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Wednesday
Mar272019

Does Chapstick Need a Hechsher?

In connection with Parshas Sh’mini which discusses non-kosher animals,
we present a collection of halachic articles on the topic of Kashrus of household
non-food items and gazing at non-Kosher Animals.

By Horav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, Mara D’asra and member of the Crown Heights Beis Din

 

Does toothpaste need to be Kosher?

Many poskim maintain that inedibles do not have to be kosher. What is considered inedible halachically, though, is not completely clear. It can range from something not usually served at a meal to an item that does not qualify as food-grade.

 In the past, toothpaste and mouthwash were made with many non-edible components; today they are manufactured mostly of edible, palatable ingredients we eat on a daily basis. This change, many argue, make kosher toothpaste a requirement—while there are others who say we may nevertheless be lenient. Although they might be edible, toothpaste and mouthwash are not consumed intentionally.

In practice, we should be strict with regard to flavored toothpaste, and it should be purchased only with a hechsher; but there is room to be lenient regarding unflavored varieties. This applies to infants too. (Halacha2go.com #589*)

Non-Kosher Pills

It is a rabbinic prohibition to eat something non-Kosher, even if not eaten in the normal way of eating. However, swallowing pills which may be non-kosher is permissible for a person who is unwell, for a combination of two reasons: 1) because the pills are swallowed whole, and 2) because they are tasteless. Regarding this halachah, illness is defined as a general feeling of malaise, or what is termed miktzas choli, a minor sickness or pain. (The halachah is different for a child; anything a child needs is considered an illness.)

However, if an alternative kosher medication is available, the heter does not apply. If a pill has a taste, a solution would be to enclose it in a kosher capsule or wrap tissue paper around it before swallowing it.

Healthy people may not take non-kosher vitamins or supplements to strengthen their bodies in any way, as the heter only applies in a case of illness. (Halacha2go.com #180)

Looking at Non-Kosher Animals

Although it’s not against halachah to gaze at non-kosher animals or at pictures of them, the Kav Hayashar and other mussar works speak of the importance of guarding one’s eyes from looking at devarim temei’im (impure creatures). The Rebbe spoke about this at length, especially concerning the impressionable minds of babies and children, adding that our generation in particular needs to train its eyes to see only positive and holy things. 

Still, there are a number of exceptions:

Meshaneh Habrios: If one wishes to make the brachah of Meshaneh Habrios, the blessing made upon seeing rare or unusual animals, although the Kav Hayashar cautions to look at them only for as long as necessary;

Zoo: Going to the zoo for the purpose of reflecting on the greatness of Hashem’s creation;

Shul: Using the image of a lion or other animals as a motif in artwork for shuls—such as on the paroches of the aron kodesh or on the mantle of a sefer Torah—since these teach us to serve Hashem with the positive attributes of these animals, as well as being reminiscent of the animals in the Heavenly Merkavah.

Teachers: Teachers using pictures of animals to illustrate halachos or Torah stories to their students. (Halacha2go.com #566)

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