Morning washing-What to do if there is no water available

What does one do if there is no water available?
A. May one learn Torah or recite blessings prior to finding water? [1]

If it occurred that one does not have [enough] water available to wash his hands three times properly, [and he is thus unable to remove the impurity from his hands[2]], nevertheless when he awakens at night [or the next morning[3]] Heaven forbid[4] that he delay learning Torah until he is able to wash his hands three times.[5] Rather [if one slept without clothing[6]] he is to clean his hands with the little water he has, or with anything that cleans and [say blessings[7] and] learn Torah as rules the Talmud [and Poskim[8]]. [However if one slept with his clothing then he does not even need to clean his hands prior to learning or saying G-d’s name in a blessing. However if one desires to Daven, then one needs to clean his hands, even if he slept with his clothing.[9] 

B. May one touch his orifices or food?[10]
If there is no water available, then although one is not to delay learning Torah until he finds water, nevertheless he must be careful not to touch the orifices of the body. Certainly he must be very careful not to touch any food or drink [until he finds water].[11] [Regarding walking four cubits and touching clothing- see footnote.[12]]

If there is no water available one is to clean his hands in other methods, such as on a rock and the like. One may then learn Torah and say blessings. However he should comply by all the other restrictions until water is found.


If one has enough water to wash each hand one time do any of the above restrictions apply?[13]
If one has enough water to wash each hand one time [or even slightly[14]] then he may be lenient to permit touching clothing or walking four Amos after the washing, prior to finding enough water to wash three times on each hand. However one is to be stringent to avoid touching the orifices of the body, and certainly food, until he is able to wash properly each hand three times.[15]

May one use someone else’s water that he prepared for washing?[16]
One may not use someone else’s water that he prepared for washing unless he is positive he will be able to immediately replace it. Many stumble on this matter.

If one needs to use the bathroom and no water is available should he wait for a friend to bring him the water?[17]
No. One may not delay using the bathroom due to this.

What does one do if he has a cast, or injury, on his hand and therefore cannot wash that hand with water?[18]
In a case that one cannot wash one of his hands to a cast or injury then he is to wash the one available hand [three times] and is to then say the blessing of Al Netilas Yadayim.[19]

How are the hands to be cleaned on the stone?[20]
One is to wipe both the front and back of the hand up until the wrist.

When wiping one’s hands on a stone or the like due to lack of water, how many times is he to wipe his hands?[21]
Some[22] rule one is to wipe his hands three times on the rock or other object as perhaps doing so removes impurity. Others[23] argue that it is not necessary to wipe one’s hands three times and rather one time suffices.

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[1] Basra 1/7; Kama 4/3; 47/9; Siddur Hilchos Netilas Yadayim: “If there is not enough water available to wash three times properly, he nevertheless may not delay learning Torah or saying Hashem’s name in blessings because of it. Rather he is to clean his hands with the little water he has, or with anything which cleans, and is to learn Torah relying on the Talmudic ruling.”

[2] Basra ibid

[3] Admur [in Basra and Siddur ] writes specifically when he wakes up at night prior to there being light outside. Seemingly the reason for this is because at night one cannot search for water and hence he will end up nullifying his time until morning. However by day he can search for water and hence we tell him to search for water and wash rather than just allow him to learn until someone brings him water. However obviously in a case that no water is available at all even after searching, or one knows to begin with that there is no water available, then he may learn Torah beforehand.

[4] Lit.  “Chalilah lo libatal mitorah”

[5] Thus being stringent like the ruling in the Zohar.

[6] Kama 4/3; not explicitly mentioned in Basra or Siddur

Even according to the Talmud if one slept without clothing it is forbidden for him to learn or say blessings until he cleans his hands. [Kama 4/3; Basra 1/6; Siddur Hilchos Netilah Shacharis]

Does this obligation to clean the hands with a little water or anything that cleans apply even if one slept with clothing? According to the Talmud and Poskim if one slept in his clothing, then since it is possible his hands did not touch any covered areas, his hands are therefore considered pure enough to recite Hashem’s name within blessings and to speak words of Torah prior to washing. [Basra 1/7 and Siddur Hilchos Netilas Shacharis; Kama 4/3] Thus Admur in Kama 4/3 rules that if one has no water available and he slept in his clothing then if he does not desire to Daven right away he may recite all the blessings of Birchas Hashachar [and learn Torah] even without washing his hands [or cleaning them on any material]. As so long as one is not certain of any impurity on the hands they are valid to recite blessings, as the Sages only instituted washing hands for Shema and prayer. [ibid; As with regards to chapter 47/9,  which Admur plainly says that one should clean his hands on rocks or the like prior to learning and saying blessings, evidently its referring to a case that one slept without clothing.] Vetzaruch Iyun as not only was this not explicitly mentioned in Basra 1/7 or Siddur regarding a case that one has no water available, but on the contrary it seems from the Basra and Siddur that the entire case is discussing a person that slept with clothing and nevertheless Admur concludes there that one is to wash his hands or clean them on something before learning. This however is very puzzling as Admur himself states in Basra 1/6 and Siddur that according to the Talmud one is not required to clean his hands in such a case. Vetzaruch Iyun.

