Halacha for Thursday 26 Tevet 5782 December 30 2021

Continuation of the Laws of Netilat Yadayim After Cutting One’s Nails and the Like

In the previous Halacha, we have discussed the law that after cutting one’s nails, one must wash one’s hands. We have also quoted the words of the Poskim and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch regarding other things which require Netilat Yadayim. We must now discuss the reason for this hand-washing and the correct way it is carried out; is it done the same way one washes one’s hands in the morning or is simply rinsing one’s hands sufficient?

The Reason One Must Wash One’s Hands After Cutting One’s Nails
The primary reason for washing the hands after cutting one’s nails is because of the evil spirit which rests upon one’s hands after cutting one’s nails, similar to the evil spirit which rests upon one’s hands upon awakening from one’s sleep in the morning. Nevertheless, the Mekubalim, among them Rabbeinu Yosef Haim (in his Ben Ish Hai, Parashat Toledot), write, that this evil spirit is not as severe as the evil spirit in the morning; rather, this is only considered “somewhat of an evil spirit.”

The Correct Way to Wash One’s Hands After Cutting One’s Nails
He therefore writes that this hand-washing need not be done three times, one hand after another (as it is regarding the morning hand-washing); rather, it is sufficient to rinse one’s hands once from the faucet. (If one’s nails were somewhat long in a manner that they surpass the skin of one’s fingers, according to the Kabbalah, one should wash one’s hands three times, one hand after another, just as one would do upon awakening in the morning.) Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rules likewise that after cutting one’s nails, it is sufficient to rinse one’s hands once under the faucet and there is no need to wash one’s hands three times using a vessel.

It is nevertheless preferable to wash one’s hands three times in order to remove the evil spirit that rests upon one’s hands, but one need not specifically wash one’s hands using a vessel, just as we have discussed regarding the Asher Yatzar” blessing several months ago that rinsing one’s hands under the faucet three times, one hand after another (i.e. first placing one’s right hand under the faucet and then one’s left hand and repeating this process three times), is sufficient.

Summary: After cutting one’s nails, one must rinse one’s hands at least once. Nevertheless, according to the Mekubalim, it is preferable to be stringent and wash one’s hands three times, one hand after another; however, it is sufficient to wash one’s hands from the water pouring out of the faucet (three times for each hand; first right, then left etc.). This is indeed the custom of Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l.

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