Discarding Nail Clippings According To Halacha
(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)
1. The Gemara (Nidah 17a) emphasizes the importance of discarding one’s nail clippings properly. The reason that the Gemara gives is that a pregnant woman who steps on a nail clipping is in danger of a miscarriage. Accordingly, the Gemara adds that, “One who burns his nails is a chassid, one who buries them is a tzadik, and one who throws them on the floor in a public place is a rasha.” This teaching is codified by many later day authorities including the Mishnah Berurah (260:6).
2. It is therefore imperative that one throws the nails down the toilet or in the garbage. Many great tzaddikim, including the Chazon Ish, were particular to burn their nails. (See Sefer Taameh Dikra, Chut Shani vol. 1 page 62 and Bitzeil Hachachma 2:35)
3. The Beer Heitiv (260:2) cites an interesting explanation as to why stepping on nails can be harmful to pregnant women. He explains that when Adam and Chava before they sinned were covered in a hard nail-like membrane. After Chava caused Adam to sin the nail rescinded and now only covers the ends of our toes and fingers. Since Chava caused the nails to become removed from the body, the nails are forever dangerous to pregnant women.
אך א”כ משמע דלאו דוקא לאשה מעוברת אלא הה”ד לכל אשה, וכעין זה מצאתי בלקוטי מהרי”ח ח”ב דף ה’ ע”ב והשאיר בצ”ע. וע”ע בנימוקי יוסף מועד קטן י”ח. שמפלת “משום מיאוס, וי”א משום כשפים”.
4. The Prisha (241) writes that there should be no difference between toenails and fingernails, both may not be placed in an area where a pregnant woman may step on it.34 A similar ruling can be found in the Ben Ish Chai (Year 2 Lech Lecha 14). [Interestingly, the Sefer Otzar Yad Hachaim (1146), however, notes that he found in an Italian Yom Kippur Machzor that one of the things that one asks for atonement is for “throwing one’s fingernails (in an open area).” This implies that the law only applies to fingernails and not toenails.] One should rule stringently in accordance with the view of the Prisha and Ben Ish Chai.
כן נראה פשוט ובפרט דהוי חשש סכנה, ומה עוד דאינו מוכח מהמחזור שאין קפידא בשל צפרני רגליו, דאולי נקט צפרני היד משום שזה מצוי ביותר שיזרוק הצפורן יותר משל צפרני רגליו ע”ש.
6. The Gemara (Moed Katan 18a) states that throwing nails in a place where women do not frequent is permitted, since there is no concern that a pregnant woman will step on the nails. It is therefore permissible to throw one’s nails in a bais medrash or in a men’s mikvah (if these areas are not frequented by women).
7. The Gemara says that if the nails fell to the floor and are then swept to a different area they no longer pose any danger to women.
8. The Prisha, based upon the previous halacha, writes that if one dropped a nail he should sweep the area thereby moving the nail and nullifying it’s dangerous properties. The Mishnah Berurah cites the Elyah Rabba who feels that the danger is only removed if the nails are moved to an entirely different room. If, however, they are moved within the room they still are dangerous. The Chida (Birkei Yosef 260:6) rules in accordance with the Prisha. Accordingly, if a pregnant woman enters an area where manicures are taking place the area should be swept in front of her.
ועיין בפרי חדש יו”ד ס’ קט”ז, הובא במחצית השקל ס’ ר”ס ס”ק א’, דמ”מ מסתברא דה”מ דכניש מדוכתא קמא דנפלי ביה ממילא, אבל אי לקח למקום אחד ומיד היה דעתו להזיז אותם למקום השני, אותו המקום השני יש סגולת מקום הראשון ומזיק. וע”ע בספר שמירת הגוף והנפש סימן ס”ח שהביא עוד דברים בענין נטילת צפרנים ע”ש ואכמ”ל.
If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email me at email@example.com.
Rabbi Zakutinsky recently published a halacha sefer in English (with helpful Hebrew footnotes) addressing the laws and customs of the Jewish wedding, from the engagement period through shana rishona. Written for laymen and rabbis alike, The Gates of Joy elucidates and explains the halachos and customs of Ashkenazim, Sephardim, and Chassidim, including Chabad Chassidim. See a sample of The Gates of Joy here and email firstname.lastname@example.org to order. Say you saw it on OU Torah for a 25% discount!