If one desires to Daven immediately: If one does not have any water available at all and he desires to Daven immediately upon awakening, then [even if he slept in his clothing] he must clean his hands prior to Davening using a rock, dirt, beam of wood, or any other matter that cleans. [Kama 4/3]  

[7] Basra 1/7; Kama 4/3; 47/9 regarding Birchas Hatorah; not brought in Siddur

Which blessings is one to recite? Basra does not mention which blessings may be recited. 47/9 mentions Birchas Hatorah. Kama 4/3 and Ketzos Hashulchan 1/7 footnote 9 writes that one is to recite all the morning blessings besides for Al Netilas Yadayim. Vetzaruch Iyun as why don’t we tell him to delay the blessings until he finds water? What loss is there in delaying the blessings? Rather perhaps the intent of Admur in Basra is to say that one is to say [only] Birchas Hatorah in order to be permitted to learn Torah while the other blessings should be delayed. So is also implied from the fact that the entire Halacha [both in Basra and Siddur] makes no mention of being allowed to recite Hashem’s name in blessings as the entire discussion is regarding learning Torah. It is only in the end that Admur states [in Basra] that he should say a blessing and learn. Perhaps even Kama ibid and Ketzos Hashulchan agree with this and they are referring to a case that no water will be available for the entire day and hence all the blessings may be said. If however water will become available later on then perhaps the other blessings are to be delayed, in light of the fact that in Basra and Siddur Admur prohibit reciting blessings with impure hands, [unlike Kama 47/9 which is only initially stringent in this].

[8] Basra ibid; According to the Talmud and Poskim there is no need to refrain from learning or saying blessings before washing three times as explained in Halacha 3.

[9] Kama 4/3; See previous footnotes regarding Basra and Siddur

[10] Siddur Hilchos Netilas Yadayim, Ketzos Hashulchan 1 footnote 10; Not mentioned in Basra.

[11] Seemingly the reason for this is because even according to the Talmud one must refrain from touching these areas due to the evil spirit which resides on ones hands upon awaking.

[12] May one walk four cubits or touch his clothing? Based on Ketzos Hashulchan 2 footnote 11 in a case that one has no water available, not even enough to wash each hand once, then all the restrictions of the Zohar apply besides for learning Torah as explained above. However Admur does not make mention of this in the Siddur and simply warns against touching the orifices or food. Later I found in the supplements of Ketzos Hashulchan p. 82 that he brings this proof from the Siddur and suggests that perhaps even if one did not wash his hands even one time but did wash it slightly the Zohar restrictions are lifted, as writes the Ateres Zikeinim 4/3. However if one has no water at all it remains understood from the Ketzos Hashulchan that one must follow all the restrictions. Vetzaruch Iyun from Siddur.

[13] Ketzos Hashulchan 2/3 footnote 11 based on Siddur; Ateres Zikeinim 4/3: “After slightly washing one’s hands he may walk four Amos and touch clothing.”

Admur states in the Siddur and Basra [4/2] that the spirit of impurity does not completely leave the hands until he washes each hand three times inconsecutively. This implies that some impurity does leave the hands even with a single wash. Based on this possibly, once one has washed his hands one time, the main impurity has dissipated and one is no longer liable to beware of the restrictions that apply prior to washing. Nevertheless we have ruled above to be stringent by the Talmudic restrictions due to doubt. However, regarding walking four cubits [and touching clothing], the Ateres Zikeinim explicitly writes that one may do so after slightly washing his hands. This serves as a proof that the main impurity leaves even after one washing. Another proof for this can be brought from Yuma 77 that a woman on Yom Kippur may wash her hands once and give bread to her child and Rashi explains that this washing refers to the morning washing. Hence we saw that even according to the Talmud a single wash has the ability to remove impurity. Nevertheless perhaps this only applies on Yom Kippur when the impurity does not have as much power and hence one washing suffices. [Ketzos Hashulchan ibid] Another proof for this ruling can be brought from the Siddur in which Admur rules that if one does not have enough water to wash three times properly then he should wash whatever he can and beware of the Talmudic restrictions. No mention however is made of the Zohar restrictions hence implying that even a single washing removes these restrictions while the Talmudic restrictions require a full three time washing to be removed. [Ketzos Hashulchan supplements p. 82]

[14] Meaning even if he does not have enough water to fully wash each hand once but he does have some water, then the above ruling applies. [Ketzos Hashulchan Supplement p. 82 based on Siddur; Ateres Zikeinim 4/3]

[15] The reason to differentiate between the touching of orifices and food and the walking of four cubits and touching of clothing, is because the touching of orifices and food is warned against in the Talmud while the restriction of walking four Amos and touching clothing is only in accordance to the Zohar, and thus should be more lenient. See previous footnote

[16] M”B 1/2

[17] M”B 1/2

[18] Kaf Hachaim 4/7 in name of Zivcheiy Tzedek 2/13; Rav Poalim 1/8; Ketzos Hashulchan 2 footnote 11; Biur Halacha 4 “Yidakdek” in name of Artzos Hachaim; Minchas Ahron 1/19; See also 161/2 and 162/115 regarding washing for bread that if one has an injury on his hand, and due to it that hand cannot be washed, he is to wash one hand with a blessing.

[19] Kaf Hachaim ibid states explicitly that a blessing is said and so adds the Ketzos Hashulchan in the supplements p. 83 based on M”A 170 regarding washing for a meal. So also rules Biur Halacha 4 “Yidakdek” in name of Artzos Hachaim.

The reason: As even washing one hand is able to remove some of the impure spirit to the point that it can no longer damage and hence since one is unable to wash the other hand he may say a blessing as he did the most that he can to sanctify himself for service of Hashem. [Ketzos Hashulchan ibid based on Siddur that washing three times on each hand is only to completely remove the impurity and hence a blessing may be said after washing only once if no other water is available.]

[20] P”M 4 M”Z 15; Kaf Hachaim 4/103

[21] Kaf Hachaim 4/101

[22] Shiyurei Kneses Hagedola 7 in name of Birchas Avraham, Elya Raba 4/12; Yafeh Laleiv 1/33

[23] Olas Tamid 4/13; Kisei Eliyahu 4/9; Mamar Mordechai 4/12;  As wiping on a stone does not remove any impurity and thus wiping three times is superfluous.

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