Causes of Tum'a - Part II


Leaving Cut Produce Uncovered Overnight

Some foods (such as onions, garlic, and scallions/green onions) will pick up ru'ach ra'a if:

  • Peeled, AND
  • Cut at both ends, AND
  • Left overnight in a home, AND
  • Raw (OR cooked) and not mixed with other foods, spices, or salt.

NOTE: Under the above conditions, the food will pick up ru'ach ra'a even if stored in a sealed container after being cooked. However, if such an onion (raw or cooked) that is peeled and cut at both ends is mixed with something else--whether other foods, oil, spices, or salt--the onion will not pick up ru'ach ra'a.

Problematic foods:

  • Onions,
  • Garlic,
  • Eggs (hard boiled or raw once they are out of their shell).

Not a problem:

  • Unpeeled onions
  • Cut and open lemons or other produce (excluding onions, garlic, and eggs).
  • Raw onion, garlic, or eggs that were cut or peeled in a commercial facility and remain uncovered overnight.

NOTE: You may not use an onion that has been left overnight under any circumstances (even if wrapped in clear plastic wrap, put into the refrigerator, etc.):

  • That has been cut at the top and bottom, and
  • Whose brown layer has been removed.

NOTE: Spring/ green onions also attract ru'ach ra'ah, but only if you cut off all of the green and also the roots.

NOTE: If the onion or garlic had been peeled and cut at both ends but you sprinkled some salt on it, then you may use it even if it has been left out overnight.

Wet Food Normally Eaten by Hand

Wash your hands (without saying the handwashing blessing) before eating wet food, such as a piece of fruit with water on it or simply dry off the food, if possible.

EXCEPTION: Food that is normally eaten with a spoon or fork (such as cereal or canned fruit) but only if you are eating it with a spoon or fork.


Hair Cutting: Washing Afterward

Wash your hands using the One-Time Method after cutting (or having someone cut) your hair (or nails).


Bringing Holy Items into Area of Impurity

To carry a holy item into an area that has impurity, put the item in two nested containers (kis b'toch kis).


  • A bag inside a bag.
  • A bag and a folder.


Cohen Visiting Wife

cohen may visit his wife in the hospital even though there are often dead people in hospitals but consult a rabbi.


Fingernails and Toenails on Same Day

Don't cut fingernails and toenails on the same day.

REASON: That is done for dead people. EXCEPTION: The only major exception is women before they go to the mikva.

Cutting Fingernails and Toenails in Special Order

You do not need to cut toenails or fingernails in a special order or out of order unless you have a custom to do so.

Putting Nail Clippings Down Toilet or Drain

Nail clippings, even from children and non-Jews, have ru'ach ra'a and need to be disposed of. The simplest way is to flush them down a toilet or wash them down a drain (but don't put them into the garbage).

NOTE: Hair may be disposed of by throwing it into a garbage can.

Burning Nail Clippings

Burning nail clippings is OK (but it has kabbalistic complications and is bad for the person from whom the nails were clipped).

Burying Nail Clippings

Burying nail clippings is OK but only if they will not become uncovered later. Clippings are particularly bad for pregnant women to step on or over.

Nail Clipping: Washing Afterward

Wash your hands using the One-Time Method after cutting (or having someone cut) your nails (or hair).


Non-Jews do not convey ritual impurity (tum'a) in the same way that Jews do. However:

  • If a Jew touches or carries a dead non-Jew, tum'a is passed on to the Jew.
  • If a Jew walks through a non-Jewish cemetery, the Jew should wash his hands using the Three-Times Method.

Copyright 2015 Richard B. Aiken. Halacha L’Maaseh appears courtesy of Visit their website for more information.