Pesach 2017 Tzfat – The Way Inside Medicine on Pesach,  by Rabbi Ariel Gorenstein

The holy Arizal writes, “one who is careful from the slightest amount of chometz on Pesach is assured not to transgress for the entire year.”

Being that the Written Torah is so stringent regarding the prohibition of chometz on Pesach – as it states, “it shall not be seen,” and “it shall not be found

[1]” – over the generations each Jewish community developed and expanded its own set of unique stringencies[2].

When it comes to medication on Pesach, the question arises as to how strict does one needs to be. Important disclaimer: “Saving human life pushes away any other Torah consideration.” Therefore, even if there is only doubt as to whether one’s life would be endangered should he cease taking his medication, he is OBLIGATED to continue his treatment on Pesach even if it entails consuming absolute chometz. 

This article focuses primarily on one for whom ceasing his medication would cause an inability to function in full capacity[3].

Due to the tendency to be strict on Pesach, today there are many medicines that are either certified kosher for Pesach or that are known to be free of any trace of chometz[4]. Whenever possible it is praiseworthy to be strict and find one of these alternatives​. However, often times there is no suitable alternative or it is not practical to obtain one. The following is a general overview of medicine on Pesach. One should never switch medications without first consulting his doctor and his local Orthodox rabbi.  

In General:

Chometz that is no longer fit for the consumption of a dog is no longer considered chometz. Possessing and deriving benefit from such a substance is permissible on Pesach[5]. However, eating such a substance, no matter how disgusting, is rabbinically prohibited for his action revives the substance’s status (rabbinically) as food[6]. If such “chometz” should be mixed into some other edible food item, one may eat the mixture as long as his intention is to eat the main food, and he has no intention to eat the chometz[7]. Additionally, fresh and edible chometz that becomes mixed into another substance that is not fit for the consumption of a dog is also no longer considered chometz, and one may swallow such a mixture, as long as he had no intention of ”eating” it[8].

In Medicines:

The major kashrus concern unique to Pesach is the use of starches in the production of medicine. Starch is often used as a binding agent, to help digestion of the medicine or to control the time release of the active ingredients. The vast majority of starches found in medication are derived from corn and potato. However, it is not entirely uncommon to for wheat starch – potentially completely chometz[9] – to be used. Although corn starch is kitniyos – a category of food prohibited to eat on Pesach according to the custom of many Jewish communities, the kitniyos prohibition does not apply when there is a medical need[10].

In modern medicine, the ingredients, including the starch, undergo a certain degree of processing before they are mixed in with the other ingredients. Nonetheless, the use of modified starches is common in food manufacturing, and is recognized as safe for human consumption by the FDA[11]. Once the chometz ingredient is mixed into a unpleasant tasting medicine, however, it is almost certain that the mixture is not fit for a dog’s consumption[12]. Therefore, since one’s sole interest is to ingest the active medicinal ingredients, and he has no interest in the chometz per se, it would seem that he is allowed to take the medication[13].  

Further, many contemporary authorities maintain that taking a pill is not considered “eating.” Even though swallowing in general is considered eating (see A.R.S.A. O.C. 475, 25), since a pill is never ingested through chewing, it is not considered a food, and merely swallowing it is not considered eating it[14]. (This reasoning alone would not permit one to take chewable or liquid medication.)

In Summary:

  1. Most modern medicines do not contain chometz.
  2. It is possible that those chometz ingredients that are found in modern medicine never actually reached the full state of becoming chometz before being mixed into the medicine.
  3. Whatever potential chometz is in the medicine has been rendered unfit for a dog through being mixed with the other ingredients (as long as the end product does not have a pleasant flavor).
  4. When taking a medicine, one’s intent is solely on the healing properties and not on the chometz it contains.
  5. It is a safe assumption that one who swallows medicine in the form of a pill (as opposed to chewables or liquid medication) is not considered to have “eaten” the pill.

