Halacha for Thursday 21 Tammuz 5781 July 1 2021

Question: May one perform Netilat Yadayim when there are leftovers of modelling clay or dough under one’s nails?

Answer: In the previous Halacha, we have explained that one must make sure there is no substance separating between one’s hands and the water at the time one performs Netilat Yadayim. We have also discussed that there is a difference between whether the substance that causes the separation covers a majority of the hand, in which case this constitutes a “Chatzitza” in any event, and when the substance covers only a minority area of the hand in which case this does not constitute a “Chatzitza” unless most people are meticulous that such a substance not remain on the hands at all. Now, let us explain this matter further.

Filth or Residue Which is Extremely Repulsive
Any filth which is extremely repulsive, such as excrement or mud, which is under one’s fingernails constitutes a separation for Netilat Yadayim since most people are careful not to have such filth under their nails. Thus, if one performed Netilat Yadayim with such repulsive filth under one’s fingernails, one must wash again after having cleaned out one’s nails (see Mishnah Berura, Chapter 161, Subchapter 2).

Non-Repulsive Filth- “Level With the Flesh” or “Above the Flesh”
Nevertheless, regarding filth under one’s nails which people are generally not so careful to remove periodically, it then depends: If this filth is “level with the skin under one’s fingernails”, it does not constitute a separation. If it is “above the skin under one’s fingernails”, it does indeed constitute a separation, as we shall now explain:

A portion of the fingernail is attached to the skin of the finger while another part of the nail grows longer and juts out over the skin of the finger. The part of the nail which juts out above the skin must be cleaned before Netilat Yadayim; however, if there is some dirt stuck to the part of the nail which is attached to the skin, one need not clean it out, for people do not generally mind its presence and do not always clean it out since doing so would constitute great bother and effort.

Dough or Modeling Clay
Nevertheless, this applies only to regular dirt under the nails. However, if a woman kneads bread and has leftover dough stuck under her nails or a man has leftover modeling clay under his nails after he has finished his work and the like, this does constitute a separation for Netilat Yadayim and it must be removed, for people are generally careful to remove such substances (see Shulchan Aruch 161).

Summary: Regarding dirt stuck under one’s fingernails, if it is a substance that people are usually careful to remove, such as leftover dough, modeling clay, or an extremely repulsive substance, this always constitutes a problematic separation regarding Netilat Yadayim and must be removed.

Regarding normal dirt found under the fingernails, if it is on the portion of the nail which is attached to the skin of the fingers, it need not be removed, for it does not constitute a problematic separation since people are not usually so careful to remove it. However, if it is stuck to the part of the nail which has grown above the skin of the fingers, it must be removed before washing one’s hands. (If one has already washed one’s hands without removing such regular dirt under the nails, nowadays, when people are not so meticulous about cleaning their nails, this does not invalidate one’s Netilat Yadayim for one who does not usually clean out one’s fingernails, see Halacha Berura, Volume 8, page 227.) Nevertheless, substances like dough and the like are considered a problematic separation regarding Netilat Yadayim.

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

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

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 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

“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

Hallel on Chanukah as it Pertains to Women

Question: Since women are obligated to light Chanukah candles, does this mean that they are likewise obligated to recite the Hallel every morning of Chanukah as well? Answer: Women are exempt from all positive, time-bound Mitzvot, such as eating in the Sukkah, taking the Lulav, and hearing the Sh......

Read Halacha

Havdala Without Besamim and a Candle

Question: One Motza’ei Shabbat when we were on vacation in the summer, we were not able to procure Besamim (a fragrant object) and a candle. Is it permissible to recite the order of Havdala without Besamim and a candle? Answer: This law is discussed by the Gemara (Berachot 53a): “Rav ......

Read Halacha