Welcome to our sixth session. For those of you who looked for a supplement to last week's session on INFANT AND CHILD CARE in this week's forum as mentioned in the introduction, you did not miss it. Actually, what began as a supplement to last week's session turned into this week's lecture as the material was much too important and extensive to delegate to the forum. The subject of this week's session: "INFANT AND CHILD CARE ON SHABBAT AND HOLIDAYS" is a vital one which should be given the thought and attention it deserves. While it is often treated as a supplement to the study of child development in the Biblical context, the importance of the precept to observe the Sabbath is so fundamental to life in general and to child development in the Biblical life in particular, that it warrants its own session. To facilitate the comprehension of the Biblical concept of Shabbat and the Shabbat prohibitions, please read the chapter "Shabbat" by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz which you may access at www.judaica.ru/english/articles/shabbat.html.


It is said that the steadfast fulfillment of the commandments to observe the Sabbath and to circumcise newborn male children, even in the most difficult and hazardous situations, has assured the preservation of the Jews as a unique and chosen people. (Eliyau Kitov, "Man and His Home" Yad Eliyhau, J-m 1977).

Kitov points out that these two commandments are singled out as an "eternal sign" for wherever the Jewish people fulfil these two commandments, it is assured that they too will continue to exist. The observance of the Sabbath as a day of rest is the concrete expression of the recognition of the Almighty in the Jewish home. By refraining from all worldly, routine activities and dedicating the day to rest and Torah learning (studying the Bible) the Jew reaffirms his faith in G-d, who created the universe in six and rested on the seventh day. Thus, all activities that were carried out in biblical times in the Tabernacle are forbidden on the Sabbath. (Joshua Neubirt, "Shmirat Shabbat Kehilkhato; J-m, Feldheim) According to Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, one must regard the Sabbath as if it were the afterworld, where all is prepared for mankind in advance; therefore all activities which cause a change in that which exists are forbidden.(Both the thirty-nine basic functions carried out in the Tabernacle and the secondary acts are forbidden on Sabbath. (See "Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh"). On the other hand, since the holidays were given to the Jewish people for rejoicing, it is permitted to do that which is necessary to prepare food which is part of thefestivities. The laws for observing the Sabbath and holidays pertain to women as well as men, and this includes mothers who must care for their infants and children on these special days. Biblical law takes into consideration the special needs of the infant and child and at the same time assures the mother the possibility of maintaining the observance of the day of rest. Thus, the guidelines concerning infant care on the Sabbath (and the holidays) balance the fulfillment of the child's needs with the required observance of the mitzvot. As many of the examples cited in this section indicate, modern Responsa have made it possible for infants and children to receive all the care they require for healthy development within the framework of Sabbath observance. All babies up to the age of two or three, and over that age if they still eat baby food, are considered to have the same status as a sick person not in mortal danger, and in case of emergency. it is permitted to ask a non-Jew to do tasks forbidden to the Jew on Sabbath in order to prepare the food or milk the child requires to prevent an upset stomach. (Of course, one must try to prepare suitable food before the Sabbath. Chazon Ish, 59:3)

In addition, the non-Jew may be requested to fulfill a child's needs other than nutrition if the child (up to the age of nine or ten) is weak and requires special treatment. (Responsa Minchat Yitzhak 1:78) If the doctor prescribes vitamins or cod liver oil daily, it is permitted to administer these on the Sabbath as well. (Neubirt 24:3) The child may be anointed with a small amount of oil to sooth a diaper rash. Scales on the head may be anointed oil. The oil must be liquid, and the application should be hand and not with the use of cotton, which absorbs the oil. It is not permitted to smear creams of any sort on the baby on the Sabbath. (Neubirt 24:5,6)

