Question: We have already established that the hand-washing after entering the restroom need not be done specifically using a vessel; rather, it is sufficient for one to rinse one’s hands directly from the faucet. Does this apply equally to the Netilat Yadayim before a bread meal in that one will be able to wash one’s hands directly from the faucet by opening and closing the faucet three times on each hand or is there an obligation to wash one’s hands specifically using a vessel?
Answer: Regarding our issue of washing one’s hands for a bread meal under the faucet by opening and closing the water three times, the Poskim discuss several doubts that exist regarding a faucet.
“The Action of One Pouring”
The first doubt is regarding what the Gemara says that the water of this Netilat Yadayim must result from the action of a person, or even an animal for that matter, who is pouring the water. However, if the water is passively poured on its own, for instance, if water is dripping out of a hole in a bucket, one may not wash one’s hands in this way since the water is being poured of its own accord and not a result of the actual pouring of a man.
However, this issue should not invalidate washing one’s hands from the faucet, for Halacha dictates that if a faucet is attached to a barrel, one may indeed wash his hands from this faucet, for the water emerges as a result of the opening of the faucet and the water is not considered coming of its own accord; rather, it is the result of an active pouring. Since the faucet must actively be turned on and off by the individual’s actions, it would seem that it should be permissible for use for Netilat Yadayim.
Nevertheless, there is another issue which should invalidate washing one’s hands from the faucet which is that halachically speaking, the Netilat Yadayim before a bread meal as well as the morning Netilat Yadayim must be done specifically using a vessel. We must determine whether or not a faucet has the status of a vessel, for it has a hole on both sides, similar to a pipe, and thus cannot be considered a vessel. This is indeed the consensus of most Acharonim that a faucet is not considered a vessel regarding Netilat Yadayim.
Nevertheless, if the faucet is connected to a tank which is situated on the roof through pipes (as was the case until not long ago and still is common in some places around the world), it would seem that the faucet and the pipe should be considered part of the tank and the tank itself is certainly considered a vessel; it should therefore be permissible to wash one’s hands from a faucet which is connected to a tank. However, we may claim that, on the contrary, since the water passes through a pipe which is not considered a vessel, this cannot be considered washing one’s hands from the tank. This is indeed the opinion of Hagaon Harav Ben-Zion Abba Shaul zt”l that such a Netilat Yadayim is invalid since the pipes which separate the faucet and the tank cause it not to be considered as though one were washing one’s hands directly from the tank which is valid in and of itself for hand-washing.
Nevertheless, according to Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l, in pressing circumstances when one does not have a vessel with which to wash one’s hands, one may wash one’s hands under the faucet by opening and closing the faucet three times. Nevertheless, this only applies when the faucet is connected through pipes to the water tank on the roof.