Causes of Tum’a – Part III


Retroactive Tum'a

If a patient has no pulse, is chilled, and has no brain function but can be revived, there is no tum'a. If the person is not revived, the tum'a may be retroactive.


Blessing near Tum'a

For purposes of prayer while tum'a is around:

  1. Feces are OK once they no longer smell.
  2. Urine and impure wash water are OK once absorbed in ground.
  3. Spit/saliva is no problem.


Leather Shoes and Washing

After touching leather shoes, you must wash your hands using the One-Time Method before saying blessings or prayers or before learning Torah.

NOTE: If you do not have any water with which to wash your hands, say the blessing or prayer anyway but wipe your hands off on something before saying the blessing.

Leather or Synthetic Shoes

Only leather shoes are considered to carry tum'a.

REASON: Leather shoes absorb sweat.

NOTE: There is no problem with cloth or synthetic material shoes (as long as they are not sweaty--even though they also absorb sweat).

NOTE: Soaking and scrubbing leather shoes to remove the absorbed sweat does not remove the requirement to wash hands after touching those shoes.


Sleeping more than 30 Minutes

After waking from sleeping more than 30 minutes, don't touch your eyes, nose, mouth, ears, or other bodily orifices until you have washed your hands using the Three-Times Method.

Missing Opportunity To Say Blessing

SITUATION: You wake up after sleeping for more than 30 minutes and need to say a blessing immediately or else you might lose the opportunity to do so.

WHAT TO DO: Even though you have not washed your hands after sleep, you should say the blessing.


SITUATION: You are in bed and hear thunder.

WHAT TO DO: You should immediately say kocho u'gvurato even though you did not wash your hands (but you should quickly rub your hands on cloth or clothing first). If you then see lightning, you say oseh ma'aseh vreishit.

Walking before Handwashing

You should not walk 4 amot (6'10”, or 2.1 m) before washing hands after sleeping more than 30 minutes etc., but the entire house may be considered 4 amot (in the sense of being your “domain” or personal space).

Food Under Bed When Sleeping

Do not keep food under your bed when you sleep; but if you did, you may eat or use the food.

NOTE: Wash the food three times, if possible, pouring with a cup as you would wash your own hands.


After using the toilet, you only need to wash hands if you touched the normally covered parts of your body or if your hands touched feces or urine. However, the custom is to wash hands anyway.


Touching with Finger

If you touch something that has transferable spiritual impurity (tum'a) even with just one finger, that entire hand becomes impure.  In some cases, such as if you touch a dead body, your entire body will become impure (tamei).

Scratching your Head

You must wash your hands (the One-Time Method) if you scratch your head on a place where you have hair. You do not need to wash your hands if you:

  • Touch your hair
  • Scratch a bald spot.
  • Rub your head instead of scratching it.

REASON: Scratching your head (where there is hair) causes tum'a because of any impurities that may be there.

NOTE: Even if you have just shampooed your hair, you must still wash your hands.

Touching Body Parts after Saying HaMotzi

You must wash your hands again (but without a blessingusing the One-Time Method if you touch a normally covered area of your body or scratch your head where you have hair after you have said ha'motzi; but don't say ha'motzi again.


After sleeping, a person cannot transfer tum'a from his or her hands to someone who has already washed—whether hands are wet or dry.


Water Uncovered Overnight

There is no problem with leaving water uncovered overnight.

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