Friday, May 1, 2015

UPDATED: When to Take a Shower Before Shabbat?

"I take a shower on Friday morning, and by the time Shabbat is over, I feel disgusting."

This conversation came up recently, and I realized there had to be a post on it ASAP. As I've mentioned before, I'm OCD (in the real way), and cleanliness is unusually important to me. It broke my heart to hear someone frustrated at feeling "gross" on Shabbat.

Feeling gross is no way to spend Shabbat, and it certainly isn't honoring or enjoying Shabbos! But it doesn't have to be that way!

I naturally fell into the rhythm most of the community practices when it comes to showering for Shabbat, but I realize now that it's not obvious to everyone, especially since America has such a cultural stereotype of the "morning shower." 

The secret is a Friday afternoon shower. Most people can go 36 hours without a shower (unless you're my 2-showers-a-day Dad - to be fair, he works in construction), as opposed to the 48 hours between showers on Friday morning and Sunday morning. So I, like many people, often skip the Friday morning shower and plan to shower Friday afternoon closer to Shabbat. However, you can do two showers in one day (one Friday morning and one Friday afternoon), and I promise that Captain Planet won't hunt you down. But try to be extra efficient with those showers to prevent too much wasted water. #HippiePSA

Personally, I do a grossness assessment Friday morning  to see if I can make it to the afternoon. ("How gross do I feel? Not gross? Awesome." Am I secretly a college frat boy? Perhaps.) However, I'm not tied to the "mornings only" shower routine in the first place. Most of my showers are in the evening anyway, which then puts Shabbat showering right on my schedule.

If your work schedule prevents getting home in time, especially on short winter days, you can still do a quick 5 minute rinse and soap and leave your hair wet. This works better for haircovering women who can hide it away in a tichel. (I have no idea what wet hair under a sheitel would be like, sorry. UPDATE: I'm told it works just fine for my sheitel ladies too.) If you're running particularly late one day, remember that candlelighting time comes 18 minutes before Shabbat starts. It's not good to make a habit of using those minutes for non-Shabbosdik things, but many a good Jew finishes up the cooking or dries their hair during that time if necessary. (#ProTip: remember to not bring in Shabbat yet. As a general rule, men bring it in at a certain point of davening in Kabbalat Shabbat (or when it's time for Shabbat), and women bring it in at candlelighting. For women, you will light candles on time, but have in mind that you aren't yet bringing in Shabbat. In that case, you'd bring it in at the same point in davening or when the clock strikes Shabbat.)

And don't forget: you can shower Saturday night if you want to! 

Yom tov showers are a totally different discussion, but the general principles apply to starting the chag, and they're the whole discussion if your community holds that there is no showering on yom tov at all. The other communities get more complicated...

UPDATE: I completely forgot to mention what happens when there's more than one of you who needs that shower. How do you coordinate multiple showers with roommates, spouses, and/or children? Just like you would with a morning rush on the shower. Stagger, and make sure there's enough time for everyone, which means starting earlier than you think you need to. In my case, that means a shower negotiation with my husband every week hopefully about 2 hours before Shabbat, but usually about 1 hour before:
"Are you showering before Shabbat?"
"Can you do that now because I take longer?"
Crisis managed. 
Most of the time, he's already had his shower, and there's nothing standing between me and the Shabbos Shower except procrastination.

Here's the takeaway: don't let a lack of the "little niceties" of life poison your Shabbat experience. These things aren't petty. If you are genuinely uncomfortable or feel bad in some way, then you're not capable of having a good religious experience unless you can address the issue or your mindset. That's a fact. If something is less than enjoyable for you on Shabbat, ask! Odds are good that there's a way to fix your problem! And if not, you'll at least get a good kvetching and bonding session.


  1. Ideally, I'd love to take a shower and do my hair properly right before Shabbat. There's just one problem - I'm usually running around like crazy trying to cook and do everything else!

    Once I pick up the kids, I know I won't have any time until I light the candles.

    So, I either:

    1. Plan my workout time a bit later. I'll go to work early in the morning, arrange to finish in time to get to the gym before I pick up the kids, and will shower and do my hair at the gym. Note: this requires some flexibility with work schedule.

    2. I'll fill the bathtub with hot water before lighting the candles, and then jump in the bath after candle lighting. I put my hair into a ponytail while wet, which keeps it neat. This works if you smell like chicken or work up a sweat in the kitchen.

  2. Have a question which I was always embarrassed to ask: for couples who have marital relations on shabbos night, how do you shower in the morning? Cold water?