Halacha for Thursday 18 Av 5777 August 10 2017

Using Perfume on Shabbat

Question: May one use perfume on one’s skin or clothing on Shabbat?

Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Beitzah (23a) states that both Rabba and Rav Yosef said that one may not spill a cup filled with perfume onto clothing on Shabbat, for this constitutes the prohibition of creating a new scent on clothing. This refers to the prohibition of creating a new substance on Shabbat and infusing this scent into the garment constitutes creating a new fragrant substance. Clearly then, the Gemara prohibits putting perfume onto garments on Shabbat as this constitutes the prohibition of creating a new substance. Maran Ha’Bet Yosef rules likewise, as does the Rama in his gloss (on Chapter 511). The custom is to indeed refrain from doing so in accordance with the opinion of several Rishonim who have quoted this ruling as Halacha.

The Turei Zahav infers from this that when the Kohanim bless the congregation on Shabbat or Yom Tov, they may not wash their hands with water mixed with rosewater (which is aromatic), for they are creating a new fragrant substance on their hands.

Nevertheless, Hagaon Chacham Tzvi (father of the Ya’abetz and a great Ashkenazi luminary who went to study among Turkish scholars in his youth and as a result, kept in close contact with them. He was thus known as “Chacham Tzvi” as per the Sephardic custom of calling rabbis “Chacham.” He cleverly pointed out that he preferred the Sephardic title of “Chacham” [wise man] rather than the Ashkenazi title of “Rav” [rabbi], for whereas wisdom livens its owner [see Yoma 83b], the rabbinate buries its owner [see Pesachim 87b]. His work is named after him: Responsa Chacham Tzvi) disagrees based on the Mishnah in Masechet Shabbat (111a) which states, “Sons of kings may rub rose-oil on their wounds on Shabbat.” Although rose-oil causes one’s skin to have a fragrant smell, this is still permissible. Several of the great Poskim bring other sources to permit this and they write that there is a distinction between putting perfume on clothing and putting perfume on one’s body: When perfume is placed on clothing, it is meant to stay there for a prolonged period of time and thus constitutes the prohibition of creating a new fragrant substance. However, when one puts perfume on one’s body, this is not meant to last for several days, for the smell will usually disappear in a short while; thus, our Sages did not include this in the prohibition of creating a new substance

Thus, halachically speaking, although one may not spray perfume onto clothing on Shabbat, one may, nevertheless, place perfume onto one’s body. Similarly, one may use deodorant and the like on Shabbat, for the scent created by spraying fragrances onto one’s body is not meant to last for a long time as it usually disappears quickly.

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