Other Activities That Require Netilas Yadayim

 Courtesy of Ohr Olam Mishnah Berurah

Question: What are the precise circumstances under which a ruach ra’ah rests upon the hands? How is it removed?

Discussion: There is a significant list of activities and circumstances that cause a ruach ra’ah to rest on the hands.75 In all these cases, water must be used to wash the entire hand until the wrist, or at least until the point of connection between the fingers and the hand. Additionally, the washing should be done as soon as possible.76 Other details of the procedure, however, vary from one case to the other, as follows:

A ruach ra’ah rests upon the hands:

Immediately after daybreak (alos hashachar). This is true even if one was awake all night, and even if one woke up and had already performed netilas yadayim before daybreak.77 However, if one is involved in Torah study or in tefillah when daybreak arrives, he need not interrupt in order to wash his hands.78 Netilas yadayim in this case requires washing the hands three times79 and should be done with a cup.80

Upon awakening from sleep81 for approximately half an hour (or more),82 regardless of the time of day (or night).83 Netilas yadayim in this case requires washing three times with a cup.84 Note that if one wakes up in the middle of the night and plans on returning to bed, he is allowed to walk more than four amos for the netilas yadayim.85

Upon leaving a shower room or bathroom, even if one did not shower or relieve himself there.86 Although one must wash one’s hands, there is no need to wash three times in this case.87 Regarding contemporary bathrooms, from which the waste is washed away on a regular basis88 – especially when they are used for other purposes, such as washing one’s hands or bathing – some are lenient and require no washing at all. Therefore, when there are other permitting factors, or in a pressing situation, one may be lenient. For instance, there is a dispute as to whether netilas yadayim is required if one only put his hand in the bathroom (such as to shut the light).89 With regard to contemporary bathrooms, then, one may be lenient in this matter.

Even according to those opinions who require washing one’s hands, this applies only to entering the toilet room or stall. Netilas yadayim is not required at all if one only entered the separate area for washing the hands (as is common in public bathrooms), unless there are open urinals there.

Upon having one’s nails clipped, whether one clips his own nails or another person clips them for him.90 This applies to both fingernails and toenails,91 and even if for only a single nail.92 A person who clips someone else’s nails, however, does not need netilas yadayim.93 Some Poskim rule that one who bites his nails off does not need netilas yadayim, 94 but others disagree.95

One who walks in between two graves (whether Jewish or non-Jewish)96 in a cemetery.97 Some require washing the hands three times as in the morning, and many use a cup for this washing.98

One who touches a corpse or who comes within four amos of it.99 One who escorts a deceased person should wash as well.100 Some require washing three times in these instances.101

A number of customs apply to this washing:

not to dry the hands afterwards

not to take the cup from the person who did netilas yadayim before him

not to enter a house until after performing this netilas yadayim.102

After one undergoes a bloodletting procedure103 or has had a leech suck blood from him.104 If someone is bleeding from a cut, has blood drawn for a blood test, or donates blood, he does not require netilas yadayim.105

Before and after marital relations.106 This is required both for the man and the woman.107 Some require washing the hands three times in this instance, as upon waking up in the morning.108 A cup is not required.109

After having had a haircut,110 whether one cut his own hair or someone else cut it for him,111 and whether it was cut by hand or with electric hair clippers.112 One who cuts someone else’s hair should also wash his hands; see footnote.113 Many Poskim assume that shaving the beard does not necessitate netilas yadayim.114

Question: Is netilas yadayim ever required simply in order to clean the hands?

Discussion: Yes, as we will soon list. In these cases, unlike for removal of ruach ra’ah, one only needs to clean the affected area (rather than the whole hand). There is also no need for water; one can simply wipe his hands clean,115 at least in order to study Torah.116 There is also no requirement to wash the hands as soon as possible.117

Netilas yadayim is needed for cleanliness in the following cases:118

One who touches shoes119 or slippers,120 even if they do not look dirty121 – but it is not required after touching new shoes.122 Although touching shoe straps does require netilas yadayim, many are lenient with regard to laces.123 Some require netilas yadayim when one touches socks.124

One who touches his legs,125 upper arms, or other areas of the body that are generally covered by clothing.126 This is because these areas tend to have foul perspiration.127 Nevertheless, some maintain that one should wash after touching these areas even if he has just bathed.128

