The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.
For final rulings, consult your Rav.
QUESTION: What type of cup may be used for netilas yadayim?
ANSWER: A cup made of any material, including paper or plastic(1), may be
used. Even a cone-shaped paper cup which cannot stand on its own may be
used, since the cup was designed and manufactured in that shape(2).
L'chatchilah it is not advisable to use a bottle, a can, or any vessel with
a narrow opening for washing, since it is preferable that the entire revi'is
reach the hand full-force from the vessel from which it is being poured. If,
however, no other vessel is readily available, it is permitted to use one
with a narrow opening as long as the water is poured in an uninterrupted
QUESTION: What should one do if he is traveling and has no water with which
to wash his hands?
ANSWER: He can use a soft drink such as soda, or beer(4).
If a soft drink or beer is not available, he must travel 72 minutes ahead
[or back up for 18 minutes] to look for water(5) [or soda]. If still no
water can be found, one may wear gloves or wrap both of his hands in a
plastic bag, etc(6). When using this method, the hands must remain covered
during the entire meal, even when one is eating foods other than bread(7).
If one cannot find anything to cover his hands with, he may wash his hands
with any fruit juice, but not with oil(8) or wine. No blessing is recited
when washing with juice(9).
If none of the above options are available, some poskim allow eating bread
with a fork while being very careful not to touch the bread with one's
hands(10). This method should be relied upon only if one is very hungry, as
there are several poskim who do not agree with this leniency(11).
QUESTION: How much water should be used for netilas yadayim?
ANSWER: There are four possible shiurim of water that could suffice for
washing. In order of preference:
Technically, one could use one revi'is of water to wash both hands and his
washing would be valid. Practically, this is not recommended as several
halachic problems could result when so little water is used(12).
The recommended method is to pour at least one revi'is (approx. 3.3 fl. oz.)
of water on each hand.
Some poskim require a second pouring of water over each hand. While ideally
one should conduct himself according to this view, it is not obligatory, and
if not enough water is available one need not search for it(13).
It is proper and praiseworthy to use water unstintingly when washing, as the
Talmud tells us that one who washes with an abundance of water is abundantly
rewarded from Heaven(14).
QUESTION: After washing one hand, the other (unwashed) hand touched the
washed hand. Is the washing valid?
ANSWER: If one washed his hand as recommended with at least a revi'is of
water, the washing is valid and the hand does not need to be rewashed. If,
however, another person who did not yet wash his hand touched the wet hands
of a person who is washing, it is questionable if the washing is valid. The
recommended method is to dry the hands and rewash them. The blessing,
however, is not repeated(15).
QUESTION: Is it important to make sure that one's hands are completely dry
before washing? Is it important to make sure that the handle of the vessel
is completely dry?
ANSWER: According to the Mishnah Berurah, neither of these is a concern. It
is permitted to wash one's hands even though they were just wet(16), and it
does not matter if the handle of the vessel is wet or not(17).
The Chazon Ish(18), however, disagrees on both counts and requires that the
hands be totally dry before the washing takes place. In his opinion, even
b'dieved the washing may not be valid if the hands were not completely dry
before being washed. It has become customary for G-d fearing people to
carefully dry their hands completely before washing for a meal(19).
QUESTION: Is it permitted to wash hands for a meal directly from the sink
[without using a vessel] by turning the faucet on and off directly over each
ANSWER: No. There are two basic requirements for how the water must reach
the hands: a) from a utensil, a keli; b) manually, koach gavra (lit., "by
human force"). Although turning the faucet on and off satisfies the
requirement of koach gavra, since a "human force" allows the water to be
poured over the hand by turning the faucet on, it still does not satisfy the
requirement that the water must come from a keli. Since the water comes from
the pipe directly on to the hands, it is not considered as if one washed
from a keli, for a pipe is not a keli(20).
