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Washing hands at alot ha’shachar when staying up all night

Rabbi David SperlingAdar 21, 5775
215
Question
Dear Rabbi I was wondering about the halacha in the following scenario On shavout night, those that stay up all night, will begin to daven at alot ha’shachar and before this go and use the bathroom and wash hands and then make appropriate morning braches. My question is, if one wants to continue learning and not daven straightway, does one need to wash hands at alot ha’shachar? I heard an option saying that this should be done as the "ruacha rah" will makes hands tamai (which will set in at alot) and therefore one needs to wash straightway even if they want to continue to learn and daven later on. Thank you in advance!
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your question. You are correct that there is an opinion that someone who is awake all night should wash their hands straight away at alot ha'shachar in order to remove the ro'ach ra'ah. This is found in the Shulchan Aruch HaRav of the Ba'al HaTanya (4, 13). However in general people are lenient in this and rely on the many opinions that say one does not have to wash straight away (Eshel Avraham 4). This is the ruling that Rav Haim Kanivesky holds by, and he explains that because we have a doubt as to the correct ruling, we hold that in doubt we rule leniently. As well as the fact that certain works quote the Ari HaKadosh as ruling leniently. This is because the ro'ach ra'ah does not come to one's hands unless one slept and it was alot ha'shachar – however we are careful to wash at some point, even if not immediately at alot ha'shacher, due to the ruling of the Beit Yosef who rules that washing is needed. However, in your question, you refer to someone who after staying awake all night, does not want to wash immediately at alot ha'shacher in order to keep learning. In such a case there is an additional reason to be lenient. The Maharsham (Da'at Torah 4,13) rules that even those opinions who hold that one should wash directly at alot ha'shacher, should agree that if someone is in the middle of learning or saying slichot, they do not have to stop in order to wash, and they may wait to wash until they have finished. Blessings.
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