Written by benolamhaba123, 15/11/2018

 Important Note: The Halachos below are the Halachos of Netilas Yadayim LSeudah, the laws of properly washing the hands before eating bread. Please do not confuse this with the Halachos of Negel Vasser- washing the hands upon waking up in the morning, as their halachos are not necessarily the same and may not always be applied interchangeably. 

1) Chazal instituted Netilas Yadayim, and required the washing of the hands before eating bread, even if the hands are not soiled or dirty. Some have the custom to scratch their heads or touch a normally covered part of their body before washing for bread, thus ensuring that their hands are surely in need of a washing. (See Shut Teshuvos Vhanhagos Vol. 1 Siman 170:3) The primary reason for requiring this washing is that in times of old (and again shortly when Mashiach arrives) before Kohanim were allowed to partake of Terumah they had to wash their hands to ensure they werent impure. In order for them to get in the habit of doing so, the Chazal instituted this washing for all of Klal Yisroel, not just for Kohanim. Even though we dont have a Bais HaMikdash now, and are all impure, the requirement for Netilas Yadayim was kept in force, so we should be in the habit of doing so as soon as the Bais HaMikdash is rebuilt (May it be speedily and in our days)

 2) Care must be taken to be scrupulous with the mitzvah of Netilas Yadayim, as those who [regularly] disgrace this Mitzvah are subject to a life of poverty (alluded to in the words Al Netilas Yadayim whose first letter spell out the word ANY- a pauper) and some other not so pleasant repercussions. (See Talmud Shabbos 62b). Women and children are also obligated in Netilas Yadayim. The many intricacies of the Halachos pertaining to properly washing for Netilas Yadayim, necessitate a thorough learning of the subject in order to be able to properly adhere to them[ and avoid the negative outcomes of not being scrupulous in these laws] (Shla quoted in Kaf HaChaim Siman 165:12) 

3) The requirement of Netilas Yadayim is only before eating bread made from the Chameishes Minei Dagan, the 5 species of grain (wheat, barley, rye, spelt or oats), and only when the Bracha on the bread in question is Hamotzi. One should not be stringent and wash the hands before eating [dry] fruits, as doing this unnecessary Chumra is a sign of haughtiness. (The Chazal only instituted the washing on bread as most of Terumah was bread and only a small portion was from fruit, and they did not institute this Halacha for the minority of Terumah foods. See Rama Siman 158:5 and Mishna Berura 22. See also Shulchan Aruch HaRav Siman 158:1) If ones hands are dirty, or if one has a minhag to wash his hands before uttering any Bracha to Hashem, he/she may indeed wash the hands before eating fruits. (Mishna Berura 158:23). However, when doing so, it is best to not wash the hands in a way that it appears that it is for Netilas Yadayim. (See Ketzos HaShulchan 36:21 and Mishna Berura ibid.)

 4) If the fruits were wet while eating, Netilas Yadayim is required. One who eats bread whose Bracha is Mezonos or other pastries, does not wash the hands, unless they are Kovea Seudah by eating the Mezonos item for their meal. (We will BEzras Hashem cover the Halachos of what constitutes Kovea Seudah in the near future as well) 

5) One who eats a KBeitza of bread (size of an egg) is obligated to wash his/her hands and make the Bracha of Al Netilas Yadayim. One who will be eating less than this amount should wash, but not recite the Bracha. Even though many Poskim maintain that one who eats less than a Kzayis (size of an olive) need not wash the hands at all, it is still best to be stringent and wash the hands albeit without a Bracha. (Mishna Berura 158:10) If the bread is being eaten as a secondary food (tafel) to a more important food (Ikar), and thus doesnt need a Bracha of Hamotzi (e.g. croutons in soup, or bread crumbs on chicken) it also doesnt require washing of the hands. (Shulchan Aruch HaRav Siman 212:6). However, if the amount of bread being eaten as a tafel is more than a Kzayis, some Poskim require washing the hands without a Bracha (See Shaar HaTziyun 158:11 and Mishna Berura ibid. SK 10) 

6) One who eats bread must wash both his/her hands, even if he/she will only be touching the bread with one hand, as we are afraid that the unwashed hand will touch the bread. (Mishna Berura 158:4.See Chazon Ish Orach Chaim Siman 23:13 who argues with the Mishna Berura about the reasoning of this Halacha). The aforementioned Halacha remains in place even if one hand is covered with a glove or a towel. Likewise, if one eats with a fork or spoon or is being fed by another person and thus will not touch the bread with their hands, Netilas Yadayim is still required. One who is feeding another person bread (such as a nurse feeding an elderly person etc.), is not required to wash their own hands, as Chazal only instituted Netilas Yadayim for the person eating the bread.(See Shulchan Aruch HaRav 163:2 ) 

7) One who is traveling and does not have water, and will not find water for 4 Mil (approximately 72 minutes) in front of him/her, and 1 mil (approximately 18 minutes) behind him/her, if he/she is extremely hungry, the hands may be wrapped in towels or with gloves, and the bread eaten. Similarly, if one is unable to wash the hands due to medical reasons, the above procedure may be utilized. If one hand is unable to get wet due to having a cast on it or similar medical reasons, the healthy hand should be washed and the unhealthy hand should be wrapped. (Aruch HaShulchan 163:2). When relying on the above, both hands must be covered, not just the hand that is touching the bread. (Mishna Berura Siman 163:5). It is important to note, that when relying on the above the hands must be covered and not the bread. Having the hands exposed, and holding the bread with a napkin or in a bag is inadequate, according to most Poskim. (See Shut Tzitz Eliezer Vol. 8 Siman 7:6. ) 

8) Many Poskim frown upon using the above leniency, unless totally necessary. However, if one can wait a little longer before eating, or manage to eat other things besides bread until water is located, he/she is praised for doing so. (See first Biur Halacha in Siman 163. See also the Siddur of the Baal HaTanya in Seder Netilas Yadayim Siman 22, and Tiferes Shmuel on the Rosh Chulin Perek 8:1 where he questions the Halachic legitimacy of this practice)

The Halachos are based on my personal understanding of the Halachic texts quoted, and are for learning purposes only, NOT for Psak Halacha. If you have questions or require further source information, please email Ben@HalachaForToday.com and I will try to respond as soon as I can. For a Halacha LMaaseh Psak, please contact your local Orthodox Rabbi. 

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