shabbos candles

The Shabbos Weekly
Halachos Series on Hilchos Shabbos

shabbos candles

Published by
Pirchei Shoshanim

A Project of
The Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Based on the Shiurim Given by

Rabbi Dovid
Ostroff, shlita

developed from the Chabura of the
Pirchei Shoshanim Shulchan Aruch Learning Project

These Halachos were shown by Rabbi Ostroff to
HaGaon HaRav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita


Questions for the Week of Parshas Vayigash

May one gargle with whisky or brandy to soothe a sore throat?

Firstly, one should ask whether one may drink whisky or brandy to soothe a sore throat, since it is being imbibed for a “medical” reason. The Shulchan Aruch [1] teaches us that food and beverages that are consumed by healthy people may be consumed for medical reasons as well, since it is not noticeable that one is intending them for medication. For example, a person with a toothache may not swoosh vinegar and spit it out, because then it becomes visible that it is being done for health reasons. One may swallow it in the regular manner. The Mishna Berura adds [2] that one may not even hold it in one’s mouth and then swallow, because then it is noticeable that it is for medical reasons.

What is the halacha with regards to taking vitamins on Shabbos?

In the previous shiur we learned that only a person who is halachically defined as being ill may consume tablets on Shabbos. Such a person, who requires vitamins in order to recuperate, would generally take them in order to assist on the way to recovery.

Here we are referring to two types of people who consume vitamins. The first case deals with people who have recovered from an illness, but are weak, and would like to fortify themselves with vitamins. The second case deals with people who consume vitamins on a daily basis “to keep healthy”.

The Shulchan Aruch continues [3] with the subject of “regular food” and states that items that are only consumed for medical reasons may not be consumed on Shabbos by people who are weak or suffering from even a slight ailment, but people who are fully healthy may consume them, since their intention is to consume them as food. [4]

Why would it make a difference whether one is fully healthy or not, after all it is “medication”?

There is no such melacha called “administering medication” on Shabbos, rather it is a decree (g’zeira) that Chazal instituted in order to prevent people from grinding and preparing medication in a prohibit manner. Chazal said that this only applies to infirm or ailing people who might violate the Shabbos because of their ill situation, but a healthy person would not violate the Shabbos as he is not in a circumstance where he must administer medication.

So where do vitamins fit in?

Based on the above the halacha is as follows:

  • One who is fully healthy and consumes vitamins to supplement food, may continue with them on Shabbos if they are tasty, because the vitamins are considered food. [5]
  • One who is healthy but consumes vitamins in order to fortify one’s body (and prevent illness, for example), Rav Moshe Feinstein ztz”l says [6] that one may continue on Shabbos as well, being that one is healthy and as such the g’zeira instituted by Chazal does not apply. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztz”l [7] disagrees and says that when taken for health reasons it is forbidden to consume vitamins, as the g’zeira applies here as well.
  • One who is slightly ill (regular medication is forbidden) may not consume vitamins.
  • One who has recovered from an illness and wants to consume vitamins to restore body strength and health, may not consume them on Shabbos. In this case they are functioning as medication and it is ossur.

What about the use of creams and lotions on rashes etc?

There are two issues involved with the using of creams and lotions. The more severe issue involves the prohibition of smoothing – memare’ach, which could involve an issur d’oraisso (biblical prohibition), and another issur of applying medication on Shabbos.

It is ossur to apply creams and lotions on Shabbos when the intention is for medical reasons [8] (we will deal with the issue of smoothing later, be”H), unless one’s ailment is one which could be harmful and requires antibiotic cream etc.

Accordingly one may not apply cream or even oil to chapped hands or lips, being that it is only done to unhealthy skin. The same would apply to smearing oil or cream on a sore or scab, [9] being that it is health related. If the lesion is causing pain to a degree that one is classified as a choleh, one may apply ointment and we will see be”H in the next shiur how to apply it.

In a location where oil is rubbed on hands on a daily basis, unrelated to chapped hands or unhealthy skin, one may smear oil on one’s hands even though one’s intention is for health reasons. [10] This conforms with the above halacha that one may consume items that healthy people usually consume.

[1] Simon 328:37.

[2] Simon 328:101.

[3] Simon 328:37.

[4] M”B 328:120.

[5] Rav Sternbuch shlita, and similar to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach in the SS”K 34 footnote 85.

[6] Iggros Moshe vol. III simon 54.

[7] SS”K ibid.

[8] Simon 327:1.

[9] M”B 327:2.

[10] Simon 327:1 and M”B 2.


Food For Thought

When is cream permitted to be smeared on Shabbos?

May a doctor turn on his otoscope on Shabbos?

What about taking sleeping tablets on Shabbos?

Answers coming next week.

Vort on the Parsha

The possuk says that Yosef himself prepared his chariot that would take him to meet his father. Imagine the “king of England” going himself to the garage to fetch the Rolls in order to perform a mitzvah – unheard of. Rav Sternbuch shlita says that this serves us a lesson, that when a mitzvah is involved there is no such thing as tardiness and self-honor.

For a printed version, click here.


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Note:  The purpose of this series is intended solely for the clarification of the topics discussed and not to render halachic decisions. It is intended to heighten everyone's awareness of important practical questions which do arise on this topic.  One must consult with a proper halachic authority in order to receive p'sak.