PESAH: Medication, cosmetics and other non-edible Hamets products

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We have already explained what is Hamets, and we have also mentioned the Biblical prohibitions of consuming and possessing Hamets during Pesah. It is permitted, however, to keep in our possession or use during Pesah any product that is not edible – i.e., which is not normally consumed by humans or animals – even if these products may contain Hamets. For example: Cosmetics, glues, shampoos, deodorants, soaps, detergents or other cleaning products, etc. In all these cases it will not be necessary to check the absence of Hamets in these products, nor do they need to have a special rabbinical seal or certification which authorizes it for Pesah (Rabbi Obadiah Yosef, Yalqut Yosef, 360: 31, 361: 68).

For Sefaradim, it is also allowed to use medicines that come in the form of non-chewable capsules or hard pills, that is, pills that are swallowed with water. Why? Because when a medicine comes in the form of a hard capsule or non-chewable tablet it is considered “inedible”. Therefore, even if that type of medication might contain a Hamets element (which is nowadays highly unlikely, as we will explain), it can be taken during Pesah (Yalqut Yosef Mo’adim, 362: 40).

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, a great rabbinic Ashkenazi authority in Israel and author of the book Penine Halacha, explains that today many Ashkenazi rabbis follow a Halakhic criterion similar to that of Rabbi Obadia Yosef (see Penine Halakha Pesah 102, 103). On the subject of non-chewable tablets Rabbi Melamed makes an important practical observation: Nowadays, virtually all medical hard pills are made with potato or corn starch, whose consumption in Pesah would still be allowed even for the strictest criteria, instead of wheat starch, among other reasons because wheat protein, gluten, is harmful to celiac patients.

It is advisable, then and when possible, to ask the doctor to prescribe for Pesah medication in the form of non-chewable pills.

For more information on this topic see here what Rabbi Melamed wrote about cosmetics, medicines, etc.

Needless to say, in the case of a serious medical condition, one should take any medication that is necessary.

STRICTER OPINIONS

Many prominent halakhic authorities in the Ashkenazi community also say that any non-chewable medication should be allowed for Pesah, but vitamins are not part of this category. According to these opinions, vitamins, even if they come in the form of non-chewable capsules or pills, can not be used in Pesah unless one verifies that they do not contain Hamets. Some Sephardic Rabbis also agree with this criterion.

Many Ashkenazim rabbis also adopt a stricter stance on the use of non-edible Hamets for Pesah (cleaning products or perfumes made from wheat alcohol, for example).

LIQUID or CHEWABLE MEDICINES

Syrups, powdered vitamins and / or medications; or vitamins with a pleasant flavor, drinkable and / or chewable, should be certified as “Kasher for Pesah”, or one must ensure that they do not contain any Hamets ingredient in their composition. Bear in mind that many dietary supplements and vitamins are made with elements that are 100% Hamets (eg, grain fibers, wheat germ, etc.).

According to many rabbis, Ashkenazim and Sefaradim, this same criterion should be applied to perfumery or personal hygiene products (usually oral) that have a pleasant taste: for example, toothpaste, or flavored lipsticks, etc. In these cases you should also check that they do not contain any Hamets element.

Many of the technical and halakhic details that explain these positions are mentioned in the book by Rabbi Melamed. We recommend the advanced level reader who wants to understand the relevant halakhic details to see the previous link or this link in English. You can also read this additional linkwith more detailed information.

As the reader can appreciate, in all these Halakhot there are diverse customs and traditions. For a final verdict, consult with the Rabbi of your community.

HAMETS FOR PETS

When the halakha refers to the ban on consuming or possessing Hamets during Pesah it includes the possession and / or benefit of Hamets which is suitable for animals’ consumption. It is forbidden, therefore, to use or even maintain during Pesah animal food containing Hamets. Most food for dogs, cats, birds, etc. contain Hamets. If you have a pet, you should look for pet food that does not contain any Hamets product. See here the StarK list for Kosher lePesah Pet Food.