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Shabbat Parashat Bereishit | 5770

Ask the Rabbi: Netillat Yadayim with a Beracha on Clean Hands?

Question: With concern about “swine flu” so high, many would consider it hygienically prudent to wash their hands with soap and water before doing netillat yadayim with a jointly used washing cup and eating. Is it possible to do netillat yadayim with a beracha when you know that your hands are clean already? If one can, should he dry his hands before doing netillat yadayim?  

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 165:1) deals with the problem of one who has just left the bathroom and is ready to eat. If he does netillat yadayim once for both needs, he will have a problem of whether he should first make the beracha of Asher Yatzar for doing his needs, or first make the beracha on the netillat yadayim followed by Hamotzi and only afterward recite Asher Yatzar. Either way, there are issues of hefsek (improper break) in between the time the second beracha became necessary and when it was recited. Therefore, the Shulchan Aruch says to wash two times, the first to be followed by Asher Yatzar, and the second one by Al Netillat Yadayim. So we see that the fact that the hands were just washed does not preclude doing another formal washing for eating bread.

Does that mean that a second netillat yadayim is a mitzva that requires a beracha even if it adds nothing practical, except that now it is done for a bread meal? That seems to be the subject of a machloket. The Beit Yosef (OC 158) understands from Tosafot's (Pesachim 116b) statement regarding the two washings that we do on seder night that if one does a lower level obligation netillat yadayim for non-breads dipped in liquids and then needs to do one for bread, the latter netillat yadayim is a full obligation. However, the Darkei Moshe (as the author rules in the Rama, OC 158:7) says that this is so only when a while passed in between washings so that we can assume that he took his mind off his hands. Otherwise, one would not make a beracha on the second netillat yadayim.

Similarly, in the former context, the Mishna Berura (165:2) cites Acharonim that the first washing done to enable reciting Asher Yatzar should be a washing of cleanliness, not one of a valid halachic nature. One way to do this is to not use a washing cup (and preferably not use the first spurt of water from the faucet- see Tzitz Eliezer VIII, 7), which is a requirement for netillat yadayim. If one touched a covered part of the body or some other "dirty" thing that makes netillat yadayim necessary in between the washings, the netilla would be necessary (I imagine that this would undo much of the hygienic gains you want to accomplish).

This leaves the matter of whether one should dry his hands in between the hygienic cleaning and the netillat yadayim. There is a similar case that is discussed by the poskim. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 162:2) talks about pouring some of the netillat yadayim water on the hands to remove dirt prior to the main netilla. The Biur Halacha (ad loc.) says that there is no mention of a need to dry the hands after doing this, which could be necessary if we said that the water becomes tameh (impure) in the process and would ruin the netilla. He says that this is either because this pre-washing is part of the netillat yadayim process, whereby water can become tameh and be removed by the second washing, or, to the contrary, that other than regarding poorly executed netilla, water that gets on the hands is not considered tameh (based on the Magen Avraham 162:10). While the Yalkut Yosef (OC 159:1) agrees with this approach, there are significant poskim, both Ashkenazi and Sephardi, who disagree (Ben Ish Chai, Shemini 11; Chazon Ish 24:20; K’tzot Hashulchan 33:4). They say that in that case, one should dry the hands from the questionable water before commencing the real netillat yadayim. Without getting into the intricacies, it would seem that our case is more lenient than the one these poskim discuss, and thus it would seem that drying the hands that were washed for hygienic reasons is not necessary.  



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