Netilas Yadayim in the Morning - Part 2

 Courtesy of Ohr Olam Mishnah Berurah

Question: What is the proper procedure for netilas yadayim in the morning?

Discussion: One should preferably wash the whole hand until the wrist, but the essential halachah only requires one to wash his fingers until their point of attachment to the hand. When pouring over the hands, one should stretch out his hands, as if he wants to receive something and, after washing, lift them to the level of the head.40

As mentioned above, there are a number of reasons for the morning netilas yadayim: removing ruach ra’ah, together with cleaning one’s hands for tefillah or preparing oneself for the new service of the day. Since there are situations when netilas yadayim is done for one purpose and not the other, it is important to differentiate between the procedures required for each type.

(1) Removal of ruach ra’ah

Removal of ruach ra’ah requires washing each hand three times,41 first pouring the water once on the right hand, and then once on the left hand, alternating until both hands are washed three times. Some rule that one should wash a fourth time, in order to wash away the water that was used to remove the ruach ra’ah.42

One begins by taking the full cup of water with his right hand and passing it to his left hand.43 He then pours onto his right hand first, followed by the left, and then continues to alternate between the hands.44 This order of right-left alternation applies to a left-handed person as well.45

There is a dispute as to whether the water must be poured from a cup (or another vessel) in order to remove ruach ra’ah, and Mishnah Berurah46 seems to cite conflicting rulings on the matter. Apparently, Mishnah Berurah means that a cup is not crucial, but it is preferable when available.47 Therefore, if a faucet is available with no cup, one should wash three times from the faucet, but should wash again with a cup when it becomes available.48 When washing directly from a faucet, ko’ach gavra (water poured by human force) is not required;49 one can simply move his hands in and out of the water stream three times. One should make sure that his whole hand, or at least fingers, are washed each time.

It is forbidden to use the water that removed the ruach ra’ah, or to benefit from it in any way. Rather, the water must be properly disposed of after use, and may not be spilled on the ground or the floor where people are likely to pass by.50 Several of the great Chassidic Rebbes51 were even careful not to say Hashem’s Name in the presence of water that was used for netilas yadayim.

(2) Washing in order to clean one’s hands for tefillah

This washing requires neither a cup nor human force.52 However, if one knows that his hands have touched soiled areas of his body, they must be washed with water; if one does not know this, his hands should preferably be washed with water. In either case, if no water is available, he may clean them by wiping them.53

(3) Netilas Yadayim in preparation for the new service of the day

This washing requires a cup54 and human force.55 However, if no water is available, one simply wipes his hands clean56 and, when reciting the berachah, one replaces the words, “al netilas yadayim,” with, “al nekiyus yadayim” (“regarding the cleansing of the hands”).57

The following emerges from the above: Upon awakening in the morning, one should use a cup and have the water poured by human force, and wash three times on each hand as described above – since one is now removing ruach ra’ah. If one washes again before tefillah, he need not use a cup, no human force is required (unless he had initially washed his hands before dawn),58 and he need not pour three times.59

Question: May one use a disposable cup for netilas yadayim in the morning?

Discussion: Although some Poskim do not permit use of a disposable cup for netilas yadayim before eating bread, one may be lenient regarding netilas yadayim in the morning60 – when use of a cup is merely preferred, but not absolutely required.61

Question: May the morning netilas yadayim be done in a bathroom?

Discussion: Mishnah Berurah62 writes that a ruach ra’ah is presumed to attach itself to one’s hands upon entering a bathroom, even if one simply went in and out and did not use the restroom at all. Since one must wash his hands in order to remove that ruach ra’ah, it would seem pointless to do netilas yadayim in the bathroom – since one will have to wash again upon exiting it.

But in fact, this is not the case. Firstly, this opinion – that a ruach ra’ah attaches itself to one’s hands merely by entering and exiting the bathroom – does not seem to be universally accepted.63 This is especially true with regard to contemporary bathrooms, which have indoor plumbing and allow for continuous removal of waste by flushing. Furthermore, even if entering a bathroom does cause a ruach ra’ah to attach itself to the hands, it is different in several respects from the ruach ra’ah that rests on the hands from sleep. For example, after exiting the bathroom and before washing: one may touch orifices of his body,64 one may walk more than four amos, and one need not wash his hands three times.65 Therefore, if it is more convenient, one may perform the morning netilas yadayim in the bathroom and then, when possible, wash again later to remove the ruach ra’ah which comes about for having been in the bathroom.

This has several practical applications:

Mishnah Berurah66 warns that one should do netilas yadayim immediately upon wakening, and not walk four amos before doing so (see below). If one has a private bathroom adjacent to the bedroom (en-suite), he may do netilas yadayim in this bathroom67 and then, after he relieves himself and exits the bathroom, do netilas yadayim a second time.

On an aircraft, it is almost always the case that the only place for netilas yadayim is in the bathroom. Since one has no other recourse, one washes in that bathroom.68 Some prefer that one leave the bathroom with wet hands and dry them outside.69

Question: Does ruach ra’ah affect food?

Discussion: The Gemara70 says that one may not touch a keg of beer. Beiur Halachah71 writes that many understand this to mean: it may not be touched before netilas yadayim. Beiur Halachah cites a dispute as to whether it is forbidden to drink the beer if it is touched, and leaves this point unresolved.

