09 – The Other Deprivations

01. The Mitzva to Fast

There is a positive commandment to fast on Yom Kippur, as we read, “In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall deprive (ve-initem) yourselves” (Vayikra 16:29). The primary expression of this deprivation (inui, which may also be translated “affliction” or “suffering”) is refraining from life-sustaining food and drink, and the punishment of karet (extirpation) in the case of a knowing transgression and a sin offering in the case of an unknowing transgression apply only to one who eats or drinks. Nevertheless, the mitzva of inui includes four additional prohibitions, all of which are forms of deprivation. Together with the prohibition on eating and drinking, there are a total of five prohibitions: a) eating and drinking; b) washing; c) anointing; d) wearing shoes; e) sexual relations (Yoma 73a).

The mitzva of inui does not require us to do things that inflict pain, like sitting in the midday sun. Rather, the mitzva is to desist from certain things whose deprivation causes suffering (Yoma 74b and 76b-77b). The basis for this understanding is the verse, “It shall be a Shabbat (Shabbat) of complete rest (Shabbaton) for you, and you shall deprive yourselves” (Vayikra 23:32). Our Sages expound: “Shabbat” – you should refrain (tishbetu) from eating and drinking; “Shabbaton” – you should refrain from other activities that would reduce inui (Yoma 74a). The Sages also infer from the fact that the Torah commands us to “deprive ourselves” five times that there are five activities from which one must desist.

The poskim disagree about how severe the additional four prohibitions are. Some say that since the Torah never explicitly states that eating and drinking are prohibited, but rather states, “You shall deprive yourselves,” it means that all five deprivations are included in the Torah’s commandment. According to most poskim, however, only eating and drinking are prohibited by the Torah, because the primary expression of inui is to be deprived of them. Still, the Torah did not explicitly state that the mitzva is to refrain from eating and drinking, but commanded us to deprive ourselves, to teach us that there must be additional expressions of our deprivation. Based on this, the Sages enacted the other four prohibitions.[1]


[1]. The Gemara (Yoma 76a) states:

What do these five deprivations correspond to? R. Ḥisda says: They correspond to the five times that the Torah mentions “inui”: “On the tenth [day of the same seventh month, you shall observe a sacred occasion when you shall deprive yourselves” (Bamidbar 29:7)]; “But the tenth [day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be a sacred occasion for you; you shall deprive yourselves” (Vayikra 23:27); “It shall be] a Shabbat of complete rest [for you, and you shall deprive yourselves” (ibid. v. 32); “It shall be] a Shabbat of complete rest [for you, and you shall deprive yourselves; it is a law for all time” (ibid. 16:31)]; “And this shall be to you [a law for all time: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall deprive yourselves” (ibid. v. 29).]

It would seem from this exegesis and that of “Shabbat Shabbaton” (Yoma 74a) that all five prohibitions are from the Torah. Indeed, this is the position of She’iltot, Behag, Itur, and Yere’im.

However, other Rishonim maintain that the additional four afflictions are rabbinic. When the Torah speaks of the punishment of karet in the context of Yom Kippur (Vayikra 23:30), it says, “I will cause that person to perish (ve-ha’avadeti et ha-nefesh).” The Sages explain that liability to punishment by karet is limited to the type of deprivation that would lead to death (ibud nefesh) if continued for an extended period (Yoma 74b). This implies that it is only eating and drinking that are prohibited by the Torah. Furthermore, we find that R. Eliezer permits a king and a new bride to wash their faces and permits a postpartum woman to wear shoes. Moreover, washing minors and applying cream to them is permitted. If these actions were prohibited by the Torah, we would not find these leniencies. For these reasons, Rabbeinu Tam, Ri, Riva, Rashba, Rosh, Ritva, Me’iri, and Sefer Ha-ḥinukh maintain that the additional four prohibitions are rabbinic, and the prooftexts simply support the rabbinic laws (“asmakhta”) rather than serve as their source. Those who nevertheless maintain that all the deprivations are Torah prohibitions explain that the Torah authorizes the Sages to delineate their parameters. Therefore, the Sages can choose to be lenient in certain cases (Ran). If the additional deprivations are from the Torah, why do they not carry the punishment of karet? Because as long as one fasts, he is observing the primary deprivation.

