Halacha for Wednesday 13 Tammuz 5781 June 23 2021

Washing One’s Hands with Water from the Mediterranean Sea and Water Which has been Desalinated

Question: If one is at the beach and wishes to eat bread but has no water to wash one’s hands with, may one wash one’s hands using the water of the sea or ocean?

Salty Water
Answer: Regarding the laws of washing one’s hands for a bread meal, the Mishnah and Gemara teach us that salty water is invalid for the Mitzvah of Netilat Yadayim. Similarly, water that is so bitter that not even a dog or other animal would drink from it is likewise invalid for Netilat Yadayim. Indeed, the Mishnah in Masechet Yadayim (Chapter 1, Mishnah 3) states that salty water is invalid for Netilat Yadayim. All Poskim, including Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 160), rule likewise.

It is therefore clear that one may not take a vessel, fill it with water from the sea or ocean, and wash one’s hands with it for a bread meal, for this water is invalid for Netilat Yadayim.

Water with Which Work has been Performed
Water with which work has been performed, such as water which bread was soaked in in order to soften it, water which was used to wash dishes, and the like, is invalid for Netilat Yadayim based on the ruling of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (ibid, Section 2).

Thus, water which was used to wash dishes is invalid for Netilat Yadayim even if the water is still clean and drinkable, for work has been performed with this water.

Sea Water and Sewage Water which have been Desalinated or Treated
Nevertheless, regarding water which has undergone a desalination process by boiling it or filtering it with all sorts of high-tech systems until the water is drinkable as is the case in our days, this water then becomes valid for Netilat Yadayim, for the water is now drinkable.

On the other hand, sewage water that has undergone treatment is nevertheless invalid for Netilat Yadayim even if it becomes drinkable, for the invalidity of this water does not stem from its putrid taste; rather, it is because work has been performed with this water and the treatment process cannot reverse its status, for ultimately, work has been performed with this water. This is based on the guidelines provided in the Responsa Otzarot Yosef (Chapter 7, page 34. The author quotes Hagaon Harav Shmuel Wosner zt”l who rules that if the water was permeated through the ground similar to well-water, this is considered a “new face” for the water and it indeed becomes valid for Netilat Yadayim).

Summary: Sea water is invalid for Netilat Yadayim. In the next Halacha, we shall discuss how one may acceptably purify one’s hands using sea water.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Order for Lighting Shabbat and Chanukah Candles

There is a disagreement among the Rishonim as to the order of lighting Shabbat and Chanukah candles on Erev Shabbat Chanukah. The Ba’al Halachot Gedolot (commonly referred to as “Behag”) is of the opinion that Chanukah candles must be lit before Shabbat candles because women cu......

Read Halacha

Lighting the Chanukah Candles

The Mitzvah of Lighting Chanukah Candles There is a Mitzvah to light Chanukah candles throughout all eight nights of Chanukah (beginning from next Sunday night). The Sephardic custom is to light one set of Chanukah candles per house. The Ashkenazi custom, however, is that every member of the househ......

Read Halacha

A Guest On Motza’ei Shabbat Chanukah

Question: If one is staying as a guest at one’s parents’ or in-laws’ home for Shabbat Chanukah, where should one light Chanukah candles on Motza’ei Shabbat? Answer: Regarding a married individual who is staying as a guest at his father’s home, according to the Sephar......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Boarders, Guests, Soldiers, and Yeshiva Students Regarding Chanukah Candles

Question: If one will be away from home as a guest during Chanukah, how should one act regarding lighting Chanukah candles? Similarly, what is the law regarding a soldier who will be at his military base during Chanukah? Answer: If one is away from home during the holiday of Chanukah and stays a......

Read Halacha


The Laws of Married Children Staying with Their Parents and One Staying in a Hotel

In the previous Halacha, we have explained that although one who has no one lighting on his behalf at home (for instance, because he has no family or because his family is with him) and is staying as a guest in a friend’s home on Chanukah should have been obligated to light candles in one&rsqu......

Read Halacha

Washing One’s Hands After Taking a Haircut

Question: Is one obligated to wash one’s hands (Netilat Yadayim) after taking a haircut? Answer: Our Sages list various situations where one must wash one’s hands. Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 4) states: “The following activities require one to wash one’s hands: ......

Read Halacha

“Al Ha’Nissim”

Starting from the Arvit prayer on the first night of Chanukah (this year, 5782, starting from tonight, Sunday night) “Al Ha’Nissim” is added in the Amida in the middle of the Blessing of Thanksgiving (“Modim Anachnu Lach etc.) as it is printed in all Siddurim. Even if mos......

Read Halacha

The Meaning of Chanukah as it Applies to Us

We have already discussed the essence of the miracle of Chanukah which was that when the wicked Greeks threatened the Jewish nation, the sons of the Hashmonai family rose up against them and were victorious. They then chose a king for the Jewish nation from their priestly family (of Kohanim). Fro......

Read Halacha