In Conclusion:

  1. Anyone suffering from a potentially life threatening ailment MUST continue taking his medication.
  2. A person who is suffering from an ailment that inhibits his everyday performance may take any medication that contains kitniyos.
  3. A person who is suffering from an ailment that inhibits his everyday performance, and his medication is in the form of a pill[15] that may contain chometz:

A. May continue taking his medication

B. If an equal quality “kosher for Pesach” alternative is available, it is praiseworthy to try to obtain it.

  1. A person who is suffering from an ailment that inhibits his everyday performance, and his medication is in the form of  a bad tasting chewable or liquid form and may contain chometz:

A. One should preferably try to obtain a “kosher for Pesach” alternative. 

B. If no alternative is available, he may continue his treatment.

  1. A person who is suffering from an ailment that inhibits his everyday performance, and his medication is in the form of a pleasant tasting chewable or liquid and may contain:

A. One should consult his doctor for alternative treatment, and consult his rabbi as to whether or not it is permissible to continue his treatment.

  1. One who is suffering from a minor ailment should refrain from taking any medication that may contain chometz or kitniyos ingredients.

All of the above assumes that the chometz is not the active ingredient. If the actual medicative properties are derived from chometz – as may be the case in some alternative medicines – it is prohibited to use it on Pesach[16] (see bolded paragraph at the beginning of this article).

The above is only an abbreviated summary of the topic. If you have any questions regarding the above, or any other halachic questions, feel free to email them to me at

[1] Shmos 13, 7 and 12, 19. See Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch (A.R.S.A.), Orach Chaim (O.C.) 431 for further clarification.

[2] See Otzar Minhagei Chabad p. 42 quoting the Arizal and the Baal Shem Tov that on pesach one should take on extra stringencies.

[3] A חולה שאין בו סכנה is one classified by halacha as one who is unable to function properly (either נפל למשכב or נחלש כל גופו), or one who will potentially reach such a state if untreated. See A.R.S.A O.C. 328, 19 and

[4] On many websites you can find a list of medicines that pose no Pesach related concerns. (See for example:   However, see a disclaimer here:

[5] A.R.S.A. O.C. 442, 24. Hence, using any medicinal I.V.s, creams and ointments would be permissible.

[6] A.R.S.A. O.C. 442, 32

[7] A.R.S.A. O.C. 442, 33

[8] A.R.S.A. O.C. 442, 34

[9] See footnote 11 and the sources brought there.

[10] The Mishna Brurah (O.C. 453, 7) and others permit the consumption of actual kitniyos foods in the case of medical need. How much more so would this permissibility apply to kitniyos as it is mixed into modern medication.

[11] Some authorities write that the wheat used in medicine is only “noksha” – a rabbinic form of chometz (see A.R.S.A. 442, 20 & 21), which has become nullified through its mixture with the other ingredients.

[12] Many later authorities discuss the difficulty in classifying an object as “no longer fit for a dog’s consumption.”

[13] See similar reasoning from Rav Moshe Feinstein in Igros Moshe, O.C. II:92. See further, Darkei Teshuva 155, 28, and many other contemporary poskim. The stated logic would seem to apply even to chewable and liquid medication as long as they do not have a pleasant taste.

[14] Nishmas Avraham Vol. 1, O.C. p. 258 and others

[15] Some authorities prohibit the use of gelcaps (made from gelatin). The discussion of gelatin and its kashrus implications is beyond the scope of this article.

[16] See A.R.S.A. O.C. 442 6, 22 & K.A. 5. Some investigation is still needed to ascertain whether “תיקון עשייתו” may also be applicable to inactive ingredients. See Kovetz Zera Yaakov (Skvira) 14, p. 134-145 for an at lengthy analysis. However, it seems that as regards modern Western medicine one may lenient in any event as expressed in the body of the article.


By | 2017-05-20T19:42:40+00:00 April 7th, 2017|Pesach|0 Comments

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