Simanim 164-166 A Stipulation in Washing

  • Rav Asher Meir
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mishna Berura
Yeshivat Har Etzion

SHIUR #99: Simanim 164-166


Rabbi Asher Meir






Rav said: you may wash hands in the morning and stipulate [effectiveness] for the whole day.


Rebbe Avina said to the people of Pakta deArvut: Those like you, for whom water is hard to find, wash your hands in the morning and stipulate for the whole day. Some say, this [ruling] is only in a pinch, but otherwise no, and it disagrees with Rav. And some say that this [ruling] is even not in a pinch, just as Rav ruled. (Chullin 106b-107a)


Rashi explains that although additional washing is not necessary, care is needed not to dirty or defile the hands.




The very need to state this halakha, as well as the view that a person may stipulate that the washing applies for the whole day only in a pinch, suggests that this solution is not ideal. What is the implicit problem in washing with a tnai (stipulation) well before eating? Two answers are mentioned in the MB:


1. In s.k. 4, the MB mentions that the problem is hesech hada'at - distraction. The washing itself is perfectly valid for a later meal, but any washing is valid only as long as the person remains alert to the purity of his hands. This consideration relates to the delay per se.


2. In Sha'ar HaTziun s.k. 7, a second consideration is mentioned in the name of the Magen Avraham (s.k. 2, citing Rashba): kavana (intention). According to this approach, washing hands for prayer is INHERENTLY invalid for eating bread because washing for bread requires intention. This consideration relates to the problem of stipulation, where washing for prayer is meant to be effective for bread.




On the passage cited above ruling that a tnai is valid, Tosafot object that according to one opinion (the one adopted by the SA in OC 271:12), we should not make kiddush between washing and eating bread. Furthermore, Beit Hillel rule that even in an ordinary meal, wine should be poured before washing, so as not to interrupt between washing and eating. Why can't these relatively short interruptions be permitted by making a tnai? Tosafot give two answers:


1. Rabbeinu Tam says that a stipulation may be made only "in the morning."

2. The second answer is that when there is not an actual sha'at hadechak (tight situation), making a stipulation is permissible only if water is scarce.


Many commentators understand that Rabbeinu Tam doesn't mean specifically the morning. He just means that hand washing must always be for some immediate purpose; once it fills its proximate purpose then it can be EXTENDED for a meal later on. But it is invalid to wash if the entire force of the washing is for later on. This is how the Magen Avraham (s.k. 6) understands the dictum "tekhef le-netila seuda," literally "eating immediately after washing": the washing must be adjacent to SOME act requiring washing. (Mentioned in MB s.k. 6.)


The Bach understands that Rabbeinu Tam means ONLY the morning. Basically, the reason is that the morning washing also warrants a berakha (blessing) of "al netilat yadayim." (Though the wording of the Bach is deceptive, I think it would still be okay to wash for one meal and then guard one's hands until a following meal - since the berakha was said at the first meal.)


Rabbeinu Yona (on Berakhot 52b) repeats Tosafot's question. His answer: "When no stipulation was made in the morning, and there is an OBLIGATION to wash before the meal, then the meal must follow washing that he shouldn't become distracted in the meantime. But in this case [of a stipulation], he is not obligated to wash at mealtime, since he watched his hands since the morning and stipulated - in this case there is no requirement to eat immediately."


This answer is a bit cryptic. A delay of a few minutes creates a danger of distraction, but a delay of several hours is considered unproblematic!


The Beit Yosef suggests that Rabbeinu Yona is saying the same thing as Rabbeinu Tam. According to the first explanation of Rabbeinu Tam, we would say that in order for washing to have proper force, it is necessary to have POSITIVE intention from the time of washing until the act that necessitates washing. Any distraction is dangerous. But once the washing HAS force, it stays in force unless there is an absolute lapse of "shemira" (guarding) - the person has actually forgotten if his hands are still clean. This is certainly the way we act in the MIDDLE of the meal - we don't concentrate on our hands in the same way that we do between washing and the blessing of ha-motzi. Rabbeinu Yona is saying that the same thing holds from the hand washing of shacharit (the morning prayers) until lunch. This is also the MA's understanding of Rabbeinu Yona.


The BH calls this explanation "forced." He suggests a much simpler distinction: If NO stipulation is made, then concentration is necessary, but when there is a tnai then it is not. According to this explanation, Rabbeinu Yona would allow washing at ten o'clock for eating at twelve, even if there is no other need for washing at ten.


