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Chapter 124:7
Laws Of Tish'ah B'av

7. It is forbidden [on Tish'ah B'av] to wash, with either hot or cold water. One may not even stick a finger in water. Nevertheless, only washing for the sake of pleasure is forbidden. Washing that is not intended for pleasure is permitted. Therefore, one may wash one's hands [upon rising] in the morning (1). One should, however, be careful to wash only one's fingers (up to the knuckles), because the main intent of the morning washing is to remove the "Ruach Ra'ah" ("spirit of impurity") that rests on one's fingers (2). After drying [one's fingers] slightly, while they are still slightly moist, one may pass them over one's eyes. If, however, one's eyes are usually full of muck [in the morning] and one always washes them with water, one may wash them [on Tish'ah B'av] as well, in the usual manner, without hesitation.

Similarly, if one's hands (or any other part of the body) become soiled with mud or the like, one may wash off the dirt. After going to the toilet, one may also wash [the fingers of] one's hands in one's usual manner (3). Similarly, one may wash one's fingers before the afternoon service (4).

FOOTNOTES:

(1) Three times alternatively on each hand.

(2) The Mishna Berura (554:21) notes that the Vilna Gaon questions whether one can recite the blessing "al netilas yadayim" over this first washing. Therefore, the Mishna Berura suggests that one says the blessing "al netilas yadayim" only after one goes to the bathroom and washes his hands again, in preparation for the morning prayers.

(3) There are those who rule that, in general, if one goes to the toilet without actually touching oneself (that is, his hands were not exposed to becoming dirty in any way), then one is not required to wash one's hands (unless one is about to say the "Sh'mone Esrei"); therefore, according to these authorities, one would not be allowed to wash one's hands on Tish'ah B'av, after going to the bathroom without touching oneself. Other authorities rule that one is required to wash one's hands after going to the bathroom, even if one's hands were not exposed to becoming dirty, because one has to say the blessing "asher yatzar", and thus must ritually cleanse his hands before addressing G-d ("Hicon Likras Elokecho Yisrael"). The later authorities agree that one should go out of one's way to expose one's hands to becoming dirty in some way when going to the bathroom on Tish'ah B'av (just touching an area of one's body that is usually covered is sufficient), in order to become obligated according to everyone to wash one's hands (See Mishna Berura 554:20 and 613:4).

(4) It is a mitzvah to wash one's hands before praying the "Shmone Esrei" (silent prayer of 19 blessings), even if they are not dirty, because praying is considered as if one is standing in G-d's presence. On Yom Kippur, however, during which there is a Biblical prohibition against washing, we take into account the authorities who rule that there is no mitzvah in general to wash hands before praying the "Sh'mone Esrei" (unless they are dirty, or one has just been to the bathroom), and washing just in preparation for praying the "Sh'mone Esrei" is prohibited (except before the morning service, where other reasons apply) (See Mishna Berura 613:5).

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Halacha-Yomi, Copyright (c) 2002 Project Genesis, Inc.

 

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