Halacha for Tuesday 12 Tammuz 5781 June 22 2021

Food Items Touched by One Who Did Not Wash One’s Hands in the Morning

In the past, we have explained the obligation for one to wash one’s hands from a vessel every morning upon awakening from his sleep.

We have also explained that when one awakens from one’s sleep in the morning, an evil spirit rests on one’s hands, for sleep is considered one-sixtieth of death; only through washing one’s hands according to Halacha is this evil spirit removed. It is therefore prohibited to touch food items or beverages before washing one’s hands in the morning, for by doing so, the evil spirit rests on the food items one touches.

We shall now discuss a situation that arises many times in which bakery owners who bake bread are not necessarily G-d-fearing people and they have probably not washed their hands in the morning. Since they touch and are involved with the kneading of the dough or setting up the loaves of bread on display, it would seem that the evil spirit rests on these items and one should avoid buying them.

Indeed, Maran Ha’Chida and Hagaon Rabbeinu Eliyahu of Vilna write that a food item touched by one who did not wash his hands in the morning may not be eaten, for the evil spirit rests on it and there is concern for danger regarding this matter.  Sources for their words can be found in the words of the earlier Poskim.

Nevertheless, there are those that say that one need not be concerned about this if the food items were already touched; only preferably should food items not be touched to begin with before washing one’s hands. This is especially true according to what we have already established that nowadays, the evil spirit is not as common as it was in the earlier generations. Based on this, there is room for leniency regarding this matter.

Another reason for leniency is because most people do indeed wash their hands in the morning, albeit not according to Halacha; nevertheless, the power of the evil spirit is weakened due to the hand-washing.

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l (in his Yabia Omer, Volume One) has brought a proof to this idea that the evil spirit is weakened by even a regular hand-washing, for the Gemara in Masechet Avodah Zarah tells us that people would customarily crush grapes for wine-making in the wine-press using their feet. The Mekubalim write that the same evil spirit that rests on one’s hands rests on one’s feet as well and the reason we customarily do not wash our feet in the morning in order to remove this evil spirit is because the strength of the attachment of the evil spirit on the feet is very great and washing them would not help at all. In any case, people would customarily not be concerned about this evil spirit and they would crush grapes with their bare feet. Certainly, the reason for this must be because people would wash their feet for cleanliness purposes before crushing the grapes and at that point, there would be no more concern about the evil spirit being transferred to the food items coming into contact with one’s feet as the power of the evil spirit is weakened even through a regular washing.

Thus, regarding loaves of bread and the like that were touched by someone who most probably did not wash his hands in the morning, one may act leniently and use such items that have already been touched. However, if food items were touched by someone who did not wash his hands but they are able to be washed with water, such as fruits, vegetables, and the like, it is preferable to wash them under running water from the faucet three times and by doing so, one removes any concerns of the evil spirit from them.

Summary: Food items that were touched by someone who most probably did not wash his hands in the morning (i.e. Netilat Yadayim) are permitted to be eaten. If it is possible to wash them, it is proper to wash them three times under running water.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Prohibition of Threshing and Squeezing on Shabbat

We have explained several times that there are thirty-nine “primary works” that are prohibited on Shabbat. Every “primary work” is composed of “subdivisions” which are works similar to the “primary work”; these “subdivisions” also carry a T......

Read Halacha

Preparing Tea on Shabbat

In the previous Halacha, we have explained that one may squeeze a lemon Shabbat by hand, as opposed to using a utensil, for squeezing lemons does not share the same Halacha as squeezing other fruits on Shabbat. We have also mentioned that Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that even thoug......

Read Halacha

Squeezing Lemons on Shabbat

In previous Halachot, we have explained that one may not squeeze a fruit on Shabbat if there are those who usually squeeze this kind of fruit for its juice. We also explained that one may indeed squeeze fruits by hand (as opposed to using a utensil to squeeze it, which is prohibited) onto a food, fo......

Read Halacha

Squeezing Oranges onto Fruit Salad on Shabbat

In the previous Halacha, we have explained that the Torah prohibits squeezing olives for their oil or grapes for wine on Shabbat. The squeezing of other fruits is not a Torah prohibition; rather our Sages enacted that one may not squeeze other fruits such as berries and pomegranates on Shabbat. We h......

Read Halacha


Reciting Birkat Hamazon While Walking on One’s Way

Question: If one is eating while walking outdoors, may one recite Birkat Hamazon while continuing to walk? Answer: In the previous Halacha we have discussed that our Sages have enacted that one must recite Birkat Hamazon while sitting in order for the individual to have maximum concentration. ......

Read Halacha

The Significance of Tu Bishvat

The Fifteenth of Shevat or Tu Bishvat is the Rosh Hashanah for trees (Rosh Hashanah 2a). Most people commonly think that just as on the First of Tishrei, which is the day of Rosh Hashanah, all creations are judged for life or death, for wealth or poverty, and the like, so too, on Tu Bishvat, trees a......

Read Halacha

Reciting Birkat Hamazon While Seated

Question: Is one obligated to sit while reciting Birkat Hamazon or is it permissible to recite it while walking as well? Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Berachot (51b) states that one must recite Birkat Hamazon while seated. The Poskim as well as Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 183) rule li......

Read Halacha

A Dish Comprised of Several Kinds of Food

Question: What is the correct blessing on stuffed peppers? Similarly, what is the correct blessing on a cake which has just a little flour but the primary ingredients of the cake are fruits and nuts? Answer: In the previous Halacha we have explained that when one eats two different foods requirin......

Read Halacha