Tasteless medicine does not need to be kosher for Pesach, and is permitted even if it contains chametz * Cosmetics and soaps do not need kashrut, nor does dishwashing liquid * Toothpaste and lipstick do need to be kosher for Pesach because they are flavorful * Food products that are kosher for Pesach but look like chametz should not be eaten if they are not significantly different than their form throughout the year * Freedom is a fundamental value on which the Torah is built * A free person enslaved to his physical desires and social influences is not truly free * Attaining true freedom through the study of Torah, observance of the mitzvoth, and the Land of Israel
Medicines on Pesach
The general rule regarding medicine on Pesach is that if the medicine is tasty, such as a syrup or lozenges, it is necessary to find out if it is kosher for Pesach. As long as it is not known that it is kosher for Pesach, it is forbidden to be swallowed. Only someone who is dangerously ill, and whose medicine does not have a good substitute, is permitted to swallow it, because ‘pikuach nefesh’ (the saving of life) overrides the prohibition of eating chametz.
A tasteless medicine, however, does not require kashrut, because even if chametz that was previously edible was mixed in the medicine, since now it is not fit to be eaten even ‘b’shat ha’dachak’ (in times of distress), because it is unfit even for animal consumption, it no longer has the prohibition of chametz.
Some meticulously observant people try to avoid even bitter medicines that contain chametz. They show concern for the opinion of the few poskim who maintain that medicine is not considered unfit for animal consumption since we deem it significant, and it is thus rabbinically prohibited. But according to the opinion of most halakhic authorities, it is permitted to swallow without checking a medicine that is not fit to be eaten.
It should be added that the chances of medicines containing chametz are very slim, and even more so today when many people are sensitive to gluten, and ingredients containing grains are not mixed into medicines by drug companies without cause, rather, they prefer substitutes that are gluten-free.
Consequently, the thick pamphlets that the HMOs publish are superfluous, and instead, they should have sufficed focusing on the flavored medicines. By not doing so, they upheld the rule: “tafasta merubeh, lo tafasta” (“If you have seized a lot, you have not seized”). Because of their preoccupation with tasteless drugs, no effort is being made to clarify the composition of the flavored medicines, for which alone, clarification is important.
Body Lotions and Cosmetics
Poskim disagree whether body ointments that contain chametz may be used on Pesach. While soaps, shampoos, and creams are not made from chametz, they sometimes contain grain alcohol or other chametz derivatives, leading to queries about their status on Pesach.
Some say that applying an ointment is equivalent, by rabbinic enactment, to drinking. Consequently, even if the chametz in these products is not fit for a dog’s consumption, it retains the status of chametz because it is suitable for anointing, and thus it is forbidden to use them on Pesach. Accordingly, one must use soaps, shampoos, and creams that are kosher for Pesach.
Others maintain that the Sages only equated the application of ointment to drinking with regard to Yom Kippur and anointing with oil consecrated as teruma (priestly gift). All other Torah prohibitions relate to eating alone, not anointing. Although it is forbidden to derive benefit from chametz, the chametz in these products was rendered unfit for a dog’s consumption even before Pesach began and thus lost the status of chametz. It is therefore permissible to derive benefit from them and apply them to the body during Pesach.
In practice, even if we know that chametz not fit for a dog’s consumption was mixed in these products after Pesach commenced, since it is a ‘safek d’Rabbanan’ (doubtful rabbinic law), the halakha goes according to the lenient view. In practice, the vast majority of cosmetic products produced in Israel do not contain wheat-derived alcohol (Peninei Halakha: Pesach 8:9).
Toothpaste and Lipstick
Toothpastes and lipsticks must be certified kosher for Pesach because they are flavored, and thus like any other food product.
Be Careful of Products that Look like Chametz
Just as our Sages forbade baking bread with milk lest one come to eat it with meat and transgress the prohibition of the Sages (the prohibition from the Torah is only when meat and milk are cooked together), similarly it is forbidden to eat products whose ingredients are kosher for Pesach but look like chametz products – lest one err, and come to eat chametz products themselves.
Therefore, wafers and cookies, which do not have a very significant change in their shape, even if they have kashrut for Pesach, should not be eaten on Pesach. In this matter, credit goes to the kashrut department of the Chief Rabbinate, who insisted on clarifying the halakha, and applying it. However, sometimes it takes years for all the factories to comply with the directive, and in the meantime, consumers have to be careful in this matter.
There is no need for kosher for Pesach dishwashing liquid. Although it comes into contact with food utensils, because its taste is completely foul, even if chametz was mixed in it, it is no longer prohibited. True, if a person intends to eat chametz that is unfit for a dog’s consumption, since he considers it as food, he thus transgresses a rabbinical prohibition; but in this case, since no one is interested in tasting the dishwashing soap, even if the dishes were not rinsed well and taste of the soap remains on the dishes, there is no prohibition.
Consequently, the kashrut bodies that provide kosher for Pesach certification for dishwashing liquid mislead the public and make their Torah “a spade with which to dig” for financial profits.
