Washing Dishes on Yom Tov

May I wash dishes on yom tov with hot water?

By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin, Rov of Anash in Petach Tikvah.

It is permitted on yom tov to heat water—with a preexisting fire—for drinking and washing one’s hands, feet or head. Using the hot water tap is permitted even if it may cause a fire to be ignited in the boiler, as long as this isn’t an immediate effect rather after a duration of time (grama), or once the fire is already ignited in the boiler, one may continue its effect. (Solar heating doesn’t present this issue).

When washing dishes for the meal taking place on the same day, one is generally permitted to wash more than what is actually needed, and it isn’t considered preparing for the next day, as each individual dish may potentially be used. Water may be heated for this purpose, as it is food related (ochel nefesh), and additionally, since it is uncomfortable to wash with cold water, heating the water is considered somewhat for the purpose of his personal comfort.

The permissibility of heating water to wash dishes that became dirty before yom tov hinges on whether the dirty dishes are categorized as actual food preparation (ochel nefesh), for which melacha may be done on yom tov, or the stage prior (machshirei ochel nefesh), which is only allowed on yom tov if it couldn’t have been done beforehand—either because the situation only arose on yom tov, or circumstances beyond his control prevented him from doing it before yom tov. From the Alter Rebbe it seems to have the status of the earlier stage, thus such dishes must be washed with cold water. (Unless his circumstances did not allow him to, in which case he may turn on the hot water with a shinui.)

After the day meal, when one doesn’t plan to use dishes again that day, one may not wash them—even with cold water—as this is preparing for the next day, even if it is also yom tov. Cups may be cleaned throughout the entire day, as one might always take a drink. One may place the dirty dishes in the sink so that they will be somewhat cleaned from whenever the sink is used. If the dirty dishes are causing smell and discomfort, and the kitchen is connected to the dining or living room, one may wash them—as the purpose is for yom tov itself—but only with cold water. (If there is a big need to have them ready for the night meal, one may have a non-Jew wash the dishes in the afternoon, under the conditions outlined in issue 481.)

The use of soap and a sponge, however, has the same restrictions as on Shabbos.

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