I would like to suggest that all agree that these four prohibitions are rooted in the Torah, while the details are rabbinic. This is why the Torah obliquely describes the mitzva of the day as “inui,” which includes all types of deprivation, not just eating and drinking. According to most poskim, the Torah requires us to desist from eating and drinking (the primary form of deprivation), and leaves other matters which have an aspect of deprivation to the discretion of the Sages, while alluding in the verses that there are grounds to prohibit five things. Others say that even the four additional prohibitions are absolutely included in the Torah commandment, for desisting from them is part of the mitzva of inui. However, since they are not the primary forms of inui, their parameters were given to the Sages to delineate.

02. Washing

All washing for pleasure is forbidden on Yom Kippur, whether in hot or cold water. No part of the body may be washed, not even the pinky. However, if one was muddied, sullied by excrement, or had a nosebleed, he may wash the affected areas, as his intention is to remove filth, not to derive pleasure. Similarly, after changing a diaper, one may wash one’s hands with soap and water to remove filth and dirt. Even though washing to remove filth involves a small amount of pleasure, since the primary intention is to remove filth, it is not considered washing for pleasure (SA OḤ 613:1).

When preparing food for a child, one may rinse the food or the dishes, as this is not washing for pleasure.

One who is so sweaty that it is really bothering him and causing him to suffer may rinse the sweaty areas, since he is not doing so for pleasure (MB 613:2; SHT ad loc. 4).

One who is very sensitive, and who will be agitated unless he rinses his face in the morning, may rinse his face, though if he is able to refrain, he should be commended. If rheum accumulated in the corner of one’s eyes overnight, and it cannot be removed without water, one may use a bit of water to remove it (Rema 613:4; MB ad loc. 9).

One may not rinse his mouth on Yom Kippur, both because of the prohibition on washing and lest he swallow a drop of water. Even one who knows he has bad breath and is bothered a lot by it may not to rinse his mouth. He may, however, brush his teeth with a dry toothbrush.[2]

If a newlywed bride (within thirty days of marriage) is worried that if she does not wash her face her husband will find her unattractive, she may wash her face; she is not washing for pleasure, but rather to avoid repelling her husband.[3]

One may use a barely damp towel (for example, a towel with which one dried his hands) to wipe his eyes and face, to clean them and refresh himself a bit. This is because the prohibition on washing does not apply something only barely damp. “Barely damp” means that it cannot make something wet enough to wet something else (“tofe’aḥ al menat lehatpi’aḥ”; SA 613:9). As a rule, moist towelettes and baby wipes are too damp and thus may not be used for enjoyment or to refresh. However, they may be used to remove dirt. If they dry out to the point that they are not tofe’aḥ al menat lehatpi’aḥ, one may even use them to refresh oneself.


[2]. On the minor fasts, one may brush his teeth with water to get rid of bad breath, as long as he is careful not to swallow any water. Even though some water will inevitably be swallowed (as clearly once the mouth is wet, the water will be swallowed together with saliva), since it is not intentional, one may be lenient when necessary. One who really suffers may even be lenient on Tisha Be-Av (Peninei Halakha: Zemanim 7:5). However, on Yom Kippur, when any drinking is prohibited by Torah law, one may not be lenient. This is written in Smak (§221) and cited in Beit Yosef (613:4) with the following rationale: “Even less than a shi’ur is prohibited by the Torah, and water may trickle into his throat.” If he swallows unintentionally, he transgresses rabbinically. However, since the root of the prohibition is from the Torah, one must be stringent. If one finds that brushing his teeth with a dry toothbrush is ineffective, and he suffers greatly from bad breath, he may brush his teeth with soapy water. This entirely ruins the taste of the water, so if he swallows a little water, he does not transgress.

[3]. This is the opinion of R. Eliezer (Yoma 78b) and the ruling of Rif, Rambam, and Rosh. Some Rishonim (R. Yitzḥak ibn Gi’at and Semag) rule in accordance with the Sages and are stringent. Shulḥan Arukh 613:10 is lenient. Ḥayei Adam 145:15 states that we are not lenient if the groom will not see his bride over the course of Yom Kippur.

