Thursday, July 27, 2006

bathing on a fast day

The Ramban writes that all fasts (10 Teves, 17 Tamuz) theoretically should share the same prohibitions of washing, wearing shoes, etc. as 9 Av. As all the fasts are recorded in one pasuk together – “tzom harevi’i v’tzom hachamishi v’tzom ha’sehvi’i v’tzom ha’asiri” – why distinguish between the halachos which apply to each? However, as we discussed earlier in the week, these fast days depend in time of no oppression/no peace on the kabbalah of the people. In terms of practical halacha, Ramban assumes that Klal Yisrael accepted fasting on all these days, but never accepted the other prohibitions. Ramban points to the gemara (Megillah 5b) which takes the fact that Rebbi washed in the public bathhouse in the marketplace of Tzipori on 17 Tamuz as indicative that the fast was not accepted – the implication is that were it an accepted fast day, bathing as well as eating should be prohibited. Tosfos disagrees, and writes that the gemara simply means that there was no prohibition of bathing m’ikar hadin in spite of it being a fast day. The nafka mina between the opinions (see Biur haGR"A 550) would be in a time of oppression, when all fasts are obligatory, would bathing, leather shoes, etc. be prohibited? According to Tosfos all these would be permitted, except on 9 Av; according to Ramban, when choice plays no role, all fasts carry the same prohibitions as 9 Av.


  1. anon14:12 PM

    I know the Gra suggests that -- but have you ever heard of anyone suggesting to be makpid on all 5 inuyim and starting the night before -- even during an eis tzarah? FOr e.g., during the holocaust? Or how about now while we are at war, Hashem yerachem?

    The MB also says that a nafka mina is for a baal nefesh --- although again - how many people do you know don't wash their hands the night before the non-Tisha B'av taanaisim?

  2. We pasken like Tosfos, so this is theoretical. I am also not sure how to apply the distinction of eis tzarah - if Israel is at war, am I mechuyav to fast in the US, or is that still dependent on the theoretical kabbalah of the ta'anis? I have not looked at the MB (sorry, I'm much more of an AhS fan), but what is the chumra for a ba'al nefesh here? - even according to Ramban, as long as it is not an eis tzarah, bathing is permitted. The Bais Yisef quotes a shitas rishonim not to bath in warm water, but that is a different story.

  3. L.J. HOROWITZ5:36 PM

    Sir - you have a great blog here and I appreciate your posts, topics and your work.

    With respect to this particular inyan, someone asked me about swimming on a Taanis other than 9 of Av. L'shittas Tosafos, bathing is mutar m'ikar hadin. We are talking here about bathing even for pleasure. Could we posit that once bathing is permitted on a taanis other than 9 of Av that swimming is not a problem, or could one be mechalek between bathing and swimming? Are there any marei mekomos with respect to swimming on a taanis? Would the prohibition of swimming during the 9 days have any bearing on this question?
    I look forward to your response.

  4. Glad you enjoy reading!

    >>>Are there any marei mekomos with respect to swimming on a taanis?

    Not that I know of offhand, but maybe someone else has some ideas. I do not have a Bar Ilan Shu"t CD, but someone who does could probably provide some info (I have enough trouble keeping up with basic gemara learning and don't really read Shu"t). Do you have a sevara to distinguish between bathing (for pleasure) and swimming? Let me just add to your question - if someone swims regularly because of a prescribed excercise regimen (for health), would that be permitted during the 9 days?

  5. Tal Benschar6:37 PM

    I have heard that during WWII when the Holocaust was occuring, certain gedolei Yisroel, notable R. Henkin, did in fact treat the other three fasts with all the chumra of Tisha B'Av, including the 5 innuyim AND starting the fast the night before. I cannot confirm this.

  6. L.J. Horowitz6:41 PM

    Further to your question re: swimming as part of a regular exercise regimen - what about taking swimming lessons ie. going for lifeguard certification - which primarily involves swimming, not as a leisure pursuit, but as a means of saving one's life?

  7. I belive that my husband and I have discussed the question of swimming on a fast day back in the days when I did have access to a pool then. As I recall, if women's swim was available on a ta'anis, then women did swim. Here the TAG pool was closed on 10 BeTeves, but that does not mean that they checked into it and found it is assur.

  8. anon18:49 AM


    I too am not sure of the hagdarah of eis tzarah but thank you Tal for the anecdote (subject to verification) about R"Henkin ztl. The MB simply writes that a baal nefesh should be machmir on all inuyim for all taanisim. It is clear that he means this for the night before as well, given that he writes that this chumrah includes refraining from tashmish unless it is lail tevilah. Thus, this shitah of the Ramban quoted by the Ran in RH would seem to have potentially serious nafka minah.

    Getting back to the eis tzarah issue, perhaps that is also taluy on whether you look at the tzibur or the yachid. With respect to the whole din of ratzu misanim lo ratzu etc. there seems to be a machlokes rishonim. The Rosh in the sugya in RH is mefurash (if I recal correctly) that ratzu is the tzibur. THe Hagaas Maimoniyos (again if memory serves me well) seems to imply that ratzu is on a personal level because he uses the din of ratzu to explain how an uberse or meinekes can exempt herself from the fast. Perhaps with the din of eis tzarah also (which is really part of very same din or ratzu etc.) is taluy on whether you look at the tzibur or the yachid. I guess then you can further ask even if it is a din of the tzibur does the tzibur in EY create the halachic reality for the tzibur in chutz la-aretz? Though from a hashkafic point it would be nice to think that the answer is yes -- as all of klal Yisrael is one, etc. etc., I do not know what the halachic answer would be. Forgive me for being mekatzer in my writing where maybe I should have explained more.

  9. Anonymous8:41 AM

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