Halacha Date: 14 Tammuz 5781 June 24 2021
We have explained in the previous Halacha that if one is on the beach and wishes to eat bread, one may not gather some sea water in a vessel and wash one’s hands, for sea water is salty and thus invalid for Netilat Yadayim.
Immersing One’s Hands in a Spring, the Sea, or a Mikveh
However, the above only applies to the laws of “Netilat Yadayim.” There is, nevertheless, another method by which one may purify his hands in order to eat bread which is called “Tevilat Yadayim,” i.e. immersing one’s hands in the actual sea without transferring the sea water into a vessel.
For instance, if one happens to be near a spring, one need not necessarily wash one’s hands with a vessel even if the water is sweet; rather, one may immerse one’s hands in the spring and immediately thereafter, one may touch and eat the bread.
Similarly, if one is near the Mediterranean Sea, although the water there is salty, one may, nevertheless, one may immerse one’s hands in the sea water. One thereby fulfills one’s obligation of immersing his hands before a bread meal.
The same applies to one who is near a Mikveh in that one may immerse one’s hands in the Mikveh and by doing so, one fulfills one’s obligation to purify one’s hands as does one who washes his hands with a vessel.
If One Immerses his Hands, How Many Times Should One Do So and Which Blessing Does One Recite?
If one immerses one’s hands, one need not repeat the immersion several times as is customary regarding Netilat Yadayim; rather, immersing both hands once in the water is sufficient.
One who immerses one’s hands recites the same “Al Netilat Yadayim” blessing as does one who washes his hands with a vessel. One should not recite the “Al Tevilat Yadayim” blessing. (See Shulchan Aruch, Chapter 159). If one mistakenly recited the blessings of “Al Tevilat Yadayim” or “Al Shetifat Yadayim,” one has nevertheless fulfilled one’s obligation (see Halacha Berura, ibid).