By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com
About a week President Trump was spotted with two Band Aids on the back of his hand – during a time that he was telling everyone that he was medication-free. This prompted the media to begin major speculation as to what drugs he was taking – since this is the spot where most people get their IV’s placed. He could have saved himself all this speculation if he had just removed the Band Aids.
THE WHAT IFS
But what if it was Shabbos? And what if the president was an observant Jew? Would he have been permitted to remove the Band Aids on Shabbos?
THE GENERAL ISSUE
Before we delve into the depths of the halacha – let us remember that to us, as Torah observant Jews, Shabbos observance – is the very flag of our people. Just like on 9/11 everyone went out and purchased a flag to show their dedication to the ideals of freedom that this country holds so dear – Shabbos observance is the flag of the Jewish nation.
With the observance of Shabbos, we declare our belief to the world that it was G-d Al-Mighty who created the world – and it is a moral world with right and wrong, for Tov – Goodness is one of G-d’s Names. G-d rewards good and punishes evil. With our Shabbos observance we declare to the world that there is a special hell awaiting those terrorists who murdered so many people in 9/11, awaiting those ISIS terrorists who kidnapped and slaughtered the innocent, and the radical Muslims who beheaded a French teacher last week. We also declare to the world that there is a special reward for those who follow G-d’s Mitzvos.
Just as G-d employed creative acts to create the world – we refrain from creative acts on the Seventh day – Shabbos. What specific creative acts do we refrain from doing? The thirty nine acts in which we, under instruction from G-d and from Moshe Rabbeinu, created the Mishkan – the Tabernacle, the Holy resting place of the Shechina into this world.
THE SPECIFIC ISSUE
The specific issue under discussion is the 12th of the 39 prohibited Malachos on Shabbos – Gozaiz – roughly translated as sheering. As applied to the Mishkan it involves the sheering of wool from sheep to construct the paroches – the covering of the Mishkan.
The word actually implies detaching, and its sub-categories (called Tolados) apply to animals, humans, and birds. [The Minchas Chinuch even applies it to fish, see Mitzvah 32: Gozez 1].
Gozaiz refers to removing some growth or appendage that is not an integral part of the body, such as hair, nails, . To violate the Torah prohibition it must be done in a regular manner. If it is done differently – it is considered a Rabbinic violation of the Malacha – just like all of the other 38 creative acts. Removing one hair is different – that is not the normal manner of removing hair for haircuts. So that would be a Rabbinic violation.
THE TWO PLACES
There are two places where people put on Band Aids – a spot with hairs on it and a spot without hairs. The president’s Band Aids were on a spot where, generally speaking, there is hair.
As a general rule, it would be a Rabbinic violation to remove the band aid – since it is not the normal manner of removing hair. If the Band Aid is causing tzaar, pain or a difficult annoyance, it would be permitted to remove it – according to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l – cited in Shmiras Shabbos K’hilchasa Chapter 35 sif 29:73.
His reasons are threefold:
- It is k’lachar yad (a back-handed method which is forbidden mideRabanan and the sages did not necessarily place their prohibition when there is tza’ar – it is just that this may not be tza’ar, perhaps).
- It is mekalkel – destructive in nature
- It is a Psik Raisha delo neicha lei (a secondary result of a primary action that the person would not be pleased about)
Let’s briefly review each of these three ideas.
The thirty nine malachos were generally done in a normal manner. When something is done with a shinui, in a different and less efficient manner and does not necessarily fit into the concept of Maleches Machsheves asra Torah – the Torah forbade thinking and efficient acts (See Baitza 13b).
When a Malacha is done destructively, such as here, in that he gets no benefit from the hairs or the fact that the hairs are pulled out, it is not considered necessarily fitting into the concept of Maleches Machsheves asra Torah – the Torah forbade thinking and efficient acts. This is the operative factor according to the Gemorah in Chagiga 10b [see Rashi 31b “l’olam and Tosfos, Sanhedrin 85b “l’olam]. It is still considered Mekalkel – even if there is a side benefit to it that is not related to the underlying Malacha (See Mishna Brurah 314:7).
PSIK RAISHA DELO NICHA LEI.
This is defined as a secondary result of a primary action that the person would not be pleased about. Here, the removal of the band aid plucks the hairs. Neither the president nor you would be happy about removing the hairs on the back of the wrist. The concept of a Psik Raisha Delo Nicha Lei or PRDNL (a cute way to remember this for those who did not grow up with the term is Park, Reverse, Drive, Neutral, and Low) is actually a debate between the Aruch and the Baalei Tosfos (cited in Tosfos Kesuvos 6a “Hai”).
Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l combined all three of these factors to form a leniency when a person is in pain. Alternatively, placing oil under the band aid allows it to slip off without taking off hairs. A third alternative is to ask a gentile to remove them.
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