03. Washing for a Mitzva

Hand-washing is permitted for a mitzva. Therefore, kohanim may wash their hands (up to the wrists) before Birkat Kohanim (Rema 613:3; SA 128:6). However, one who had a nocturnal emission on Yom Kippur should not immerse himself, even if he would normally do so, because the pious practice of immersing after a seminal emission does not override the prohibition on washing. Similarly, a nidda whose time to immerse coincides with Yom Kippur should postpone visiting the mikveh until the night after Yom Kippur (SA 613:11-12).[4]

After waking up in the morning, one should use a cup to wash his hands three times to the base of the fingers (where the fingers meet the palm), because a ru’aḥ ra’a remains on the hands after a night’s sleep, and it can harm the body’s orifices. To remove it, the hands must be washed three times, alternating between left and right. After using the toilet, one washes the hands again and recites the berakha of “al netilat yadayim.” This washing is a mitzva, as the Sages ordained hand-washing before praying Shaḥarit (Peninei Halakha: Prayer 8:4 n. 2). Even though normally we enhance this mitzva by washing the entire hand, on Yom Kippur we wash only to the base of the fingers, because technically this is adequate for both cleanliness and the removal of ru’aḥ ra’a (SA 613:2). While it is true that when one tries to wash beyond the base of the fingers, the palm can get a little wet, this is not a concern, since it is not his intention.

If one touches an area of the body that is usually covered and sweaty, he is considered to have touched something dirty. If he wishes to recite sacred words afterward, he should wash his hands, as he is washing them for a mitzva and not for pleasure (MB 613:5-6; Kaf Ha-ḥayim ad loc. 6; Peninei Halakha: Prayer 5:2). There is uncertainty regarding the status of one who relieves himself without touching any part of the body that is usually covered, as perhaps he does not need to wash, since he did not touch any filth. In order to avoid this uncertainty, when one relieves oneself it is best to touch a part of the body that is usually covered. This way, all agree that one may wash his hands until the base of his fingers, including the knuckles, in order to recite the berakha of Asher Yatzar in a state of cleanliness (SA 613:3, MB ad loc. 4).[5]


[4]. According to Yoma 88a, one who experienced a nocturnal seminal emission may immerse on Yom Kippur. In practice, this is permitted by R. Yehuda ben Barzilai of Barcelona. One who normally immerses in this situation and is very uncomfortable not doing so may immerse according to Maharil, Mahari Weil, Responsa Mahari Bruna §49, and Rav Pe’alim OḤ 2:61. Some Ḥasidim also rule this way (Piskei Teshuvot 613:6 n. 23). However, many Rishonim prohibit immersion, maintaining that the Gemara’s leniency applied only when Ezra’s ordinance (requiring anyone who experienced a nocturnal emission to immerse before praying or studying Torah) was in force. Now that this is no longer required, the immersion is merely a pious custom and thus does not override the prohibition of washing on Yom Kippur (MT, Laws of Resting on the Tenth 3:3; Rabbeinu Tam; Maharam; Mordekhai; Hagahot Maimoniyot). This is also the ruling of SA 613:11 and the decisive majority of Aḥaronim.

Regarding immersion to become tahor, according to most Rishonim, immersing at the proper time is a mitzva and overrides the prohibition of washing. Rabbeinu Tam disagrees. However, nowadays everyone is tamei from exposure to corpses, so even immersion does not purify for the purpose of eating taharot. Therefore, even those who maintain that it is a mitzva to immerse on time would agree that nowadays it is not (Tosafot, Beitza 18b). Furthermore, nowadays women do not actually immerse on time (according to Torah law), since we follow the rabbinic stringency of having every nidda count seven clean days following the conclusion of her period (which Torah law requires only of the zava). Beit Yosef OḤ 554:8 summarizes the issue, and SA 613:12 rules that a nidda does not immerse on Yom Kippur.