The guidelines for the care of a sick child on the Sabbath will appear in the lesson on Health.BATHING ON THE SABBATH Children must not be bathed on the Sabbath, but it is permitted to wash each 1imb separately with water heated before the Sabbath. The baby may be dried as long as this activity does not entail absorption of water. It is forbidden to use baby cream on the Sabbath. Cotton swabs required for baby care must be prepared before the Sabbath. It is permitted to powder the child in sensitive areas, even though this is considered medication. (Neubirt 13:22)

In all cases, one must use liquid soap and refrain from using sponges or washcloths which absorb and squeeze water.(Neubirt 13:12) Some Rabbis do not permit the use of liquid soap on the Sabbath. Although the same laws apply to holidays, if the child is routinely washed daily, it is permitted to bathe him/her on holidays. The water used must not be heated especially for the bath; instead one must use water already heated. If the child is bathed, it is permitted to put a clean towel in the bathtub to prevent him/her from slipping-(Nuebirt, 13:8, 13) It is forbidden to wring out the child' s hair when drying. It is permitted to wipe a child's mouth and remove food stains from his/her face with a paper towel. However, care should be taken to rinse the stains by hand before wiping." (Neubirt 13:15)

The teeth should not be brushed on the Sabbath, but it is permitted to use mouthwash to rinse the mouth (it is preferable to prepare the mouthwash solution in water before the Sabbath). (Neubirt 13:24)DIAPER CARE It is forbidden to soak diapers in water on the Sabbath, but removal of feces from the diapers without the use of water permitted. The diapers may be kept in a special closed container and deodorized with Lysol to prevent flies and roaches from approaching. If infection is feared, it is permitted to soak diapers in Lysol but not in bleach.(Neubirt 14:5) In any case, it is advisable to use disposable diapers on the Sabbath although care must be taken not to tape or fasten the diapers. Rubber pants which are not made of cloth, as well as rubber sheets or clothes made of pure synthetic fibers, may be soaked on the Sabbath for further use on that day, but one must take care not to squeeze water in the process. (Neubirt 14:6) These articles may also be hung to dry for use on the Sabbath, but they must not be placed near a furnace.(Neubirt 14:7)

Although in general, it is not permitted to hang clothes out to dry on the Sabbath, the mother may remove dry diapers and baby clothes from the line if the items are needed for that day.(Nuebirt 14:11)


Following are guidelines for problems concerning nursing on Sabbath and holidays. As some problems are controversial, a Rabbi should be consulted when necessary.

If the infant requires mother's milk, and cannot nurse for any reason, it is permitted for the mother to empty the milk into a container for the child. (Neubirt, chapter 23:15). On the other hand, if the mother empties the milk into a container to prevent engorgement, this must be done in such a way as to make sure that the milk is not fit for consumption.(Neubirt, chapter 23:13) Similarly, the mother may spray a few drops of milk into the baby's mouth in order to entice him to nurse if he refuses at first.(Neubirt 23:11.12)

A nursing mother is permitted to take medicine and shots if necessary to prevent breast infection. (Neubirt 23:11) Indeed, during the first three days after birth, a lactating mother may even use cotton swabs to apply medication to sore nipples.(Neubirt 23:15)

A nursing mother is required to fast on the Day of Atonement, but if the infant is dependent on mother's milk and will be endangered without it, and if the mother risks losing her milk if she does drink fluids, she is permitted to drink the accepted 40-45 grams of water every nine minutes during the fast (to ensure her supply of milk for the baby).(Neubirt 25:15) However, it is better for her to try to drink enough fluids before the fast to prevent dehydration. In any case, if attendance at a synagogue may cause her to require water, the nursing woman is forbidden to attend the services. (Neubirt 39:15)

While the nursing mother is normally required to fast on other obligatory fast-days, she may break the fast early if the fasting has affected her milk supply and as a result there is danger to the child.. (Taanit 14a)


It is permitted to take the baby for a stroll in the carriages in areas where there is an "eruv". A child's seat may be propped on the carriage with the use of valves, but not by using screws. A carriage may not be converted into a stroller, and vice versa. No repairs may be made on carriages or carriage wheels during the Sabbath. (Neubirt 18:43-45) In areas where there is no "eruv", it is not permitted to carry the child in one's arms or to stroll with a carriage. (Responsa Chelkat Yaakov pt A,66)