The definition of “areas of the body that are usually covered” depends on each individual.129 For example, if one touches the parts of a child’s body that are usually not covered (although, on an adult, they would usually be covered), he does not require netilas yadayim.130 There is a dispute, however, as to whether the upper arms and legs are included in this exemption: some say that even if the individual generally leaves them uncovered, touching them requires netilas yadayim.131

Many do not require netilas yadayim if one touches his arm while putting on his tefillin in the morning.132

Scratching the top of one’s scalp133 with one’s hands.134 However, if one merely touches the hair on one’s head, he does not require netilas yadayim.135 Additionally, some are lenient regarding the part of the head that is not usually covered by a hat or yarmulke.136

Touching feces or urine.137 However, one is not required to do netilas yadayim after touching nose mucus or ear wax,138 and certainly not after touching eye mucus.139

Removing lice from the hair140 (see footnote141).

75 Much of this list appears in Shulchan Aruch 4:18-19. Shemiras Haguf Vehanefesh (54, footnote 40) lists further activities mentioned by various Poskim that cause a ruach ra’ah to rest on the hands.

76 Mishnah Berurah 4:38.

77 Shulchan Aruch 4:14

78 Halichos Shlomo, Moadim II, 12:4; Teshuvos Vehanhagos II:2.

79 Mishnah Berurah 4:29

80 See above, at note 47.

81 Shulchan Aruch 4:15.

82 Sha’arei Teshuvah 4:17; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 2:8. [This is the accepted view with regard to the timespan of “sixty breaths,” which is considered a significant sleep (see Ketzos Hashulchan Chapter 2 footnote 1, Otzar Halachos 4:19 Piskei Teshuvos 131:1), unlike the alternative views cited in Beiur Halachah 4:16.]

83 Mishnah Berurah 4:27.

84 This ruach ra’ah is the same one that rests on the hands at daybreak, and it is removed in the same way.

85 Eishel Avraham (Buczacz 4:1). Birchos Shamayim (p. 32 footnote 123) claims that this may be inferred from Mishnah Berurah as well, since he mentions no need to avoid walking four amos in this case. Orchos Rabbeinu I p. 8, however, writes that the Steipler would avoid walking four amos even in this case.

86 Mishnah Berurah 4:40.

87 See Mishnah Berurah 4:39.

88 Eretz Tzvi (I:110-111) rules that netilas yadayim is not required when leaving this sort of bathroom aboard a train, but Minchas Yitzchak (I:60) understands that this was meant specifically aboard trains and not in private homes. Igros Moshe (Even Ha’ezer I:114, end) rules that our bathrooms should be treated stringently, except in a pressing circumstance. Yabia Omer (III:2) likewise rules stringently; Ohr Letziyon (1:1), on the other hand, discusses grounds for leniency. See Shemiras Haguf Vehanefesh (54, footnote 29) for a list of sources on this topic. [See further, Chazon Ish (Orach Chaim 17:11) and Minchas Yitzchak ibid., who rule stringently with regard to reciting berachos or Shema while inside contemporary bathrooms.]

89 Kaf Hachaim (4:66) and Torah Lishmah (23) rule stringently, whereas Tzitz Eliezer (VII:2:3) and Rivevos Ephraim (I, 6:1) are lenient.

90 Kaf Hachaim 4:68

91 Ketzos Hashulchan 2:11

92 Artzos Hachaim 4:18 citing Rashbatz

93 Kaf Hachaim 4:92

94 This is the view of the Chazon Ish as recorded in Dinim Vehanhagos (1:3) and Orchos Rabbeinu (I, p. 10), which adds that this is true even if one bites off several nails.

95 Ketzos Hashulchan 2:11; see Rivevos Ephraim I, 10:1.

96 Yad Halevi (1), Birchos Shamayim p. 95, footnote 304. Cf. Teshuvos Vehanhagos (II:581) with regard to graves of non-Jews.

97 Mishnah Berurah 4:42. Ishei Yisrael (2, footnote 139) cites R’ Chaim Kanievsky as ruling that netilas yadayim might be required simply for entering within the walls of a graveyard. However, Birchos Shamayim (note 303) proves otherwise.

98 Eliyah Rabbah (4:12) writes that a cup is not required, but Ishei Yisrael (4, footnote 139) notes that the prevalent custom is to use a cup; see there for discussion.

