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PESACH MEDICATION & COSMETICS: THE HALACHOS & LISTS
Rabbi Dovid Heber, STAR-K Kashrus Administrator

For over 25 years, Rabbi Gershon Bess has prepared a Guide for Pesach Medications and Cosmetics. This list has been published and distributed by Kollel Los Angeles. Over the past ten years, STAR-K Kosher Certification in conjunction with Kollel Los Angeles has made this list more widely available to the general public. This guide, available in Jewish bookstores nationwide, has served as an important resource to kosher consumers.

There are four issues that must be addressed to fully understand the list:
• The Halachos of Taking Medication on Pesach
• The Importance of the List
• How the List is Prepared
• Cosmetics and Toiletries

I. The Halachos of Taking Medication on Pesach
The following halachos are based on the psak of Rabbi Moshe Heinemann and Rabbi Gershon Bess:

Important: No one should refrain from taking any required medication even if it contains chometz, without first consulting his physician and Rav.

Note: All medications for a heart condition, diabetes, abnormal blood pressure, stroke, kidney disease, lung disease, depression, epilepsy, the immune system (transplant anti-rejection), and cancer treatment (including precautionary) may be taken on Pesach. Furthermore, all prescription medication taken on a regular basis for chronic conditions should only be changed with the consultation of your physician (if you can not reach your physician you should continue to take your regular prescription and without change). Some examples of such chronic conditions include the following: Any psychiatric condition, prostate condition, Crohn’s Disease, celiac, colitis, high cholesterol, Parkinson’s Disease, anemia, Multiple Sclerosis, thyroid condition, and asthma.

Choleh Sh’yaish Bo Sakana –If someone’s life is in danger or may be in danger, he must take any chometz medication, unless an equally effective non-chometz medication is available. One may also take chometz medication to prevent a possible sakana. This is true regardless of the form of the medication (i.e. swallow tablets & caplets, capsules, liquid & chewable tablets). Swallow tablets or caplets are preferred, if readily available.

Individuals in a sakana situation should not switch medications and should continue with their regular prescriptions, whether or not they contain chometz (unless a doctor advises otherwise). Examples include the following:

  • Someone with an infection (except for those skin infections known to be non-life threatening, e.g. acne) should take prescribed antibiotics. One should finish the course that is prescibed.
  • An elderly person with the flu.
  • A pregnant woman whose life is at risk (e.g. blood clotting disorder, toxemia) or who is in active labor or in danger of having a miscarriage.
  • A woman who has given birth within the past seven days or who has postpartum complications that are or may become life threatening. This may apply for an extended period of time greater than seven days, depending upon her condition.

Choleh Sh’ein Bo Sakana – Someone whose life is not in danger. This includes anyone who is bedridden, noticeably not functioning up to par due to pain or illness, or has a fever which is not potentially life threatening. This category also includes the following:

  • One who suffers from chronic debilitating arthritis pain.
  • One who suffers from migraine headaches or mild depression.
  • A pregnant woman suffering from non-life threatening complications (e.g. lower back pain).
  • A woman who has given birth between 7 and 30 days prior to Yom Tov without any known problems or sakana or who is experiencing non-life threatening postpartum complications.
  • A child under age six with any illness or discomfort.

L’halacha, such a person may swallow any tablet, caplet or capsule regardless of whether or not it contains chometz (unless an equally effective non-chometz medicine is available). However, where possible one should use only medications that do not contain chometz. It should be noted that a choleh she’ain bo sakana may consume kitniyos (Mishna Brura 453:7).

All chewable pills and liquid medication may be used only if they appear on the approved Pesach list or if one can determine that they are chometz free. This is true even if the product contains kitniyos. Non-chometz formula & nutritional products (e.g. Ensure) which contain kitniyos are permissible for use by infants and the elderly.

Mechush (slight discomfort) or Boh’ree (healthy) –One who is experiencing a slight discomfort (e.g. slight joint pain or runny nose) or who is in good health may only take products that are chometz-free and are not considered kitniyos.

If one must chew a tablet or take a liquid medication for a minor discomfort, he may do so if it appears on the approved medication list; it should preferably be kitniyos free. Halachically, it may be permissible to ingest a medication even if it contains kitniyos when the kitniyos are botel b’rov, since shishim is not required– see Mishna Brura 453:9.

It should be noted that the medication list primarily addresses the “chometz-free” status, and for certain medications it does not address the issue of kitniyos (since kitniyos is permissible for a choleh and/or is batel b’rov).

Since one who has a mechush or is a boh’ree may not consume kitniyos in a normal fashion (i.e. chew a pleasant tasting kitniyos tablet or kitniyos liquid), one should ascertain that the medication is not only chometz-free, but also kitniyos-free (or at least confirm that the kitniyos is batel b’rov).

Furthermore, in most cases information gathered for the list is not based on a mashgiach inspection of the facility, but rather on information provided by the manufacturer. Although l’halacha this information is reliable (see Section III), nonetheless it is praiseworthy for one who has a mechush or is healthy to refrain from taking medicinal products k’derech achila (eaten in a normal manner – e.g. pleasant tasting chewable tablets or liquid) unless these items are certified for Pesach. This halacha generally applies to vitamins taken to maintain good health.

II . The IMPORTANCE of the List

The following list is important for all types of cholim on Pesach:

Choleh Sh’yesh Bo Sakana – As indicated, l’halacha such a choleh may take anything if a substitute is not available. Unfortunately, there are individuals who inappropriately discontinue medication for life threatening conditions during Pesach without consulting a physician, unless the medicine appears on an approved list. The list provides necessary information for consumers, ensuring that such mistakes are not made.