[5]. Many of these laws are the subject of disagreement. We will mention some of them and then clarify the halakha. According to most poskim, one is only required to wash each hand once after using the bathroom, but many have the custom of washing each three times. (See MB 4:39.) Similarly, on Yom Kippur, according to most poskim one washes once, while others say three times (R. Mordechai Eliyahu, Hilḥot Ḥagim 45:25). See Peninei Halakha: Prayer 8:3-5 n. 2. Some say that one who touches an area of the body that is usually covered should wash only that hand until the base of his fingers (Ḥayei Adam 40:18, MB 613:6). Others maintain that he must wash both hands (Shlah, Yafeh La-lev; see also Kaf Ha-ḥayim 4:86). They also disagree about a case in which one touches his shoe – even if it is made of cloth – with one finger. Some say he must wash just that hand, while others say he must wash both hands. There are many other uncertainties regarding these laws. For example, does one who touches an area that is usually covered, but which nonetheless is not sweaty, need to wash his hands? (See Peninei Halakha: Prayer, ch. 5 n. 2.)

There is an apparent question pertaining to the view that one may wash on Yom Kippur in these circumstances. Technically, one who touches a sweaty part of the body may simply rub his hands on any sort of cloth and then recite sacred words (SA 4:23, MB ad loc. 61). Why, then, do we not do so on Yom Kippur? It seems that whenever a person would wash his hands ritually under normal circumstances, he may wash them on Yom Kippur as well, even if technically it would be sufficient for him to rub his hands clean, because he is washing for the sake of a mitzva. If, however, he sometimes suffices with rubbing his hands on his clothing or the like, he may not wash on Yom Kippur, since for him this hand-washing is not a mitzva. Consequently, most discussions of this subject deal with people’s behavior during the year. Accordingly, we may ask: Why does Shulḥan Arukh permit washing only to the base of the fingers in the morning and after using the bathroom on Yom Kippur, if during the rest of the year, people normally wash to the wrist? I would like to suggest the following answer: Unlike most of the disagreements raised in the previous paragraph, where the halakha itself is the subject of dispute, according to Shulḥan Arukh washing to the wrist during the year is not a law but rather a mere stringency. Thus, on Yom Kippur we revert to the basic law and do not wash to the wrist. Most Aḥaronim agree with Shulḥan Arukh. Arizal, though, takes a different approach. According to him, washing the entire hand is required all year to remove ru’aḥ ra’a. However, on Yom Kippur, the power of the ru’aḥ ra’a is weakened, so it is sufficient to wash to the base of the fingers (Ben Ish Ḥai, Toldot 2; Kaf Ha-ḥayim 4:14; see Minḥat Yitzḥak 10:45).

04. Applying Ointments and Using Perfume

On Yom Kippur, one may not apply oil or anything else meant to nourish the skin, to even a small area of the body (SA 614:1). Obviously, any makeup that may not be applied on Shabbat because of issues of dyeing (Tzove’a) or spreading (Memare’aḥ) may not be applied on Yom Kippur either, as everything prohibited on Shabbat is prohibited on Yom Kippur (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 14:4).

To relieve itch, one may apply oil in liquid form to his skin (Yoma 77b), as long as he does not violate the prohibition of applying medicine; on Yom Kippur, as on Shabbat, it is rabbinically forbidden for one suffering from minor discomfort to use medicine, lest he grind herbal ingredients to prepare it. However, if healthy people occasionally use this oil, it is not considered medicinal, so one may use it to relieve itch. If the itch is painfully irritating, one may apply a factory-produced medicating oil (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 28:5).

Perfumes or deodorants that make people smell good may not be used. Since they moisten the area to which they are applied enough that touching it would moisten one’s finger (tofe’aḥ al menat le-hatpi’aḥ), using them is considered a form of washing. However, they may be used to remove a bad odor, just as a person may wash to remove grime or get rid of a bad smell. In both cases, the intention is neither for pleasure nor to refresh (section 2 above). Insect repellent may also be used, since it is meant not for pleasure but to repel pests.[6]


[6]. Even though washing is permitted if it is not done for pleasure, applying ointment is not (y. Yoma 8:1; Rambam; SA 614:1; and MB ad loc. 1), because applying ointment gives great pleasure; even if one only intends to remove filth, he still enjoys it, so it is prohibited (MA). Only when there is no pleasurable aspect in applying the ointment, as when it is done for medicinal reasons, is it permitted. According to Baḥ and Taz, however, the laws pertaining to washing and applying ointment are the same. Both are forbidden if they are just to remove a little dirt, and both are permitted to remove real filth. MB (613:2) follows MA. In any case, nowadays no one uses oil to remove filth. If one changed a diaper and his hand smells bad, he may wash his hand with liquid soap. He need not worry about the prohibition of applying ointment, because soap is not oil which will be absorbed into the body, and the soap’s fragrance is simply meant to neutralize the bad odor. However, one may not use soap that contains enough moisturizing cream that it can be felt on the hand after use, as this constitutes anointing.

