1) It is prohibited to give bread to a Jew who does not wash his/her hands before eating bread, even if
the bread belongs to him/her, as doing so will cause him/her to do a sin, and thus you will transgress
the biblical prohibition of “Lifnei Iver Lo Titen Michshol”. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 163:2 and Mishna
Berura S”K 12). However, if you aren’t positive that he/she will not wash their hands, or if they plan on
taking the bread to their home, and will not be eating it immediately, it is permitted to give it to them. It
is, however, good to tell them before giving it to them to please wash Al Netilas Yadayim before eating
it. (Mishna Berura ibid. S”K 11 and Biur Halacha Dibur HaMaschil V’Asur. See also Shu”t Shevet HaLevi Vol.
4 Siman 17)
The above Halacha does not apply to one who owns a restaurant, as he isn’t obligated to only serve
those who he is sure will wash before eating. (See Kaf HaChaim 163:16. See also Shu”t Shevet Halevi
Vol. 1 Siman 37)
2) The water of Netilas Yadayim must wash the entire hand. Therefore, before washing it is best to
examine the hands to ensure that there isn’t any [significant]dirt that may cause the water not to cover
that part of the hand, and thus be a Chatzitzah- separation (Mishna Berura Siman 161:1)
If the item stuck to the hand is small and insignificant, and most people wouldn’t bother to remove
such dirt, even if it bothers you personally, it isn’t a Chatzitza. imilarly, if the item is of the nature that
most people would remove it, even if it doesn’t bother you personally, it is a Chatzitza and must be
removed. (This is only the general rule, there are certain exceptions, which we will see shortly)
3) One whose “hands on” profession leads to his/her hands regularly being stained (e.g. construction
workers, butchers, painters, artists, Scribes etc.) may wash Netilas Yadayim on the soiled hands, if the
cement, grime, ink etc. isn’t covering most of the hand, and it isn’t something that he/she usually
bothers to remove while working. This is true, even if most other people would be bothered by similar
grime, and would run to clean it off. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 161:2 and Mishna Berura S”K 11. See also
Shu”t Teshuvos V’hanhagos Vol. 2 Siman117)
4) A Chatitzah (separation) only prevents proper washing if it is a tangible stain on top of the hand,
such as dried ink, paint, cement etc.
Simply having a small pen mark or similar stain which cannot be lifted off the hand, is not a problem
and the hand may be washed. Similarly, wet ink or paint, which will move around as you wash your
ìò"ð äé÷ø áàãí ø' àáøäí àìòæø áï ãåã æ"ì åäàùä äçùåáä îøéí øéæì áú ø' îùä ãåá ò"ä
hands, is not a Chatzitza, as the water is able to reach every part of the hand.(See Mishna Berura 161:14.
See also Igros Moshe Orach Chaim Vol. 2 Siman 110)
A wound that is healing and develops a scab is not a Chatzitza unless it bothers you and you regularly
remove it. (Mishna Berura 161:16)
Noticeable dirt on the fingernails, under the fingernails, or part of a fingernail that is loose and hanging
is a Chatitzah and must be removed before washing Netilas Yadayim. If the dirt is insignificant, and not
bothersome enough that people usually remove it, it isn’t a Chatitza. (See Shulchan Aruch HaRav 161:4
and Kaf HaChaim 161:4)
5) Women (and men who wear rings) must remove their rings before washing, as the rings are usually
removed when a woman kneads dough or otherwise handles messy things. However, if the hands were
washed with the rings on, if the rings are loose fitting she doesn’t need to wash again, as B’dieved it
isn’t a Chatzitza. (Mishna Berura 161:18. See also Shu”t Rivevos Ephraim Vol. 1 Siman 127 regarding a
woman who never removes the ring at all even for kneading dough. See also Kaf HaChaim 161:32)
Many women “hold” their rings between their teeth while washing and making a Bracha. This practice
is not commendable as the mouth must be empty when saying Brachos. The best thing is to remove
the rings and place them down on the counter or table before washing.
6) Women who wear nail polish may wash on top of the nail polish, since they want the polish there, it
is considered part of the hand and isn’t a Chatzitza (This Halacha is for hand washing only, and should not
be applied for a woman going to the Mikvah, as in that case she needs to remove the nail polish).
However, if the polish is cracking and brittle and she plans to remove it, she must do so before being
able to wash Netilas Yadayim. Men may not wash on top of nail polish, even if they want it there, as it
isn’t the norm for men to wear nail polish.
One who has a band-aid on his/her hand must remove it for washing, lest it fall off during the meal.
However, if by removing the band-aid it will cause pain or puss to develop, it is not a Chatzitza and
may be left on. If the band-aid falls off or is removed during the meal, the hands must be rewashed
before continuing to eat. (Mishna Berura Siman 162:71. See also Sha’ar HaTzion Os 58 where he debates
whether the entire hand must be rewashed or just the place where the bandage was)
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 L’Ma’aseh Psak, please contact your local Orthodox Rabbi.
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