Furthermore, as previously indicated, even one who is in sakana should l’chatchila use a medication that is chometz-free, if possible. This list provides this information.

Choleh She’ain Bo Sakana – Such an individual may not consume chometz in a normal manner but may eat kitniyos. Medicine taken by such individuals often lists ingredients that may be derived from chometz. For example, sorbitol, a sweet calorie- free sugar alcohol derived from glucose found in medication, mouthwash, and toothpaste, is often derived from corn but could also come from wheat. There is no way to know its source by reading the label. Rabbi Bess’ research confirms which products are chometz-free, something often impossible for a Rav or choleh to ascertain on his own.

Mechush or Boh’ree – As indicated, such a person may take only chometz-free and preferably kitniyos-free products. This list provides chometz-free information (e.g. which aspirin or ibuprofen may be taken) and often indicates when there is no kitniyos, as well.

Note: Except where indicated, the list does not address the kosher status of the product, only the chometz-free status. This means that if a product appears on the list it does not necessarily mean that the product is kosher. It may be non-kosher and chometz-free. Furthermore, this article does not address the halachos of taking medication on Shabbos and Yom Tov.1

III . How Information is Obtained and on What Halachic Basis:

Rabbi Bess contacts the company and asks numerous questions. Information is updated every year and is accepted only when submitted in writing. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l was of the opinion that one may rely on written information provided by a company (Igros Moshe YD I:55).

This system of review is implemented for this project only, and would not be relied upon for products certified by STAR-K Kosher Certification and other reliable hechsherim. When a company is certified by STAR-K, a careful review of the formulations and factory is conducted and these halachic leniencies are not relied upon. Furthermore, the information submitted by the company is not as detail oriented as a formulation and factory review and approval of a STAR-K certified product (e.g. with flavors or various other ingredients). However, with regard to approved medication, l’halacha one may rely upon this information.

The reason is as follows: As indicated in Igros Moshe, we consider the information on the list to be accurate. Even if one suspects that a company provided inaccurate information (e.g. they could not adequately determine the type of alcohol in use), halachically there are other additional leniencies and he can rely upon the information that is provided. These issues are beyond the scope of this article but include: 1) Dealing with a choleh, 2) According to some opinions, the taste of a medicine is shelo k’derech achila, 3) Swallowing a tablet is certainly shelo k’derech achila. 4) A halachic rov (majority) of chometz-free sources may also apply.

One can assume there are no ba’al yeh’ra’eh or ba’al yematzeh (owning chometz) issues regarding owning any medicine on the chometz-free list. The reason is because we rely upon information provided by the company, and even in the event that inaccurate information was provided there is unlikely a k’zayis of chometz in the product.

IV . Cosmetics

L’halacha, all non-food items not fit for canine consumption (nifsal mayachilas kelev, i.e. something that one would not feed his dog) may be used on Pesach. This includes all cosmetics, soaps, ointments, and creams.2 Nonetheless, people have acted stringently with regard to these items.

Below are several reasons why people are strict:
1. Many products, including shaving lotion and perfume, contain denatured alcohol which can be restored to regular alcohol. According to most opinions, one should not use such products on Pesach. The list notes products which do not use chometz-based alcohols.
2. The Biur Halacha (326:10 B’shaar) writes in the name of the Gra,that one should be strict and not use non-kosher soap all year (sicha kishtiya). Although we are not accustomed to this stringency, many individuals have adopted this chumrah during Pesach and do not permit the use of chometz items even if they are used externally.
3. Some are of the opinion that we do not say “nifsal” (food is unfit for canine consumption) applies to an item that is initially produced as a non-food item.
4. Lipstick is often inadvertently ingested when eating food. If it contains chometz, it is halachically permissible to apply to the lips since the lipstick is unfit for canine consumption. Nevertheless, most women prefer not to consume even a trace of anything prohibited. The Pesach list provides chometz-free lipsticks.
5. Mouthwash and Toothpaste contain sorbitol and other ingredients which may be derived from chometz. Although, l’halacha these items are permissible to use since they are nifsal mayachilas kelev, many prefer not to use them as they are taken orally. The Pesach list provides information regarding such products.
6. Historically, it has been the custom to follow stringent opinions regarding Hilchos Pesach (For information click here). In addition, it seems to have been a prevalent custom to restrict the use of items which may contain chometz, even when they are clearly nifsal mayachilas kelev. The Pesachlist provides accurate information for those who wish to continue to follow the more strict opinion and prevailing custom when using such products.

STAR-K Kosher Certification is grateful to Rabbi Gershon Bess for all of his research, as well as Rabbi Chaim Fasman and Kollel of Los Angeles for providing this list to a diverse group of kosher consumers who refer to this guide for reliable Pesach information. This Pesach Guide hs benefited many ill and conscientious comsumers who wish to fulfill the “chumros d’Pesach”, as well as rabbonim and kashrus professionals who must answer numerous shaalos regarding Pesach, in facilitating a Chag Kasher V’Sameach for countless individuals.

 

1. For a full discussion regarding the laws of taking non-kosher medication during the year, as well as on Shabbos and Yom Tov, see Kashrus Kurrents article ‘A Kashrus Guide to Medications, Vitamins, and Nutritional Supplements’ at www.star-k.org.

2. There are numerous halachos beyond the scope of this article regarding which personal care items and cosmetics may or may not be used on Shabbos and Yom Tov. For a full discussion, see, ‘The Kashrus, Shabbos, and Pesach Guide to Cosmetics’ at www.star-k.org.



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