Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
Former Rosh Kollel in Detroit
1) Mishnah, Yoma 8:1
It is forbidden to eat, drink, wash, anoint, wear shoes, and have sexual relations on Yom Kippur. A king and a new bride may wash their faces, and a new mother may wear shoes. This is the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer. The sages, however, forbid it.
2) Gemara, Yoma 74b
For it is stated (Vayikra 23:30), “I will destroy that person” (literally, that life). This refers to an affliction which destroys life. What fits this category? Refraining from food and drink. . . . The yeshiva of Rabbi Yishmael taught: It is written (regarding Yom Kippur, in Vayikra 23:27), “You shall afflict yourselves,” and it states elsewhere (Devarim 8:3), “He afflicted you and starved you.” Just as there the affliction referred to is hunger, so too here.
3) Gemara, Yoma 74a
Rabbah and Rabbi Yosef taught . . . What is the source of the prohibitions on Yom Kippur to wash, to anoint, to wear shoes, and to have sexual relations? The verse (Vayikra 16:31) states, “It is a Sabbath of solemn rest (shabbat shabbaton) for you, and you shall afflict yourselves.” (Rashi explains: Just as “solemn rest” in the context of Shabbat means refraining from work, so too “solemn rest” in the context of Yom Kippur means refraining from something.)
4) Gemara, Yoma 76a-77b
To what do the five afflictions correspond? Rav Chisda said: To the five times that afflictions are mentioned in the Torah with reference to Yom Kippur: “And on the tenth day” (Bamidbar 29:7), “now on the tenth day” (Vayikra 23:27), “a Sabbath of solemn rest” (Ibid., 23:32), “it is a Sabbath of solemn rest” (Ibid., 16:31), and “it will be to you” (Ibid., 16:29). . . .
How do we know that refraining from anointing is considered an affliction? It is written (Daniel 10:3), “I ate no choice food, and no meat or wine crossed my lips, nor did I anoint myself.” How do we know that this is considered an affliction? It is written there (verse 12), “And he said to me: Fear not, Daniel; for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, to afflict yourself”. . . .
How do we know that refraining from washing is considered an affliction? It is written (Melakhim Alef 2:26), “Go to Anatot to your own fields . . . because you shared in all my father’s affliction.” And concerning David it is written (Shmuel Bet 17:29), “The people are hungry and tired and thirsty in the wilderness.” This means “hungry” for lack of bread, and “thirsty” for lack of water. What is “tired” on account of? Isn’t it for lack of washing? But maybe it is for lack of shoes? Rather, Rabbi Yitzchak says it is from the following verse [that we deduce that refraining from washing is considered an affliction]: “Like cold water to a tired person [so is good news from a distant land]” (Mishlei 25:25). Perhaps this refers to drinking the water? – The verse does not say “into the person” (b’nefesh), but rather “on the person” (al nefesh).
How do we know that refraining from wearing shoes is an affliction? It is written (Shmuel Bet 15:30), “David went up by the ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went up; and he had his head covered and went barefoot.”
How do we know that refraining from sexual relations is considered an affliction? It is written (Bereishit 31:50), “If you will afflict my daughters, and if you will take wives besides my daughters.” The phrase “If you will afflict” refers to denying conjugal rights, while “if you will take” refers to rival wives.
5) Gemara, Yoma 77b
Our Rabbis taught: It is forbidden to wash part of the body, just as it is forbidden to wash the whole body. However, if he is dirty with pitch or excrement, he may wash in his usual way and not worry. It is forbidden to anoint part of the body, just as is it forbidden to anoint the whole body. However, if he is sick or has sores on his head, he may anoint in the usual way and not worry. The school of Rabbi Menashe taught that Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel stated: A woman may wash one hand in water and then feed a child, and she need not worry. It was said that Shammai the Elder did not wish to feed with one hand, so they decreed that he must use both hands. Why? Abbaye said it is because of Shivta (Rashi: an impure spirit that rests on unwashed hands).
Our Rabbis taught: Someone who goes to visit his father, his teacher, or his superior may pass through water up to his neck, and need not worry. They asked him, “How about if a rabbi wants to visit his student?”
