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Must Cosmetics Be Kosher for Pesah? Responsa in a Moment: Volume 1, Issue No. 7, March 2007

Question: Do cosmetic products such as make-up, perfume and shampoo require a Kosher for Pesah label?


Rabbi Isidor Grunfeld states in his book The Jewish Dietary Laws:  (For rabbis quoted without a specific reference, see the Bibliography below).

Cosmetics often contain spirits which are Hametz. It is, therefore, customary to clear them away and use special cosmetics such as face powder etc. specially prepared for Pesah.

This was also the opinion of two other twentieth-century rabbis: R. Eliezer David Greenwald and R. Gedalia Felder.

However, it is clear from the Talmud, the Rishonim (early rabbis, ca. 500-1500 c.e.) and most of the Aharonim (later rabbis, ca. 1500 ff.) that cosmetics do not require a Kosher for Pesah label.

The Mishnah in Pesahim (3:1 = fol. 42a in the Talmud) states:

The following things must not be used  (So explains Rabbeinu Tam in Tosafot to Pesahim ad loc. Rashi ibid. and Maimonides in his commentary to the Mishnah say: On account of the following things, you transgress the injunctions of not seeing hametz and not finding hametz in your house). on Pesah : Babylonian kutah [pudding], Median beer, Idumean vinegar, Egyptian zitom [a kind of beer], the dyer’s broth [made with bran], cook’s dough [which is placed on top of the pot] and the scribe’s paste. R. Eliezer says: takhshitey nashim [women’s ornaments] too.

These things are forbidden because they are ta’arovet hametz , an admixture of hametz and other ingredients.

Rashi explains in his commentary to Pesahim 42b at the bottom that takhshitey nashim means: “Kohl, and rouge, and perfumes which they hang on their necks to give a good smell”. More recently, Dr. Samuel Krauss and Rabbi Saul Lieberman have shown that this is the simple meaning of takhshitey nashim in both Talmuds and in other rabbinic sources (See Rabbi Lieberman and S. Krauss, Kadmaniyot Hatalmud, Vol. 2, Part 2, Tel Aviv, 1945, p. 307).

The Babylonian Talmud rejects the reading takhshitey nashim by asking (42b bottom): “takhshitey nashim salka da’atakh?!” – “Women’s ornaments, can you think so!?” It then corrects the reading in the Mishnah to “tipuley nashim” i.e. women’s cosmetics such as fine flour which was used by wealthy women as a depilatory to remove hair (Yerushalmi Pesahim 3:1, fol. 29d actually gives takhshitey and tipuley as variant readings of our Mishnah. See Prof. Lieberman for an explanation of the two readings).

In any case, the Sages at the beginning of the Mishnah disagree with R. Eliezer and would allow one to keep ” takhshitey nashim ” or make-up in the house on Pesah.

A similar opinion is found in the Tosefta ( Pisha 3:3, ed. Lieberman, p. 151; cf. Rabbi Lieberman, p. 515):

Kilor [ eye salve], isplanit [=bandage] and retiya [=plaster] which contains flour – one does not need to remove them [before Pesah]. Melugma [a poultice which is mostly flour] which became putrid – one does not need to remove it [before Pesah].

The major halakhic authorities followed the Sages in our Mishnah and not R. Eliezer, as stressed by Maimonides and the Bartenura in their commentaries ad loc. This was probably because R. Eliezer’s opinion was a da’at yahid, a minority of one,

Among the major halakhic authorities, Maimonides, the Tur and the Shulhan Arukh all followed the Sages.

Maimonides ruled in his Mishneh Torah (Laws of Hametz and Matzah 4:12):

An admixture of hametz which is not food at all or not food for all people – such as theriac  (Theriac was an antidote for snakebite which included crushed snakes! See Julius Preuss Biblical and Talmudic Medicine, New York, 1978, pp. 436-437 and R. Saul Lieberman, Tosefet Rishonim, Vol. 1, Jerusalem, 1937, pp. 167-168). and the like – even though it may be retained, it may not be eaten until after Pesah , even if it contains only a minute quantity of hametz.

