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Ask the rabbi Shabbat and Holidays Cleaning and Hygiene

Contact Lenses on Shabbat

Rabbi David SperlingShevat 27, 5772
1543
Question
Dear Rav Sperling, I would love to switch from my specs to contact lenses. However, I realized this might cause serious issues on Shabbat. Before going to sleep, you take off the soft contact lenses and leave them in a case of multipurpose solution that will "clean, disinfect, and remove protein deposits." There is also a saline solution to use in the morning "for rinsing the lens after cleaning and preparing it for insertion." Is this required cleaning process for contact lenses an act of melaben? Would you consider contact lenses absorbent or non-absorbent; a garment or leather? The nightly liquid treatment is also meant to prevent the lens from stiffening (me’abed?). There are new kinds of no-rub multipurpose solutions that don’t require any rubbing to go with the soaking. Additionally, most prescriptions specify using the multipurpose solution for the night treatment and not some liquid alternative like water or saline solution. Thank you again for your time. I look forward to "seeing" your tshuvah.
Answer
Shalom, Your question is an interesting one, that has been dealt with at length by many modern poskim since the advent of soft contact lenses. In your question you have touched on the relevant issues that the poskim argue about. Whilst there are opinions that are strict in this question, there are also many lenient opinions. (See a fine summary of these laws at www.http://rabbikaganoff.com/archives/1451). In my humble opinion one can rely on the lenient opinion and clean their contacts as during the week - especially as improper care of the lenses can lead to eye infections, which are treated very seriously by halacha. More than this, I believe a person may go ahead and choose to use soft contacts on Shabbat. This is the opinion of Rav Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, (as recorded in Shmirat Shabbat KeHilchatah p 181, and Nishmat Avraham 5, p. 20). His opinion, as always, is deserving of all respect, and is certainly a mainstream approach to the issue. Blessings,
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