Halacha for Wednesday 20 Tammuz 5781 June 30 2021

External Separation on One’s Hands Regarding Netilat Yadayim

Question: May one wash one’s hands if one has dirt, paint, and the like on one’s hands?

Answer: One must take care not to have any external separations (“Chatzitza”) on one’s hands during Netilat Yadayim. Any external separations which are problematic while immersing in the Mikveh are problematic during Netilat Yadayim as well. This means that dirt and other substances stuck under one’s fingernails can sometimes be problematic during Netilat Yadayim and render one’s hand-washing invalid.

The Source of the Laws of External Separations during Netilat Yadayim
These laws are derived from the laws of external separations on one’s body as they relate to immersion in the Mikveh. The Gemara in Masechet Pesachim (109a) states, “‘And he shall wash his entire flesh in water’-We derive from here that there can be nothing separating between one’s skin and the water (of the Mikveh) in order for one to become purified.” (This means that since the verse states “his entire flesh,” this means that one’s entire body must be submerged in the water and there cannot be any surface area of one’s body that is covered by something separating between one’s body and the water.) The same law applies to Netilat Yadayim in that one’s entire hand must be uncovered for the water to make contact with it and there may be no separation between one’s hand and the water.

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l (in his Derashot, page 27) uses this explain the words of Rabbi Akiva (quoted in the Mishnah in Yoma 85b), “Fortunate are you, Israel! Before whom are you becoming purified and who is purifying you? Your Father in Heaven, as the verse states, ‘And I shall sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall be clean; from all of your impurities and from all your idols I shall clean you.’” This means that Hashem acts like a Mikveh for the Jewish nation and just like one must immerse in a Mikveh without any Chatzitza, so too, Hashem purifies the Jewish nation completely and they cleave to him completely and without any interruption. Thus, the Jewish nation must likewise protect themselves from any external influences and they must accept the Mitzvot upon themselves completely and not, G-d-forbid, downplay or forgo any one of the Mitzvot, so that they will be prepared to cleave to Hashem.

An External Separation Which One is or is not Careful to Remove
Nevertheless, there are some detailed laws regarding this matter. We shall only discuss what is relevant to this discussion. Any substance which only covers a minority of the hand’s surface area (not the majority) constitutes a separation only when one is generally careful to remove it, such as dirt on one’s hand which one is generally careful to remove. However, if a substance covers a minority of the hand’s surface area and people are not generally careful to remove it, such as a small amount of paint on the hand which is very difficult to remove, this does not constitute a separation regarding Netilat Yadayim, for since this substance is generally not removed, it is considered part of one’s body and does not constitute a separation.

In the following Halacha, we shall explain this idea further, G-d-willing.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

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

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

Foods Which Contain Flour

During the past few days, we have discussed that when a dish is comprised of several different foods which require different blessings, one should recite the blessing on the primary food in the dish. Thus, if one eats grape leaves stuffed with rice, one should recite the Mezonot blessing, for the ri......

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

The Law that the Blessing on a Primary Food Exempts a Secondary Food

Next Sunday night marks Tu Bishvat, a day we customarily recite many blessings. We shall therefore discuss the laws of blessing for the next several days. The Mishnah in Masechet Berachot (44a) states: “The rule is: If there is a primary food and a secondary food along with it, one recites ......

Read Halacha

The Laws of a Primary and Secondary Food Regarding Blessings

Question: If one eats a slice of bread along with fish, is it possible that one only recites a blessing on the fish and the bread will be considered secondary to the fish and exempted by it? Answer: In the previous Halacha we have explained the basic laws of primary and secondary foods regarding ......

Read Halacha

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