yabia Omer 4,27,2] based on Magen Avraham 316,24 who writes that one may smooth spit into the ground since one does not intend for the spit to remain there; similarly the toothpaste does not remain in one’s mouth. However, the Tzitz Eliezer argues that although one does not intend for the toothpaste to remain in his mouth for a long period of time, he does want it in his mouth while he is brushing his teeth. See Ketzos hashulchan (badei 138,31) and Nefesh harav pg 168. 20 The Rama writes (321,19) that the malacha of Memachaik does not apply to foods. Since it is possible to eat the food without smoothing it we cannot consider this to be an “act of smoothing”. For example, it is permissible to smooth peanut butter onto a slice of bread on Shabbos, since it is possible to eat the bread and the peanut butter without smoothing the peanut butter. However, the Rama adds, if the reason for smoothing the food is for esthetic purposes it is commendable to refrain from smoothing the food. Since it is normal to smooth the food for the esthetic purposes, doing so may violate the melacha of Memachaik and therefore “someone who is careful not to smooth food for esthetic purposes, will have beracha ”. For example, smoothing the surface of a tuna fish or egg salad, smoothing icing on top of a cake for esthetic purposes may violate the prohibition of Memachaik and therefore someone who refrains from doing so “will have beracha”. 21 SSk”h 33 note 63 from Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach [Orchos Shabbos 17,19] 22 ibid 23 39 melachos pg 921 24 SSk”h 33,14 note 70 from Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach [Orchos Shabbos 17,19 note 29] 25 SSk”h 33,14 note 70 from Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach [Orchos Shabbos 17,19 note 29] 39 melachos pg 922-923 26 ibid 27 Mishnah Berura 314,45 28 314,45 2939 melachos pg 920 30In a conversation with Rabbi Heber from the Star-k 31 Aruch ha’Shulchan 321,end of 11 Kaf ha’Chaim 321,43 SSk”h 14,18 Ketzos ha’Shulchan 146,32 Rav Elyashiv (Kovetz Teshuvos Vol. 1 38 Shalmei Yehuda 9,3 note9 32Igros Moshe O.C. Vol. 1 113 33 In conversation with Star-k based on conversations that Rav Heinneman had with Rav Moshe 34 Star-k [Kasherus Kurrents Vol. 24,2]. Rav Heinemann determined, based on his conversations with Rav Moshe, that any substance with a viscosity level which is lower than 600 centipoises (cP) is watery enough that even Rav Moshe would agree that it may be used on Shabbos. For example, water has a viscosity of 1 cP. Olive oil has a viscosity of 84 cP. Ultra Dawn liquid dish soap has a viscosity of less than 600 cP and is therefore permissible to be used even according to Rav Moshe. Accordingly, any substance whose viscosity is lower than that of normal dish soap, may be use on Shabbos according to all opinions. However, any substance whose viscosity is higher than normal dish soap should not be used according to Rav Moshe’s opinion. (In a conversation with Rabbi Dovid Heber from the Star-K) 36 39 melachos pg 916 37 Some Poskim rule that one may even add the water to the liquid soap on Shabbos (39 melachos pg 916, Rabbi Heineman (in a conversation with Star-k). However, Rabbi Shmuel Fuerst rules that one must dilute the liquid soap before Shabbos, since adding water to the liquid soap would constitute an act of Memachaik (in a conversation with Rav Fuerst). Rav Fuerst argues that the root of the melacha of Memachaik is “thinning out a substance” this can be done by smoothing out the substance or diluting it. Accordingly, diluting the liquid soap on Shabbos would constitute an act of Memachaik. 38 Rabbi Heinemann (In a conversation with Rabbi Heber from the Star-k) 39 Rabbi D. Zucker and Rabbi Gershon Bess (quoted in halacha encounters by Rabbi Akiva Niehaus) based on the [Ketzos ha’Shulchan Badei ha’Shulchan pg 58 and] Kovetz Teshuvos Vol.1 38 Rabbi Heinemann (In a conversation with Rabbi Heber from the Star-k) .

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