The BH adds another explanation of the Rabbeinu Yona: there is no particular urgency to make kiddush or pour wine between washing and eating. The BH seems to be saying that in this case there is no sha'at hadechak. Evidently, the BH thinks that some minimal pressing need is necessary to justify making a stipulation, even according to Rav.


In the end, we have four basic answers to when a tnai is valid:

1. Only when the washing has some immediate need (Magen Avraham)

2. Only when the washing requires the blessing of "al netilat yadayim" (Bach)

3. Any time at all (first answer of BH)  

4. Whenever there is some pinch or "dechak" (second answer of Tosafot, second answer of BH)


Of course, all of these answers encompass the example of the SA: washing in the morning and making a stipulation for a later meal, when there is some pressing need for such a condition.




The Tur rules that a stipulation is valid only in a pinch; most Rishonim disagree with this, in accordance with Rav. But Tosafot's SECOND answer suggests that even according to Rav, we should not rely on a stipulation if water is easily available. It follows that if we find water readily available right before eating, the stipulation is invalid and washing would be necessary. This is how the MB (s.k. 5) explains the ruling of the SA at the end of se'if 1.




The Rambam (Berakhot 7:1) writes: "The Jewish Sages adhered to many customs at meals, and all of them are etiquette [derekh eretz]." Table manners were extremely important to our Sages. The Rambam opens with customs of honor, which are based on the gemara in Berakhot 46b: "The most prominent guest washes first, and when they enter [the dining room he] sits at the head." Later in the chapter he writes: "The one [honored with] grace after meals washes [mayim acharonim – the hand washing that precedes the grace after meals] first, so he shouldn't sit with soiled hands while others wash."


Actually, the gemara indicates that as far as mayim acharonim is concerned, the most prominent guest washes first only among the last five. In other words, if there are a hundred guests, the guest of honor doesn't wash first and then wait silently for everyone else. Rather, the "hoi polloi" wash first, but among the five most prominent guests, the guest of honor has precedence.  (The Raavad points this out.)


At the time of the gemara, each guest had his own table and his own loaf. In the time of the Rosh, there was only one table and one loaf. In the time of the Beur Halakha, there was one table but a loaf for each guest.


It follows that in ancient times and recent times, washing first is really an honor, because it enables the guest of honor to eat first. But in the circumstances of the Rosh, it meant that the guest of honor ended up waiting silently for everyone else. This explains the differences in custom between the ruling of the gemara (cited first in the SA), the ruling of the Rosh (cited second in the SA), and the ruling of the BH.


This distinction is parallel to the distinction made in the gemara between few and many guests regarding mayim acharonim. In each case the "honor" of coming first is a hollow one if it obligates a long wait.




Rebbe Chiya bar Ashi said in the name of Rav, three things need adjoining: shechita should immediately follow semikha (leaning on a sacrifice), tefilla should immediately follow geula (the last blessing of Shema), and the benediction should immediately follow washing. (Berakhot 42a)


Rashi and Tosafot understand that this refers to mayim acharonim. After washing hands at the end of the meal, grace should be recited without interruption. According to this understanding, there is no source that forbids a short interruption between washing for bread and reciting the blessing of ha-motzi.


However, the Rosh understood that this refers to mayim rishonim - washing for bread. He drew support from the Yerushalmi, which reads: "One who makes the blessing immediately after washing is saved from harm during the entire meal" (Berakhot 1:1). (It also says that one who adjoins geula to tefilla is saved from harm the entire day. In our printed Yerushalmi gemaras, the wording is: "Satan doesn't accuse him the entire meal," which means much the same thing.)


The Rema in Darkhei Moshe points out that not only the Yerushalmi frowns on an interruption between washing and eating. The Bavli also says "tekhef le-netila seuda" - the meal should immediately follow washing (Berakhot 52b). That statement was discussed on siman 164 above.


So there is a firm basis for the custom of silence between washing and blessing ha-motzi. However, there is no question that it is far more important to be silent between blessing ha-motzi and eating bread! Speaking at that time will disqualify the berakha entirely, something which does not happen between washing and blessing ha-motzi. It is not unusual for uneducated Jews to wait in exasperated silence after washing until the blessing is said, and then to begin chattering; this is a case of being scrupulous in a chumra and careless in a very important basic law.


What the MB writes in s.k. 3 in the name of the Zohar parallels the explanation of the Be'er Heitev on siman 162 regarding raising the hands during washing, as we explained two weeks ago. (What about the custom of LOWERING the hands during mayim acharonim? "Meaning in Mitzvot" subscribers should understand. See shiur 28 on chapter 44.)