Come and hear [a possible proof]. Rabbi Yitzchak bar bar Chanah stated: I saw Zeiri going to Rav Ashi, his student. Rav Ashi commented: That was Rabbi Chiya bar Ashi, who went to Zeiri, his teacher.
Rava permitted the people of Ibar Yemina to walk through water for the purpose of guarding the fruit crop. Abbaye said to Rava, “The following source supports your ruling: ‘Those who are guarding the crop may pass through water up to their neck, and need not worry.’” Rav Yosef allowed the people of Bei Tarbu to walk through water to go to a lecture, but he did not permit them to return. Abbaye responded: In that case you are causing them to stumble in the future (Rashi: In future years, they will refuse to go because they won’t be able to return). Others tell the story differently: [Rav Yosef] permitted them to go and return. Abbaye asked him: I understand the permission to cross the water to get there, but why is the return permitted? [He answered:] To avoid causing them to stumble in the future.
Rav Yehudah and his son Rav Shmuel were standing at the bank of the Papa River, at the ford of Chatzdad, and Rami bar Papa was standing on the other bank. He shouted across to them: How about my going over to you to ask a halakhic question? Rav Yehudah answered: Rav and Shmuel both agree that one may cross [water on Yom Kippur] as long as he does not take his hand out of his shirt (see Rashi for reason). Others say that it was Rav Shmuel the son of Rav Yehudah who said: We were taught that one may cross, as long as he does not take his hand out of his shirt.
6) Tosafot, Yoma 74a, s.v. dit’nan
Rabbeinu Tam maintains that all the afflictions of Yom Kippur, apart from eating and drinking, are rabbinic in origin. The verses quoted are simply scriptural texts used as support for rabbinical enactments (asmakhta b’alma). We know this because the Gemara states [exceptions to the rule]: that if one is dirty with pitch or excrement, he may wash in the usual way without worrying, and that if one has sores on his head, he may anoint in the usual way without worrying.
7) Rosh, Yoma, Chapter 8, #1
The Ri maintains that all of the scriptural verses cited are simply support for rabbinical enactments. All the restrictions are rabbinic except for the prohibition of eating and drinking. This is implied by the wording of the Gemara, which asks “To what do the five afflictions correspond” rather than “From which Scriptural verse do we derive these restrictions (mina lan)” or “From where do we derive this” (meheikha nafka).” The formulation of “To what does this correspond” implies that the question is whether this is hinted at anywhere in the Torah.
Another support is that the five correspondences listed include a prohibition on eating and drinking. This correspondence must be just a hint, because the prohibition on eating and drinking was already derived from a different verse and using the hermeneutical principle of gezeirah shavah. Accordingly, this additional derivation must be only an asmakhta.
It is also implied by the teaching in Yoma 74a that “Rabbah and Rabbi Yosef taught . . . What is the source of the prohibitions on Yom Kippur to wash, to anoint, to wear shoes, and to have sexual relations? The verse (Vayikra 16:31) states, ‘It is a Sabbath of solemn rest for you.’” This implies that the prohibitions of Yom Kippur are rabbinic, just as all of the rabbinic prohibitions of the Sabbath are derived from the same word (shabbaton).
Additionally, we can see that the Yom Kippur prohibitions are rabbinic, because the sages employ certain leniencies regarding them such as the permission for a king and a bride to wash their faces, for someone with sores on his scalp to anoint, and for someone who is dirty with pitch or excrement to wash.
Furthermore, Rabbi Eliezer permitted a new mother to wear shoes while the sages prohibited it. We have no choice but to apply this to a case where the woman’s life is not in danger; because if her life were endangered, the sages would not have prohibited it. At the same time, if wearing shoes on Yom Kippur were a Torah prohibition, Rabbi Eliezer could not have permitted it (where there is no danger to life).
The Riva also brought a proof from the Jerusalem Talmud (8:1) which states: Anointing is comparable to drinking when it comes to prohibitions and compensatory offerings, though not when it comes to punishments. But on Yom Kippur, anointing is not comparable to drinking at all, neither for the prohibition nor for the punishment.