Some forbid using perfume and deodorant, but they do not explain whether this is because of the prohibition of washing or the prohibition of anointing (R. Ben-Zion Abba Shaul; R. Seraya Deblitzky). Piskei Teshuvot states that the problem is one of applying ointment (614:1). Shemesh U-magen similarly states that spraying perfume on the hand is considered applying ointment. However, the prohibition of anointing would seem to apply only to something that is meant to nourish the skin, in which case it would pertain neither to perfume nor to deodorant. Therefore, it seems, the relevant concern is only of washing. Interestingly, Ḥida permits kohanim to wash their hands in water to which rose water has been added for fragrance (Ḥayim She’al 1:74). We see that the fact that something makes a person smell good is not intrinsically prohibited. Therefore, if deodorant leaves enough residue that it could wet something else, it may not be used, as it constitutes washing. However, if it is not that wet, and the goal is simply to remove a bad odor, it is permitted. (This would seem to be the opinion of R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach in Halikhot Shlomo, Bein Ha-metzarim, ch. 14 n. 56, and is quoted in his name by R. Ovadia Yosef in Ḥazon Ovadia: Arba Ta’aniyot, p. 295, and by R. Avigdor Nebenzahl in Yerushalayim Be-mo’adeha: Bein Ha-metzarim, p. 274.) It seems to me that if a woman is worried that not using perfume will make her smell bad and repel her husband, she may use perfume or roll-on deodorant. Spray deodorant, which does not leave enough residue to wet something else, may also be used on Yom Kippur. However, stick deodorant is prohibited, because applying it is considered spreading (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 14:5 n. 3).

05. Wearing Shoes

Neither shoes nor sandals may be worn on Yom Kippur. In the past, these were generally made of leather, because people did not know how to craft strong, durable, and flexible shoes from other materials. Shoes made of cork, rubber, or wood were often used at home, as slippers, and poor people, who would normally go barefoot, would sometimes wear them outdoors. The question arises: May one wear non-leather footwear on Yom Kippur?

Some Rishonim forbid walking in wooden shoes, because one walking in them does not feel the roughness of the ground beneath his feet. However, they permit cork and rubber shoes, because one walking in them feels the roughness of the ground and suffers accordingly (Rashi; Rambam; Tosafot; Rabbeinu Yeruḥam).

Other Rishonim permit wearing all non-leather shoes. They maintain that, by definition, non-leather footwear cannot be shoes. Rather, such “shoes” are just items of clothing, and as such they may be worn on Yom Kippur (Ramban; Rosh; Rashba). Indeed, most Aḥaronim rule this way in practice (SA 614:2).

However, it seems clear that this view presumes a reality in which non-leather shoes were uncomfortable for walking, and thus it could be claimed that these were not considered proper shoes. Nowadays, however, when manufacturers commonly produce high-quality non-leather shoes, one may not wear shoes of any material on Yom Kippur if it is a kind of shoe that people would wear year-round to walk on rocky and rough terrain.

A generation ago, when it was still uncommon to find high-quality shoes made from other materials, some poskim permitted walking in comfortable shoes as long as they were not made from leather or synthetic leather. However, with the passage of time, excellent non-leather shoes are becoming more and more readily available, so the numbers of those who permit wearing such shoes on Yom Kippur are decreasing.

