In which cases may one withhold one’s bathroom needs

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Not to delay one’s bathroom needs:[1]

At what point is one obligated to relieve his urge to urinate or defecate?[2]

The above prohibition of Bal Tishaktzu only applies when the person feels a certain amount of pressure to relieve himself. Some opinions[3] define this to mean that if he cannot withhold himself for a Parsa distance [approximately 72 minutes[4]] 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[5] rule that the above prohibition only applies in circumstances that it is not common to withhold the needs. See Q&A!]

Withholding one’s bowels or urine in order to find a private area:[6]

It is permitted to withhold ones bowels in order to find a private area.[7] 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].[8] Nevertheless when urinating in public he should turn towards the side.[9]

 

Summary:

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[10] in order to find a private area.

Q&A

Practically how is one to determine whether he can withhold his needs for a Parsas distance?

Some Poskim[11] 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?[12]

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?[13]

Yes.

May one withhold his needs if he is in middle of a speech or other public performance?[14]

Yes.[15]

 

May one withhold his needs if he is in middle of speaking with people?

Some[16] 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?[17]

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?

Yes.[18] However, some Poskim[19] rule one may continue to sleep if his urge is not so strong.

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[1] 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.”

[2] 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]

[3] 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.

[4] Ketzos Hashulchan 4:4

[5] Ashel Avraham Butchach 3 regarding one who is in middle of speaking to a friend, or in middle of sleep.

[6] 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.

[7] 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.

[8] 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]

[9] Basra 3:5; Siddur; Kama 3:19

[10] See B in footnotes with regards to withholding urine until one finds a private area. Vetzaruch Iyun.

[11] 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.

[12] Nimukeiy Orach Chaim 3:3; See also Piskeiy Teshuvos 92:1; Kinyan Torah 7:4; Beir Sarim 4:26; Shulchan Hatahor 92:1

[13] Nimukeiy Orach Chaim 3:3; Shraga Hameir 1:74

[14] Piskeiy Teshuvos 3 footnote 58; and so is clear from Ashel Avraham Butchach 3

[15] This is similar to the allowance to withhold oneself until he finds a private area.

[16] Ashel Avraham Butchach 3; Piskeiy Teshuvos 3 footnote 58

[17] Ben Ish Chaiy Vayeitzei 1; Kaf Hachaim 3:48; However see Ashel Avraham ibid

[18] Ben Ish Chaiy Vayeitzei 2; Kaf Hachaim 3:49

[19] Ashel Avraham ibid

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