It is not permitted to spread a net on the carriage, crib, or playpen unless it has been spread before Sabbath to cover the span of a hand's-breadth. (Neubirt 18: 7-9)


It is permitted to feed a child on a fast-day if needed and to wash one's hands before preparing or serving the food if the child is not required to fast. (Neubirt 32:40) The age when a child is to begin fasting will be discussed in the lesson on "Early Childhood Education


It is permitted to hire a babysitter to care for the child if the person is hired before the Sabbath and is paid for the service rendered on a weekday in addition to regular wages.(Neubirt 18:45) In all cases, a gentile may be asked to carry out an act that would consist of desecrating the Sabbath in order to fulfill the needs of a child up to ten years of age who is considered the same as a sick person not in mortal danger. Thus, the gentile may be asked to put out a light so that the child can sleep or to light a room for the child if he/she is afraid of the dark.


The following are some common toys and games which are permitted on the Sabbath:

Rattles (although the baby need not be stopped from playing with rattles, the adult may not touch it or shake it to produce a sound).
Marbles (children may play with them on a table or on the carpet but not on the floor)
Balls may be used indoors and outdoors where there is an eruv; if the ball becomes stuck in a tree, it is not permitted to remove it on the Sabbath. Inflated Balls are prohibited.
Sandbox (if the sand is prepared before the Sabbath; it is not permitted for children to mix the sand with water, for this constitutes kneading, which is forbidden
Wind-up toys (if they do not make musical sounds). Battery operated toys are prohibited.
Blocks (if they do not attach permanently to each other).
Beads and strings (as long as no tie is knotted to make a permanent necklace or bracelet).
Outdoor games not involving carrying.
Jungle gym made of iron or wood. Exercising on Sabbath is notpermitted.
Swings (unless attached to a tree which would shake when the swing is in motion)
Tricycles (indoors and outdoors where there is an "eruv", but the bell must be removed before the Sabbath; if it is not the custom to allow children to ride tricycles in one's community, the custom should be followed). The same applies to skates.
Running and jumping games; e.g., hide and seek.
Soap bubbles (children must not be stopped if they play with soap bubbles, but adults may not make soap bubbles on the Sabbath)
Snapping one's fingers to amuse a child.
The following are some common toys and games which are not permitted on the Sabbath:

Clay, play-dough, wax
Bicycles (for older children)
Magic boards
Stickers which stick when moistened or when the protective layer is removed
Drawings of all sorts, such as making forms on the ground or the street
Swimming, boating, and playing with sand on the beach
Sand (outside a sandbox)
Making snowballs or snowmen
Games that usually require writing for recording scores.
Sticks and stones or pits unfit for animal consumption if found outside on the Sabbath (unless the child is used to playing with these items daily); it is forbidden to remove the pit of any fruit or vegetable on the Sabbath if it is intended for play.
Climbing trees or a ladder attached to a tree
Thus, modern Responsa have provided the necessary guidelines to assure a wide spectrum of playthings for infants, and preschoolers on the Sabbath within the framework of Halakhah. (Play on the Sabbath for older children will be considered in a future session.)

If a question arises concerning the suitability of toys or games not listed here, an authorized rabbi should be consulted. As the child learns the restrictions governing the toys and with on the Sabbath, he/she begins to realize the uniqueness of the day of rest, which is set apart from other days. Further implications will be discussed in the session on "Early Childhood Education". Questions for Analysis:

How do the guidelines regarding infant and child care on Shabbat reflect the uniqueness of the day of "rest and holiness?"
How does the framework for infant and child care on Shabbat allow the parents to dedicate the day to matters of spirit?
What effect does this unique environment have on the child'sdevelopment? Shabbat Shalom!




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28 Aug 2005 / 23 Av 5765 0