Therefore, one may not wear non-leather shoes on Yom Kippur if they are worn year-round on rocky or rough terrain, regardless of what material they are made from. Thus, footwear such as “Crocs,” “Keds,” and “All-stars” may not be worn on Yom Kippur. One may wear cloth slippers or basic rubber shoes, however, since they are not normally worn on rough terrain. Nevertheless, since some poskim are still permissive and permit non-leather shoes, one should not object if someone else relies on them.[7]


[7]. Yoma 78b states that several Amora’im permit walking in cork shoes and the like. Following these statements, a mishna is cited which considers a wooden leg to be a shoe. The Gemara explains that a wooden shoe is prohibited, while a cork shoe and the like is permitted. This is the position of Rashi, Tosafot, Itur, and Rabbeinu Yeruḥam. The rationale is that wooden shoes are strong and protect the feet, whereas cork shoes and the like do not properly protect the feet. Therefore, they are not considered shoes. Rambam writes something similar when speaking about cork and rubber shoes: “For his feet sense the hardness of the ground, and he feels like he is barefoot” (MT, Laws of Resting on the Tenth 3:7). Several Aḥaronim adopt this opinion, including Panim Me’irot 2:28, Ḥida, and Vilna Gaon, who all state that one may not wear shoes if they keep him from sensing the hardness of the ground. (Ba’al Ha-Ma’or, though, maintains that there is no difference between cork shoes and wooden shoes. The only thing he permits is wrapping cloth around the feet.) In contrast, Ramban writes that only a shoe made of leather is considered a shoe, following the opinion of R. Yoḥanan ben Nuri (Shabbat 66a). A shoe made of any other material is not deemed a shoe, and thus may be worn on Yom Kippur. This is the position of Rosh, Rashba, Ritva, and Me’iri, and this is how they understand the Rif. This is also the ruling in SA 614:2. Most Aḥaronim (including Zera Emet and Responsa Maharshag) follow SA. Indeed, this was the common ruling. MB 614:5 states that although most poskim agree that a non-leather shoe is considered simply an item of clothing and may be worn, and those who are lenient should therefore not be rebuked, nevertheless, since some poskim are stringent about any shoe that protects the foot well, those who can should be stringent and simply wear thick socks or slippers, as was common practice. Most contemporary poskim agree that while it is permitted to wear non-leather shoes, it is proper to be stringent and avoid wearing them if they are comfortable and protect the wearer from feeling the roughness of the ground. This is the view of Halikhot Shlomo 5:16-17 and R. Eliyahu in Hilkhot Ḥagim 45:38-39. Ḥazon Ovadia, p. 313, is lenient even le-khatḥila.

It seems clear, however, that those who were lenient in the past assumed that no material could compete with leather in terms of durability, strength, and flexibility. All the substitutes were either cloth used as slippers or extremely low-quality shoes that only the poor would wear sometimes, as the poor usually went barefoot. They would wrap their feet for protection only if they had injured a foot or if they had to traverse particularly rough terrain. It is this type of “shoe” that the Amora’im and Rishonim argued about. Those who were stringent forbade wearing these shoes since they did offer a degree of protection. Those who were lenient permitted them because they were not comfortable to walk in and people did not generally do so. For example, Ritva on Shabbat 66a writes explicitly that he permitted wooden shoes because they were not normally worn. Ran, too, (Yoma 2b) offers this as the reason for the lenient position. Other Rishonim state that any shoe worn throughout the year may not be worn on Yom Kippur (Yere’im §420; Tosafot, Yevamot 103a, s.v. “be-anpilya”). Maharshag writes that we rule leniently when it comes to non-leather shoes, because quality shoes that people regularly wear are usually made of leather. Therefore, even in the rare case of good shoes that are made of another material, they may be worn (Responsa Maharshag 2:110). However, now that shoes are made from a variety of materials, Maharshag, too, would be stringent.

To summarize, it seems to me that there would be no disagreement among the Rishonim about shoes nowadays; all would agree that if the shoes are good quality and worn year-round, they may not be worn on Yom Kippur. Indeed, this is the ruling of R. Ariel (Ohala Shel Torah 2:81) and R. Elyashiv (cited in Hilkhot Ḥag Be-ḥag 22:25). It seems that as time goes on and people get more used to wearing shoes made from a variety of materials, more poskim are stringent and consider all of them as shoes. The law as it applies to flip-flops, Crocs, and the like is a bit unclear. On the one hand, many people do wear them in the street. However, it seems that the criterion to determine whether they are prohibited is whether people wear them on rough terrain. If almost no one wears them in such areas, they may be worn on Yom Kippur. (True, according to Baḥ one must walk barefoot, but we do not take his opinion into account.)

