Cosmetics and Toiletries for Pesach - Part Three by Rabbi Chaim Jachter


Last week we discussed the question of ownership and use on Pesach of cosmetics and toiletries that contain inedible Chametz.  We presented the basis for both the lenient and stringent approaches to this issue.  In this essay, we will explore this question in further depth and discuss some specific items such as toothpaste, mouthwash, dish soap and perfumes.

Sicha Kishtiyah – The Classic Debate

In addition to the issues that we discussed last week, the principle of Sicha Kishtiyah (anointing is the equivalent of drinking; see Yoma 76b) poses a problem regarding the application on Pesach of cosmetics that contain inedible Chametz.  We noted last week that although one may own and benefit from inedible Chametz, nevertheless, one may not eat inedible Chametz.  Accordingly, if the principle of Sicha Kishtiyah applies to Chametz on Pesach, then one would be forbidden to apply makeup that contains Chametz, as this is the equivalent of “drinking” the Chametz.  Thus, we must explore the parameters of the principle of Sicha Kishtiyah to see if it is relevant to the prohibition to consume or benefit from Chametz on Pesach. 

The Gemara (ad. loc.) presents the principle of Sicha Kishtiyah as a reason why it is forbidden to anoint oneself on Yom Kippur (see Yoma 73b).  The Gemara applies this principle to forbid a non-Kohen to anoint himself with olive oil of Terumah (the Kohen’s tithe, that a non-Kohen is strictly forbidden to consume).  Thus, it appears that the principle of Sicha Kishtiyahh applies to all areas of Halacha.  However, Rabbeinu Tam (cited in Tosafot Yoma 77a s.v. Ditnan and Niddah 32a s.v. Uch’shemen) argues that Sicha Kishtiyah fundamentally applies only to Yom Kippur, Terumah and Issurei Hana’ah (items that we are forbidden to benefit from, such as Chametz on Pesach).  Thus, Rabbeinu Tam rules that we are permitted to use soap made from pig fat since the Halacha permits benefiting from pig (Rav David Heber of the Star K in Baltimore reports that soap continues to be made from pig fat even today). 

Rabbeinu Tam’s ruling is challenged by many Rishonim such as the Ra’avyah (cited in the Mordechai, chapter five number 238), the Sefer Haterumah (238) and Tosafot Rabeinnu Peretz (Pesachim 24b).  These Rishonim believe that the principle of Sicha Kishtiyah applies to all prohibitions.  They rule, accordingly, that it is forbidden to use soap derived from an animal that one would be forbidden to eat (if it is from a non-Kosher animal or an improperly slaughtered animal). 

The commentaries to the Shulchan Aruch continue to debate this issue.  The Rama (Orach Chaim 326:10) writes that it is forbidden on Shabbat to use the soaps that were commonly used in Europe at that time or any other soap made from animal fat.  The Vilna Gaon (Biurei Hagra ad. loc. s.v. Oh Bish’ar Cheilev) notes that the Rama implies that it is permitted to use such soap on days other than Shabbat or Yom Tov, in accordance with the lenient ruling of Rabbeinu Tam.  The Vilna Gaon, though, rules in accordance with the Rishonim who reject Rabbeinu Tam’s strict ruling and forbids using soaps made from animals that we may not eat, except in a situation of distress (Makom Tza’ar). 

The Shach (Nekudat Hafesef (Y.D. 117:4) notes that the common custom is to be lenient in this matter, though he notes that some adopt the strict approach to this issue.  The Shach writes that this is the “proper” (though not required) practice.  The Mishnah Berurah (Biur Halacha 326:10 s.v. Bishar Cheilev) also notes that the common custom (Minhag Ha’olam) is to be lenient, though he notes that “a number of people who are exceedingly scrupulous about Halacha, are strict about this matter.”  He concludes that if soap that is made from a Kosher source is readily available it is “certainly proper” (although not required) to accommodate the stringent opinion in this matter. 

Sicha Kishtiyah With Inedible Products

Both the Aruch Hashulchan (Y.D. 117:29) and the Kaf Hachaim (O.C. 326:45) note, however, that this dispute applies only to soap that is edible.  However, they write that all would agree that it is permitted to use soap that is inedible.  The Aruch Hashulchan writes that this is the commonly accepted and unchallenged practice among Jews throughout the world.  Nevertheless, Rav Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yechave Da’at 4:43) notes that the Mishnah Berurah does not distinguish between edible and inedible soap.  Thus, the Mishnah Berurah implies that it is preferable to avoid using even inedible soap that is derived from a non-kosher source (although Rav Yosef himself rules leniently about this matter, in accordance with the views of the Kaf Hachaim and the Aruch Hashulchan). 