In a case where the water for netilas yadayim is coming from a keli such as
an urn, and a vessel with which to wash the hands is not available, then it
is permitted to place the hand directly underneath the spigot, press the
spigot and allow the first flow of water to fall directly on the hand. The
procedure is then repeated for the second hand(21).
QUESTION: Is it permitted to dry the hands with an electric dryer?
ANSWER: Yes. Although the hands must be dried before the bread is eaten(22),
our main concern is that the hands will be dried, not the manner which is
used to dry them. It is also permitted, therefore, to let the hands drip
QUESTION: Can the obligation of netilas yadayim be discharged by dipping the
hands in water?
ANSWER: Dipping the hands in water is valid only if the hands are dipped in:
A wellspring, hot or cold. There must be enough water in the spring to cover
both hands at one time(24).
A running river or a natural lake. If the water is discolored because of
smoke, pollution or debris, it is invalid. If it is discolored because of
sand or other natural particles, it is valid(25).
A sea, even if the water is too salty for a dog to drink from, it is still
valid(26). The water, however, may not be discolored, as stated above.
A man-made lake or swimming pool(27) with a volume of 40 se'ah of water
[approximately 180-190(28) U.S. gallons]. The water must be piped into the
lake through pipes which are built on or under the ground. If the lake or
pool is filled in some other way, it is invalid(29).
A kosher mikveh.
The hands could be dipped one at a time or both together(30). They need to
be dipped in one time only. Drying the hands is not required, unless the
residual wetness will make the food unappetizing(31). The regular blessing
of Al netilas yadayim is then recited(32).
4 Rama O.C. 160:12. See Hebrew Notes for a full explanation.
5 Beiur Halachah 163:1.
6 O.C. 163:1. The hands should be covered until the wrist. If that is
impractical, they must be covered at least until the knuckles; Sha'ar
7 Avnei Yashfei 2:11 based on Rama 170:1.
8 Shulchan Aruch Harav 160:15.
9 Mishnah Berurah 160: 64 and Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 69. See Hebrew Notes.
10 Mishnah Berurah 163:7.
11 While Mishnah Berurah allows one to rely on this option when no
alternative exists, many poskim disagree. Chayei Adam, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch
and Aruch ha-Shulchan do not mention this leniency at all.
12 Mishnah Berurah 158:37.
13 Mishnah Berurah 162:21.
14 O.C. 158:10.
15 Mishnah Berurah 162: 49 and Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 39.
16 Beiur Halachah 162:2.
17 Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 162:41.
18 O.C. 24:20. [Shulchan Aruch Harav agrees with this view in his Siddur but
not in his Shulchan Aruch.]
19 Ketzos ha-Shulchan 33:13.
20 Teshuvos Zekan Aharon 1 (quoted in She'arim Metzuyanim b'Halachah 40:5);
Minchas Yitzchak 4:21 based on Magen Avraham 159:4 and Mishnah Berurah 47;
Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Halichos Shelomo 20, note 40). See also Taharas Mayim,
pg. 319-320. See, however, Shalmas Chayim 163, Yaskil Avdi 5:26 and Tzitz
Eliezer 8:7 who rule that under extenuating circumstances, we may consider
the pipe a keli and it would be permitted to wash from it.
21 Mishnah Berurah 159:64; 162:30.
22 O.C. 158:12.
23 Chazon Ish O.C. 25:10. See She'arim Metzuyanim b'Halachah 40:5.
24 O.C. 159:14.
25 Mishnah Berurah 160:3.
26 Mishnah Berurah 160:38, 40. Salty water, however, may not be used when
washing hands with a vessel.
27 The filter must be turned off.
28 See Siddur Minchas Yerushalayim and Taharas Mayim, pg. 22.
29 O.C. 159:16 and Beiur Halachah.
30 Mishnah Berurah 159:80.
31 Ibid. 158:46.
32 Ibid. 159:97 and Chazon Ish O.C. 23:13.
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