Rabbi Jacob ben Asher ( Toledo , ca. 1340) in his Tur ( Orah Hayyim 442) quotes Mamonides’ opinion and says that R. Isaac ibn Ghiyat agrees.

Rabbi Joseph Karo ( Israel 1488-1575) in his Shulhan Arukh ( Orah Hayyim 442:4) quotes Maimonides verbatim.

The commentaries on the Shulhan Arukh stress that these things are forbidden to eat “but they are mutar b’hana’ah [one may benefit from them]. (See Magen Avraham ad loc. , subparagraph 7; Kaf Hahayyim, ad loc. , par. 46; Mishnah Berurah ad loc. subpar. 22.)

Among more recent authorities, Rabbi Zvi Hirschhorn, R. Nahum Weidenfeld and R. Yitzhak Yosef allowed the use of all cosmetics on Pesah. This is the correct ruling as we have seen above.

As we have seen in our lengthy teshuvah regarding the custom of not eating rice and kitniyot on Pesah, Jews – especially Ashkenazic Jews – like to look for humrot (stringencies) on Pesah (See David Golinkin , Responsa of the Va’ad Halakhah, Vol. 3 (5748-5749), pp. 35-56, which is also at Interestingly enough, an Israeli Orthodox Bet Din ruled this year that it is permissible to eat kitniyot in Israel on Pesah ( )! Their reasons are very similar to the ones I gave eighteen years ago). Therefore, it is important to stress that we are not only commanded to avoid Hametz (Exodus 12:15 etc.) but also to rejoice on Pesah (Deut. 16:14 as interpreted by Pesahim 109a). May we all strive to find the proper balance between these two mitzvot .

David Golinkin
7 Nissan 5767


An * indicates a direct discussion of our topic.

  1. Eliezer Don-Yihya, Responsa Even Shtiyah, Vilna, 1893 (quoted by Rabbi Felder)

* R. Gedalia Felder, Yesodei Yeshurun, Vol. 6, New York, 1985, pp. 225-227

* R. Eliezer David Greenwald, Keren L’David , Satmar, 1929, No. 119

* R. Isidor Grunfeld, The Jewish Dietary Laws, Vol. 1, London, 1972, p. 184

  1. Hayyim David Halevi, Mekor Hayyim Hashalem, Vol. 4, Jerusalem, no date, p. 58

* R. Zvi Hirschhorn (the questioner in Responsa Hazon Nahum).

* R. Saul  Lieberman, Tosefta Kifshuta, Vol. 4, New York, 1962, pp. 514-515

  1. Yosef Shaul Nathanson, Shoel Umeishiv (quoted by Rabbi Felder)

* R. Nahum Weidenfeld, Responsa Hazon Nahum, Bilgoray, 1939, No. 46

  1. Moshe Yerushalimsky, Responsa Minhat Moshe, Warsaw, 1882, No. 15, par. 52 (quoted by Rabbi Felder)
  2. Ovadia Yosef, Hazon Ovadia, Vol. 2, Jerusalem, 1979, p. 67

* R. Yitzhak Yosef, Yalkut Yosef, Vol. 5, Jerusalem, 1988, p. 360

  1. Yehudah Leib Zirelson, Arzei Levanon, Kluj, 1922, No. 17

All four volumes of Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin’s Responsa In A Moment – Halakhic Responses to Contemporary Issues as well as other books by the author are available for purchase from the Schocken-JTS Press Bookstore.

Prof. David Golinkin is President of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. Feel free to reprint this article in its entirety. If you wish to abbreviate it, please contact Rabbi Golinkin at The opinions expressed here are the author’s and in no way reflect an official policy of the Schechter Institute.

David Golinkin is President of The Schechter Institutes, Inc. and President Emeritus of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. For twenty years he served as Chair of the Va’ad Halakhah (Law Committee) of the Rabbinical Assembly which gives halakhic guidance to the Masorti Movement in Israel. He is the founder and director of the Institute of Applied Halakhah at Schechter and also directs the Center for Women in Jewish Law. Rabbi Professor Golinkin made aliyah in 1972, earning a BA in Jewish History and two teaching certificates from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He received an MA in Rabbinics and a PhD in Talmud from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he was also ordained as Rabbi. For a complete bio click here.

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