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netilat yadaim - followup question


Rabbi David Sperling

Kislev 20, 5780
Hi, I have a followup question for the answer on netilat yadaim, from Sunday, 28 Tishri 5780. What if I am doing my morning hand washing in the bathroom sink? I cant say the beracha in the bathroom, but the towel to dry my hands is in the bathroom. Would I step outside the bathroom, say the beracha, and then step back in and dry my hands? Or would going back in the bathroom require a new washing?
Shalom, Thank you for your question. The issue of washing one's hands in a bathroom has been the subject of many modern day Rabbinic studies. The first thing that needs to be resolved is whether it is at all permissible to do a ritual washing in the bathroom. In the times of the Talmud a toilet was a room in which the waste stayed (until cleared out or buried). As such, merely entering the toilet, even without using it, obligated one to wash their hands afterwards. Some Rabbis believe that this is still the case today, even though we have plumbing and flush the waste away, as the room is set aside for bodily waste. According to this opinion one could not wash their hands (ritually) inside a bathroom that contains a toilet. But many Rabbis believe that because we flush the toilet, and the room is designed for other purposes (such as brushing one's teeth etc), entering such a room does not obligate one to wash their hands. If so, the question then is (as you ask) how does one wash there – when does one say the blessing? Because of this question the general practice is that when washing one's hands that will require a blessing we try to find a sink that is not in a bathroom, and thus avoid the problem all together. (Let me point out that most people wash their hands upon awaking but do not say the blessing then – they wait with the blessing until after going to the toilet, or getting dressed, or when they are ready to start praying, and then wash again and say the blessing then. In such a case it might be easier to do this second washing that will include the blessing at a sink outside the bathroom, even though you did the first washing in the bathroom directly after waking up). However, if one needs to wash in the bathroom, then another option is to put the towel outside, and say the blessing before drying your hands outside the bathroom. As we wrote above according to many Rabbis, going back into the bathroom to return the towel will not obligate another washing. The last option which can be used for the morning washing, is to rely on the opinion that this bracha can be said even after drying one's hands. Based on this, one could wash and dry their hands in the bathroom, and say the blessing outside it afterwards. This can also be done when washing after using the bathroom all day when one only recites asher yatzar, and not al nitilat yadiim. But when washing for eating bread one should not do this, but use one of the other options. I hope this is of help to you, Blessings.
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