Coloring or Dyeing on Shabbos by Rabbi Michael Taubes



    In listing the different items which Bnai Yisrael were being asked to contribute for the building of the Mishkan and for the manufacturing of the various things needed to make it operative, the Torah includes blue, purple, and crimson colored material (שמות כ"ה:ד').  Although the Posuk (שם) does not specify exactly what this material was to be, Rashi (שם בד"ה ותכלת ובד"ה וארגמן) states that it is wool that was to be dyed these particular colors; this idea is implied as well by the Gemara in Yevamos (דף ד: ועיין שם ברש"י ד"ה ותכלת ובתוד"ה מדשש).  The Abarbanel, in his commentary on the Posuk in our Parsha (שם), quotes the view that the material to be dyed these colors was wool, but he disagrees with this, saying that it was in fact silk that the Torah wanted dyed these colors, and this position is hinted at as well in the commentary of Ibn Ezra on the Posuk in our Parsha (שם בד"ה וארגמן ובד"ה ותולעת); Rabbeinu Bechaye, however, in his commentary (לפסוק ג' שם בד"ה זהב), clearly rejects this view and asserts that the material referred to by the Posuk (שם) is wool.  The Sdei Chemed (אסיפת דינים, מערכת חנוכה, אות י"ד) discusses this matter in some detail and he concludes that the position of the Abarbanel (שם) is very difficult; he also notes that it is clear from the Rambam in two places (פרק ג' מהל' פרה אדומה הלכה ב', ופרק ח' מהל' כלי המקדש הלכה י"ג) that the terms mentioned in our Posuk (שם) refer specifically to wool, which had to be dyed those particular colors.  It is thus apparent that it was necessary to dye wool as part of the preparation of the Mishkan, as indicated clearly by Rashi, commenting on the Mishnah in Shabbos (דף ע"ג. בד"ה הגוזז), as well as by the Ran there (דף ל"א: בדפי הרי"ף בד"ה הגוזז) and others.  
    The Gemara earlier in Shabbos (דף מ"ט: ועיין שם ברש"י ד"ה כנגד) states that any activity done as part of the work for the Mishkan is classified as a Melachah, an activity forbidden to Jews on Shabbos; although it appears from that Gemara that there are other authorities who do not recognize this connection between Shabbos and the Mishkan, the Rashba (חדושי הרשב"א שם בד"ה כנגד) asserts that in fact everyone accepts this connection in terms of defining exactly which activities are forbidden on Shabbos.  The Gemara later in Shabbos (דף צ"ו:), as explained by Tosafos (שם בד"ה ולרבי), as well as the Gemara in Bava Kamma (דף ב.), as explained by Tosafos there (שם בד"ה ה"ג), notes that only those activities which were significant and important in terms of preparing the Mishkan are classified as Melachos and are thus forbidden on Shabbos; this view is accepted by the Ran in Shabbos (חידושי הר"ן לדף ע"ד. שם בד"ה אמר) as well as by the Shulchan Aruch HaRav (אורח חיים סימן ש"א סעיף א') and the Eglei Tal (פתיחה לספר אגלי טל), among others.  Because, as explained above, dyeing wool was a necessary activity for the preparation of the Mishkan, the Mishnah is Shabbos (דף ע"ג.) lists dyeing (referring to the person who does this as a צובע) as one of the thirty-nine major categories of prohibited work on Shabbos, each known as an Av Melachah; the Rambam (פרק ז' מהל' שבת הלכה א') rules accordingly, including צביעה, dyeing, on his list as well.  It is thus forbidden on Shabbos to color or dye any material which is of a certain minimum size, as identified by a later Mishnah in Shabbos (דף ק"ה:), and explained and codified by the Rambam (פרק ט' שם הלכה י"ג).
