Selected Halachos Relating to Parshas Shelach
By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt
The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.
For final rulings, consult your Rav.
When you will eat of the bread of the Land... (15:19)
WASHING BEFORE A MEAL: PROBLEMATIC SITUATIONS
QUESTION: Visitors to amusement parks, etc., are often stamped
on the back of their hand so that they can freely exit and
re-enter the park. May one wash his hands for a meal while the
stamp is visible, or does the stamp constitute a chatzitzah (an
halachical obstruction) that invalidates the netilas yadayim?
ANSWER: Yes, one may wash his hands. There are two reasons why
this may be permitted:
Shulchan Aruch(1) rules that dried ink is considered a
chatzitzah. He is referring, however, only to dried ink which
can actually be felt when touched, such as ink from an inkwell.
If there is only an inky smudge but the ink has no substance and
cannot be felt, it is not considered a chatzitzah(2).
An additional argument for leniency in this case is that the
basic halachah follows the opinion of the poskim who rule that
one is required to wash his hands only until the knuckles.
Although under normal circumstances one should be stringent and
wash his hands until the wrist(3), in this situation [when the
stamp is needed for re-entry and there is no other choice] we
may rely on the basic view that washing the hands until the
knuckles is sufficient. Accordingly, even if the stamp on the
back of the hand would constitute a chatzitzah, the washing
itself is still valid.
QUESTION: Is a woman's nail polish considered a chatzitzah?
ANSWER: Generally, no. Since women paint their fingernails for
the sake of beauty, the polish is considered as if it is part of
their body and is not considered a chatzitzah(4). If, however,
the nail polish has become chipped and the woman would be
embarrassed to be seen in public in that state, it is possible
that the nail polish would no longer be considered as part of
her body(5). She should, therefore, remove the chipped polish
before washing her hands.
QUESTION: Are men or women required to remove their rings before
washing their hands for a meal?
ANSWER: Generally, yes. A ring is considered a chatzitzah since
the water cannot easily reach all parts of the finger while it
is worn. Even though a loose-fitting ring does allow the water
to reach the entire finger, the poskim maintain that it is
difficult to assess what exactly is considered loose and what is
considered tight. L'chatchilah, therefore, all rings should be
removed before washing(6). B'dieved, though, one who forgot to
remove his ring and has already washed, need not wash his hands
over, as long as the ring fits loosely around the finger(7).
[When in doubt if the ring is loose or not, the washing should
be repeated but the blessing should not.]
The rule that an object such as a ring is considered a
chatzitzah applies only to men or women who sometimes, even on
rare occasions, remove their ring from their finger. The
occasional removal signifies that the person is sometimes
particular about having the ring on his finger, rendering it a
chatzitzah. It follows, therefore, that men or women who never
take their ring off, even when kneading dough or performing
manual labor, may wash their hands for a meal while wearing a
QUESTION: Is a band-aid protecting an open wound [from bleeding,
infection or pain] considered a chatzitzah?
ANSWER: No. Indeed, the area which the band-aid is protecting
does not need not to be washed at all. Care should be taken,
however, that at least 3.3 fl. oz. of water is poured over the
rest of the hand(9).
It frequently happens, however, that the wound which was
originally protected by the band-aid has healed and the band-aid
no longer serves as protection. In such a case, the band aid
must be removed before the washing. If it was not, the washing
may be invalid(10).
QUESTION: Is it permitted to wash for a meal in the bathroom?
ANSWER: L'chatchilah this should not be done, even if the hands
will be dried outside the bathroom(11). It is proper, therefore,
to fill a cup with water and wash one's hands outside the
Under extenuating circumstances, however, there are several
poskim who are lenient and allow washing in a modern day
bathroom, since they are in several ways different from the
olden-day bathroom which the Shulchan Aruch was referring
In addition, several poskim are lenient concerning a bathroom
which is also used for personal grooming, e.g., tooth brushing
or hair combing (a full bathroom). In their opinion, such a
bathroom may be used for washing hands as well(13).
QUESTION: What is the proper procedure to follow when using the
bathroom immediately before washing for a meal?
ANSWER: This presents an halachic problem since it would be
improper to wash the hands twice in a row, nor is it proper to
delay the recital of asher yatzar until the meal has begun.
After debating the various possibilities, the poskim recommend
one of the following two methods(14):
Wash your hands with water but without using a vessel(15), dry
your hands and recite asher yatzar, and then rewash your hands
with a vessel as usual and recite al netilas yadayim and
Wash your hands with a vessel as usual, recite al netilas
yadayim, dry the hands, recite asher yatzar and then recite
1. O.C. 161:2.
2. Mishnah Berurah 161:14. See also Machatzis ha-Shekel 8. There
is a minority view that holds [concerning tevilah] that a mere
appearance may also be considered a chatzitzah (see Sidrei
Taharah Y.D. 198:17). See following paragraph as to why the
stamp will not be a chatzitzah even according to that view.
3. Mishnah Berurah 161:21 and Beiur Halachah.
4. Mishnah Berurah 161:12.
5. Halichos Bas Yisrael 3:2 and other contemporary poskim. See
possible source in Igros Moshe Y.D. 3:62 [concerning artificial
6. Rama O.C. 161:3.
7. Mishnah Berurah 161:18. This is valid, however, only if he
poured at least 3.3. fl. oz. of water over his hand.
8. Mishnah Berurah 161:19; Aruch ha-Shulchan 161:6. [A woman who
removes her ring only when immersing in a mikveh, may still wash
for a meal while wearing a ring.]
9. O.C. 162:10.
10. Mishnah Berurah 161:4. If the band-aid is on the back of the
hand past the knuckles, the washing is valid b'dieved.
11. Chazon Ish O.C. 24:26; Igros Moshe E.H. 1:114.
12. Eretz Tzvi 110-111; Zekan Aharon 1:1; Harav Y.Y. Henkin
(Eidus l'Yisrael); Minchas Yitzchak 1:60.
13. Eretz Tzvi 110:111; Chelkas Yaakov 1:205; 2:174; Minchas
Yitzchak 1:60; Harav E.M. Shach (Hashkafaseinu, vol. 4, pg. 5).
14. There are also some other suggestions, see Kaf ha-Chayim
165:1 and Ketzos ha-Shulchan 33:14.
15. As explained in Minchas Yitzchak 5:96 that it is not required
to use a vessel when washing one's hands upon leaving the
bathroom. Those who are particular to wash their hands from a
vessel upon leaving the bathroom, should not use this method.
16. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 40:15; Mishnah Berurah 165:2. If not
enough water is available for two washings, all agree that the
second method is followed.
17. Aruch ha-Shulchan 165:2 and Chazon Ish O.C. 24:30, who
testify that our custom is to follow this method. If the hands
are very dirty, this method cannot be used, since the dirt may
be considered a chatzitzah.
Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 1997 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and
Project Genesis, Inc. Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne
Teachers' College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily
Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.
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