(Ed. Please remember that lighting a new fire on Yom Tov is a Rabbinic prohibition. Therefore…) “In case of need, it is permitted to ask a non-Jew to create a new fire, such as to strike a match, so long as it is for a Yom Tov purpose. This includes any of the aforementioned purposes such as cooking, illumination, etc. For example, if one has no light by which to eat or learn on Yom Tov he may ask a non-Jew to turn the light on.”
MBY 511:2 ‘Mav’ir’/lighting a fire and heating water on Yom Tov (part 2) Ed. Intro: Before reading this lesson, please review the previous one, which summarizes the halachic principles associated with kindling fire on Yom Tov. The next application of these principles involves preparing hot water for bathing. In addition to ‘mavir’/kindling, heating water also involves the melacha of ‘bishul’ – i.e. cooking the water. Our poskim have determined that the use of standard hot-tap water is tantamount to both kindling (i.e. enlarging) the fire and cooking the water. In addition, there is a general Rabbinic decree against bathing on Shabbos and Yom Tov – even when using water that has been heated beforehand, where no additional melacha is being done to obtain it. According to the Talmudic and Halachic sources, heating water on Yom Tov for the purpose of full-body bathing is prohibited, because the need is not regarded as ‘shaveh l’chol nefesh’ (universal). You may have heard people questioning the relevance of this ruling in modern times, but it remains uncertain whether these questions have validity. With Hashem’s help, in MBY, we attempt to provide a clear foundation of the halachic sources from the Shulchan Aruch and Mishnah Berura, and at times, from contemporary authors as well. We will attempt to do the same here; however, in the end, we must follow our Rabbanim for halachic guidance.
1) Based upon the principles of ‘ochel nefesh’, ‘mitoch’ and ‘shaveh l’chol nefesh’ (as defined in our previous lesson), it is permissible to heat up water on Yom Tov for the purpose of washing our face, hands and feet, (Ed. and, according to many authorities, other minor parts of the body as well, not to exceed a majority of the body in total.) This bathing should not be done inside of a bathing facility, such as bathtub or shower stall.
2) Even if one were to obtain water that was heated on Yom Tov - e.g. someone forgot and heated up the water in error, or the water was permissibly heated for cooking etc. – such that he is not doing any additional melacha, he would still be restricted from using that heated water for full-body (or majority) bathing. He would be limited to using the heated water for bathing in the same way as if he had heated it up himself. (Note: Certain leniencies may apply in this case for the bathing of young children.)
3) Even if one were to arrange for water to be heated prior to Yom Tov, he would still be restricted from using it for full-body (or majority) bathing, although there is a minority opinion which rules more leniently in this case. (Note: Once again, the leniencies for young children would apply here as well.)
For additional clarification, we will quote from Rav Simcha Bunim Cohen’s “Summary of Laws” from The Laws of Yom Tov, p. 209-210:
- “It is prohibited to bathe or shower one’s entire body, or the majority of the body, in warm water on Yom tov, even if the water was heated up the day before. (Ed. This point is stated in our lesson.) - It is customary to refrain even from bathing or showering with cold water on Yom Tov.
- In cases of discomfort (e.g. a person is perspiring heavily), it is permitted to bathe or shower with cold water.
- It is permitted to wash the entire body one limb at a time with cold water or water heated before Yom Tov. However, it is forbidden to heat water or use tap water for this purpose.
- It is permitted to heat up water for the purpose of washing a minor part of the body.
- Washing any part of the body in a shower or bathtub is forbidden unless one is partly clothed.
In addition to restrictions on bathing per se, there are incidental activities which also present halachic challenges: Use of soap, use of washcloths and sponges, rubbing wet hair with a towel and brushing hair. These issues have been addressed in their respective lessons in Hilchos Shabbos.