    The author of the Tiferes Yisrael, a commentary on the Mishnah, in his lengthy introduction to Maseches Shabbos entitled "כלכלת שבת" (כללי ל"ט מלאכות, אות ט"ו-הצובע), states clearly that this prohibition against dyeing applies not only to dyeing wool or thread or some such similar material, but also to coloring clothing, or a vessel, or even a wall.  Based on an earlier Gemara in Shabbos (דף י"ח.), the Rambam (שם הלכה י"ד) rules that even coloring water (to manufacture a dye) is forbidden on Shabbos because of this prohibition of צביעה; the Raavad (השגת הראב"ד שם, ולא נדפס ברוב ההוצאות של המשנה תורה, אבל מובא במהדורת שבתי פרנקל, ודבריו מובאים במגיד משנה שם), however, disagrees, and holds that this is true only if the dyeing is the completion of the entire intended activity.  The Magen Avraham (או"ח סימן ש"כ ס"ק כ"ה) cites both views, as does the Pri Megadim (באשל אברהם שם ס"ק כ"ה), who writes that to color water for decorative purposes is certainly forbidden; the Mishnah Berurah (שם ס"ק נ"ו) concurs, as does the Chayei Adam (הל' שבת כלל כ"ד סעיף ד'), who adds in his Nishmas Adam (שם אות ב') that there may not even be any argument between the Rambam and the Raavad (שם).  The Sefer Kitzur Hilchos Shabbos (סימן כ"א אות א') writes that for this reason, one should avoid placing a cleanser in the toilet on Shabbos if it colors the water.  According to the כלכלת שבת (שם), it is also forbidden to dye something the same color as it already is; the Avnei Neizer (שו"ת אבני נזר חלק או"ח סימן קע"ב), however, questions this ruling, although many others agree to it.
    The Shibolei HaLekket (סימן פ"ו) writes in the name of the Sefer Yereyim that one should be careful, when eating certain fruits such as strawberries, which give off a juice that colors the hands, not to wipe those hands on one's clothing or on a cloth because that constitutes צובע, and likewise one should not cover a bleeding wound with any article of clothing for the same reason.  But, he adds, one may dip his bread in fruit juices even though the bread becomes colored thereby, because אין צביעה באוכלין, meaning that coloring a food item does not constitute an act of צביעה, dyeing.  Actually, this last idea is not found in the standard versions of the Sefer Yereyim (סימן ק"ב בד"ה הצובע), or in the quotation from the Sefer Yereyim cited by the Ohr Zarua (חלק ב' סימן ס"ג אות ה'), where we find simply that the Melachah of צביעה applies only to items which are normally dyed; although this would indeed exclude food, no broad statement that אין צביעה באוכלין is mentioned there.  Nonetheless, the Beis Yosef, in his commentary on the Tur (או"ח שם בסוף ד"ה חבית), quotes the Sefer Yereyim as presented by the Shibolei HaLekket (שם), concluding that there is no prohibition of צביעה that applies to food items.  The Shulchan Aruch (שם סעיף י"ט) thus rules simply that אין צביעה באוכלין, eliminating this entire prohibition in connection with foods; the Chayei Adam, in his Nishmas Adam (שם אות ג'), however, seems unsure about this, as is Rav Yaakov Emden (שו"ת שאילת יעב"ץ חלק א' סימן מ"ב).  The Mishnah Berurah, though, in his Biur Halacha (שם בד"ה ליתן), defends this position, but the Kaf HaChaim (שם אות קט"ז) rules that even with a food item, if one's specific intention is to color the food, doing so is forbidden.  The Mishnah Berurah (שם ס"ק נ"ו) also indicates that צביעה is permitted for אוכלין only when the act is done as part of the preparation for eating.
    The Ramo, in his Darkei Moshe on the Tur (או"ח שם אות ב'), writes that there are some authorities who forbid one to mix red wine with white wine because of the prohibition of צובע, but he believes that based on the aforementioned position of the Sefer Yereyim, as cited by the Beis Yosef (שם), this would be allowed; the Ramo thus clearly holds that the principle of אין צביעה באוכלין applies not only to food items, but to drinks as well.  The Chacham Tzvi (שו"ת חכם צבי סימן צ"ב) writes clearly that the prohibition of צובע does not apply to either food or drinks, and one may thus mix wines on Shabbos.  Other authorities, however, including the Ben Ish Chai (שנה שניה, פרשת פקודי אות ג',ד'), Rav Shlomo Kluger (שו"ת האלף לך שלמה חלק או"ח סימן קל"ו), and the Pri Megadim (במשבצות זהב לאו"ח סימן שי"ח ס"ק ט"ו), as well as one cited by the Shaarei Teshuvah (או"ח שם ס"ק ד'), suggest that the prohibition of צביעה does apply to drinks, and it is only אוכלין, food, to which it does not apply; this would present a problem with making coffee or tea on Shabbos.  However, Rav Ovadyah Yosef (שו"ת יביע אומר חלק ב' חאו"ח סימן כ' אות י"א-כ"ד, וכן בשו"ת יחוה דעת חלק ו' סימן כ"ג), after citing other authorities who seem to hold this way as well, concludes that the majority of Poskim rule that משקין, drinks, have the same rules as אוכלין, foods, in this regard, and the Melachah of צביעה does not apply.  The Pri Megadim elsewhere (באשל אברהם לסימן ש"כ שם ס"ק כ"ד) indicates that the Shittah Mekubetzes implies that צביעה applies to neither food nor drinks, and this is clearly the position of the Mishnah Berurah (שם ס"ק נ"ו), since he allows mixing white wine with red wine even with the express intention of changing the color; he elsewhere (שם סימן שי"ח ס"ק ל"ט) allows one to mix a concentrated tea mixture with water even though the water will become colored, and he explains in the Shaar HaTziyun (שם אות ס"ד) that there is no problem of צביעה (אבל עיין שם באות ס"ה).  Rav Gedalyah Felder, in his Sefer Yesodei Yeshurun (מערכת ל"ט מלאכות, צובע, נתינת טיי או קפה בשבת במים) also concludes that the majority of Poskim hold that the prohibition of צביעה does not apply to drinks either; it is therefore permissible to make tea or coffee on Shabbos (in a manner which does not violate any other Shabbos prohibition, such as בישול, cooking).
