This article is an excerpt from our Sefer
Not to delay one’s bathroom needs:
A. The prohibition:
Does the prohibition apply to withholding urine? However, there are opinions who rule the prohibition of “Bal Tishaktzu” does not apply to one who withholds urine. Nevertheless, even in their opinion, it is [Rabbinically] forbidden to withhold urine due to danger and due to that it can cause one to become sterile.
At what point is one obligated to relieve his urge to urinate or defecate? The above prohibition of Bal Tishaktzu only applies when the person feels a certain amount of pressure to relieve himself. Some opinions define this to mean that if he cannot withhold himself for a Parsa distance [approximately 72 minutes] the prohibition of “Bal Tishaktzu” applies. If, however he can withhold himself for this amount of time, then he may do so, whether by a bowel movement or urine and it does not contain the prohibition of Bal Tishaktzu, and does not involve danger [regarding urine]. [Some Poskim rule that the above prohibition only applies in circumstances that it is not common to withhold the needs. See Q&A!]
Withholding an urge to flatulate: It is permitted to withhold the urge to flatulate as doing so does not consist of Bal Tishaktzu.
B. Withholding one’s bowels or urine in order to find a private area:
It is permitted to withhold ones bowels in order to find a private area. However when one needs to urinate it is forbidden for one to act with modesty and delay urinating [in order to find a private area]. Nevertheless when urinating in public he should turn towards the side.
C. One who feels the urge to use the bathroom in middle of Davening:
One who did not feel the need to use the bathroom before Davening and then suddenly in middle of Davening became aroused with a desire to relieve himself, then even if he is in the middle of the blessings of the Shema, or is in the middle of Pesukei Dezimrah, after the blessing in Baruch Sheamar, he may not stop to relieve himself [of a bowel movement] if he can withhold his bowels until after prayer. [This applies even if withholding one’s needs will cause him to transgress Bal Tishaktzu. If however, he has an urge to urinate then he may urinate even in middle of Kerias Shema, although he is not obligated to do so. If one is prior to saying the blessing in Baruch Sheamar then he is obligated to defecate or urinate if he feels an urge to do so. This applies even if he will not transgress Bal Tishaktzu.] If one has already begun Shemoneh Esrei, he may not relieve himself at all, even to urinate, even if he has a very strong urge.
One who feels the urge to urinate or defecate may not withhold the urge unless he is able to delay it for over 72 minutes. It is permitted to delay the urge to defecate in order to find a private area.
Davening: One who did not feel the need to use the bathroom before Davening and then suddenly in middle of Davening became aroused with a desire to relieve himself, then if he is past Baruch Sheamar, if he needs to defecate, he is to hold himself in until after Davening, if he is able to. However, if he feels the need to urinate then he may stop and urinate even if he is in the midst of Birchos Kerias Shema. If one is prior to saying the blessing in Baruch Sheamar then he is obligated to defecate or urinate if he feels an urge to do so.
Practically how is one to determine whether he can withhold his needs for a Parsas distance?
Some Poskim rule that if one is able to ignore the pressure and push it off his mind then he may continue withholding it, as this is a sign that he has not yet reached the state of Bal Tishaktzu. If, however, he cannot remove the urge from his mind then he may no longer delay his needs.
What is one to do if he feels the need to urinate very often?
If one feels the need to urinate very often then he is to specifically withhold himself. Doing so does not consist of Bal Tishaktzu, as certainly it is imagination and anxiety which is causing this urge and by giving in to the urge he simply exacerbates the problem and leads himself to physical and spiritual illness. On the contrary he should hold himself in order to overcome this illness. It is stated in the name of the Divrei Chaim that a normal person can give himself three hours between periods of urinating, and if he urges to urinate sooner, it is a mere over sensitivity. Practically, every person must assess himself whether the urge is true or fantasy, and is to act accordingly.
May one withhold his needs for medical purposes?
May one withhold his needs if he is in middle of a speech or other public performance?
May one withhold his needs if he is in middle of speaking with people?
