Halacha for Wednesday 20 Tammuz 5781 June 30 2021

External Separation on One’s Hands Regarding Netilat Yadayim

Question: May one wash one’s hands if one has dirt, paint, and the like on one’s hands?

Answer: One must take care not to have any external separations (“Chatzitza”) on one’s hands during Netilat Yadayim. Any external separations which are problematic while immersing in the Mikveh are problematic during Netilat Yadayim as well. This means that dirt and other substances stuck under one’s fingernails can sometimes be problematic during Netilat Yadayim and render one’s hand-washing invalid.

The Source of the Laws of External Separations during Netilat Yadayim
These laws are derived from the laws of external separations on one’s body as they relate to immersion in the Mikveh. The Gemara in Masechet Pesachim (109a) states, “‘And he shall wash his entire flesh in water’-We derive from here that there can be nothing separating between one’s skin and the water (of the Mikveh) in order for one to become purified.” (This means that since the verse states “his entire flesh,” this means that one’s entire body must be submerged in the water and there cannot be any surface area of one’s body that is covered by something separating between one’s body and the water.) The same law applies to Netilat Yadayim in that one’s entire hand must be uncovered for the water to make contact with it and there may be no separation between one’s hand and the water.

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l (in his Derashot, page 27) uses this explain the words of Rabbi Akiva (quoted in the Mishnah in Yoma 85b), “Fortunate are you, Israel! Before whom are you becoming purified and who is purifying you? Your Father in Heaven, as the verse states, ‘And I shall sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall be clean; from all of your impurities and from all your idols I shall clean you.’” This means that Hashem acts like a Mikveh for the Jewish nation and just like one must immerse in a Mikveh without any Chatzitza, so too, Hashem purifies the Jewish nation completely and they cleave to him completely and without any interruption. Thus, the Jewish nation must likewise protect themselves from any external influences and they must accept the Mitzvot upon themselves completely and not, G-d-forbid, downplay or forgo any one of the Mitzvot, so that they will be prepared to cleave to Hashem.

An External Separation Which One is or is not Careful to Remove
Nevertheless, there are some detailed laws regarding this matter. We shall only discuss what is relevant to this discussion. Any substance which only covers a minority of the hand’s surface area (not the majority) constitutes a separation only when one is generally careful to remove it, such as dirt on one’s hand which one is generally careful to remove. However, if a substance covers a minority of the hand’s surface area and people are not generally careful to remove it, such as a small amount of paint on the hand which is very difficult to remove, this does not constitute a separation regarding Netilat Yadayim, for since this substance is generally not removed, it is considered part of one’s body and does not constitute a separation.

In the following Halacha, we shall explain this idea further, G-d-willing.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Eating Meat Following Rosh Chodesh Av

The Mishnah in Masechet Ta’anit (26b) tells us that on Erev Tisha Be’av during the last meal one eats before the fast, one may not eat meat, drink wine, or eat two cooked foods, such as rice and an egg. Although the letter of the law dictates that the prohibition to eat meat only applies......

Read Halacha

Laws Pertaining to Tisha Be’av

There are five categories of abstinence which must be observed on Tisha Be’av: Eating and drinking, washing one’s self, rubbing one’s body with oils or lotions, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations. Our Sages also prohibited learning Torah on Tisha Be’av, for the word......

Read Halacha

Havdala on Motza’ei Shabbat Which Coincides with Tisha Be’av and the Laws of an Ill Individual Who Must Eat on Tisha Be’av

On years during which Tisha Be’av falls out on Motza’ei Shabbat, such as this year, 5782, there are three opinions among the Rishonim regarding how Havdala should be recited on a cup of wine on Motza’ei Shabbat. The first opinion is that of the Geonim who write that one should r......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Taking Haircuts During the “Three Weeks"- The Year 5782

The Customary Prohibition of Haircuts As a result of the mourning observed during the “Three Weeks,” the Ashkenazi custom is to abstain from shaving and taking haircuts beginning from the Seventeenth of Tammuz until the Tenth of Av. Nevertheless, the Sephardic custom is not as string......

Read Halacha


Those Who are Obligated and Exempt from the Fast of Tisha Be’av and their Status When Tisha Be’av Falls Out on Motza’ei Shabbat

Someone Ill with a Non-Life-Threatening Illness, An Elderly Person, and a Woman who has Recently Given Birth One who is ill (meaning when one is actually bedridden and the like, even if the illness is not life-threatening) is exempt from fasting on Tisha Be’av. When in doubt about one’s......

Read Halacha

Frying Fish in a Meat Pot, Baking Fish and Meat in the Same Oven, and Maran zt”l’s Custom

There is a well-known prohibition of eating fish and meat together, as discussed by the Gemara and Poskim. Cooking Fish in a Meat Pot Although it is prohibited to cook a dairy dish in a meat pot as we have discussed in a previous Halacha, nevertheless, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writ......

Read Halacha

When Av Begins, We Diminish Our Joy

This coming Friday will mark Rosh Chodesh Av. Next Shabbat will mark Tisha Be’av, however, since fast days are prohibited on Shabbat (besides for Yom Kippur), Tisha Be’av will be observed next Motza’ei Shabbat and Sunday. May Hashem soon switch this month to one of joy and celebrat......

Read Halacha

The Laws of the Last Meal Before the Fast of Tisha Be’av on Shabbat

On Erev Tisha Be’av, our Sages prohibited eating meat and drinking wine during the last meal before the onset of the fast of Tisha Be’av held after halachic midday. They likewise forbade eating two cooked foods during this meal.  Nevertheless, this year, 5782, since the fast of T......

Read Halacha