Washing One’s Hands After A funeral

  1. The custom is to wash one’s hands three times, alternating between hands, after attending a funeral.(Mishnah Berurah 4:43)
  2. The Sefer Ishei Yisreol (page 28) writes that according to the Pri Megadim and Chochmas Adam one is not required to wash hands after a funeral unless he was within four Amos of the corpse. However, the custom of the Chazon Ish was to wash his hands upon attending a funeral even if one was not within four Amos of the corpse.
  3. One does not take the vessel from another person’s hand and does not hand the vessel to another person. Rather one places it down and the next person takes it. (See Gesher Hachaim ibid.) The custom is to place the vessel upside down after the washing. (See Netai Gavriel Aveilus chapter 70:2)
  4. The poskim write that the custom in Yerushalayim is that one does not dry his hands with a towel and rather lets them dry on its own. (See Gesher Hachaim page 93) The Kaf Hachaim (4:78) cites those who are lenient to use a towel during the winter when it is cold. Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (cited in Ishei Yisroel) explains that one only refrains from drying his hands when leaving a funeral. However, when washing one’s hands after leaving a cemetery one may dry his hands with a towel.
  5. One is not to enter into a house until after the washing (Rama cited by Mishnah Berurah ibid.). (Some allow entering into a Beis Midrash. [Nitei Gavriel 70/5 and so is the Chabad custom])
  6. The poskim discuss whether one may recite blessings and learn Torah before washing his hands after leaving the funeral. The poskim explain that when one is required to wash his hands because they are dirty, one may not learn Torah or recite blessings prior to the washing. When the washing is required because of ruach ra’ah or tumah, as is the case with the washing after funerals, one may learn Torah and recite blessings before the washing. However, the Zohar and the mekubalim maintain that one should not recite blessings or learn Torah before washing his hands. (M.B. 4:61) Therefore, if water is available, one should wash his hands before learning. However, if no water is available, one may rely on the poskim and learn Torah and recite blessings before washing.
  7. All agree that one may think about Torah prior to washing one’s hands. (Shulchan Aruch Harav 1:6)
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