99 Ben Ish Chai (Year 1, Toldos 16). This is presumably the intent of Mishnah Berurah 4:43 as well.

100 According to Pri Megadim (Eishel Avraham 4:21), this only applies if one is within four amos of the corpse, but Imrei Yosher, Nashim, Hanhagos Chazon Ish 116 (cited in Shemiras HaGuf Vehanefesh 54, footnote 35) writes that it applies even at a greater distance.

101 This is clear from Makor Chaim (4:18, written by R’ Chaim Cohen of Aram Tzova, a student of R’ Chaim Vital), which is the source of the ruling of Mishnah Berurah 4:39.

102 See Shemiras Haguf Vehanefesh (54, footnote 35) for sources and varying opinions regarding these practices. With regard to entering a house, Ma’adanei Shlomo (p. 292, footnote 136) suggests that this applies specifically to living quarters, but not to a shul, a beis hamidrash, or the like. See also Nishmas Yisrael (I, p. 125), who writes that one may enter a car before netilas yadayim, as well as the building that houses a mikveh. He adds that some allow one to enter any public building. Conversely, Orchos Rabbeinu (IV, p. 319) indicates that one may not enter a Yeshiva.

103 Shulchan Aruch 4:19

104 Mishnah Berurah 4:48

105 Halichos Shlomo 20:19. It is possible that one who is draining blood (such as after surgery) would require netilas yadayim.

106 Mishnah Berurah 240:54

107 Ben Ish Chai (Year 1, Toldos 16), Yesod Veshoresh Ha’Avodah, Sha’ar Shmini, Chapter 6.

108 Mishnah Berurah 4:39

109 Eliyah Rabbah 4:12

110 Shulchan Aruch 4:19

111 Kaf Hachaim 4:92

112 See Kaf Hachaim 4:93, and Ishei Yisrael 2, footnote 150.

113 Kaf Hachaim (ibid) writes that netilas yadayim is required in this case just as it is needed after scratching the scalp – in which case it is for cleanliness and not to remove ruach ra’ah; see next Discussion.

114 Or Letziyon (II 44:5) and Halichos Shlomo (Chapter 1 note 10) write that it is not required, whereas Rivevos Ephraim 4:5 cites those who do require netilas yadayim in this case, and Nekiyus Vekavod B’tefilla (p. 189) cites R’ Chaim Kanievsky as requiring it.

115 Mishnah Berurah 4:39.

116 For tefillah and other such activities, washing with water is preferred; see Mishbetzos Zahav 4:15 for elaboration.

117 Mishnah Berurah 4:38.

118 Mishnah Berurah 4:41, but says that these, too, are for removal of ruach ra’ah; see Shulchan Aruch Harav 128:27; Tehillah LeDavid 4:20, and Shemiras Haguf Vehanefesh 54, footnote 31. The parameters of the required netilas yadayim are different according to this view.

119 There is dispute as to whether this applies to non-leather shoes; see Ishei Yisrael (2, footnote 135), who links this issue to whether this washing is required due to cleanliness (in which case there is presumably no difference between leather and non-leather), or ruach ra’ah (which applies only to leather; however, this is not absolutely certain).

120 Halichos Shlomo (20:18).

121 See Magen Avraham 128:26; Mishnah Berurah 128:62

122 Mor Uketziah (end of Chapter 4). Mishnah Berurah 128:62 implies the same. [This applies even if this washing is to remove ruach ra’ah.] It also holds true for new shoes which were likely tried on already by potential customers; see She’arim Mitzuyanim Behalacha (Kuntreis Achron 2:9); Lev Chaim (II:2); Yabia Omer (V, Orach Chaim 1:4).

123 Halichos Shlomo (20:18); Beis Baruch (Miluim 40) citing Chazon Ish. See Gam Ani Odcha (Chapter 7) for a list of others who were lenient as well. Cf. She’arim Mitzuyanim Behalachah (Kuntreis Achron 2:9) rules stringently regarding laces. Minchas Gideon (I, p. 235, footnote 8) cites R’ Ya’akov Yosef as ruling that if one touches laces that drag on the ground, he should wash his hands.

124 Aruch Hashulchan (4:21) and Yabia Omer (V, Orach Chaim 1:4) rule that one need not wash his hands after touching socks. Beis Baruch (2:39) rules that if the socks are sweaty, one should wash his hands. See also Lev Chaim II:2. Rivevos Ephraim IV, Chapter 9:3, rules leniently but cites Chazon Ish as requiring netilas yadayim in this case.

