The general law-Washing the hands after selected actions

Introduction:
Certain actions that are performed cause a spirit of impurity to reside onto the hands similar to the evil spirit that resides upon sleeping at night. Nevertheless this is not the same form of impurity and hence does not follow the same laws as the morning washing. The following chapter will discuss all the actions that cause impurity to reside and hence require washing of the hands, and their subsequent details.

Impurity versus dirt: There is a difference between impurity and filth or dirt. Not all actions that dirty the hands bring an impure spirit. See Halacha 5 for the full details of this subject.

1. List of actions that require washing of the hands: [1]

The following actions require one to wash his hands one time after performing them:

  1. Arising from ones bed.
  2. Leaving the bathroom.
  3. Leaving the bathhouse.
  4. Cutting ones nails.
  5. Removing ones shoes with ones hands.
  6. Touching ones feet or [covered] parts of body with ones hands.
  7. Scratching ones head.
  8. Touching lice and checking for lice.
  9. Marital relations.
  10. Visiting a cemetery.
  11. Touching a corpse.
  12. Being in the same room as a corpse.
  13. Attending a funeral.
  14. Getting a haircut.[2]

2. The reason why the above actions require washing of the hands:[3]
The impure spirit resides on one’s hands after any of the above actions are done. It is for this reason that one is required to specifically wash his hands with water, as opposed to other cleaning methods, after any of the above actions are done [see next Halacha]. 

3. The detailed laws of the washing:[4]
One is to wash his hands with water [immediately[5]] after the above mentioned actions are done.
Washing with water:[6] The hands must be cleaned specifically with water. It does not suffice to clean the hands in other ways [such as to rub them on something].[7]
How many times must one pour water on the hands?[8] One does not need to pour the water on the hands three times [as is required when washing upon awakening, rather a single wash suffices]. [Nevertheless the custom of the world is to be stringent, after certain actions[9], to wash three times inconsecutively, as will be explained in Halacha 4.]
What occurs if one does not wash his hands? If one did not wash his hands after any of the above actions, then if he is a Torah scholar, he will forget his learning. If he is a layman he will lose his mind.[10]

Q&A

Must one wash his hands after the above actions even if he does not plan to learn Torah or Daven afterwards?[11]
Yes. One needs to wash his hands after the above actions even if he does not plan to pray or learn Torah afterwards. The reason for this is because an impure spirit resides on one’s hands after these actions are done and hence needs to be removed irrelevant of Torah learning or prayer.

May one learn Torah or say blessings prior to washing hands after the above actions?[12]
The above washing is only in order to remove impurity, and does not prevent one from studying Torah or praying. [Nevertheless it is best to wash the hands immediately after the above actions, in order to remove the impurity right away, as stated above.] If however one dirtied his hands, such as through touching the normally covered parts of his body, or sleeping without being fully clothed[13], or doing of the actions mentioned in Halacha 5B, then it is forbidden to learn Torah or recite Hashem’s name prior to cleaning the hands on an item.

May one learn Torah while cutting his nails?[14]
Yes.

Until where on the hand should one wash after the above actions?[15]
The entire hand is to be washed until the wrist. At the very least it is to be washed until the knuckles. [The evil spirit is definitely not removed if one merely washes the tips of the fingers.]

How much water must one use?
Some Poskim[16] rule one is to use a Revius of water.

Must one use a vessel to wash the hands after the above actions?
Some Poskim[17] rule one is not required to wash his hands using a vessel, [and hence one may wash his hands by simply turning on the sink or dipping his hands in a vessel]. Others[18] however rule one is required to use a vessel. Practically the custom is to wash with a vessel after using the bathroom.[19]

Do any of the pre-morning washing restrictions apply prior to washing hands after the above actions?
Some Poskim[20] rule one is to beware of all the morning restrictions mentioned in chapter 3 until the hands are washed. Other Poskim[21] rule this is not necessary and so is the custom.

May one pour the washing water over food or vessels?[22]
Some are particular not to wash the hands, after the above actions, over food or vessels, due to the impure spirit. Nevertheless there is no prohibition from the letter of the law to do so.[23] If one plans to wash the dishes afterwards then certainly one may be lenient to do so.

May one use liquids other than water for this washing?[24]
All water based drinks may be used to wash the hands. Non-water based beverages, such as pure fruit juices, milk and the like may only be used in a time of need.

If there is no water available should one clean his hands in other ways after doing the above actions?[25]
Yes. One should clean his hands on a stone or the like. This applies even if one’s hands did not become dirty. [Regarding those actions that it is accustomed to wash the hands three times afterwards seemingly one is to wipe his hands three times on the item he is using to clean with.[26]]

Are children to be educated to wash their hands after the above mentioned actions?[27]
Children above Chinuch: Children that have reached the age of understanding are to be educated to wash their hands after the above actions are performed. The teachers [and parents] of the child are to take special care to ensure that the children do not learn Torah and say blessings after scratching their heads or touching the covered areas.[28] Nevertheless in order not to disturb the order of the class it suffices for the child to clean his hand on his desk and the like, and washing is not required at that moment.[29]
Children below Chinuch: Children that are below the age of understanding [i.e. below Chinuch] are not obligated to have their hands washed after the above actions. See Chapter 3 Halacha 5 for further details on this matter.