Some write that if it is common to withhold one’s needs in such a scenario then it is not prohibited to do so. [However, see Poskim in the next Q&A]
May one withhold his needs if he is in the midst of learning Torah or in the midst of an activity?
No. If one has reached the point of Bal Tishaktzu then he must stop learning and stop the activity to relieve himself. One may not delay it until he finishes the topic of learning or the activity. Thus, even if he is in the midst of a paragraph of Tehillim or Zohar, he must stop in the middle. Those that withhold their needs and continue learning are acting foolishly, as it is a Mitzvah that comes as a result of a sin.
If one wakes up from sleep with an urge to urinate must he do so right away?
Sparks of Kabala
Expelling the evil Kelipos:
When one eats food his body refines the nutrients from the waste. The nutrients are absorbed by the cells while the waste is discarded below and becomes impure Kelipos. One who delays his needs is in essence delaying the removal of these evil Kelipos from his body and is thus defiling his soul even more than his body. It is for this reason the verse emphasizes “Do not defile your soul”. Prior to using the bathroom one is to have this intent, that he is doing so in order to rid himself of this Kelipa.
A Segula for purity of mind and health:
The Kabalists state that one who is lax in these laws abstains himself from purity of mind. One who is meticulous and desires to attach himself to his creator needs to beware that his body be clean at all times. This helps one become also physically healthy and turns one into a new body.
 Basra 3:11; Kama 3:24; Michaber 3:17; Gemara Makos 16b
Siddur Seder Netilah: “One who holds in his needs transgresses the Rabbinical command of “Do not disgust yourselves”, unless he is holding himself in order to find a private area to release himself, as the sages did not implement their words in a situation that it degrades one’s honor. Similarly, if he is in the midst of prayer, after Baruch Sheamar, he should not stop to relieve himself if he can hold it in until after prayer. There are opinions who say that by urine, the prohibition of “Do not disgust yourselves” does not apply. However, even according to their opinion, this is still prohibited being that it is dangerous, and can bring a person to become sterile. Some say that only if one cannot hold himself in for a parsa’s distance does the prohibition of “Do not disgust yourself” and of danger (by urine) apply.”
 Basra ibid; Siddur ibid; Kama ibid; Michaber ibid; Rav Achaiy in Makos ibid “One who delays his bowels transgresses Bal Tishaktzu”
 Basra ibid and Siddur; omitted in Kama; Peri Megadim 3 M”Z 13; Kaf Hachaim 3:47; See Siddur of Rav Raskin footnote 88; Shaareiy Teshuvah 3; Sdei Chemed Asifus Dinim; Minchas Chinuch 163; Ksav Sofer 88; Miaseif Lechol Hamachanos 3:43
The reason: This opinion learns that the verse [Vayikra 11:43] of “Al Tishaktzu” is mainly referring to the prohibition against eating insects, as discussed in Parshas Shemini, and hence the usage of this verse to teach us that one may not withhold his bowels is merely a Rabbincial scriptural leaning, called an Asmachta.
Other Opinions: Some Poskim rule that one who holds in urine or bowel movement transgresses a Biblical command of “Baal Teshaktzu”. By urine one transgresses an additional Biblical command of “Al Tiyeh Akar”. [Sefer Chareidim 32:56]
 In English: “Do not perform repulsive acts to your soul”. This term became known in Hebrew as “Bal Tishaktzu” [see Kama, Basra and Siddur which use this term.]
 Opinion in Basra ibid and Siddur ibid, omitted in Kama; Rashba [See Siddur of Rav Raskin footnote 96]; Implied from M”A 92:1, brought in Elya Raba 92:2
Ruling in Kama: In Kama ibid Admur rules that by urine both the prohibition of danger and of “Al Tishaktzu” apply. He does not mention any dissenting opinion.
 So is implied from wording of Basra and Siddur, however, see above from Chareidim that it is a Biblical prohibition.
