In a Halacha from last week, we have quoted the words of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch who rules that if one touches one’s shoes, one must wash one’s hands.
The Reason for Netilat Yadayim After Touching One’s Shoes or Feet
Some say that the root of the obligation to wash one’s hands in this situation is due to cleanliness, i.e. since one’s feet and shoes are generally unclean, one must therefore wash one’s hands after touching them. Others say that the reason is because of the evil spirit which rests on one’s feet and shoes (as the verse states, “Cursed is the ground because of you”; thus, an evil spirit rests on the ground and on one’s shoes that come in contact with it).
The Proper Way to Wash One’s Hands
According to the first reason for this Netilat Yadayim which was due to concerns of cleanliness, it is certainly sufficient to do so once, and there is no need to wash one’s hands three times, one hand after another.
Halachically speaking though, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rules that although according to the letter of the law it is sufficient to rinse one’s hands once under the faucet, nevertheless, it is preferable to wash one’s hands three times, one hand after another, albeit not necessarily from a vessel, as we have explained in the previous Halacha; rather, it is sufficient to rinse one’s hands under the faucet three times, one after another (i.e. placing one’s right hand under the stream of water coming from the faucet, the one’s left hand, and repeating this process three times).
Touching New Shoes
Hagaon Rabbeinu Yaakov Emdin (Ya’abetz) writes in his Sefer Mor Uktzia (end of Chapter 4) that if one touches new shoes which one has not worn yet, the evil spirit does not rest on such shoes since they have not yet been worn. Since they are clean, one who touches them need not wash his hands.
Touching Clean Socks
The same law applies regarding touching clean socks in that since the evil spirit does not rest on socks since socks are not intended to come into contact with the ground and additionally, the reason of cleanliness does not apply here either since they are clean now; thus, Maran zt”l (in his Responsa Yabia Omer Volume 5, Chapter 1 and as quoted in the Sefer Yalkut Yosef Volume 1, page 17) rules that one need not wash one’s hands at all.
Touching One’s Shoelaces
Similarly, if one ties one’s shoelaces and is careful not to touch the actual shoe, Maran zt”l writes (Yabia Omer and Yalkut Yosef ibid.) that one need not wash one’s hands afterwards since the evil spirit does not rest on shoelaces, as they are not the actual shoe, in addition to the fact that they are usually clean of filth.
Summary: After touching one’s shoes or feet, one must wash one’s hands. It is preferable to wash one’s hands three times, one hand after another; however, this need not be done specifically using a vessel. Rather, one should just place one’s right hand under the stream of water coming out of the faucet and then the left. This process is then repeated three times.
One who touches new shoes that were never worn need not wash one’s hands. Similarly, one who touches clean socks need not wash one’s hands.
If one touches only one’s shoelaces without touching the actual shoe, one need not wash his hands.