The laws of smearing on Shabbos
The following chapter will discuss the laws of smearing oil on one’s body. The problem with doing so at times is that it falls under the decree made against healing. In continuation of this the laws of oiling leather will also be discussed.
Smearing oil for medical treatment:
Applying a liquid ointment: One that has a pain in his hips is not allowed to smear (a mixture of) oil and vinegar [on it] because it is only common to smear it for healing purposes and any action done which is recognizable that one’s intent [in doing so] is for healing, is forbidden [to be done on Shabbos] for the reason to be explained in chapter 328 [Halacha 1].
Plain oil: However one is allowed to smear (plain) oil, although not rose oil because it is very expensive and is not commonly found and [thus] it is only common to oil [one’s body] with it for healing [purposes]. [Although] if one is found in a place where rose oil is commonly available and it is common for people to smear it not for healing [purposes] then it is permitted to smear it for even healing [purposes].
Places which never smear oil: Those places that are not accustomed to smear oil with exception to when done for healing, it is forbidden [for them] to smear any oil for healing because it is recognizable that the [person is doing so] for healing.
Smearing on one’s head: Therefore it is forbidden to smear [oil] on [ones] head which has sores.
Giving an oil massage on Shabbos:
It is permitted to smear [oil] and massage [it] with ones hand over ones entire body for pleasure so long as it is done differently then how it is done during the week. Meaning that he is to oil and massage simultaneously [as opposed to first smearing the oil and then massaging it], [as well as that] he is to not apply force [with his hands] but rather is to do it with his hands gently.
[However it is forbidden to massage one’s body with force even for mere pleasure and it goes without saying that this is forbidden to be done in order to exercise and sweat.]
Using a scratching instrument on Shabbos:
Designated for use during the week: One may not itch with a vessel that is designated for this use as is done during the week unless ones hands or feet are dirty with mud or feces [and he wants to scrape it off with the vessel].
Designated for use on Shabbos: If one has a scratching instrument which is designated for Shabbos then it is allowed, and for this reason it is customary for single girls to have a vessel made of swine hair which is designated for Shabbos as written in chapter 303 [Halacha 27 in Michaber and Magen Avraham].
Oiling leather on Shabbos:
One may not smear his feet with oil when it is inside a new shoe or sandal because the leather softens through the oil residue and resembles [the prohibition of] tanning [leather].
However one may smear his feet [with oil] and then afterwards place his feet into his shoes.
As well one may smear his entire body [with oil] and roll on top of leather without any worry [of a prohibition] as long as the oil which drips from his body is not enough of the amount needed to tan the leather. [Although] even if it contains enough oil to polish it the leather it is permitted [to be done] as long as that he does not intend [on rolling on the leather] in order to polish it, [as if he does intend then it is forbidden] due to a decree against [coming to] tan.
Softening and hardening leather on Shabbos:
One who tramples on leather until it becomes hard or one who softens it with his hands and stretches and flattens it the way it is done by professionals is liable for the tanning prohibition.