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Shabbat Parashat Toldot| 5763

Ask the Rabbi

Question: Are we supposed to remove our talit when we go into the bathroom? If so, do we also have to remove our talit katan (tzitzit)?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 21:3) rules that one need not remove tzitzit when entering a bathroom. In the Beit Yosef, he brings a proof from Menachot 43a. The gemara relates that Rav Yehuda would make a bracha every time he put on tzitzit but needed to do so only in the morning, because he didn’t take them off all day. Presumably, he entered the bathroom and used the facilities during the course of the day, and yet the clear implication is that he did not take them off at all. Even though one must avoid bizuy mitzva (disgracing a mitzva), normal, daily activity such as using the facilities does not fall into that category (Aruch Hashulchan, Orach Chayim 21:3).
However, we remove the talit gadol before entering a bathroom (Taz, 21:3; Mishna Berurah 21:14). This is due primarily to the extra respect due to an object which is used exclusively in regard to tefilla. The Mishna Berurah (ibid.) allows urinating with a talit on and so one can be lenient upon entering an area which has only urinals (see also Ask the Rabbi- R’ei 5761).
It is important to note that the requirement to remove the talit is a matter of propriety and not an outright requirement; this fact has a common application. When one enters a bathroom, one is required to remove tefillin (which have a level of kedusha beyond the status of tzitzit). Since this activity is a mandatory break in one’s performance of the mitzva of tefillin, one needs to make a bracha when he puts them back on (Mishna Berurah 28:47; see Biur Halacha, ad loc.). [The practical application in a variety of situations is not simple and is beyond the scope of this answer]. However, the rule to remove a talit is a lower level of requirement, and there is not a mandatory break. Therefore, if one removes the talit with the intention to put it back on after leaving the bathroom, he does not make a new bracha at that time (Mishna Berurah 8: 3).
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