Now, the same uncertainty would seem to apply to all foods. Nevertheless, Beiur Halachah cites Chayei Adam that this is referring specifically to beer,72 while other foods are certainly not rendered forbidden by having been touched before netilas yadayim. Therefore, Mishnah Berurah rules that one should refrain from touching any food before netilas yadayim but, if he touched it, he may still eat it – although he should preferably wash it three times beforehand.

In contemporary times, it is common for unpackaged foods (baked goods, fruits, etc.) to be handled by customers. Thus, in establishments frequented by Jews who do not wash their hands in the morning, it is impossible to avoid eating food that was touched before netilas yadayim. A point of leniency here is that they have presumably washed their hands for hygiene in the morning, which some Poskim deem sufficient to remove the ruach ra’ah. Nonetheless, one who employs non-observant Jews in his kitchen, and the like, should politely ask them to wash their hands in the manner prescribed by halachah.73

Food that was brought into the bathroom may be eaten.74

40 Mishnah Berurah 4:9, 57.

41 Shulchan Aruch 4:2.

42 Mishnah Berurah 4:10, citing the Vilna Gaon.

42R’ Chaim Kanievsky (see Da’as Notah I, 349) is uncertain whether this fourth time is necessary if one dries his hands after washing the first three times, but concludes that it is preferable to wash the fourth time even in such a case. Bircos Shamayim (Weiss, p. 47) suggests that this preference is because purifying the water is superior to merely removing it.

43 One should not begin by taking hold of the cup with the left hand (see Seder Hayom, Kavanas Netilas Yadayim). Avodas Hamelech on Siddur Harashash (p. 378 in the Be’er Eliyahu edition) explains this practice according to Kabbalah.

44 Shulchan Aruch 4:10.

45 Mishnah Berurah 4:22.

46 4:17, 25.

47 This explanation appears in Hilchos Yom Beyom, Tefillah I, p. 26, footnote 24.

48 Hilchos Yom Beyom, ibid., 2:15.

49 See Mishnah Berurah 4:17.

50 Shulchan Aruch 4:9.

51 Shevet Hakehasi (I:1) writes that this was the practice of R’ Aharon of Belz. Some write that the Divrei Chaim was not stringent in this matter, but Rabbeinu Hakadosh Meiratzfert (p. 255) asserts that this – his not being stringent – was only regarding the water used for netilas yadayim after sleeping in the daytime.

52 Implication of Shulchan Aruch 4:7 and Beis Yosef. See Ishei Yisrael (27, footnote 97) for dissenting views.

53 See Shulchan Aruch 92:4; 233:2.

54 Presumably, here too, one should begin by taking the cup in the right hand and transferring it to the left (even though there is no need to wash three times).

55 Teshuvos HaRashba I:191; Shulchan Aruch 4:7.

56 Shulchan Aruch 4:22. For discussion of how this can fit according to Rashba’s own statement, that a cup is required, see Hilchos Yom Beyom (Tefilla I, p. 29); Pri Megadim (Eishel Avraham 4:25). Cf. Mor Uketziah (Ch. 4).

57 Shulchan Aruch 4:22, Mishnah Berurah ibid. note 58.

58 In deference to the opinion of Rashba stated above. See Beiur Halachah 4:13 ד"ה כל הלילה.

59 Even if one subsequently exited the bathroom; see below.

60 Da’as Noteh I:255.

61 Shulchan Aruch 4:7.

62 4:40.

63 See Pri Megadim 7 (Eishel Avraham 1). See also Beiur Halachah to 613:3.

64 Chelek Levi (Pollack Chapter 3) notes that this must be so – since touching these orifices while making use of the bathroom, with the ruach ra’ah still upon the hands, is unavoidable.

65 4:39.

66 1:2. See also below.

67 Teshuvos Maharsham (IV:29) rules the ruach ra’ah from the morning can be removed by netilas yadayim in the bathroom, even though the bathroom is a source of its own ruach ra’ah. See also Chelek Levi chapter 3.

68 Os Chayim Veshalom (43:1); Minchas Yitzchak (IV:36); Halichos Shlomo 20:24; Teshuvos Vehanhagos (II:4) citing R’ Aharon Kotler; Mesores Moshe (III, p.3); Ohr Letziyon (II, 1:10).

69 Shoneh Halachos (4:48) states that, if one dries his hands outside of the bathroom, one may assume that no ruach ra’ah remains from the bathroom. [Ma’aseh Ish V, p. 10 cites R’ Chaim Kanievsky as transmitting this ruling in the name of the Chazon Ish.] This is presumably because ruach ra’ah is removed after drying one’s hands; see Sha’arei Teshuvah (4:1). Note that according to Chazon Ish, this procedure is not acceptable for the netilas yadayim prior to eating bread; see Chazon Ish 24:26 and Shoneh Halachos 4:48. See Sha’arei Berachah 1, footnote 37 for dissenting views.

70 Shabbos 109a.

71 4:5

72 This likely extends to any beverage (see Meiri, Shabbos 109a, who explicitly applies it to wine). For discussion, see Orchos Rabbeinu (IV, pp. 38-40).

73 R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Halichos Shlomo 20, note 25

74 For a lengthy list of sources for this ruling, see Eitz Hasadeh (Schottesman, 37, footnote 24).