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Bathing on Yom Tov

[A celebration of Yom Tov that] falls on Thursday and Friday is most challenging as it is part of a three day abstention from melacha and prohibited activity when we add on Shabbos.  We are all aware that we rely on the eruv tavshilin in regard to preparation of cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos.  However, due to the fact of a widespread change in our modern lifestyle concerning daily showering or bathing, is it possible to shower on Yom Tov? 

The Shulchan Aruch rules that the entire body may not be bathed with warm water heated on Yom Tov, but rather on the face, hands, and feet  (Orach Chaim 511, 2).  This is based on the Talmudic analysis of the phrase regarding the permissibility of doing certain “melachos” on Yom Tov which states: “Ach asher ye’achel l’chol nefesh hu l’vado ye’aseh lachem” (Shmot XII: 17)Only that which may be eaten by every soul that alone may be made for you.”

The principle deduced is that the type of activity allowed was shaveh l’chol nefesh' an act everyone would normally do if it would be permitted.  In the Talmud, although heating water for cooking is definitely permitted because everyone would have pleasure from this action, in the matter of bathing the entire body only the highly delicate, sensitive people would bathe that often, but the majority would not.  Therefore, they would not be included in the “hetter” in the permissibility of complete bathing.  In the above context the emphasis is not on the very act of bathing but rather the action of heating the water on Yom Tov for something that is not shaveh l’chol nefesh.  The Baalei Tosfos (Beitzah 21b) remark that the act of complete bathing with warm water would only apply to those who are meungim, people of pleasure, in contrast to the majority and consequently it is not shaveh l’chol nefesh.  However the fact that members of contemporary society are showering daily would place the majority of people in the category of meungim and it would be considered as a davar ha’shaveh l’chol nefesh.

Without going into all of the details of those responsa who have dealt with this matter, there is room for leniency in situations of great discomfort.  It should be noted that the above does not apply to Shabbos as far as the use of hot water is concerned because there are specific rabbinic edicts against bathing in hot water, etc. (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 326) [See Hadarom no. 70-71 Elul 5760, Rechitza b’Yom Tov]


HaRav Gedalia Dov Schwartz, ZT"L
Rosh Beth Din

HaRav Yona Reiss, Shlit"a
Av Beth Din


Rabbi Sholem Fishbane
Kashruth Administrator

Rabbi Levi Mostofsky
Executive Director

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