Touching body before washing

The restrictions which apply prior to washing ones hands:

A. The parts of the body that one is to avoid touching:[1]

[The Talmud severely warns[2] that] one may not touch his eyes[3] [lest he become blind[4]], ears [lest he become deaf[5]], nose [lest he contract bad smells[6]], mouth [lest he become mute, and have bad breath[7]], [anus[8]], [and male genitals[9]]. [Likewise one may not touch any orifices of the body, such as the opening of a wound.[10] Regarding if one may touch these areas using a cloth-see Q&A. It is permitted to touch any other area of the body which is not listed above. Hence one may scratch an itch on his body prior to washing hands in any area not listed above.]


List of areas of the body that may not be touched prior to washing:

  • Nose
  • Eyes
  • Ears
  • Mouth
  • Anus
  • Genitals
  • Wounds


Q&A on touching parts of body

May one touch the external areas of the above parts of the body?[11]

  • Example: May one touch the outside of the nose, lips, ears etc and hence the prohibition only refers to touching the orifices themselves or does it include the entire external area as well?

Some Poskim[12] rule it is permitted to touch the external parts of the above areas and the prohibition only applies to entering one’s finger into the orifices. Other Poskim[13] however rule it is forbidden to even touch the external areas. [It is implied that Admur rules like the latter opinion that the prohibition applies to even the external areas.[14]]


May one touch a wound prior to washing hands?[15]



May one touch the above areas using his palm or arm?[16]

One is not to touch the above areas with any part of his hand up until the wrist. The area of the arm above the wrist may be used to touch the above areas.


May one use a cloth to touch the above mentioned bodily areas prior to washing hands?[17]

Yes. One may touch these areas using a cloth.


[1] Basra 4/2; Siddur Hilchos Netilas Yadayim; Kama 4/5; Based on Michaber 4/3; Gemara Shabbos 108b

[2] Basra 4/2

[3] Regarding the order of areas that one is to refrain from touching, the order written above [eyes, ears, nose, and mouth] follows the order written in Admur Basra 4/2 and in the Siddur. However in Kama 4/5 Admur writes the order as follows: mouth, ears, eyes, and nose. The order of the Michaber 4/3 is mouth, nose, ears, and eyes. The order of the Gemara Shabbos 108b which is the source of the above ruling is eyes, nose mouth, ears. It requires further analysis as to the reason behind the change of order in all the above different versions of the Halacha.

[4]  Kama 4/5 based on Gemara ibid

Will one really become blind if he touches his eyes prior to washing hands? The Soles Belula explains that all the above mentioned consequences of touching the body with impure hands refers to spiritual matters. Meaning if one touches his eyes or ears then on that day he will be blind or deaf to matters of Torah that he reads or hears. [Kaf Hachaim 4/19]

[5]  Kama 4/5

[6]  Kama 4/5

[7]  Kama 4/5

[8]  Basra 4/2. Omitted in Kama 4/5 and Siddur; M”B 4/13 in name of Gra and Chayeh Adam


In Tractate Shabbos 108b, which is the source for these Talmudic restrictions it does make mention of the anus and the private limb. However Rashi there explains that this has nothing to do with the impurity on ones hands which comes upon awaking in the morning. Rather Rashi explains that this restriction applies throughout the day, as touching the anus area often, can cause the disease of Tachtuniyos. Likewise touching the private area is always forbidden due to that it stimulates a person. [See chapter 7 Halacha 11]

Perhaps this is the difference between the Siddur and Kama which do not mention the anus, and thus rule like Rashi, and the Basra which does mention it and thus views the Gemara literally, that its restricted due to the impure spirit on ones hands. So learns also M”B ibid in name of Gra and Chayeh Adam.

[9]  Basra 4/2 and Siddur. Omitted in Kama 4/4. See above note for explanation of difference between the Kama and Basra. M”B 4/13 in name of Gra and Chayeh Adam mentions it is forbidden to touch the urethral opening [as opposed to other areas of the genitals] . Admur does not differentiate in this matter.

Isn’t it always forbidden to touch the private area? Although in general it is forbidden to ever touch one’s private area even if his hands are pure, nevertheless there are exceptions to this rule, as it is permitted to touch the crown area to help him urinate or to touch it to assist in marital relations. Hence the novelty here is that if one’s hands are impure he may not touch the private area even during these times. [Basra ibid; Siddur ibid]

[10] M”B 4/13; Ketzos Hashulchan 2/2; Piskeiy Teshuvos 4/9; Admur in Kama 4/6 and Basra 4/2 [based on Taz 4/2] mentions not to touch the area of the body from which blood was let from. From here we can also learn that it is forbidden to touch any wound on the body prior to washing hands.

The reason: As the impure spirit which resides on the hands can damage any opening of the body. [M”B ibid]

The Naval: Vetzaruch Iyun why no mention was made of the naval, which is also considered an orifice. See M”B ibid which states the law applies to all orifices.

[11] Shaareiy Teshuvah 46/3; Kaf Hachaim 4/18

[12] Mor Uketzia 4; Elya Raba 4; implied from Perisha 46/5 [brought in Kaf Hachaim ibid] They learn this from the fact that the Michaber rules [46/1] to wipe the external part of the eye prior to washing hands thus implying that touching the eyelids or any external part of the orifices is permitted.

[13] Machazik Bracha 4/3 based on many Sifrei Kabala argues on above Poskim; so rules also Mamar Mordechai 46/3; Ben Ish Chaiy Toldos 15; M”B 4/12; Ashel Avraham Butchach

[14] So is implied from 46/2 in which Admur rules that one may only touch the eyes with a cloth, and seemingly there it refers to touching the eye lids and not the eyes itself [as learns the Elya Raba ibid]. [See Shaareiy Teshuvah ibid]

[15] M”B 4/13; Ketzos Hashulchan 2/2; Piskeiy Teshuvos 4/9; Admur in Kama 4/6 and Basra 4/2 [based on Taz 4/2] mentions not to touch the area of the body from which blood was let from. From here we can also learn that it is forbidden to touch any wound on the body prior to washing hands.

[16] Piskeiy Teshuvos 4 footnote 97

[17] Ketzos Hashulchan 2/2 based on 46/2; M”B 46/6; Artzos Hachaim 27

Analysis on above ruling:

The Ketzos Hashulchan rules based on Admur 46/2 that it is permitted to touch the eyes etc using a cloth. Seemingly the novelty is that the evil spirit that resides on the hands prior to washing does not affect the areas of the body if there is an interval in-between and hence only direct contact can damage. However it requires further analysis as to why at all it is permitted to touch the cloth, as Admur rules based on the Zohar that one may not touch clothing prior to washing. In truth there is no contradiction in Admur [and hence the proof of the Ketzos Hashulchan falls] as it is clear that in this Halacha of 46/2 Admur is following the Talmudic ruling which allows touching clothing prior to washing, as in that same Halacha he writes to recite Elokaiy Neshama prior to washing, which is only allowed to be done according to the Talmud as opposed to the Zohar. Thus no proof can be brought from here. However perhaps it is for this reason the Ketzos Hashulchan writes the word “Mapah” cloth as opposed to “shirt” which is the word in Admur, as even according to the Zohar the prohibition is only on clothing and not on a mere cloth [such as a napkin or handkerchief] and the proof from Admur is merely that the evil spirit does not damage through a cloth. Vetzaruch Iyun!

About The Author

Leave A Comment?

You must be logged in to post a comment.