Home Subscribe Services Support Us
Weekly Halacha

Selected Halachos Related to Parshas Behar

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.


QUESTION: What type of cup may be used for netilas yadayim?

ANSWER: A cup made of any material, including paper or plastic(1), may be used. Even a cone-shaped paper cup which cannot stand on its own may be used, since the cup was designed and manufactured in that shape(2).

L'chatchilah it is not advisable to use a bottle, a can, or any vessel with a narrow opening for washing, since it is preferable that the entire revi'is reach the hand full-force from the vessel from which it is being poured. If, however, no other vessel is readily available, it is permitted to use one with a narrow opening as long as the water is poured in an uninterrupted flow(3).

QUESTION: What should one do if he is traveling and has no water with which to wash his hands?

ANSWER: He can use a soft drink such as soda, or beer(4).

If a soft drink or beer is not available, he must travel 72 minutes ahead [or back up for 18 minutes] to look for water(5) [or soda]. If still no water can be found, one may wear gloves or wrap both of his hands in a plastic bag, etc(6). When using this method, the hands must remain covered during the entire meal, even when one is eating foods other than bread(7).

If one cannot find anything to cover his hands with, he may wash his hands with any fruit juice, but not with oil(8) or wine. No blessing is recited when washing with juice(9).

If none of the above options are available, some poskim allow eating bread with a fork while being very careful not to touch the bread with one's hands(10). This method should be relied upon only if one is very hungry, as there are several poskim who do not agree with this leniency(11).

QUESTION: How much water should be used for netilas yadayim?

ANSWER: There are four possible shiurim of water that could suffice for washing. In order of preference:

Technically, one could use one revi'is of water to wash both hands and his washing would be valid. Practically, this is not recommended as several halachic problems could result when so little water is used(12). The recommended method is to pour at least one revi'is (approx. 3.3 fl. oz.) of water on each hand.

Some poskim require a second pouring of water over each hand. While ideally one should conduct himself according to this view, it is not obligatory, and if not enough water is available one need not search for it(13). It is proper and praiseworthy to use water unstintingly when washing, as the Talmud tells us that one who washes with an abundance of water is abundantly rewarded from Heaven(14).

QUESTION: After washing one hand, the other (unwashed) hand touched the washed hand. Is the washing valid?

ANSWER: If one washed his hand as recommended with at least a revi'is of water, the washing is valid and the hand does not need to be rewashed. If, however, another person who did not yet wash his hand touched the wet hands of a person who is washing, it is questionable if the washing is valid. The recommended method is to dry the hands and rewash them. The blessing, however, is not repeated(15).

QUESTION: Is it important to make sure that one's hands are completely dry before washing? Is it important to make sure that the handle of the vessel is completely dry?

ANSWER: According to the Mishnah Berurah, neither of these is a concern. It is permitted to wash one's hands even though they were just wet(16), and it does not matter if the handle of the vessel is wet or not(17).

The Chazon Ish(18), however, disagrees on both counts and requires that the hands be totally dry before the washing takes place. In his opinion, even b'dieved the washing may not be valid if the hands were not completely dry before being washed. It has become customary for G-d fearing people to carefully dry their hands completely before washing for a meal(19).

QUESTION: Is it permitted to wash hands for a meal directly from the sink [without using a vessel] by turning the faucet on and off directly over each hand?

ANSWER: No. There are two basic requirements for how the water must reach the hands: a) from a utensil, a keli; b) manually, koach gavra (lit., "by human force"). Although turning the faucet on and off satisfies the requirement of koach gavra, since a "human force" allows the water to be poured over the hand by turning the faucet on, it still does not satisfy the requirement that the water must come from a keli. Since the water comes from the pipe directly on to the hands, it is not considered as if one washed from a keli, for a pipe is not a keli(20).

In a case where the water for netilas yadayim is coming from a keli such as an urn, and a vessel with which to wash the hands is not available, then it is permitted to place the hand directly underneath the spigot, press the spigot and allow the first flow of water to fall directly on the hand. The procedure is then repeated for the second hand(21).

QUESTION: Is it permitted to dry the hands with an electric dryer?

ANSWER: Yes. Although the hands must be dried before the bread is eaten(22), our main concern is that the hands will be dried, not the manner which is used to dry them. It is also permitted, therefore, to let the hands drip dry(23).

QUESTION: Can the obligation of netilas yadayim be discharged by dipping the hands in water?

ANSWER: Dipping the hands in water is valid only if the hands are dipped in:

A wellspring, hot or cold. There must be enough water in the spring to cover both hands at one time(24).

