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 Shemos

Can one take sleeping tablets on Shabbos?

The debate regarding the consumption of sleeping tablets centers mainly around two concepts. Is not being able to sleep an illness and are sleeping pills medication?

If we define a person who cannot sleep as not being ill, then such a person may consume a sleeping tablet. This is based on several halachos in the Shulchan Aruch that say that one may chew gum to eradicate a trace of bad breath [1] and one may consume sweet herbs [2] and a raw egg in order to improve one’s voice. The poskim explain that the reason this is permitted is because bad breath and a hoarse voice are not considered symptoms of being ill. [3]

The reason behind this leniency is because Chazal instituted a g’zeira prohibiting the grinding of herbs to cure an illness, which one might do out of concern for one’s illness. When one is not ill, the concern for grinding herbs falls away.

The K’tzos HaShulchan [4] writes that a person who cannot sleep is not considered as being ill. He concludes that based on this concept (and a few others) one may consume a sleeping tablet if, when abstaining from doing so, will cause much distress and suffering.

On the other hand, the Minchas Yitzchak writes [5] that since it is made into pill form it is subject to the g’zeira of consuming medication on Shabbos. Other poskim write [6] that since a sleeping pill has therapeutic attributes, it is subject to the g’zeira.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztz”l [7] is of the lenient opinion and says that when a person will be greatly distressed from lack of sleep, a sleeping tablet may be consumed.

Is one permitted to make a compress on Shabbos?

A compress is normally used to soothe a sprained ankle etc. and is not something that healthy people would normally do. As such it is ossur to apply to someone who is not halachikally defined as an ill person. [8]

The problem with making a compress is the soaking of the cloth in water, on account of libun – laundering, because any soaking done to cloth is considered laundering. This is true according to many poskim [9] even if the cloth or dressing is clean and has no need to be laundered.

If one knows before Shabbos that a compress will be needed, one should soak dressings in water before Shabbos and keep them wet in a plastic bag. When it became necessary to prepare a compress on Shabbos, it should be done as follows:

  • A gentile should soak the dressing in water and apply it to the patient. We thus gain twice – the soaking in water, and avoiding the problem of squeezing the dressing.
  • Soak the dressing or cloth in colored water, if available. It is forbidden to color water for this purpose on account of coloring.
  • There are other solutions however: the Mishna Berura says [10] that since we are dealing with the biblical prohibition of laundering, one must be stringent and not wet even a clean cloth. As such, one must ask one’s rav for a solution in the event that a gentile is not available.

What about putting a sprained ankle into a bowl of warm water?

Since “washing feet” is something that is done by healthy people as well, one may put feet in water on Shabbos, even if one’s intention is therapeutic. [11]

What about placing ice or any other frozen object on a bruise to reduce swelling?

Obviously in itself it is not a melacha, and the only consideration is whether it is included in the g’zeira of applying medication on Shabbos. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztz”l writes that since this is not normally done with medication, the g’zeira does not apply. The explanation being that the reason for the g’zeira was to avoid the possibility of one grinding herbs to cure an illness, but if for this particular illness or ailment there is no medication, the basis for the g’zeira does not apply.

Accordingly one may apply frozen items or a knife blade (the flat part) to a bruise in order to suppress it. [12]

[1] Simon 328:36.

[2] Simon 328:38.

[3] M”B simon 328:116 and 122. The Vilna Ga’on in se’if 38 says that the source is se’if 36.

[4] Simon 138 footnote 31.

[5] 3rd vol. simon 21 and other seforim.

[6] Tsits Eliezer.

[7] SS”K 33:16 footnote 67.

[8] SS”K 33:19.

[9] Rama in simon 302:10.

[10] Simon 302:49 and Bi’ur Halachashe’yeish”.

[11] Based on simon 328:30.

[12] See the SS”K 35:34 and the 3rd vol. footnote 87.


Food For Thought

Is one permitted to cut a dressing to the necessary size?

Is one permitted to window-shop on Shabbos?

What about walking through my garden on Shabbos, and thinking what needs to be done?

May I stand at a bus stop before Shabbos is over in order to catch the first bus after Shabbos?

Answers coming next week.

Vort on the Parsha

Hashem says to Moshe that He knows that Pharaoh will not let you go from Egypt, and not even when a strong hand is brought upon him (3:19). The Meshech Chochmah explains that a Jew’s inner self is pure and strives to be good, and yet sometimes it is clouded over by the mundane body. However, when the shell – the body is punished, the pure inner self is free from its constraints and can shine and be good. Pharoah’s inner self was rotten just as much as his external, mundane being, and therefore, even though he would be punished and tormented, he would still not want to let the B’nei Yisroel go out of Egypt. That is what is meant by the last words of the possuk.

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.