(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com)
No, this article was not sponsored by one of those fancy sink stores. But the fact is that a number of people are installing washing stations in their dining area. It is a great convenience for elderly people, for those with trouble walking, and for, well, the just plain lazy.
But is there perhaps also a halachic basis to this new trend? In other words, is there a possible issue of a hefsek in reciting al netilas yadaim in the kitchen and then having to trek all the way to the dining room?
Believe it or not, there very well may be.
The Shulchan Aruch (Orech Chaim 166:1) states as follows: Some say that there is no need to be careful in avoiding a hefsek between the washing and the Hamotzi [blessing]. Others say that one must be careful. And it is proper to be careful. The Ramah adds and if it is the amount of a walk of 22 amos – then it is a hefsek.
NO NEED TO REWASH
The Mishna Brurah explains that this is only ideally, but if there was such a delay – there is no need to rewash. So,we see that, ideally, there should not be a delay of the amount of time that it takes to walk the amount of 22 Amos. This is approximately 33 feet.
There may be another Halachic angle too. The Tur cites the Talmud Yerushalmi that states: Whomsoever places his HaMotzi immediately after his Netilas Yadayim will not be harmed that entire meal. This author, however, could not find that Yerushalmi. There is a Yerushalmi (Brachos 1:1) that states that the satan will not be mekatreg in that meal. Perhaps the version found in the Tur could indicate that one will avoid a choking hazard, but it could also perhaps indicate that there will be cardiovascular damage from that meal either.
WHY THIS FIGURE?
Why this figure of 22 Amos? The Taz explains that this is the distance in the Beis HaMikdash between Shaar Niknor and Bais HaMitbachim. The Gemorah in Zvachim 33 deals with the idea of a hefsek between the Semicha and the Shechita of the Korban Asham of a Metzorah. It is a problem of it no longer being Tekef immediate – since the Metzorah is not permitted in the Azarah. Tosfos in Sotah 39a (Kol) proves from this Gemorah that a distance of 22 Amos would be a problem of hefsek [See Vilna Gaon Siman 166].
In many homes, the distance between the dining room and the kitchen sink exceeds the distance of 33 feet. Now, one may argue that most people anyhow do not keep to this ideal because they wait that time anyway as to allow everyone to wash. The other people would be unable to keep it because it is unseemly to make a Hamotzi before the Baal HaBayis. The Baal HaBayis, on the other hand, would be able to wash last and thus observe this halacha in its ideal form.
HOW MANY FEET IS IT?
In the article above we used the Amah according to Rav Chaim No’eh and Rav Ovadiah Yoseph. For those who wish to have a longer calculation for the 22 Amos – they could use Rav Moshe Feinstein’s figure of 21.25 inches per Amah thus giving us slightly less than 39 feet. According to the Chazon Ish, it would be about 42 feet.
DRYING CLOSER TO THE EATING
Another angle in which one may be able to achieve this halachic ideal is to conduct the drying part of netilas yadaim closer to the eating location. This, according to many Poskim, would very adequately address the underlying issue.
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