 Basra ibid and Siddur
 Siddur; First opinion in Basra ibid; Not explicitly mentioned in Kama here, however, see Admur 92:1 which implies like the first opinion, although in Admur 92:2 he implies like the second opinion in Basra. I have not found the exact definition of Bal Tishaktzu brought in previous Poskim; Kaf Hachaim 3:50
Second opinion mentioned in Basra ibid: In Basra ibid Admur writes a more lenient opinion than the one above. He writes: “Others explain that even if one cannot withhold himself for a Parsa distance, the prohibition does not apply so long as he does not have a very strong urge. (This means as follows: If the pressure is so much that if the person were to stop trying to withhold the urge then it would come out on its own without him needing to push at all, even a little, then he must relieve himself, otherwise he transgresses Baal Tishaktzu. If however he would still need to push for it to come out, even a little, then by withholding himself he is not considered to be delaying his needs, as he is not doing anything to actively delay it, and thus he does not transgress the prohibition of “Do not disgust yourself”.)” [Admur ibid; Parentheses in original] This opinion is omitted in the Siddur hence implying Admur does not rule this way. [See Piskeiy Hassidur 3; Siddur of Rav Raskin footnote 99; It is likewise omitted in Ketzos Hashulchan 4:4. However see footnote 53 on Siddur and 93 on Basra 3 in new Shulchan Aruch Harav that learns from certain words in the Siddur that Admur does mention this opinion, as his first and main opinion. Vetzaruch Iyun Gadol on their understanding.] This second opinion of Admur is also recorded in Ben Ish Chaiy Vayeitzei 3; Kaf Hachaim 3:50, and so rules Piskeiy Teshuvos 3:9 and 92:1 that one may rely on this opinion.
Ruling of Admur in 92:2: This second opinion is seemingly the opinion of Admur in 92:2 which states the prohibition of Bal Tishaktzu does not apply even if one cannot hold himself for a Parsa distance. [see note 93 in new Shulchan Aruch]
 In Siddur Admur brings this opinion as “some opinions say”. However in Basra ibid, he plainly rules like this opinion prior to bringing an even more lenient opinion mentioned in the previous footnote. See Kaf Hachaim 3:50 that everyone agrees that if one can withhold his needs for a Shiur Parsa the prohibition does not apply.
 Ketzos Hashulchan 4:4
 Ashel Avraham Butchach 3 regarding one who is in middle of speaking to a friend, or in middle of sleep.
 Siddur; Admur 103:2; Elya Raba 3:16; Peri Megadim 3 M”Z 13; Shaareiy Teshuvah 3:16; Kitzur SH”A 4; Kaf Hachaim 3:47; M”B 103:3
 Basra 3:11; Siddur; M”B 3:31 in name of Peri Megadim 3 M”Z 13; See Siddur of Rav Raskin footnote 90 that this allowance to withhold ones needs for privacy reasons is not brought in previous Poskim.
The reason: As the sages did not implement their words in a situation that it degrades ones honor. [Basra and Siddur ibid] Ashel Avraham Butchach 3 writes that so long as one is proceeding to an area to relieve himself he does not transgress Baal Tishaktzu, as the walk itself is a preparation to rid himself of the filth.
Difference between bowel movement and urinating: Admur here does not differentiate between a bowel movement and urinating hence implying that one may always search for privacy, even at the expense of withholding urine. However, in Basra 3:5 he writes it is forbidden to hold in urine to find a private area. Thus, one must either differentiate and say that this ruling here only refers to a bowel movement, or to withholding urine until one reaches a side area in public, as Admur himself suggests in Basra 3:5. Alternatively, perhaps there it is referring to someone who has a very strong urge to urinate and hence holding himself back has a high chance of causing him to be sterile. Perhaps this can be deduced from the seemingly superfluous words “if he has to” that Admur adds there, and this is coming to say that if the person has a very strong urge to urinate then he may not withhold the urge to find privacy. However here it refers to a minor urge, such as a person who can hold it in for up to a Parsa, in which case we allow a person to delay his needs for privacy. Vetzaruch Iyun.
 Basra 3:5; However, see Kama 3:18 and Siddur who write it is allowed to urinate in public and do not write that one must do so. This implies that there is no prohibition to withhold urine until he finds a private area; Ketzos Hashulchan records the wording of the Siddur “allowed” and not of Basra ibid that one must. See previous footnote. See Ashel Avraham Butchach 3 brought in previous footnotes.
