The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.
For final rulings, consult your Rav.
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
ANSWER: Yes, one may wash his hands. There are two reasons why this may be
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
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
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
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 ring(8).
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 bathroom.
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 to(12).
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
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 ha-motzi(16);
Wash your hands with a vessel as usual, recite al netilas yadayim, dry the
hands, recite asher yatzar and then recite ha-motzi(17).
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 eyelashes].
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.
14 There are also some other suggestions, see Kaf ha-Chayim 165:1 and Ketzos
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.