Perhaps we can justify the position of those who are lenient and wear good non-leather shoes. They may be following the view of the Rishonim who maintain that the prohibition on wearing shoes is a rabbinic enactment limited to leather. So even if nowadays all would agree that a non-leather shoe is good and sturdy, it does not become prohibited, as we do not make new enactments. Additionally, shoes made of leather are still considered to be of a higher quality than those made of any other material. Finally, Arizal offers a kabbalistic explanation for the prohibition, related to the “garments of leather” that God gave to Adam and Ḥava to appease their animal souls (Pri Etz Ḥayim, Sha’ar Yom Ha-kippurim, ch. 4). This rationale would not apply to non-leather shoes. Nevertheless, it seems to me that there is no room for leniency, and the prohibition applies to all shoes worn outside on rough terrain, whether or not they are leather.

06. When Wearing Shoes Is Permitted

Sick people and postpartum women who are liable to catch a cold if they walk barefoot on the ground may wear leather shoes (SA 614:3).

One who is walking in an area where there is concern for scorpions and the like may wear leather shoes. Likewise, one who is walking in a muddy place may wear his regular shoes to avoid soiling his feet. A soldier on active duty may wear army boots (SA 614:4). The reason for these leniencies is that wearing shoes is prohibited only if one wears them for the sake of comfortable walking. When there is different reason for wearing them, however, the prohibition does not apply.

One who needs orthotic shoe inserts and suffers greatly without them may insert them into slippers or thin rubber shoes and use them on Yom Kippur, because orthotics are not worn for pleasure, but to alleviate terrible pain (Ḥelkat Ya’akov 2:83).[8]


[8]. R. Mordechai Yaakov Breisch (Ḥelkat Ya’akov 2:83) permits people who suffer greatly without orthotics to use them in a cloth or rubber shoe, even if the orthotics themselves are covered in leather. Such a person is like a squeamish person (“istenis”) walking in a filthy place, who may wear shoes, as he is not doing so for pleasure (Rema 614:4). Furthermore, orthotics are not part of the shoe, so wearing them is like standing on a leather pillow, which is permissible (Rema 614:2; MB ad loc. 9). SSK 39:37 and Nishmat Avraham 614:4 rule this way as well. In contrast, Ḥut Ha-shani (p. 137) is uncertain: perhaps orthotics should be considered part of the shoe. Nevertheless, he permits them for those who would otherwise be unable to walk. In practice, those who suffer greatly without orthotics may wear leather inserts. They should put them in simple rubber shoes not normally worn outside. If the orthotics are not made of leather, one may be lenient even if he does not suffer greatly.

07. Marital Relations

The fifth form of deprivation is abstaining from marital relations. To ensure that no one comes to sin, married couples should behave as they do during nidda times: They should not touch one another and should sleep in separate beds (SA 615:1; MB ad loc. 1).[9]

Several Ashkenazic Rishonim write that on the day before Yom Kippur, men should avoid foods likely to cause a nocturnal seminal emission (Rema 608:4). Nowadays, doctors do not know which foods cause this, so it is not necessary to avoid any particular foods. Young men should avoid sleeping in positions which they know are likely to lead to a nocturnal emission. Many recite the first four chapters of Tehilim before they go to sleep, in the hope that the merit of this recitation will help prevent a nocturnal emission (MB 619:14).


[9]. Taz maintains that nidda restrictions must be followed only on the night of Yom Kippur. However, SA 615:1 does not distinguish between day and night, nor do MB (ad loc. 1 based on MA), Eliya Rabba, Birkei Yosef, SAH, and Ḥayei Adam (who are all stringent regarding both). Nevertheless, when necessary, one may be lenient during the day (Elef La-mateh ad loc. 1; Ben Ish Ḥai, Vayelekh §15). Thus, a couple may serve as kvaterim at a brit mila on Yom Kippur, even though this involves the wife passing the baby to her husband (Halikhot Shlomo 5:22).