    As noted above, the Shibolei HaLekket (שם) quotes from the Sefer Yereyim (שם) that one whose hands are color-stained (like from a fruit) or bleeding should not touch his clothing or a cloth because of the problem of צובע; this position about stained hands is quoted by the Shulchan Aruch here (שם סימן ש"כ סעיף כ'), while the position about a bleeding wound is quoted later on (שם סימן שכ"ח סעיף מ"ח).  The Magen Avraham (שם סימן ש"כ ס"ק כ"ד) quotes that the Radvaz (שו"ת הרדב"ז סימן אלף ר"א, חלק ד' סימן קל"א) considered this an excessive stringency because one is not dyeing or coloring the cloth by wiping his stained hands on it, but one is rather simply dirtying it in a manner that is called דרך לכלוך, an act of dirtying, not dyeing; this is similar to the view of the Semag (מצות לא תעשה פ"ה, הצובע) that צובע is forbidden only when the person specifically wants the dyeing to take place.  The Magen Avraham himself (שם) disagrees with this, however, and holds that one should not be lenient; one should thus wash one's hands if they are stained in this way rather than wipe them on something.  The Mishnah Berurah (שם ס"ק נ"ט ועיין שם בשער הציון אות ס"ה), though, quotes those who are indeed lenient about this, allowing one to even wipe off one's hands, and he certainly allows it if there is no other choice; the Chayei Adam (שם סעיף ו') and the Kaf HaChaim (שם אות קכ"ב) agree.
    The Gemara in Shabbos (דף צ"ה.) states that a woman should not put coloring on her face on Shabbos; Rashi (שם בד"ה סרק) explains that the reference is to a red coloring which is applied to make one's face look red.  The Rambam (פרק כ"ב מהל' שבת הלכה כ"ג) rules that applying this coloring is indeed forbidden, as does the Shulchan Aruch (שם סימן ש"ג סעיף כ"ה), who adds that other types of make-up may also not be applied on Shabbos for the same reason.  Rav Ovadyah Yosef (שו"ת יחוה דעת חלק ד' סימן כ"ח) rules that it is obvious that it is prohibited to use lipstick on Shabbos for this reason; he does allow, however, the application of powders to the face, even if they are colored, despite citing some authorities who disagree (ועיין עוד בשו"ת יביע אומר חלק ו' חאו"ח סימן ל"ז).  Rav Moshe Feinstein (שו"ת אגרות משה או"ח חלק א' סימן קי"ד) is also lenient about using powder, although he too prohibits the use of lipstick.  It is clear from these authorities, among others, that one of the bases for the leniency concerning the use of facial powder on Shabbos is the fact that such powder is not מתקיים, that is, it does not last long on the face, and the Rambam (פרק ט' שם הלכה י"ג) writes that unless the coloring lasts, one does not violate the prohibition of צובע, at least MideOraisa.  The Magen Avraham (שם ס"ק י"ט) and the Mishnah Berurah (שם ס"ק ע"ט ועיין שם בביאור הלכה בד"ה משום) note that the entire prohibition against coloring one's face on Shabbos is only MideRabbanan to begin with, and there is thus room for leniency.  Based as well on this requirement that the coloring on an item must last in order for the Melachah of צובע to be violated, Rav Ovadyah Yosef (שו"ת יחוה דעת חלק ב' סימן מ"ז) permits one to wear eyeglasses on Shabbos whose color or tint changes based on the amount of sunlight which hits it, because the color change does not last, and also because there is no similarity between this act of coloring and the act of dyeing done in connection with the Mishkan, as described above.  Rav Moshe Feinstein (שו"ת אגרות משה או"ח חלק ג' סימן מ"ה) also permits one to wear such glasses on Shabbos.

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