The reason: Withholding urine is dangerous, and can bring a person to become sterile. [Basra 3:11 and 3:5]
 Basra 3:5; Siddur; Kama 3:19
 Siddur; This law is also brought in Basra 3:11 and Kama 92:2 [based on Michaber 92:2] with differences of Halacha emphasized in footnotes. The final ruling written above with the brackets follows the ruling of the Siddur as explained in Ketzos Hashulchan 18:7
Terumas Hadeshen versus Rashba: There is a dispute between the Terumas Hadeshen 16 and Rashba 131 [brought in M”A 92:2] regarding whether he may or must use the restroom, if he feels the need, in middle of Shemoneh Esrei. The Rashba rules that one may not do so while the Terumas Hadeshen rules he must do so.
Ruling in Michaber and Rama: The Michaber 92:2 rules that if one is in middle of Shemoneh Esrei he may not stop to relieve himself, whether to defecate or urinate. If however he is prior to Shemoneh Esrei, in middle of Birchas Shema, then he may choose to hold himself in, or he may choose to urinate if he desires. [M”B 92:9 explains this allowance applies also to a bowel movement; Admur in 92:2 argues as will be explained] Thus the Michaber rules like the Rashba regarding Shemoneh Esrei and makes a compromise regarding Birchas Kerias Shema. The Rama however rules there is no dispute between the Rashba and Terumos Hadeshen and if one has such a strong urge that he will transgress Baal Tishaktzu, then he must do his needs [even during Shemoneh Esrei-M”A ibid; M”B 92:11]. The M”A argues that one may rely on the ruling of the Rashba and not go to the bathroom.
The ruling of Admur in 92:2: Admur rules that during Shemoneh Esrei one may never stop to do his needs. [as rules Rashba:Michaber:M”A] If he is before Shemoneh Esrei, during Birchas Shema (or past Baruch Sheamar) then Admur differentiates between urine and bowel movement and the amount of urgency one has. He rules as follows: If he is able to withhold himself without transgressing Baal Teshaktzu, even if he cannot hold himself in for a Parsas distance, then regarding an urge to urinate he may choose to urinate or may choose to hold it in. However, if he has an urge to defecate then he is required to hold himself in until he is no longer able to [meaning he will transgress Baal Teshaktzu if he holds it in any longer]. If however his urge to urinate or defecate is so strong that if he withholds himself he will transgress the prohibition of “Baal Teshaktzu”, then he is required to stop in middle of prayer and urinate or defecate. [Thus regarding prior to Shemoneh Esrei Admur rules like Michaber regarding if one has no urgency, and like Rama:Terumos Hadeshen regarding if he has urgency].
Ruling of Admur in Siddur: In the Siddur Admur plainly rules that one who is in middle of Davening, past Baruch Sheamar, must always withhold himself from going to the bathroom when he is able to. He does not stipulate this on the basis that he does not transgress Baal Teshaktzu. This implies that according to the Siddur one is to withhold himself even if he will transgress Baal Teshaktzu, and even if he is before Shemoneh Esrei. This ruling of the Siddur is like the Rashba and extends the ruling of the Rashba to any time of Davening, past Baruch Sheamar and not just Shemoneh Esrei. [Ketzos Hashulchan 18 footnote 27]
Other Opinions in Siddur of Admur: The Ashel Avraham Butchach [Mahadurah Tinyana 3] suggests that perhaps the ruling in the Siddur only applies in a case that one will take a very long time to use the bathroom. If however he can do so quickly then even according to the Siddur he may stop.
