Deodorant on Tisha B’Av

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The digest of Tisha B’Av laws in The Koren Mesorat HaRav Kinot specifically mentions that one may apply deodorant to oneself on Tisha B’Av (p. 787 par. 17). While it would normally be considered anointing oneself, one of the forbidden activities of Tisha B’Av, it falls under an exception.

One is allowed to anoint oneself for any purpose that is not pleasurable (S.A., O.H. 554:15). This includes medical ointments and deodorant (B.H. 554:15).

While I wrote this, it does not solely represent my personal view and was reviewed by both R. Menachem Genack and R. Hershel Schachter, as well as others, prior to publication. I would like to explain the background behind this decision.

While anointing oneself is forbidden on various occasions, this is only when anointing for pleasure. Doing it for medical reasons is allowed. But the in-between cases that aren’t clear include anointing oneself with perfumed oil for reasons that are neither medical nor pleasurable, such as to remove an unpleasant odor. In the laws of Yom Kippur, the Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim 614:1) forbids rubbing an oil on yourself even to remove an unpleasant odor. Only anointing for medical purposes is allowed.

However, in the laws of public fasts, when discussing a fast day declared in a severe drought, the Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim 575:3) writes that anointing is forbidden but is allowed to remove an odor. Regarding Tisha B’Av, the Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim (524:15) does not specify whether anointing to remove an odor is allowed. This leaves us the question whether Tisha B’Av is like Yom Kippur in this regard or a public fast. Is any non-pleasurable anointing allowed or only medical anointing?

The Mateh Yehudah (ibid. – link) quotes the Gemara (Pesachim 54b) which says that the only difference between Tisha B’Av and Yom Kippur is that the doubtful time is forbidden on the latter and permitted on the former. Evidently, the rule of anointing is the same for both days. Therefore, the Mateh Yehudah rules that anointing to remove an odor is forbidden on Tisha B’Av.

However, the Mishnah Berurah (Bi’ur Halakhah 554:15 sv. sikhah) argues that the Mateh Yehudah is reading that passage overly literally. Not only does the Talmud Yerushalmi (quoted in Bi’ur Ha-Gra on Orach Chaim 614:1) say explicitly in multiple places that Tisha B’Av follows other fast days and not Yom Kippur in this respect, but the Gemara (Ta’anis 30a) says that all the rules of mourning (shivah) apply on Tisha B’Av. Since the Gemara (Ta’anis 13b) explicitly permits a mourner during shivah to anoint himself in order to remove an odor, this by implication permits it also on Tisha B’Av.

The Mishnah Berurah therefore rejects the Mateh Yehudah‘s ruling and permits anointing oneself on Tisha B’Av in order to remove an odor. This is the equivalent of applying scented deodorant, which is allowed even on Tisha B’Av.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link of New Jersey, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazine and the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

21 comments

  1. I would venture to say that deoderent is permitted even on yom kipor because deoderent unlike annointing oils is not absorbed into the skin. On Yom Kippur it is prohibited to annoint oneself because the gemara learns from the pasuk of ויבא כמים בקרבי וכשמן בעצמותי that the abosbtion of water and oil through the skin is comparable to drink it.

  2. I would venture to say that deoderent is permitted even on yom kipor because deoderent unlike annointing oils is not absorbed into the skin. On Yom Kippur it is prohibited to annoint oneself because the gemara learns from the pasuk of ויבא כמים בקרבי וכשמן בעצמותי that the abosbtion of water and oil through the skin is comparable to drinking it. Thus deoderent (at least the stick type) wouldn’t be considered שיחה.

  3. I would venture to say that deoderent is permitted even on yom kipor because deoderent unlike annointing oils is not absorbed into the skin. On Yom Kippur it is prohibited to annoint oneself because the gemara learns from the pasuk of ויבא כמים בקרבי וכשמן בעצמותי that the abosbtion of water and oil through the skin is comparable to drinking it. Thus deoderent (at least the stick type) wouldn’t be considered שיחה.

  4. Is there any issue of rollon on shabbos?

  5. yosef lewinson

    why do you assume that deodorant is not absorbed into the skin? antiperspirants contain aluminum which is absorbed into the skin (http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/underarm-care/problems/question627.htm). thats how they block sweat.

  6. Yosef – you don’t gain nutrition from aluminum the way you do from water or oil.

  7. Rabbi Y.Abadi and others permit deodorant on YK, for the reasons stated above.

  8. I am certain if you ask Rabbi Schachter if deodorant is permissible on Yom Kippur he will say yes. It is not considered annointing.

  9. what about washing with soap after using the bathroom? I have not seen a source that permits it explicitly; it’s arguably for medical purposes (hygiene), and it’s seemingly not for pleasure.

  10. Several years ago my rabbi at the time, who had been an IDF medic, told me to wash my entire hand with soap after using the bathroom on YK.

  11. However, other poskim hold it is not permitted due to it being considered rechitza.

  12. just thinking

    See שו״ת יחוה דעת (כמדומני ח״ד) וע״ע שו״ת באר משה ושבט הלוי that the rule of שיחה כשתיה only applies to things that are prohibited to be eaten. They therefore permit modern day soaps even though they contain glycerin, since the added ingredients render the glycerin ineditable. I think it is permitted to consume aluminum even on a fast day.

  13. Anonymous: However, other poskim hold it is not permitted due to it being considered rechitza.

    But rechitza is permissible after using the bathroom. But maybe you are right that soap is not really sicha at all. You are not rubbing it into your skin like oil or moisturizer. It’s really just to wash off dirt or germs.

  14. MiMedinat HaYam

    SA (at end of hilchot tannit) specifically permits sucking on cinnamon sticks, besides those items it permits to taste and expel (li’phlot). i would assume aluminum powder would be considered cinnamon stick sucking (though ground cinnamon would not be permitted).

    (extending this to chewing gum would be too much.)

  15. Anonymous: However, other poskim hold it is not permitted due to it being considered rechitza.

    I have never heard of a posek who forbid using soap after going to bathroom.

  16. Rabbi Willig in Am Mordechai on Moadim remains uncertain about using stick deoderant on Tisha Bav

  17. Moish the spacedout BT

    If a posek came near me on a hot day he would mattir deodorant on Tisha b’Av , palms down.

  18. If a posek came near me on a hot day he would mattir deodorant on Tisha b’Av , palms down.

    I second that. Once during the the nine days I went to ask a question to a very important rabbi. As I approached him I got a whiff of his body odor. Instantly, on an emotional level, I lost all respect for him. I recovered my respect a second later when my intellect intervened, but I also decided that from then on I would have to shower regularly during the nine days.

  19. Fotheringay-Phipps

    R’ Shmuel Kaminetsky also permitted it, in his published psakim.

  20. This article beautifully illustrates the difference between the source of the prohibitions of Yom HaKippurim being “Inuiyim”, (extensions of the Biblical prohibition to eat or drink) methods of self-affliction and the prohibitions of Tisha B’Av (except for the fasting) being “Darchei Aveilos”, methods of intense mourning. After all the SA when lists them along with the halacha that one may not learn most portions of Torah since they are “mesamchei lev”, they gladden the heart.

  21. This article beautifully illustrates the difference between the source of the prohibitions of Yom HaKippurim being “Inuiyim”, (extensions of the Biblical prohibition to eat or drink) methods of self-affliction and the prohibitions of Tisha B’Av (except for the fasting) being “Darchei Aveilos”, methods of intense mourning. After all the SA lists them along with the halacha that one may not learn most portions of Torah since they are “mesamchei lev”, they gladden the heart.

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