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[1] Kama 4/18

[2] 4/19

[3] Ketzos Hashulchan 2/11; Admur 97/3 regarding touching a louse; Admur 128/27 regarding touching shoes; Seder Hayom; See Kaf Hachaim 4/61 and Piskeiy Teshuvos 4/18. Poskim listed in “Other Opinions”.

Background:

The reason for the requirement to wash hands after doing any of the above listed actions is because an impure spirit resides on ones hands after any of these actions are done. This is learned from the fact Admur rules that only water may be used as opposed to other items that clean. [Ketzos Hashulchan 2/11; This is also understood from Admur 97/3 which explicitly states that washing with water is required when touching a louse due to that the impure spirit resides on the hands upon touching it. Admur 128/27 writes one must wash his hands after touching his shoes due to the danger of the impure spirit.] This impure spirit is not the same impurity that resides on the hands upon awakening in the morning [called Bas Melech]. [Seder Hayom in name of Makor Chaim; brought in Kaf Hachaim 4/61]

Other Opinions: Some Poskim rule that not all of the above mentioned actions bring an impure spirit and rather some require cleaning simply because they dirty the hand and prevent one from being allowed to learn Torah. [Machatzis Hashekel 4/17; Nivei Shalom 4/12; Machazik Bracha brought in Shaareiy Teshuvah 4/12; Soles Belula 4/14 in name of Makor Chaim (student of Arizal); Ben Ish Chaiy Toldos 17; M”B 4/41] Admur however holds that they all cause impurity, being that he rules that only washing with water helps for any of these actions. The following Poskim rule like Admur that all the above actions bring impurity: Kisei Eliyahu 4/6; Levush 4/18; Olas Tamid 4/18; Yifei Laleiv 4/18 in name of Mor Uketzia; Peri Megadim 4 M”Z 14; Rashal brought in Tehila Ledavid 4/24; Derech Chaim; Piskeiy Teshuvos 4 footnote 178 and so is implied from many Poskim. [brought in Kaf Hachaim 4/60] The following actions bring the evil spirit according to all: awaking from sleep; bathroom; bathhouse; bloodletting; cutting hair and nails; marital relations. The following actions are debated by the Poskim above regarding if they bring the evil spirit: touching covered areas; scratching head; lice; touching shoes. [Soles Belula ibid; Piskeiy Teshuvos 4/18]

[4] Kama 4/18; See Kaf Hachaim 4/61; Piskeiy Teshuvos 4/18

[5] Seder Hayom; Magen Avraham 4/18; Elya Raba 4/12; Peri Megadim 4/18; Kaf Hachaim 4/63; M”B 4/38; Omitted by Admur. Vetzaruch Iyun.

The reason: In order to immediately remove the spirit of impurity from one’s hands and not delay it. [ibid]

[6] Kama 4/18; M”A 4/17 in name of Mordechai; Taz 4/13; Elya Raba 4/12; Poskim in Kaf Hachaim 4/60

[7] The reason for this is because an impure spirit resides on one’s hands after these actions are done. [Ketzos Hashulchan 2/11; Kisei Eliyahu 4/6; Levush and Olas Tamid 4/18; Admur 97/3 and Peri Migadim Ashel Avraham 227/2]

Other Opinions: Some Poskim rule that not all of the above mentioned actions bring an impure spirit and rather require cleaning simply because they dirty the hand and prevent one from being allowed to learn Torah. By these actions it suffices to clean one’s hands in any fashion and water is not specifically needed. [Machatzis Hashekel 4/17; Nivei Shalom 4/12; Machazik Bracha brought in Shaareiy Teshuvah 4/12; Soles Belula 4/14 in name of Makor Chaim (student of Arizal); Ben Ish Chaiy Toldos 17; Tehila Ledavid 4/24; See M”B 4/41] Admur however rules that all the above actions bring an impure spirit and require water, and so rules Kisei Eliyahu 4/6; Levush 4/18; Olas Tamid 4/18; Yifei Laleiv 4/18 in name of Mor Uketzia; Peri Megadim 4 M”Z 14; Tehila Ledavid 4/24 in name of Rashal; Derech Chaim; Piskeiy Teshuvos 4 footnote 178 and so is implied from many Poskim. [brought in Kaf Hachaim 4/60]

Other opinions regarding if wiping the hands removes impurity: Some Poskim suggest that perhaps even wiping the hands on an item, such as a stone, can remove the impurity. [Birchas Avraham mentioned in Olas Tamid 4/13; Elya Raba 4/12; Kaf Hachaim 4/101] Olas Tamid ibid negates this opinion.