 Admur 92:2; It is however forbidden to begin praying with an urge to urinate or defecate and if one does so he must repeat Davening in certain cases. Hence, the above law is only referring to a case that the urge came suddenly during prayer. [92:1]
 Siddur; 92:2 in parentheses; Omitted in Basra 3:11 and in Michaber ibid; not mentioned in previous Poskim
Other Opinions: It is implied from Basra and Michaber ibid that if one is prior to Birchas Kerias Shema he must relieve himself if he has an urge, and the allowance to withhold oneself only applies during Birchas Shema. So rules P”M 92 A”A 2; Mishneh Berurah 92:9 that if one cannot hold himself in for a Shiur Parsa then he must relieve himself. So also seems to be the reason why Admur in 92:2 left this matter in brackets as he was in question of the ruling. If however he can hold himself in for Shiur Parsa then he is not required to stop. [M”B and P”M ibid]
If he is before Baruch Sheamar: He is obligated to go to the bathroom if he feels an urge to do so. [92:1-2]
If he is between Yishtabach and Yotzer: The Tehila Ledavid [92:2] rules that even according to Admur in the Siddur one may stop between Yishtabach and Yotzer Oar, as this is considered a Mitzvah, and so brings Ishei Yisrael 10:14 in name of Poskim.
 Siddur; Ketzos Hashulchan 18:7
Ruling of Basra 3:11: In Basra Admur simply writes that one may choose to withhold his desires being that the Sages did not uphold their decree of Baal Tishaktzu in a case of Kavod Habrios. He does not write one is obligated to do so.
Ruling of Admur in 92:2: See Background!
 Ketzos Hashulchan 18:7
 So is implication of Admur in Siddur. [Ketzos Hashulchan 18 footnote 27] This follows the ruling of Rashba as explains M”A 92:2.
Ruling of Admur in 92:2: If one will transgress Baal Tishaktzu he must use the bathroom. See Background!
 Admur 92:2 and so learns Ketzos Hashulchan [18 footnote 28] in Siddur, as there is no opinion prior to Admur [not even the Rashba] who holds that one is to hold in urine until after Davening. Hence Admur in the Siddur must have only been referring to bowel movement when he discussed withholding oneself.
Must one urinate if he will transgress Baal Tishaktzu? It is unclear according to the Ketzos Hashulchan ibid if Admur in the Siddur would hold one must urinate if his urge is so strong that he will transgress Baal Tishaktzu, as rules Admur in 92:2. Seemingly however even in such a case it is not an obligation, as so is the implication from the Rashba, who Admur rules like in the Siddur.
 92:2 based on Michaber 92:2 and M”A 92:2; See Background for other opinions!
The reason: Even if he will transgress Baal Tishaktzu he may not relieve himself, as Baal Tishaktzu is Rabbinical and the Sages stated that when one is in middle of Shemoneh Esrei he is to ignore their prohibition of Baal Tishaktzu. [92:2]
 See B in footnotes with regards to withholding urine until one finds a private area. Vetzaruch Iyun.
 Ashel Avraham Butchach 3; brought also in Nimukeiy Orach Chaim 3:3; Piskeiy Teshuvos 3:9; 92:1
In a case of doubt: Piskeiy Teshuvos 92:1 writes that if one is in doubt whether he can withhold himself for a Parsa distance he may be lenient as Baal Tishaktzu is merely Rabbinical.
 Nimukeiy Orach Chaim 3:3; See also Piskeiy Teshuvos 92:1; Kinyan Torah 7:4; Beir Sarim 4:26; Shulchan Hatahor 92:1
 Nimukeiy Orach Chaim 3:3; Shraga Hameir 1:74
 Piskeiy Teshuvos 3 footnote 58; and so is clear from Ashel Avraham Butchach 3
 This is similar to the allowance to withhold oneself until he finds a private area.
 Ashel Avraham Butchach 3; Piskeiy Teshuvos 3 footnote 58
 Ben Ish Chaiy Vayeitzei 1; Kaf Hachaim 3:48; However see Ashel Avraham ibid
 Ben Ish Chaiy Vayeitzei 2; Kaf Hachaim 3:49
 Ashel Avraham ibid
 Arizal in Shaar Hamitzvos Shemini, brought in Ben Ish Chaiy Vayeitzei; Kaf Hachaim 3:46
 Chesed Leavraham brought in Ben Ish Chaiy Vayeitzei 1 and Kaf Hachaim ibid