8) She’iltot of Rav Achai Ga’on, VeZot HaBerakhah, #167
God has admonished the Jewish people to fast on the tenth of Tishrei, even if it is Shabbat. On this day there is a Torah prohibition regarding eating, drinking, wearing shoes, washing, anointing, and having sexual relations. How do we know this? There are five times where the Torah mentions afflictions in the context of Yom Kippur. One is to prohibit eating and drinking, one washing, one anointing, one wearing shoes, and one having sexual relations.
9) Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Shevitat Asor 1:5
We have learned through an oral tradition (mipi hash’muah) that it is forbidden to wash or anoint or wear shoes or engage in sex. It is a mitzvah to refrain from all these just as one refrains from eating and drinking, since it says “It is a Sabbath of solemn rest (shabbat shabbaton).” The word “shabbat” refers to eating, and “shabbaton” to these additional prohibitions. However, only someone who eats or drinks is subject to the penalty of excision (karet) or the requirement to bring an offering. A person who washes, anoints, wears shoes, or has sexual relations is subject to [rabbinic] lashes for rebellious behavior.
10) Maggid Mishneh on Shevitat Asor 1:5
You should know that this oral tradition is not a Torah law. If it were, it would have been listed in the Rambam’s list of the 613 commandments. And do not claim that it is included in the verse of “Afflict yourselves,” because our Rabbi [the Rambam] uses a different verse, “shabbat shabbaton,” as a prooftext. In contrast, [the four additional afflictions] are based on an oral tradition, also known as “the words of the scribes (midivrei sofrim),” which is a category all of its own. This is his opinion in the Sefer HaMitzvot. There is much more to say about this, but I have commented briefly on his opinion. One who wants to explore this further should look it up in Sefer HaMitzvot.
11) Sefer Yere’im #420 (old edition #118)
Not being allowed to wash is considered an affliction, as we see from Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak’s use (Yoma 77a) of the verse in Mishlei, “Like cold water to a tired person, so is good news from a distant land.” The Gemara there continues: “Perhaps this refers to drinking the water? – The verse does not say ‘into the person’ (benefesh), but rather ‘on the person’ (al nefesh).” We see that a lack of washing tires a person out. And we have found that things which tire people out are referred to as afflictions. For when David and Evyatar fled Avshalom, they said: “The people are hungry and tired and thirsty in the wilderness” (Shmuel Bet 17:29). And we know that everything which happened (in David’s exile) was referred to as affliction, as it is written regarding that same time, “Because you carried the ark of the Lord God before David my father, and because you shared in all my father’s affliction” (Melakhim Alef 2:26).
From all this we learn that washing, even in cold water, is forbidden by Torah law, since Mishlei says “cold water.” However, this Torah prohibition is limited to washing the majority of his body with the intention of getting pleasure. In contrast, if it is the minority of his body, then even if he intends to get pleasure it is forbidden only rabbinically. We see this from the permission given to a king and bride to wash their faces (73b). If it were a Torah prohibition, they would not have given permission to the king or bride to wash.
If one is not washing for pleasure, as is the case when washing one’s hands in the morning to get rid of impure spirits, or washing because one is dirty, then it is permitted. This is as it is taught (77b): “Those who guard the fruit or are going to visit their teacher or superior may pass through water up to their necks, and do not need to worry.” The Gemara adds the condition that one does not take his hand out of his shirt. This case is not an example of p’sik reisha (where a violation is unintended but inevitable – in this case, washing oneself). For there are some people who do not enjoy such washing.
It is further taught that if one’s hands are dirty with pitch or excrement, one may wash in one’s usual way and need not worry. We see that if there is no pleasurable intention, washing is permitted. However, the [rabbinic] prohibition does apply to a case of washing the minority of the body for pleasure. After all, it says (73b) that washing is permitted only in the case of a king or bride. Furthermore, Rabbi Yehudah says (78a) that it is forbidden to sit on moist muddy ground on Yom Kippur. . . if one’s clothing will get wet enough to make something else wet. This prohibition is limited to a situation where he intends to get pleasure. But if he has no such intention, then even if it is the majority of his body getting wet, it is permitted (as we explained above).