The Foundation of Freedom
Sometimes it seems that values of religion clash with values of freedom, to the point where for many people the value of freedom seems alien to Judaism. But the truth is that the value of freedom is the foundation of the Torah, and the entire exodus from Egypt and Pesach – ‘z’man cherutainu’ (the time of our freedom) – is meant to reveal the value of freedom: that through freedom, the soul that God instilled in man can be revealed, and by means of it, one is able to choose good, reveal the image of God within him, and become a partner with God in repairing the world.
The value of freedom is so important that to be properly understood, the people of Israel had to emerge out of the terrible enslavement in Egypt, which the Torah describes as “the house of bondage”, in order to fulfill the great and awesome Divine mission – to redeem the world from its servitude, and repair it with kindness and truth.
Between Freedom and Free Will
However, the difference between ‘freedom’ and ‘free will’ must be understood. A free person is a person who has no external power forcing him to behave in a particular way, but in practice, such a person is not truly free because he is enslaved to his visceral inclinations and public opinion. He can be convinced that he himself has made all of his own decisions, but the decisive influence of his predispositions and that of public opinion on his decisions, can easily be detected. In contrast, a truly free person is one who is able to choose his path according to his own free will. The person with ‘free will’ is swept away with the flow, while the truly free person shows the way, and shapes the flow.
The Torah Grants Freedom
The Torah gives man the ability to be free, consequently, the follow-up of the Exodus is the giving of the Torah, as our Sages said (Avot 6: 2) concerning the verse: ‘The Tablets were made by God and written with God’s script engraved on the Tablets’ (Exodus 32:16): “Read not “engraved” (charut) but “liberty” (chairut) – for there is no free individual, except for he who occupies himself with the study of Torah.” Only through the absolute and eternal word of Hashem, which is engraved and fixed on the tablets, can man be released from the enslavement to his desires and public opinion.
However, it is not sufficient to simply fulfill the Torah, but it must also be learned, because as a result of such study a person renews himself, his soul is enlightened, and consequently, he receives inspiration and ideas on how to add good, and improve the world.
The Goal of the Exodus is to Enter the Land
Receiving the Torah and learning it are not enough – all this must take place in Israel. Therefore the goal of the Exodus and the giving of the Torah is for Israel to inherit the Land promised to our forefathers, for only in the Land of Israel can the nation of Israel live in freedom, and create its own unique lifestyle, and as a result, shower blessing to the entire world, as Hashem said to Moshe: “I have indeed seen the suffering of My people… I have come down to rescue them from Egypt’s power. I will bring them out of that land, to a good, spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey…” (Exodus 3:6-7). In contrast, in exile we are enslaved, as it is stated: “There you will serve gods that men have made out of wood and stone” (Deuteronomy 4:28).
Therefore, the vision of the exodus from Egypt is entirely related to the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel, as stated in the response to the wise son: “In the future, your child may ask you, ‘What are the rituals, rules and laws that God our Lord has commanded you?’ You must tell him, ‘We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, but God brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand… to bring us to the land He promised our fathers, and give it to us” (Deuteronomy 6:20-25).
This is because in the Land of Israel the nation of Israel is able to reveal the unifying ‘emunah‘ (faith), to connect heaven and earth, faith and action, to reveal their talents and to be a blessing to all peoples, as God said to Abraham: “Go away from your land…to the land… I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you great. You shall become a blessing… all the families of the earth will be blessed through you”(Genesis 12: 1-3). The Torah also says: “Now Israel, listen to the rules and laws… so that you will remain alive and come to occupy the land… safeguard and keep these rules, since this is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations. They will hear all these rules and say, ‘This great nation is certainly a wise and understanding people” (Deuteronomy 4:1-8). The Sages taught that “wisdom and understanding” refers to the secular knowledges that receive their positive blessing from ‘emunah’, Torah and mitzvot (Shabbat 75a).
Thus, precisely through the acceptance of the yoke of Torah and mitzvoth, the Jewish nation is capable of finding the true meaning of life in this world. This “yoke” does not entail the closing-off of possibilities, but rather, the opening of innumerable potentials, because Divine goodness is revealed in countless expressions and varieties, and man must choose which areas to invest his energies in ‘repairing the world in the Kingdom of God’.
Religious Institutions and Freedom
Sometimes, in an effort to preserve the path of Torah and mitzvot, we forget the value of freedom. This situation is a carry-over from the burden of ‘galut‘ (exile) and impulses. For many generations we had to direct almost all our energies to guard ourselves from any foreign influences, and we forgot how to reveal the good thoughts in our souls, for the glory of Torah and the world.
In order to free ourselves from the yoke of ‘galut‘, we must strengthen the vision of Israel’s life in its land, and as a result, the value of freedom will receive its important standing, and encourage initiative and creativity stemming from ‘emunah’ based on the goodness of Hashem, and a sense of mission to repair the world. The more successful the heroes and pioneers of ‘emunah‘ are, the more people will follow in their path. And all the people of the world will know and realize that precisely within a religious framework, true freedom emerges in its most profound and original way, redeems man from his material enslavement, visceral inclinations and distress, and gives him the opportunity to reveal his Divine soul. And as a result, we will merit complete redemption, speedily in our days.
This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at: