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Memachaik is the melacha, prohibited creative activity, of smoothing a rough surface such as sanding a piece of wood. The Mishnah in Masechet Shabbat (73a) lists memachaik as one of the 39 Avot Melachot.
- The melacha of memachek is defined as removing the roughness of a surface by smoothing or scraping after tanning. For example, scraping hairs off a piece of leather or using sandpaper to smooth wood.
In the Mishkan
- In the mishkan, memachaik was performed to smooth the ram’s hides by removing the hairs as part of the processing of the leather. 
- One of the toladot of this melacha is mimareach-smoothing not by eliminating surface, but by spreading something over the surface. 
- Mimareach doesn't apply in a case that the substance being spread is absorbed.  According to some poskim it doesn't apply if it will be washed away immediately
- There are three kinds of substances: pliable solids, semi-solids, and viscous fluids.
- Smearing a pliable solid such as Chapstick, lipstick, deodorant sticks, bar soap, and Play-Doh would be mimara’ech deoritta.
- Smearing a semi-solid such as facial creams, hand creams (Nivea, Eucerin), rough creams, Vaseline, and Desitin is only mimare’ach mderabbanan.
- Lastly, it is permissible to smear a viscous fluid, such as screen spray, baby oil, or personal lubricants (e.g. KY jelly).
- If a baby has a rash one can gently dab or press cream or ointment (which are semisolids that are only rabbinically forbidden) on the baby’s skin, but it should not be rubbed or smeared. Even if the baby’s natural movement will smear the cream that is permitted. If the cream is coming from a jar it is recommended to use a Q-tip to remove the cream since that is an abnormal way to take cream.
- Mimare’ach only applies when you intend to spread something onto a surface but does not apply in a case that the substance being spread is completely absorbed.
Cleaning Under One's Nails
- Some say that it is forbidden to scrap away the dirt under one's fingernails on Shabbat because of memachaik as it smooths out the nail. Others are lenient as long as one doesn't scratch the actual nail.
- It is permitted to smear something over a piece of bread, such as butter onto bread.
- One should not use a knife to scrape the mud off of leather shoes since you will inevitably smooth the leather.
- Using stick deodorant is memachek. However, using roll-on or spray is permissible since they have a thin consistency.
Soap on Shabbat
- Some poskim hold that it is permitted to use a bar of soap on Shabbat because one doesn't intend of smoothing out the bar of soap or creating any soap suds. On the opposite extreme some poskim hold that it is forbidden to use either bar or liquid soap on Shabbat. However, according to the majority of poskim, one may not use a bar of soap but one may use liquid soap on Shabbat.
- Some poskim it is permitted to use foam handsoap on Shabbat.
- If one used a scented soap to clean one’s hands it is permitted to dry one’s hands on a towel.
- Using Purell is like using liquid hand soap and many poskim permit using it on Shabbat.
See Cosmetics page
- Rashi 73a, Rambam Hilchot Shabbat 11:5
- Gemara Shabbat 75b, Rambam Shabbat 11:6
- Yerushalmi Shabbat 7:3, 39 Melachot Rabbi Ribiat pg. 913.
- Rashi Shabbat 146a, Rambam Hilchot Shabbat 11:6
- Magen Avraham 316:24 writes that memareach only applies when you intend to spread one item on top of another. Accordingly, it doesn’t apply if the substance is absorbed. Mishna Brura 316:49 and Aruch Hashulchan 316:32 rule likewise.
- Chacham Ovadia Yosef (Sh”t Yabea Omer 4:30 about toothpaste and Yechave Daat 2:50 about soap) and Rav Soloveitchik (Nefesh Harav pg. 168) extend this to a case where the substance will be washed away immediately.
- Mishna Brurah 314:45, 39 Melachos v. 3 p. 918-20, Rav Moshe Heinemann. Igrot Moshe 1:114 writes that lipstick and chapstick are forbidden as memachaik.
- 39 Melachos v. 3 p. 922, Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 33:14
- Mishna Brurah 316:49
- Magen Avraham 161:5, Aruch Hashulchan 161:3, Ben Ish Chai (Shana Rishona, Kedoshim, no. 24)
- Eliya Rabba 161:5, Mishna Brurah (Biur Halacha 161 s.v. vehu), Kaf Hachaim 161:15, Halacha Brurah 161:4
- Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 80:58.
- Darchei Moshe 321:3 quotes the opinion of the Mordechai that just like the melacha of ibud, tanning, does not apply to food neither does Memachaik. Midirabanan there is ibud on foods, and this would be true for Memachaik as well. However, in the Shulchan Aruch 321:19, the Rama writes that if the food can be eaten without the smearing it is permissible. He adds that those who are stringent, are blessed. Mishna Brura 321:82 says that it is permissible to spread something over a piece of bread. In Biur Halacha “tavo alav bracha,” he adds another reason to be lenient based on the Smak that if you don’t intend to smooth but just want to cover the empty area, then it is permissible. The bracha to which the Rama refers is if you’re not smearing for eating but rather to make a nice design.
- Gemara Shabbat 141b, Shulchan Aruch 302:8, 39 Melachot pg. 914-915
- 39 Melachos v. 3 p. 918
- According to Chacham Ovadia Yosef (Sh"t Yechave Daat 2:50), it is permitted to use a bar of soap or liquid soap on shabbat because one has no intention of changing anything. One only intends clean what he is washing.
- According to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Sh"t Igrot Moshe OC 1:113) it is forbidden to use a bar of soap and it is forbidden to use liquid soap on shabbat.
- According to Chacham Ben-Zion Abba-Shaul (Sh"t Or Litzion 2:35:5), one may not use a bar of soap but one may use liquid soap on shabbat. Rabbi Eli Mansour, Aruch Hashulchan 326:11, and Ketzot Hashulchan 146:32 agree. Kitzur Hilchot Shabbat pg. 74 says this is the common practice. See also Shemirat Shabbat Kihilchita 14:16. Rav Schachter (Shabbat Shiur 11) explained that it is questionable to forbid using a liquid soap since the resultant sods created as very temporary.
- Rav Schachter (Shabbat Shiur 11) held that using foamy soap is permitted since changing the liquid into a foam and using it since the result is very temporary before it is washed down the drain. Rav Willig (Asicha Shabbos 2 p. 9) agreed.
- Ginat Veradim OC 3:16 writes that it is permitted to use rose water to clean your hands and to dry them on a towel since there’s no prohibition of molid when it is unintentional. Molid is only a derabbanan and if one doesn’t intend for it it isn’t an issue of a pesik reisha. This is also the opinion of the Maharshal (Yam Shel Shlomo Beitzah 2:34). Rav Avraham Antebi writes that the Syrian minhag was to use rose water on Shabbat for washing hands.
- Rav Gedalia Dov Schwartz