Showering on Shabbat

I live in a hot climate and sometimes on Shabbat afternoon I feel like taking a nice, long, relaxing warm shower. Is this permitted?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

There are a number of relevant issues to your question. The first is in using hot water. When a person takes a typical shower – with at least some water from the hot tap – hot water is removed from the boiler and replaced with cold water, which is subsequently heated. The cold water which now enters the boiler will be “cooked” on Shabbat, which is one of the forbidden types of labor. (Likewise when the hot and cold water mix when coming out, the hot heats up some of the cold.) (See Talmud Shabbat 73a, Mishna Berurah 318:1, Igrot Moshe O.C. 4:75.)

In addition, the Sages decreed that one not bathe in heated water on Shabbat, even if the water was heated before Shabbat (Talmud Shabbat 39b, Shulchan Aruch O.C. 326:1). (It is permitted to use such water to wash parts of one’s body.)

Regarding cold water, there is a custom not to bathe the entire body in it as well (Mishna Berurah 326:21). However, if one is very uncomfortable due to the heat, he may do so (Shemirat Shabbat K’Hilchata I 14:11, Igrot Moshe O.C. IV 74-5)).

There are several other potential issues with bathing on Shabbat. Another type of labor on Shabbat is smoothing. (It is part of the parchment-making process forbidden on Shabbat, in which rough parchment is smoothed down – see Mishna Shabbat 7:2.) Thus, we may not rub solid soap on our bodies, further smoothing down the soap. Liquid soap is fine to use.

Another relevant type of Shabbat labor is squeezing a liquid out of a solid – even hair (Mishna Berurah 326:25). This applies to parts of the body which have sufficient hair to hold water. Such areas can be wetted but one must be careful not to press against them, squeezing water out of them. This would inevitably occur if a person would apply shampoo to his hair.

Putting all of this together, if you are very hot and uncomfortable, you may take a cold shower. You may also use liquid soap on non-hairy areas of your body. But you should be careful not to squeeze water out of your hair or out of the towel.

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