08. Children

Once children reach the age of ḥinukh – the age when they can understand the mitzvot of Yom Kippur – we teach them not to wash, apply ointment, or wear shoes on Yom Kippur. Generally, children reach this stage at the age of five or six. Some go beyond this and make sure their children do not wear shoes from the age of three.

In addition to the mitzva to train children to keep the mitzvot of the day, it is also forbidden for adults to cause children (even day-old babies) to transgress. Just as adults may not feed children insects or blood, or cause a young kohen to become impure, so too, it is forbidden for adults to wash children, apply ointment to them, or put shoes on them (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 24:2). However, if there is a certain degree of medical need, one may wash a child and apply ointment. These do not fall under the prohibition of taking medicine (which is a rabbinic prohibition on Shabbat and Yom Tov), because the Sages permitted undertaking these activities for a child who is sick or experiencing discomfort (ibid. 24:6). Similarly, if a child is likely to hurt himself going barefoot, an adult may put on his shoes for him.

In terms of fasting, we do not train children who are only five or six to do so, because they are not strong enough, and fasting may be harmful to them. Therefore, we wait until the age of nine. At that point, healthy children are encouraged to fast part of the day. For example, if they generally eat breakfast at eight in the morning, they should wait until the afternoon to eat. Weaker children should begin fasting at age ten rather than nine.

From the age of eleven, children should be encouraged to fast the whole day. If they are weak, they can be lenient and fast only half the day.

Girls from the age of twelve have a Torah obligation to fast, while boys have a rabbinic one. Even a twelve-year-old boy who is weak should make an effort to fast the whole day. If he is sick (even if not deathly ill), he is not obligated to fast, since he is not yet thirteen. Nevertheless, he should try to fast until the afternoon. From the age of thirteen, boys, too, have a Torah obligation to fast.[10]

Many encourage younger children who have reached the age of ḥinukh to fast through the night. Even though some object to this stringency, many follow it in order to train the children to participate a little in the fast. However, if the children ask to eat or drink, they should be fed (Elef Ha-magen 616:5).

Many maintain that before the age of nine, children should not be allowed to fast at all during the day, lest they endanger themselves (Rema 616:2). However, most children want to fast for a few hours even before they turn nine. Since doctors do not feel that this is dangerous, most people let them fast during the morning. We are not required to try to stop this custom (Eshel Avraham [Buczacz], based on Rashi).


[10]. Three practical opinions on the topic of minors fasting emerge from the Mishna and Gemara on Yoma 82a. According to Rosh and Or Zaru’a, we begin training children to fast for part of the day, starting four years before they will become obligated to fast. Two years before they become obligated, they should be encouraged to fast the entire day. If they are weak, the training should begin a year later. Therefore, a girl, who is obligated to begin fasting at age twelve, starts fasting at age eight (following R. Huna); a boy, who is obligated to begin fasting at thirteen, starts at nine (following R. Naḥman).

According to Rif, Rambam, and SA 616:2, there is no difference in the age at which boys and girls begin training for the fast. Healthy children start fasting part of the day at the age of nine, and weaker ones start at ten. By the age of eleven, all healthy children are encouraged to fast a full day. Only children who are sickly should wait to fast until their Torah obligation sets in. (This second position follows a different understanding of R. Naḥman.)

Others follow R. Yoḥanan, who maintains that we never train minors to fast a whole day. Only when their Torah obligation sets in do they fast a full day. Training to fast part of the day begins two years before halakhic adulthood. This is the position of R. Yitzḥak ibn Gi’at, Roke’aḥ, and Yere’im, as well as AHS 616:17 and Halikhot Shlomo 6:14. Eliya Rabba suggests that the reason that le-khatḥila, children should not fast for a full day until they reach majority, is that all children are considered sick. In contrast, Terumat Ha-deshen and Rema state that we rely upon R. Yoḥanan only if a minor is weak and not strong enough to fast.

MB 616:9 cites the various positions. R. Eliyahu in Ma’amar Mordekhai Le-mo’adim U-leyamim 45:49 writes that minors should be encouraged to follow the ruling of SA. This is what I write above. The exception is an eleven-year-old who is weak, where I follow the lenient position, as this is the common practice.

Chapter Contents