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Thought for the Day: The Serious Problem With Using Baby Wipes On Shabbos

S'chita!  It even sounds vicious.  It could be the name of a movie about snakes.  "Ssss'chita!  You'll feel them coiling around your ankles... Ssss'chita!"  It fills us with terror because it seems so elusive.  Sometimes squeezing wine out of something is assur m'di'oraisa.  In fact, even cutting grapes on Shabbos is assur because it is impossible to cut them with out squeezing out some juice; aka "yayin mi'gito"/wine from the pressing vat. Using a wet towel to dry your hands (after 10 other people have already used that towel) can present real d'oraisa problems.  See?  Scary!

In reality, though, it's not so scary if you just break it down.  S'chita (only one samech) is actually involved with two different malachos; that's the source of the confusion.  As discussed previously: s'chita always means removing a liquid from an absorbent matrix; if you want the liquid, it's m'farek, but if you want to be rid of the liquid, it's libun.  The guideline, then, is: if you want the liquid, you need to be nervous about m'farek.  If you don't want the liquid, you need to be nervous about libun.  How worried?  Well, if it's water or you want to use the liquid that comes out; it's d'oraisa no matter how you slice it and you are really in a pickle.


And that's the problem with baby wipes.  You want the liquid to come out while wiping the baby; that's hw they work.  That's m'fareik; plain and simple.  Don't take my word, listen to R' Fuerst; I'll wait.

Back?  In case you didn't have time for the whole thing, here is an overview of why the heiterim don't hold water.  The basic approach to finding a heter is to use the fact that a baby has the status of a choleh sh'ein bo sakana/a non-critically ill patient.  That doesn't help with m'fareik d'oraisa, but it does help if you can knock it down to an issur d'rabanan; and that's how the tries at leniency basically approach the problem.  R' Fuerst, however, deftly (with sources, even) shows why that doesn't work.

Some want to claim a heter based on a heter from the Tzitz Eliezer who permits using an alcohol swab before giving a shot; absorbent material, using liquid to clean... sounds good.  However, the Tzitz Eliezer himself, in a response to R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, z"tzl, who argued on the alcohol swab heter, says that the alcohol swab is not similar at all to to the baby wipe.  All you need from the swab, says the Tzitz Eliezer, is one little drop that evaporates immediately; the rest is a p'sik reisha sh'lo nicha lei (an undesired inevitable result) and it is eino miskaven (without intent); both together along with protecting the patient from infection make the alcohol swab muter.

So what are you supposed to do?  R' Fuerst has a pretty evil laugh, "What did your grandmothers do!?  Use your hand or put on a glove or spray a little water and wipe it off!  The fact that you're a m'funek (fastidious ninny -- my free translation) doesn't matir d'oraisos."  You can hear the big smile on his face.

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