Showering on Yom Tov

Showering on Yom Tov

Tuesday, September 11th, '12

A cold shower is permitted for someone who is very hot on Yom Tov. But using the hot water in a shower is prohibited, for two reasons: (a) גזירת מרחץ, which means Chazal prohibited us to enter a bath in order to bathe our entire body on Yom Tov, even with water that was warmed up before Shabbos. If the water is cold, this prohibition does not apply. And (b) According to Tosfos – and the Rama says we (Ashkenazim) follow this opinion – it is prohibited m’doraisa to heat water on Yom Tov in order to bathe yourself. Because turning on the hot water causes the boiler to cook more hot water, this prohibition would proscribe taking a hot shower.

The reason it is prohibited to cook water for a shower, Tosfos says, is because you are only allowed to cook on Yom Tov to produce something that is considered דבר השוה לכל נפש, meaning, all typical people would consider it useful. So for example, burning incense on Yom Tov was prohibited because not all people were interested in burning incense. Washing one’s hands, feet and face in warm water regularly was considered something that all typical people consider useful, but those that needed to bathe themselves in warm water regularly due to feelings of discomfort being even a little dirty, are considered finicky (אסטניסין), and are prohibited to bathe in warm water on Yom Tov even though they will feel truly uncomfortable and dirty.

Nowadays, most people take warm showers regularly. But showering on Yom Tov, even on a three day Yom Tov is still prohibited[1]. The fact that we take more showers nowadays does not make showering a דבר השוה לכל נפש. The reason we take warm showers more often nowadays is not because we get dirtier quicker than they did in the olden days; on the contrary – we get less dirty today than they did then. The reason we shower in warm water daily nowadays is merely an attitude change. We are more finicky nowadays than we were in the olden days. But it is not due to any practical need to shower every day. We need showers less, given the sanitary conditions of our lifestyle. But we are nevertheless uncomfortable feeling anything less freshly bathed.

In other words, today, we have become אסטניסין. And an אסטניס, nowadays, like in the olden days, is not allowed to bathe merely because of their feelings of discomfort, although those feelings are very real and unpleasant. Had circumstances changed nowadays such that we get dirtier than in the olden days, we could discuss whether showering would be דבר השוה לכל נפש. But as it is, all that’s changed is our level of finickiness. And we don’t have a source that would permit cooking based on that.

It is worthwhile to note that when Rav Shlomo Zalman Aubach zt”l was asked whether one can cook water for a shower on a 3-day Yom Tov based on the fact that nowadays people take hot showers regularly, he responded that that would be like “tearing a Halachah out of Shulchan Aruch.”

If someone really feels clammy on Yom Tov, speak to me, because there may be other, non-shower kind of ways to wash yourself off in a permitted manner.


Hakaras Hatov to Rabbi Gerhson Bess of Los Angeles for providing me with the information used in this article.




[1] הרב ישראל יעקב פישער זצ”ל, הב שלמה זלמן אוירבאך זצ”ל, הרב ישראל זאב גרוסמאן זצ”ל, , ויבד”ח הרב שמואל וואזנער שלט”א, והרב י.ש. אלישיב שליט”א.

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