Question: Must one wash one’s hands after cutting one’s nails just as one would upon awakening in the morning?
Answer: The laws of Netilat Yadayim can be divided into four categories: Firstly, one is obligated to wash one’s hands upon awakening in the morning. Secondly, one is obligated to wash one’s hands prior to commencing a bread meal. Thirdly, one must wash one’s hands before eating something dipped in a liquid, for instance, if one dips celery into water and then eats it, one must first wash one’s hands as one would before eating bread (albeit without reciting a blessing). Lastly, one must wash one’s hands after touching an unclean place, being present in a place where impurity rests, or performing an action which necessitates Netilat Yadayim.
Things Which Require Netilat Yadayim
The Gemara (Pesachim 112a) states that one must wash one’s hands after cutting one’s nails. If one does not wash one’s hands after cutting one’s nails, this causes a mystical fear to befall the individual for one day and he shall not be aware of what is frightening him. Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 4, Section 19) rules likewise.
Rabbeinu David Abudirhem (great Sephardic luminary who lived approximately six-hundred years ago) writes in the name of the Sefer Ha’Tashbetz that there are seven things which require Netilat Yadayim: Awakening from one’s sleep, using the restroom, taking a shower (as we have discussed in the past), cutting one’s nails, removing one’s shoes, touching one’s feet, and scratching one’s head. (The Mordechi in Masechet Berachot [Chapter 194] and other great Poskim quoted by Maran Ha’Bet Yosef write similarly.)
Maran writes in his Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 4, Section 18): “These are the things which require one to wash one’s hands with water: Awakening from one’s sleep, using the restroom or the shower, cutting one’s nails, removing one’s shoes, touching one’s feet, and scratching one’s head. Some say that even one who walks among the deceased, one who touches a corpse, one who searches for lice, one who has engaged in marital relations, one who has touched lice, or one who touches his body with his hand [must wash his hands as well]. If one does any of these things and does not wash his hands, if he is a Torah scholar, he shall forget his Torah learning; if he is not a Torah scholar, a foolish spirit shall possess him.”
We see clearly from his words that one who cuts one’s nails must indeed wash his hands afterwards. In the following Halacha we shall explain the reason for this hand-washing and the correct way to carry this out, i.e. must it be done like one washes one’s hands in the morning or is simply rinsing one’s hands sufficient.