A running river or a natural lake. If the water is discolored because of smoke, pollution or debris, it is invalid. If it is discolored because of sand or other natural particles, it is valid(25).

A sea, even if the water is too salty for a dog to drink from, it is still valid(26). The water, however, may not be discolored, as stated above. A man-made lake or swimming pool(27) with a volume of 40 se'ah of water [approximately 180-190(28) U.S. gallons]. The water must be piped into the lake through pipes which are built on or under the ground. If the lake or pool is filled in some other way, it is invalid(29). A kosher mikveh.

The hands could be dipped one at a time or both together(30). They need to be dipped in one time only. Drying the hands is not required, unless the residual wetness will make the food unappetizing(31). The regular blessing of Al netilas yadayim is then recited(32).


1 Harav Y.Y. Henkin (Am ha-Torah, 1979, vol. 10, pg. 6).

2 Shearim Metzuyanim B'halachah 40:3.

3 Mishnah Berurah 162:30; Aruch ha-Shulchan 162:15.

4 Rama O.C. 160:12. See Hebrew Notes for a full explanation.

5 Beiur Halachah 163:1.

6 O.C. 163:1. The hands should be covered until the wrist. If that is impractical, they must be covered at least until the knuckles; Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 7.

7 Avnei Yashfei 2:11 based on Rama 170:1.

8 Shulchan Aruch Harav 160:15.

9 Mishnah Berurah 160: 64 and Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 69. See Hebrew Notes.

10 Mishnah Berurah 163:7.

11 While Mishnah Berurah allows one to rely on this option when no alternative exists, many poskim disagree. Chayei Adam, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch and Aruch ha-Shulchan do not mention this leniency at all.

12 Mishnah Berurah 158:37.

13 Mishnah Berurah 162:21.

14 O.C. 158:10.

15 Mishnah Berurah 162: 49 and Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 39.

16 Beiur Halachah 162:2.

17 Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 162:41.

0 18 O.C. 24:20. [Shulchan Aruch Harav agrees with this view in his Siddur but not in his Shulchan Aruch.]

19 Ketzos ha-Shulchan 33:13.

20 Teshuvos Zekan Aharon 1 (quoted in She'arim Metzuyanim b'Halachah 40:5); Minchas Yitzchak 4:21 based on Magen Avraham 159:4 and Mishnah Berurah 47; Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Halichos Shelomo 20, note 40). See also Taharas Mayim, pg. 319-320. See, however, Shalmas Chayim 163, Yaskil Avdi 5:26 and Tzitz Eliezer 8:7 who rule that under extenuating circumstances, we may consider the pipe a keli and it would be permitted to wash from it.

21 Mishnah Berurah 159:64; 162:30.

22 O.C. 158:12.

23 Chazon Ish O.C. 25:10. See She'arim Metzuyanim b'Halachah 40:5.

24 O.C. 159:14.

25 Mishnah Berurah 160:3.

26 Mishnah Berurah 160:38, 40. Salty water, however, may not be used when washing hands with a vessel.

27 The filter must be turned off.

28 See Siddur Minchas Yerushalayim and Taharas Mayim, pg. 22.

29 O.C. 159:16 and Beiur Halachah.

30 Mishnah Berurah 159:80.

31 Ibid. 158:46.

32 Ibid. 159:97 and Chazon Ish O.C. 23:13.

This issue of Weekly Halacha is sponsored Lzecher NIshmas Haishah Blima Bas R' Noach A"H 16 Iyar 5754

Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 1999 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.

The Weekly-Halacha Series is distributed L'zchus Hayeled Doniel Meir ben Hinda. Weekly sponsorships are available--please send email to the moderator, Dr. Jeffrey Gross

The series is distributed by the Harbotzas Torah Division of Congregation Shomre Shabbos, 1801 South Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118--HaRav Yisroel Grumer, Marah D'Asra



View Complete List

Guaranteed Dividends
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5762

Vows in a Time of Distress
Shlomo Katz - 5760

The True T'rumah
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5762

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Grinding Ground Flour
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5759

But Do You Want To
Rabbi Yechezkel Freundlich - 5773

Escape into Shul
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5759


Honesty Comes First
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5763

A Remedy Before Sickness
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5758

In Rich Concentration
Rabbi Label Lam - 5767

> Sanctuary Sweet Sanctuary
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5759

Give & Take
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5756

Mikdash: The House that Man Builds
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5768

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

The Devil Is In The Details
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5767

The Bottom Line
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5756

Shlomo Katz - 5772

A Heart of Wood
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5769

Project Genesis Home

Torah Portion

Jewish Law



Learn the Basics




Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base


About Us

Contact Us

Free Book on Geulah! Home Copyright Information