May one gargle with whisky or brandy to soothe a sore throat?
should ask whether one may drink whisky or brandy to soothe a
sore throat, since it is being imbibed for a “medical” reason. The
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
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
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.
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
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
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
disagrees and says that when taken for health reasons it is
forbidden to consume vitamins, as the g’zeira applies here as
One who is
slightly ill (regular medication is forbidden) may not consume
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
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
(we will deal with the issue of smoothing later, be”H), unless
one’s ailment is one which could be harmful and requires antibiotic
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,
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.
This conforms with the above halacha that one may consume items
that healthy people usually consume.