Netilas Yadaim In The Morning (Part 2)

Preparing Water By The Bed

1. As stated in the previous post, the Gemara states that upon waking up in the morning an evil spirit rests upon one’s hands. The Gemara severely warns that one may not touch certain parts of the body before washing his hands as the ruach ra’ah can cause damage to the body. The Gemara writes that one should not touch food or drink, his eyes [lest he become blind], ears [lest he become deaf], nose [lest he contract bad smells], mouth [lest he become mute, and have bad breath], etc.

2. According to the Gemara one may walk prior to washing. The only restriction according to the Talmud is not to touch food and drink [or orifices of the body]. The Zohar, however is very stringent in these matters stating that one may not walk even four cubits (amos) while the impure spirit resides on ones hands prior to the morning washing and one who does so is liable to death by heaven (misah l’shamaayim). (Shulchan Aruch Harav 1:7) Due to the above restriction against walking before washing, the Elyah Rabbah (1:4) writes that prior to going to sleep one is to prepare a basin of water near his bed to wash with upon awakening. This opinion is cited by the Mishnah Berurah amongst other authorities. Indeed, many tzaddikim were very careful to prepare a basin of water near their bed in order not to walk while the ruach ra’ah rests on their hands (Noam Elimelech Igros Kodesh). Some tzaddikim were even diligent not to place their feet on the ground before washing their hands.

ראיתי בספר אגרא דפירקא סעי’ ט’ שכתב: “קבלה מאת כבוד דודי זקני סבא קדישא מו”ה משולם זושא זצוק”ל, הא דאין רשאין לילך ד’ אמות בלי נטילה בשחרית, אמר הוא ז”ל דיש ליזהר שלא להציג רגליו על הארץ בלא נטילה, כי בהציג רגליו על הארץ בלא נטילה אזי חס ושלום כל היום הרע (שבנפש הבהמיית) רודף אחריו להסיתו. ואמר ע”ז רמז הפסוק [תהלים לו ה] יתיצב על דרך לא טוב (אזי ח”ו) רע לא ימאס”. וכן כתב הגאון הקדוש מקאמרנא בשלחן הטהור (סימן א’ ס”ב): “מיד כשיעור משנתו בעודו שוכב במטה יטול ידיו ולא יעמוד על רגליו בלי נטילה ומכש”כ שאסור לילך ארבע אמות בלי נטילה וחייב מיתה”. וע”ע בספר קדוש ישראל (חלק א’ דף ט”ז) שכתב בלשון זה: “נוהג היה בבוקר השכם להעירם ולהגיש להם מים לנטילת ידים, ארע פעם כי בהביאו את המים לנטילה, שאל אחד מנכדיו: ‘מדוע מטריח עצמו הסבא להגיש לנו את המים, הלא נוכל לגשת בעצמנו, שהרי אין ארבע אמות עד מקום המים ומותרת הגישה עד לשם?’, לשאלת כ”ק הצמח צדק מוויזניץ מי הגיד להם זאת, השיבו: ‘המלמד לימדנו כך’, בעקבות תשובה זו פיטר הצ”צ זי”ע את המלמד ממשרתו”. ושוב מצאתי בספר דרכי חיים ושלום הנהגת הבעל מנחת אלעזר ממונקאטש בסימן א’ שכתב שהגאון זצ”ל לא הציג רגליו על הארך ולא הקים גופו בלי נטילת ידים כי אם בעודו שוכב הי’ מוטה ידיו לנט”ע מהכלי שהי’ מכין עם מים סמוך למטתו ממש, ע”ש.

3. While this practice is not just commendable, but also advisable, the author noticed that many people do not adhere to this ruling. Indeed, the Elyah Rabbah made note of the fact that many g-d fearing Jews do not place a basin of water by their beds. Now, it would be easy to just write this off as an error on the the part of many and that their actions are indeed incorrect. However, in an attempt to vindicate (melamed zechus) their actions, the author wishes to offer two possible leniencies, albeit questionable one’s.

4. The first potential heter is that of the Shevus Yaakov (cited by Shaarei Teshuvah). The Shevus Yaakov maintains that one may according to hallacha consider the entire house as four amos. Therefore, according to this opinion one may walk around the room before washing. However, the Mishnah Berurah writes that one may only rely on this opinion in a case of need.

5. The second potential heter traces itself back to tragic death of The Ger Tzedek of Vilna. The Ger Tzedek of Vilna (c. 1700 – May 23, 1749), also known as Count Valentine Potocki, was a Polish nobleman of the Potocki family who converted to Judaism and was burned at the stake by the Roman Catholic Church because he had renounced Catholicism and had become an observant Jew. Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l reported that there is a tradition that the Vilna Gaon zt”l said that when the Ger Tzedek was killed he sanctified G-d’s name to such a degree that the ruach ra’ah of the morning was strongly diminished. Harav Avigdor Neventzhal shlit”a explains, in the name of Harav Shlomo Zalman, that the tradition from the Vilna Gaon that the ruach ra’ah on hands was nullified with the death of the Ger Tzedek applies only to laws of the Zohar (such as not walking four amos) and not the Talmud Bavli (such as not touching bodily holes) and since this law is sourced in the Zohar, there is reason to be lenient. However, as noted above most authorities, including the Mishnah Berurah, make no comment of this leniency.

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