Shiur #07: Netilat Yadayim (2)
the laws of THE Berakhot
Shiur #07: Netilat Yadayim (2)
Rav David Brofsky
The gemara suggests two reasons for this enactment. One passage (Chullin 105b–106a) relates netilat yadayim to the laws of tuma and tahara; in order to accustom kohanim to purify their hands before eating teruma (see Shabbat 13b and Eiruvin 21b), the Rabbis obligated everyone to wash their hands before eating bread. This enactment is observed even after the destruction of the Beit Ha-Mikdash so that we will be ready for the speedy rebuilding of the Temple. Another passage (Berakhot 53b) describes the ritual washing of the hands as an act of “sanctification.”
We questioned whether one must wash his hands for even a small quantity of bread, a ke-zayit, or only for a piece of bread the volume of a ke-beitza. The Shulchan Arukh cites the view of the Sefer Ha-Roke’ach, ruling that “if one eats less than a ke-beitza, one should wash without recited the blessing” (158:2). Finally, we noted that the Mishna Berura (158:10) concludes that one should preferably follow the more stringent opinions and wash without a blessing even for bread less than the size of a ke-zayit. The Arukh Ha-Shulchan (158:3) reports that that was apparently not the custom.
Netilat Yadayim From a Keli (Vessel)
Netilat Yadayim may be performed from a vessel or by immersing one’s hands in a valid mikve, river, lake, or sea.
The Talmud (Chullin 107) discusses the types of vessels that may be used for netilat yadayim. The Rashba (s.v. megufat) explains that the Rabbis required a vessel for netilat yadayim before eating bread, just as there is a requirement of a vessel for the “mei chatat” (the water sprinkled during the purification process involving the para aduma) and the “kiddush yadayim ve-raglayim,” the ritual washing of the hands and feet performed by the kohanim in the Beit Ha-Mikdash.
Similarly, if there is a hole in the rim of the vessel or if there is a spout, as long as the vessel contains a revi’it of water under the hole or spout, one may wash his hand with the vessel, pouring the water through the hole of spout (Shulchan Arukh 159:2-3). One may not pour the water from the higher part of the rim, as that section of the vessel is not considered to be part of the keli, as it cannot contain water.
Leather canteens which collapse when emptied may not be used for netilat yadayim (see Mishna Berura 18). Similarly, plastic bags may not be used for netilat yadayim.
A vessel which was not intended to hold liquids may not be used for netilat ydayim. Therefore, one may not wash one’s hands from a hat or yarmulka (Shulchan Arukh 159:4; see Mishna Berura 20). The Mishna Berura (15) cites a debate regarding whether one may wash his hands from a pot cover that is occasionally used to hold liquids.
One may wash his hands from a water bottle, as long at the water covers the entire hand. Preferably, there should be a continual (even if slow) flow of water.
In order to purify one’s hands before eating bread, one may also immerse them in a natural spring, river, sea, or a kosher mikve.
The gemara (Chullin 106a) cites R. Papa, who asserts that all agree that one may immerse his hands in a natural spring, such as the hot springs of Tiberias (chamei Tiveria). The Shulchan Arukh (159:14; see also Mikva’ot 1:7) rules that one may even immerse one’s hands in a ma’ayan that contains less than 40 se’ah, the minimum amount of water required when one immerses his body in a mikve.
Similarly, one can immerse his hands in an ocean or lake, or even in a mikve. The Rishonim debate whether in this case the mikve, which collects standing rain water, must contain a minimum of 40 se’ah. Some Rishonim (Rashi, Chullin 106a, s.v. chamei, and Chagiga 18b, s.v. u-lekodesh; Mordekhai, Berakhot 202) explain that one must immerse his hands in a mikve that contains enough water in which to immerse one’s body, a minimum of 40 se’ah. However, the Beit Yosef (159) cites the Talmidei Rabbenu Yona (Berakhot 41a, s.v. ve-nireh), who insist that although forty se’ah are required mi-derabbanan when immersing vessels (tevilat keilim) in a mikve, the Rabbis did not require forty se’ah for the ritual washing of one’s hands. Rather, as long as one covers his hands completely in a revi’it of water, one fulfills the obligation of netilat yadayim. The Beit Yosef (15) suggests that these Rishonim may also differ as to whether one may immerse his hands in less than 40 se’ah of running rain water that is not collected in an “ashboren” (a standing pool).
The Rishonim also disagree regarding whether one may immerse his hands in a pool of 40 se’ah of mayim she’uvim, “drawn water,” which is generally invalid for a mikve. While the Rambam (Hilkhot Berakhot 6:5) writes that one may not immerse his hands in a mikve containing less than 40 se’ah or in a collection of mayim she’uvim of more than 40 se’ah, the Ra’avad disagrees in his glosses to the Rambam. All agree that one may not immerse in 40 se’ah of mayim she’uvim collected in a vessel, such as a bathtub, that is attached to the ground.
Interestingly, the Mordekhai (Berakhot 202) writes that one who immerses his hands does not need to immerse the hands two times or raise his hands, and, based upon the Tosefta (Yadayim 2:1), does not need to dry his hands. The Shulchan Arukh (159:20) records this as well.