Sunday, 24 January 2021

Covered Water for Netilas Yadayim

Question: I always used to wash negel vasser in the morning from the bathroom sink. Recently, I have been leaving a cup of water in a bowl next to my bed so that I do not need to walk around before washing. Is this preferable even though the water is uncovered?

Answer: The Gemara (Avoda Zara 30b) writes that mayim shenisgalu¸ water that was left uncovered, must not be poured out into the street, used for building, drunk from or even used to wash oneself. This was out of concern that a dangerous snake or scorpion had entered the water and poisoned it.

While Rambam (Rotzeach Ushemiras Hanefesh 11:15) records this as the halacha, the Tur (YD 116) and Shulchan Aruch (YD 116:1) write that this does not apply nowadays when such incidents are so unlikely.

R’ Yaakov Chaim Sofer (Kaf Hachaim OC 160:2; YD 116:8) adds that one only needs to observe this halacha in places where snakes are common (See Mishna Berura 160:23).

R’ Chaim Falaji (Kaf Hachaim 8:11) writes that one must not use mayim shenisgalu. The Shaarei Teshuva (4:7) notes, too, that there are those who are still particular about this (See Pischei Teshuva YD 116:1). Nonetheless, the Shaarei Teshuva concludes that one does not need to be concerned about mayim shenisgalu nowadays. Likewise, the Aruch Hashulchan (YD 160:1) writes that one may use such water nowadays. The Levush (OC 160:5) writes that not only may one use it for washing one’s hands, but one may even drink from mayim shenisgalu nowadays.

The Magen Avraham (4:1) and Mishna Berura (1:2) write that one should not walk more than 4 amos prior to washing one’s hands in the water.

In conclusion, one does not need to be particular to cover their water for netilas yadayim. It is preferable to leave an uncovered cup next to one’s room than to leave one’s room to wash their hands.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Washing Hands over the Dishes

Question: Is one allowed to wash one’s hands in the morning in the sink if there are dishes there?

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 4:9) writes that when one washes one’s hands in the morning (negel vasser), one must not reuse the water. One should not pour the water onto the floor where people may walk. Therefore, the Mishna Berura (4:20) writes that one must not give this water to one’s animals to drink. The Shaarei Teshuva (4:8) adds that one should not daven in the presence of this water either.

The Piskei Teshuvos (4:14) writes that one must be careful not to wash one’s hands in a sink where there are dishes. One who did so, would have to ensure that they wash their dishes properly afterwards.

However, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 20:7) maintains that one may wash one’s hands in a sink with dishes. As the dishes are going to be washed, there is no concern. The Mishna Berura (4:14) writes that if one touched food with unwashed hands, they should wash the food off three times, Nonetheless, R’ Chaim Kanievsky (quoted in Ishei Yisrael 20:n72) writes that when washing over dishes, they do need to be rinsed three times.

In conclusion, one may wash one’s hands in the morning in a sink, even if there are dishes there.

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Dipping Bread in Salt

Question: Are we supposed to dip our bread into salt every time we eat, or only challa on Shabbos?

Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 40a) teaches that one should not say hamotzi before eating bread unless one has salt or other dips in front of them. Rambam (Berachos 7:3) writes that this applies unless one intends on eating dry, plain bread. Likewise, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 167:5) writes that if the bread was already flavoured or salted, there is no need to have salt at the table.

Nonetheless, the Rema quotes the Beis Yosef who writes that our tables are compared to the mizbeach, and our eating to the korbanos. As such, we should always have salt on the table with bread, just as the korbanos were all salted. The Mishna Berura (167:30) explains that when one shares one’s bread with the poor, one’s ‘table’ atones for their sins in place of the korbanos (See Berachos 55a).

The Magen Avraham (167:15) writes that even though our bread contains salt, there are kabbalistic reasons for why we dip our bread into salt. The Mishna Berura (167:33) adds that according to kabbala, one should dip their bread three times into salt.

In conclusion, as our bread is flavoured, there is no obligation to dip it into salt. Nonetheless, there are different reasons why one should still try to do so. 

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Tachanun Without a Sefer Torah

Question: Since the beginning of Covid, we have been davening in different rooms in our shul. One of these rooms has an aron hakodesh but for security reasons, the sefer torah is removed on days when there is no leining. When saying tachanun on those days, should we not put our head down on our arms? 

Answer: The Gemara (Megilla 22b, Bava Metzia 59b) teaches us that people would prostrate themselves (nefilas apayim) as part of their davening. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 139:1) writes that nowadays we bow our heads and rest them on our arm. (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 131:4)

The Rema (OC 131:2) quotes the Rokeach (324) who writes that nefilas apayim is not practiced unless one is in the presence of an aron hakodesh and sefer Torah. This is alluded to in the incident of Yehoshua (7:6) at the battle of Ai, when Yehoshua fell on his face in front of the aron hakodesh. The Mishna Berura (131:11) writes that this applies equally if there is a sefer Torah without an aron hakodesh (See Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:79).

The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 131:10) explains why the Shulchan Aruch does not record this halacha. The original source for nefilas apayim is when Moshe describes falling on his face on Har Sinai after breaking the first luchos. He did so, even though there was no sefer Torah present. Nonetheless, he writes that we follow the Rokeach and Rema and only perform nefilas apayim in the presence of a sefer Torah.

R’ Shlomo Zalaman Auerbach (quoted in Ishei Yisrael 25:n37) maintained that if one removed the sifrei Torah to a safe, one would still perform nefilas apayim when the aron hakodesh was empty. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:21:1) stresses the importance of keeping the sifrei Torah in a secured safe.

In conclusion, one performs nefilas apayim while reciting tachanun, even if the sefer torah was removed to a more secure location.