Halacha for Monday 7 Tevet 5778 December 25 2017

Washing One’s Hands in the Restroom

Question: Is it permissible to wash one’s hands (Netilat Yadayim) in the restroom or shower room?

Answer: Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 4) rules that one who exits the restroom requires Netilat Yadayim. Maran Ha’Chida writes that this is because of the evil spirit which rests on one’s hands. The holy Zohar states likewise. Based on this, he writes that even if one enters the restroom and does not use the facilities or touch concealed parts of one’s body, one must nevertheless wash his hands as a result of the evil spirit which rests on them upon one’s exit from the restroom.

Nevertheless, this law does not apply to shower rooms in our times; one who enters such a room does not need to wash his hands. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l (in his Responsa Yabia Omer, Volume 3, Chapter 1) brings several proofs to support this matter, especially from the fact that the Gemara (Shabbat 41a) allows drinking water that was in a bathhouse. Were there to be a concern of an “evil spirit” in the bathhouse, drinking there would be forbidden for an evil spirit would rest on any food or beverage in the bathhouse. Rather, there must not be any evil spirit in a bathhouse at all. There is therefore no issue with washing one’s hands in a shower room and then to dry them outside the shower room following recitation of the blessing.

In his Responsa Yabia Omer, Volume 7, Chapter 27, Maran zt”l cites another reason for leniency regarding this matter which is that shower rooms nowadays are not designated only for showering and bathing; rather, other things in this room as well as well as the room being used for storage. For this reason, such a room does not retain an evil spirit. He proceeds to support this with several sources.

All of the above applies only to a shower room which does not contain a toilet; however, if it does contain a toilet (in which case it will no longer be called a “shower room” but by its more common name, “bathroom”), one may not act leniently and wash his hands there unless it is a pressing situation. Although some Poskim rule that bathrooms nowadays are not halachically considered “lavatories” because they are constantly kept clean, one must nevertheless act stringently and not perform Netilat Yadayim there. Only if one has no other place to wash his hands may one wash them within a bathroom after which one must exit, recite the “Al Netilat Yadayim” blessing, and then dry one’s hands.

Summary: One may wash one’s hands (Netilat Yadayim) inside a shower room which does not contain a toilet. One should recite the blessing outside of this room before drying one’s hands. If there is a toilet in this room, one should not wash his hands there. Only in a pressing situation where there is no other choice may one wash his hands in a restroom. This applies to both the morning hand-washing and washing one’s hands for a bread meal.

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