The debate regarding Sicha Kishtiyah and soap is relevant to cosmetics as well, since they are applied to the skin.  Accordingly, Rav David Heber (in an essay on this topic that appears at writes that the Minhag Ha’olam even today is to apply cosmetics that contain non-kosher ingredients to one’s face throughout the year.  However, he writes that although, strictly speaking, cosmetics that are unfit for canine consumption are permitted on Pesach, “Nonetheless many individuals are strict and avoid using creams, lotions and liquids that contain Chametz.”  He notes that examples of Chametz ingredients in cosmetics include wheat protein, wheat germ, avena, beta glucan, oat extracts, and triticum vulgare.  Rav Shimon Eider (Halachos of Pesach p.27), though, notes that all would agree that it is proper to use a fresh stick of lipstick for Pesach as this is common practice regarding items that one puts in one’s mouth and that come in contact with Chametz, such as a toothbrush. 

Toothpaste on Pesach

The toothpaste that we use today has a pleasant taste (but is inedible), but it commonly contains glycerin (which might be manufactured from a forbidden animal) and might have Chametz ingredients.  Common practice in the observant community is to be lenient and use “regular” toothpaste, though some are strict and use only toothpaste with entirely Kosher ingredients.  In fact, I recall that in December 1992 when visiting the home of Rav Moshe Stern (the Debritziner Rav and the author of Teshuvot Be’er Moshe) to observe a Get, that the toothpaste in his home was one with a Kosher certification.

A charming anecdote that occurred in Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik’s Shiur at Yeshiva University in the 1970’s (reported by Rav Yosef Adler and many others) is often cited in support of the common practice to be lenient.  The Rav stated in Shiur that toothpaste is not Ra’ui Liachilat Kelev (unfit for canine consumption) and thus one is permitted to consume it on Pesach even if it contains Chametz.  The next day in Shiur a student raised his hand and explained that he conducted an “experiment” the night before.  He related that he placed toothpaste in his dog’s feeding bowl to see if his dog would eat it – and indeed, the dog ate the toothpaste!!  Rav Soloveitchik simply responded, “Your dog is crazy.”  This story illustrates the ruling that we cited last week from Rav Soloveitchik that the standards of edibility are not determined by aberrant behavior. 

Rav Shimon Eider (ad. loc.) notes that Rav Moshe Feinstein also told him that toothpaste is Eino Ra’ui Liachilat Kelev.  He added that we are not concerned that one might swallow some of the toothpaste, since the concern for Achshevei does not apply to unintended swallowing (as we cited last week from the Mishnah Berurah 442:45).  However,  Rav Eider reports that Rav Moshe stated that since toothpaste that does not contain Chametz is readily available, one should not use toothpaste that might contain Chametz.  Rav Eider reports that he heard that Rav Aharon Kotler adopted the same approach as Rav Moshe.  Recall from last week that Achshevei refers to the prohibition to eat an inedible forbidden item, since by eating the item one “upgrades” it to the status of food.

This last idea appears to be based on a ruling of the Rama (Yoreh De’ah 155:3) that we do not permit someone who is ill to consume a forbidden item even if it is necessary to preserve his life, if there is an available permitted item that is equally effective in fighting the illness.  The Rama adds that one must wait for the permitted item even if there will be a slight delay in obtaining the permitted medicine, if the delay does not endanger the patient. 

It is possible that this ruling is based on the Talmudic concept that a “Davar Sheyeish Lo Matirin” is never nullified.  This means that if an item will be rendered permissible simply by waiting for some time to pass, the concept of Bittul (nullification) is inapplicable.  The classic example of this principle is the Gemara (Beitzah 3b) that states that if a Muktzeh egg becomes mixed with many permissible eggs, the Muktzeh egg never becomes nullified among the other eggs, since the prohibition of Muktzeh expires when Shabbat ends.  Rashi (ad. loc. s.v. Afilu Bielef) explains that since the object will in any case become permissible, one should not rely on the mechanism of Bittul.

Similarly, the Rama seems to believe that a sick individual should not rely on leniencies in regard to his medicine if an entirely permissible alternative is available.  Rav Moshe and Rav Aharon Kotler, in turn, seem to believe that one should not rely upon the leniency of Eino Ra’ui Liachilat Kelev regarding the prohibition of Chametz on Pesach if an entirely permissible option is available.  However, what is not clear from Rav Eider’s reports of oral rulings from these eminent authorities is whether they considered this ruling to constitute the “Ikar Hadin” (the essential and “bottom line” Halacha) or a Chumra (stringency).  As we quoted last week from Rav Yosef Rottenberg of Baltimore, the weakness of rulings that are not supported by a written responsum is our inability to fully scrutinize and understand such rulings. 

I recall that in 1986 I told Rav Yehuda Amital that Rav Soloveitchik stated that toothpaste was not Ra’ui Liachilat Kelev.  Rav Amital responded that he disagreed as he recalled that in the Russian labor camps during World War Two, people would put toothpaste on their bread to give it some taste.  Rav Amital’s response illustrates the difficulty (and subjectivity) involved in assessing what is considered Ra’ui Liachilat Kelev.

Toiletries and Cosmetics for Pesach – Part Four by Rabbi Chaim Jachter

Cosmetics and Toiletries for Pesach – Part Two by Rabbi Chaim Jachter