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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Can One Shower on Yom Tov? Yes...

I am (re)posting this with appropriate halachic explanations and sources regarding the permissibility of bathing on a Yom Tov that does not fall on Shabbat. Yom Tov is long enough in the Diaspora, there is no need to be uncomfortable. So now you will be ready for Shavuoth! :-)

Photo Credit: Guan Hua

Is it OK to shower with hot water? Yes one may shower with hot water and there is no problem due to the fact the water may have been heated on Yom Tov. Firstly, one can argue that since the hot water was heated for other purposes, i.e. to wash dishes, it may be used for the secondary purpose of bathing. See the Arukh Hashulchan regarding bathing an infant in heated water. (AH 511.5; Piskei Teshuvot 511.4 Note 29; See Mishnah Beitzah 2:5) Furthermore, one can say that in our day showering is hana't l'chol nefesh, meaning, whether poor or rich, in many if not most places, showering daily or twice daily is quite ubiquitous. It used to be that "washing the entire body is only fitting for those who are pampered." (Rabbi Yisrael Lipschitz in his commentary Yachin U'Boaz on Mishnah Beitza 2.5 [22]) But today this is no longer the case. Along these lines, it would be permitted to heat water expressly for the purpose of bathing. The latter is argued at some length by Rav Yitzchak Obadi, who adds that one may even take a bath, because a home bath does not fall under the rabbinic prescriptions that prohibit the use of a public bathhouse.  (Or Yitzchak OH Siman 210)  Similarly, see Rav Ovadiah Yosef, regarding bathing in a private bath on Yom Tov. (Hazon Ovadiah 'Yom Tov' Page 42)

[Note: I presume above that the water is being heated by a standard gas pilot tank. In contrast, Tank-less water systems, which are steadily gaining in popularity, are problematic halachicly.]

Can I wash my hair?  Does it matter if I use shampoo, liquid soap, or regular soap? 
Rambam paskens that a "shampoo" [my anachronistic term] mixture, whose majority ingredients do not cause hair to be removed, may be used to wash the hair. (Rambam Shabbath 22.13; This is the Mishnah Berura's interpretation of Rambam/Shulchan Arukh 326.25; Cf Biur Halacha 326.9 where he is more hesitant.)  Since the function of our shampoo is to wash hair not to detach hair follicles from the scalp, washing one's hair with shampoo is permitted. However, one should take care not to squeeze shampoo out of the hair in order to use the soapy lather on other parts of the body, i.e. beard, arms, etc. 

In regards to the use of a regular soap bar, the issue stands in the tussle of debate. The Rema prohibits animal tallow because when it dissolves there is a problem of Nolad (creating something new). Presumably, this sort of soap could be used to grease a frying pan. However, some reject this argument arguing that Nolad is only relevent by potential liquids (Mashkonim) akin snow and hail (See Be'er Heitev "Sh'nimuach" 326.8), moreover, the custom of Am Yisrael appears to have followed this leniency. (Biur Halacha 326 "Bishar Cheleiv..") In any event, our inedible soap should not be constrained by this argument. (See Rav Nevinszal in 'B'Yitzchak Yikareh' on  326.10 "B'borith Shelanu"; See also Biur Halachah [ibid])

Lastly, while the MB raises the problem of Mimachek and Mamreach--smoothing or smearing solid substance (326.30), others debate this as well, concluding that there is no problem whatsoever with hard soap. (See Or Yitzchak 174; Piskei Teshuvoth 326.8) As a matter of psak, I don't think there is a problem with hard soap, but I would recommend that in general one should not depart from one's usual minhag.

Can I brush and comb my hair afterwards? 
If necessary, one can comb hair for aesthetic purposes only. (Or Yitzchak OH 137)  Combing hair to remove loose or damaged hair is forbidden. (Cf Yalkuth Yosef 303.13)

Can I brush my teeth?  Yes. As a matter of interest, whatever a person does in this respect, there is an opinion to back it up, with the notable exception of an electric toothbrush. (See Yalkuth Yosef's review of the matter. 326.13)

Can I dry myself off with a towel – I don’t want to go all dripping wet, hair and everything?   Yes you may. (Shulchan Aruch 301.48: MB notes 173,174) It is recommendable to pad dry and use large towels, so as to avoid any possibility that a wet towel might be squeezed. (Cf YY 301.9 gloss 5)


  1. what about liquid soap? can one use liquid soap instead of hard soap to wash? they make liquid soap for hands, but i dont mind using it for the body also.

  2. yes. hand-soap, body wash, shampoo...

  3. 1. Is there an issue of not bathing one's entire body in water? 2. What about a cold shower on shabbas?

    1. Among Ashkenazim, there is a custom not to immerse in a body of (cold) water, e.g. bathtub or lake, on Shabbat... (Terumat Hadeshen 255-256; Magen Avraham 326.8)However, Rav Moshe notes that the poskim make no mention of any sort of custom refraining from taking a cold shower. (Igroth Moshe IV.75) Therfore, even for Ashkenazim, there does not appear to be a problem.

  4. I can't figure this out: When you rub the shampoo into your hair, doesn't it squeeze water and suds out? In every sefer and book that discusses this, however, it only warns against squeezing water out of the hair while drying, but makes no mention at all about how you must shampoo. That fits with what you wrote above.

  5. There is a difference between rubbing shampoo in, and squeezing shampoo out. The latter may be in issue, say, if one wanted to squeeze the shampoo out of one's beard and transfer said shampoo to the hair on one's head. (Also vice versa.)

  6. It occurred to me that patting one's hair dry, rather than giving one's hair the usual vigorous toweling, might work well for people with short-to-medium-length hair, but not for people with hair that's shoulder-length or longer. Patting down one's hair may keep it from dripping, but it doesn't really dry the hair--the hair must, essentially, "air dry." Longer hair would simply take too long to "air dry," and one generally has to leave the house sooner or later. :)