125 Mishnah Berurah (4:54) and Tehillah LeDavid (4:19) suggest that this applies even to a part of the leg that is normally uncovered.

126 Shulchan Aruch 4:21.

127 Mishnah Berurah 4:46. Therefore, if one only touches the perspiration of these areas, he must wash his hands. Ishei Yisrael (2, footnote146) cites those who require netilas yadayim after touching clothing that absorbed perspiration from these body parts. Beiur Halachah 164:2 indicates this as well. Touching the sweat from areas of one’s body that are usually not covered with clothing, such as one’s face, does not require netilas yadayaim (Mishnah Berurah 4:52).

128 Halichos Shlomo 20:15. The reason is because Chazal did not differentiate between individual situations. However, if one touches their body underwater (as is common for women when they recite a berachah in a mikvah) one need not do netilas yadayim. Kaf Hachaim 4:85 rules leniently regarding touching the body after it was washed.

129 Mor Uketziah (end of Chapter 92); Zeh Hashulchan II, 4:21.

130 Kovetz Teshuvos V, Chapter 8; Halichos Shlomo 20:16; Ohr Letziyon II 44:6.

131 Mishnah Berurah 4:54 seems to be lenient regarding one’s feet. Minchas Yitzchak IV, 114 applies this to upper arms as well. Kaf Hachaim (4:94) and Kovetz Igros Chazon Ish (4) are stringent on this issue.

132 Mor Uketziah end of 92; Ben Ish Chai (I, Toldos 17); Eishel Avraham (Buzacz) 16:1. Salmas Chaim 36; Yisa Yosef II:4 citing R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv. It is said, however, that the Chazon Ish was careful not to touch his arm while putting on tefillin in the morning (Orchos Rabbeinu I, p. 38).

133 This applies only if there is hair growing there. Scratching a bald scalp does not require netilas yadayim, unless one scratches the area that is normally covered with a yarmulke (Minchas Gideon p. 253). Kaf Hachaim (4:75) states that, regarding scratching the beard, it is generally accepted that netilas yadayim is not required.

134 Aruch Hashulchan 4:21 seems to imply that even scratching one’s scalp with a comb requires netilas yadayim, but see Minchas Gideon (I p. 251) who proves that this is not required; he suggests that Aruch Hashulchan only required it out of a concern that one will inevitably touch the scalp while scratching it with a comb.

135 Mishnah Berurah 162:58; 164:10. It is said that the Chazon Ish was careful not to touch his hair when tightening the straps of his tefillin shel rosh out of concern that he would otherwise need to do netilas yadayim – Orchos Rabbeinu I, p. 38.

136 See Kaf Hachaim 98, but see Ma’amar Mordechai 11.

137 Birchos Shamayim p. 111, based on Beiur Halachah at the end of Chapter 164.

138 Mishnah Berurah 92:30, but this is against Rema there, so some are stringent (see Birchos Shamayim p.111). It is said that the Chazon Ish required netilas yadayim if one puts his fingers in his nose or ears, since these are considered covered areas (see A’aleh B’tamar p. 9. See Birchos Shamayim [footnote 372], who notes difficulty with this ruling).

139 Ishei Yisrael Chapter 2 footnote 148.

140 Tehillah LeDavid (4:22) maintains that Magen Avraham (97:7) is uncertain whether this netilas yadayim is to remove ruach ra’ah or for cleanliness. Birchos Shamayim (p. 104-105, footnotes 343, 345) claims that it is certainly for cleanliness and not because of ruach ra’ah. However, Mishnah Berurah note 41 implies that it is because of ruach ra’ah – as he does not include this in the list of those things which only require netilas yadayim due to cleanliness.

141 Shulchan Aruch 4:15 actually refers to shaking out one’s clothes from lice, or touching a louse. Torah Vechaim (Palachi, p. 11a, cited by Kaf Hachaim 4:83 and Me’asef L’kol Hamachanos 4:118) extrapolates this to removing lice from hair. Mishnah Berurah 4:45 suggests that when removing a flea, cleaning the hand is sufficient. With regard to touching other creatures, Shulchan Aruch Harav (97:3) rules that this does not require netilas yadayim, but Kaf Hachaim (4:81) states that one should be stringent in this regard.