- All the Questions
I learned that if someone touches their shoes they have to wash before reciting a bracha. Does this include the entire shoe or just the bottom that touches the floor? If someone makes a bracha after touching their shoes, is it valid or do they have to repeat the bracha after washing their hands? I was recently at someone’s home who made kiddush after tying his shoe and I wasn’t sure if their brachot were valid or not.
Shalom, First some background. Touching shoes does require cleaning one's hands. There is some argument as to whether this is because shoes are assumed to be dirty, and one must clean their dirty hands before saying blessings, learning Torah etc, or if it is because there are "evil vapours" (ru'ach ra'ah) on the shoes which require washing the hands. The difference between the two is if it is only to remove the dirt, any washing, or even wiping of the hands (on a cloth, tissue or even on a wall or desk etc) will suffice. But if it is for the more spiritual "evil vapours" one must use water whenever possible. Another difference will be in the case of very clean shoes - for example the tops of high boots - which will not cause a requirement to wash because of dirt, but will if the reason is because of the evil vapours. Some say that the evil vapours only occur when putting on or taking off the shoes, but not when just touching them, when only the issue of dirt applies. There is no difference where on the shoe one touched, but many rabbis rule that touching the laces alone does not require washing (unless they are dirty). Some rabbis are strict about touching the laces as well. A blessing made even when one's hands needed to be washed according to the law, is still valid - and so the kiddush you heard was acceptable in any case. (sources - Shulchan Aruch Orach Haim 4, 18. Pishkay Teshuvot 4, 22. Zot HaBracha Chpt 21). Now for a practical halachic ruling (even though there are many opinions, my opinion is as follows) - After touching one's laces, if one does not see any dirt on one's hands, one does not need to clean them at all. If the shoes were touched, then one should at least wipe hands on a clean surface (such as a tissue, one's clothes, or the table top) before learning Torah or saying a blessing. If one is going to perform a major mitzvah, such as Kiddush, or candle lighting etc, and it will not cause an undue delay for anybody, it would be correct to wash one's hands at the sink, but if this is difficult one may rely on the dry wiping we mentioned above. Before praying the daily services one must always wash with water. Blessings.