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Ask the rabbi Shabbat and Holidays Cream and Ointment

Delaying tevila and make-up on shabbat‏

Rabbi David SperlingTevet 16, 5772
Shalom, I read R. Simcha Cohen’s response to the question about applying lipstick on shabbat, and wondered if his response is relevant to eyeliner and mascara? Particularly in a case when a woman is used to ALWAYS wearing at least some eyeliner and mascara and is seriously considering delaying tevila from Friday night to shabbat due to not wanting to be seen in public (or even by her husband at home) without any trace of make-up on at all. If it is permitted, is it preferable that the eye-liner/mascara is applied b’shinui? Thanks
Shalom, Thank you for your question, especially as it gave me the opportunity to see the responsa you asked about. After speaking to many Talmiday Chachamim [great Torah scholars], and discussing the issue with them, I would like to clarify the issue for you. The halacha is that it is forbidden to apply lipstick, and so too eyeliner and mascara on Shabbat - as the Rabbi correctly wrote in his response. There is no debate on this issue, and it can be found ruled clearly in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Haim 303,25) based on a Gemara (Shabbat 95a). The only discussion is whether the prohibition is one of coloring or writing, and whether it is a Torah prohibition or from the Rabbis. This ruling can be found easily by all in every popular halachic work (see for example Shmirat Shabbat KeHilchatah, Yalkut Yosef, or Halichot Bat Yisrael). This is what the Rabbi wrote in his response about lipstick. His subsequent words were what he called a "limud zechut", which is a concept I would like to explain. Limud Zechut is a means to try and find a justification for a practice in order to be able to look upon those who follow it in a more positive light. It is certainly not a ruling that one is permitted to use to determine correct behavior. The truth is that in this case, the Rabbi's great love of the Jewish people - and his sharp Torah erudition - has enabled him to come up with a "limud zechut" - a post facto justification - that is at the very edge of halachic reasoning (or to put it in layman's terms - it is "stretching" the halacha here a very long way!). But because in fact he too rules that the use of lipstick is forbidden on Shabbat, it seems superfluous to go into all the Talmudic reasoning as to why one cannot rely on his "limud zechut" in any real way. (By the way - because of the mistaken impression his responsa gave to people unfamiliar with the concept of "limud zechut" and Talmudic reasoning in general, who may have unfortunately understood him to mean that it is acceptable to use lipstick on Shabbat, that response has been removed from the web-site. This is despite the fact that his answer included material worthy of in-depth Torah study in the Yeshiva Bet Midrash). In answer to your question about putting on make-up after going to the mikvah on Friday night, or pushing off the mikvah until Saturday evening - firstly it should be pointed out that pushing off the mikvah is no light matter, and should only be approached as a last resort, and when there is full agreement by both the husband and wife on the issue. It would be tragic for make-up to become the source of marital dis-harmony. Secondly, immersing in a mikvah with make-up on is also not an option, as one may not immerse with any intervening substances on oneself. Thirdly, as we wrote above, one may not apply mascara and lipstick on Shabbat. So where does that leave us? With the following options - 1) a serious and loving talk to the woman in question, explaining to her that her husband loves her (even) without her make-up, and that to be seen today without make-up is very socially acceptable. Each person is a unique case, but hopefully she can be convinced of the truth of the fact, that one day without make-up will be something she can cope with. 2) Alternately, I have been told that one can acquire "Shabbat Make-up" which many Rabbis permit using on Shabbat. This is based on the concept that they are powder based and not really adhering to the skin, and so are allowed. This is based on a Responsa of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l. One needs to purchase these specially created make-ups, and use them only in the prescribed way (there is an internet site - search for "Shabbat cosmetics"). Even though many Rabbis do not agree to the use of such cosmetics (I amongst them) this would surely be better than delaying the mikvah night, or using regular cosmetics. Blessings - D. Sperling
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