Shabbos 95 Wearing make-up on Shabbos

On the previous daf, our Mishna taught us a list of various things that Rabbi Eliezer considers to be biblically forbidden on Shabbos, and subject to the appropriate punishment, and which the Chachamim only consider to be rabbinically forbidden (שבות)

One of these things is כוחלת, painting her eye-lashes blue.

The Gemara suggests that the reason Rabbi Eliezer considers this a biblically punishable offense is because it is a form of כותב (writing.)

Rashi explains that this is because she uses the paint-stick to circle her eye like one who writes a letter with a pen.

The Gemara rejects this explanation because that is not a normal way to write and concludes at the beginning of our daf that it is because of צובע, the melacha of dyeing/painting.

It then brings a Beraita that says similarly that it is forbidden for a woman to put סרק (red coloring) on her face, because of צובע.

As the halacha usually follows the majority of Chachamim, it seems that we should rule like Chachamim that this is only a rabbinical transgression or שבות.

However, the Rambam (Shabbos 23/12) seems to rule like Rabbi Eliezer, but also like the Gemara’s first suggestion, that it is forbidden as it is like writing!

Whereas one might possibly interpret the Rambam’s wording to mean that it is considered rabbinically like writing ( a look in the Achronim shows that both interpretations are well represented) , it is still bizarre that he rules like a rejected suggestion in the Gemara.

This becomes even stranger when we see that in the previous chapter, (Shabbos 23,22), he ruled that using סרק is forbidden because it is like painting!

The Masores haShas, uncharacteristically comments on the Rambam he points to, and refers us to various Rishonim relevant to this.
Also, Rabbeinu Chananel, one of the earliest of the Rishonim (early commentators) ,actually rules explicitly like Rabbi Eliezer- his reasoning is that seeing as the Rabbis of the Gemara spend time debating his reasoning, it seems like they rule like him, and even though some say that the Halacho follows Chachamim, it makes more sense to rule like Rabbi Eliezer seeing as it is a possible אסור דאורייתא (biblical prohibition.)

Despite the above, both the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 303) rule that it is forbidden because of צובע, as per the conclusion of the Gemara, and the consensus of the Achronim (see Beit Yoseif, Mishna Beruru, Aruch haShulchan etc) is that it is only rabbinically prohibited, in accordance with the view of the Chachamim.

It seems clear from the above, that using make-up or lipstick on Shabbos is a rabbinical prohibition, and as such, may clearly not be done, and this is the general consensus amongst poskim.

However, it might be that given certain social or family dynamics, a woman living in a less observant community feels that putting on make-up or lipstick is a great need, and that not doing so causes her great suffering, and perhaps even to be mocked by her less religious friends and relatives.

Even in fully observant communities, many women simply feel very uncomfortable being seen without make-up, and without a solid halachik way, might chas vesholom come to the rely on less permissible ways of putting it on .

It would seem reasonable to suggest that she should then be permitted to put it on with a שנוי ( in an unusual way), at least according to the views (see previous post) that a שבות דשבות is permitted even by a Jew for the sake of a Mitzva.

As this would be rabbinic for two separate reasons:

  • Coloring the skin is not considered real צובע, but just a שבות
  • Any melacha with a shinui is only derabonen (rabbinically forbidden)

This would be even less problematic if she uses short-term make-up that doesn’t last long, as it could also be considered דבר שאין מתקים (a melacha whose affect doesn’t last), and might never even have been included in the גזירה to start out with.

It would go we thought saying that it would have to be a texture that doesn’t involve the prohibition of ממרח (smearing ), which semi solid creams and lipsticks usually do ( here too though , if it isn’t thick enough to be ממרח דאורייתא, the שבות דשבות rule with a שנוי might also help!)

While I find my reasoning appealing, I have not found any major poseik who has made this suggestion, and in any case, these posts are not meant as halachik rulings, so anyone with a learning background who finds my suggestion convincing, should discuss it with an expert poseik.

In practise, with the development of various types of shabbos friendly makeup, and the increased sensitivity to halacha in many communities, this is probably less of an issue than it once was .

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

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