Halacha for Wednesday 13 Tammuz 5781 June 23 2021

Washing One’s Hands with Water from the Mediterranean Sea and Water Which has been Desalinated

Question: If one is at the beach and wishes to eat bread but has no water to wash one’s hands with, may one wash one’s hands using the water of the sea or ocean?

Salty Water
Answer: Regarding the laws of washing one’s hands for a bread meal, the Mishnah and Gemara teach us that salty water is invalid for the Mitzvah of Netilat Yadayim. Similarly, water that is so bitter that not even a dog or other animal would drink from it is likewise invalid for Netilat Yadayim. Indeed, the Mishnah in Masechet Yadayim (Chapter 1, Mishnah 3) states that salty water is invalid for Netilat Yadayim. All Poskim, including Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 160), rule likewise.

It is therefore clear that one may not take a vessel, fill it with water from the sea or ocean, and wash one’s hands with it for a bread meal, for this water is invalid for Netilat Yadayim.

Water with Which Work has been Performed
Water with which work has been performed, such as water which bread was soaked in in order to soften it, water which was used to wash dishes, and the like, is invalid for Netilat Yadayim based on the ruling of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (ibid, Section 2).

Thus, water which was used to wash dishes is invalid for Netilat Yadayim even if the water is still clean and drinkable, for work has been performed with this water.

Sea Water and Sewage Water which have been Desalinated or Treated
Nevertheless, regarding water which has undergone a desalination process by boiling it or filtering it with all sorts of high-tech systems until the water is drinkable as is the case in our days, this water then becomes valid for Netilat Yadayim, for the water is now drinkable.

On the other hand, sewage water that has undergone treatment is nevertheless invalid for Netilat Yadayim even if it becomes drinkable, for the invalidity of this water does not stem from its putrid taste; rather, it is because work has been performed with this water and the treatment process cannot reverse its status, for ultimately, work has been performed with this water. This is based on the guidelines provided in the Responsa Otzarot Yosef (Chapter 7, page 34. The author quotes Hagaon Harav Shmuel Wosner zt”l who rules that if the water was permeated through the ground similar to well-water, this is considered a “new face” for the water and it indeed becomes valid for Netilat Yadayim).

Summary: Sea water is invalid for Netilat Yadayim. In the next Halacha, we shall discuss how one may acceptably purify one’s hands using sea water.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Proper Way to Immerse Vessels in a Mikveh

One must make certain that there is nothing separating between the vessel one is immersing and the waters of the Mikveh. Thus, when one is immersing a vessel, one must hold the vessel loosely, for if one holds it tight, one’s hand will be separating between the vessel and the waters of the Mik......

Read Halacha

Question: Is one obligated to wait six hours after eating meat foods before eating dairy foods?

Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Chullin (105a) states: “Mor Ukva said: When my father would eat meat, he would not eat cheese until the next day. Regarding myself, however, within the same meal I do not eat meat and then cheese, but I would eat cheese during the next meal.” The Rif writes......

Read Halacha

Reading Scripture at Night

Question: May one read chapters of Tanach or Tehillim at night or is this forbidden according to Kabbalah? Is there room for leniency when this reading is being done for the sake of an ill individual or a woman in labor? Answer: Maran Ha’Chida in his Responsa Yosef Ometz (Chapter 54) quotes......

Read Halacha

Spiritual Blockage of the Heart

Question: Must one be careful regarding the Kashrut standards of the foods one’s children eat as well? Answer: Regarding any food which is prohibited for consumption by the Torah, such as milk and meat or an impure animal’s milk, it is certainly forbidden to give such foods to childre......

Read Halacha


Drinking Beverages in a Café or in a Home Where the Vessels have not been Immersed in a Mikveh

Question: May one drink coffee in a friend’s home or in a Café (such as an espresso without milk served in Cafes) when they are not meticulous about immersing their vessels in a Mikveh? Answer: In the Halachot discussed before Tisha Be’av, we have explained that vessels produc......

Read Halacha

Question: Do disposable vessels and electric kettles require immersion in a Mikveh?

Answer: In the previous Halachot, we have discussed the general law that any new vessels purchased from a non-Jew must be immersed in a Mikveh before using them. We shall now discuss whether or not disposable vessels require immersion. We have already explained that according to Maran zt”l,......

Read Halacha

Eating Dairy Items after Eating Poultry

In the previous Halacha we have discussed in general the law that one must wait six hours after eating meat before eating dairy foods either because the nature of meat is to get stuck between one’s teeth or because meat gives off a taste in one’s mouth for a prolonged amount of time. ......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Fire on Yom Tov

In previous Halachot we have explained that Yom Tov and Shabbat are equal regarding all prohibitions besides for certain works associated with food preparation, such as cooking, which are permitted on Yom Tov. Igniting a Flame One may not produce a new fire on Yom Tov, for instance by striking a......

Read Halacha