[8] Kama 4/18; M”A 4/17; Seder Hayom; Kneses Hagedola; Nimukeiy Orach Chaim 4/2

Other Opinions: Olas Tamid writes that possibly one is required to pour three times on his hand just like is required upon awakening in the morning. So rules also: Shlah Shaar Haosiyos 9; Lev Chaim 1/63; Kaf Hachaim [Falagi] 7/26; Ruach Chaim 4/3; Chesed Lealafim brought in Kaf Hachaim 4/61. The following Poskim rule that some actions require three times while others do not: Soles Belula 4/14; Machazik Bracha 4/6 in name of Makor Chaim; Elya Raba 4/12; P”M 4 A”A 17; Machatzis Hashekel 17; Ben Ish Chaiy Toldos 16-17; Kaf Hachaim 4/61 concludes that one who is stringent to wash three times after all the above actions is holy.

[9] These are leaving a cemetery; funeral; bathroom; marital relations.

[10] This means to say that he will come to sin, as one does not sin unless a spirit of insanity enters him. [Elya Raba 4/13; Kaf Hachaim 4/89]

[11] Ketzos Hashulchan 2/11; Admur 97/3 regarding touching a louse; Peri Megadim 227 A.A. 2 regarding leaving a bathroom without using it that one may say a blessing although is to wash hands due to the impure spirit; Nevei Shalom 4/12 brought in Kaf Hachaim 4/90

Other Opinions: The Mamar Mordechai 4/10 writes that one who does not plan on learning is not required to wash his hands. However see Kaf Hachaim ibid which says even according to him, Lechatchila one is to wash his hands to remove the evil spirit.

[12] Admur 7/2; 613/4; 92/6; Seder Birchas Hanehnin 13/17; M”B 4/61 and 227/11; Peri Megadim 227 A.A. 2 explicitly allows saying a blessing before washing hands from impurity; Mahrsham 4/148 brought in Shearim Hametzuyanim Behalacha 2/5 regarding learning while cutting nails; and so rules Piskeiy Teshuvos 4/32; 237/8

Background:
In 7/2 Admur rules that one who used the bathroom may learn Torah and say blessings unless he touched his Erva or feces. Now in 4/18 Admur explicitly rules that one who uses the bathroom must wash his hands. Hence we clearly see a difference between washing hands from filth and washing from impurity, in which case of the latter it is not an impediment for Torah learning.

The reason: The impurity which comes as a result of the above actions is not the same type of impurity as that which resides when one awakens from sleeping at night, and thus it does not hold the restriction mentioned prior to washing hands in the morning.

Other Opinions: Kaf Hachaim [Falagi] and Chesed Lealafim [brought in Kaf Hachaim 4/61] learn that all the laws that apply prior to morning washing likewise apply towards one who has the impure spirit through leaving the bathroom and the like. So rules Kaf Hachaim 227/16 that a blessing may not be said until one washes his hands.

[13] M”B 4/60

[14] Mahrsham 4/148 brought in Shearim Hametzuyanim Behalacha 2/5

[15] Ketzos Hashulchan 2/11 in name of Derech Chaim and Peri Megadim; Kaf Hachaim 4/64; M”B 4/38

[16] Kaf Hachaim [Falagi] and Chesed Leavraham brought in Kaf Hachaim 4/61 and so concludes Kaf Hachaim 4/63; Ben Ish Chaiy Toldos 16

[17] Elya Raba 4/12 in name of Makor Chaim, student of Rav Chaim Vital; Soles Belula 4/14; Machazik Bracha 4/6; Ben Ish Chaiy Toldos 16

[18] Shlah Shaar Haosiyos 9; Lev Chaim 1/63; Chesed Lealafim 4

[19] Minchas Yitzchak 5/96; Mishneh Halachos 5/2; Halichos Shlomo 20 footnote 86; Piskeiy Teshuvos 4 footnote 171

[20] Kaf Hachaim [Falagi] and Chesed Lealafim brought in Kaf Hachaim 4/61; See Piskeiy Teshuvos 4/32 regarding learning Torah

[21] Ben Ish Chaiy Toldos 16; Kaf Hachaim 4/63; Ashel Avraham Butchach; Piskeiy Teshuvos 4/9

[22] Piskeiy Teshuvos 4 footnote 174 based on Machazik Bracha brought in Shaareiy Teshuvah 4/12 that one does not need to pour the water into a vessel.

[23] Based on Machazik Bracha brought in Shaareiy Teshuvah 4/12 that one does not need to pour the water into a vessel.

[24] Piskeiy Teshuvos 4/18; See Admur 160/15

[25] Tehila Ledavid 4/24 based on opinion of Birchas Avraham mentioned in Elya Raba 4/15 that perhaps even cleaning the hands without water helps remove the evil spirit.

[26] As so rules the Birchas Avraham which is the source of this ruling of the Tehila Ledavid. See Chapter 3 Halacha 7 Q&A.

[27] Ashel Avraham Butchach [Mahadurah Tinyana] 5; Piskeiy Teshuvos 4/18 footnote 184

[28] Kaf Hachaim [Falagi] 8/31

[29] Based on Teshuvah of Gaon of Ragatchav in Salmas Yosef 25.

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