ASKING AND EXPOUNDING
A Series of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch,
Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
By Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at
The sources and explanations behind these halachot will appear in a major
work which will soon be publushed, Be"H.
Chapter 4: The Laws of Washing One's Hands in the Morning
continued from last week
Other Times When Washing is Required
Optimally, one should not bring food or beverages into the bathroom or
washroom with toilet facilities. This stringency applies as well to public
bathhouses and "mikvaot."
One who is carrying a food item and needs to go into the bathroom should,
when possible, leave the food outside. If there is no place to leave the
food outside, then he should cover the food with his clothing or place it in
a plastic or paper bag, or in his pocket. One may then enter the bathroom
with the food, even "lechatehilah."
If one did bring food into the bathroom without covering it first, one
should wash it three times, when this is possible (such as in a case of
fruits or other foods which can be rinsed). Foods which cannot be washed,
such as bread and cake, may be eaten, though one who is stringent in this
regard is deserving of blessing.
One may, even "lechatehilah," bring food into a washroom with no toilet
facilities, even without covering the food at all. Furthermore, one may
even leave food there for a long time. Nevertheless, one who is stringent
in this regard is deserving of blessing.
One who goes to the washroom or bathhouse to shower or bathe must wash his
hands when he leaves after having washed his body. However, he needs to
wash only once, not three times as one does in the morning. If, however, he
enters the bathhouse not to bathe, he does not have to wash upon his
departure. Here, too, one who is stringent is deserving of blessing.
However, when one enters the washroom not to bathe, and the washroom does
not have toilet facilities, there is no room for stringency whatsoever with
regard to washing one's hands.
One may wash his hands in a washroom with no toilet facilities both for
eating bread and for the morning washing. When doing so, the berachah ("al
netilat yadayim") should be recited outside the washroom.
One must wash his hands after cutting his nails, even if he cut only some
of his nails. One who has his nails cut by someone else also must wash his
hands, though the one who cut the nails does not need to wash his hands,
even if his hands came in contact with the nails. One who cuts his nails
requires only one washing, not three. If, however, his nails extended
beyond the point of the flesh on his fingers, then according to Kabbalistic
sources he should wash his hands three times in alternating fashion.
One must wash his hands even after cutting his nails with his teeth. One
must also wash after cutting his toenails, even if his toes were clean.
One who hears "kaddish" or "kedushah" while cutting his nails should stop
and respond together with the congregation. Similarly, one who sees
lightening or hears thunder while cutting his nails should stop and recite
the appropriate berachah.
One who takes a haircut must also wash his hands once, even if only part of
his hair was cut. This applies even when someone else cut his hair. The
one who gave the haircut must also wash his hands, for he touched the other
THE GOLDEN COLUMN
Rabbi Nissim Nahum zs"l
Our parashah opens with the commandment to observe Shabbat. An amazing
story circulated in the community of Lov about a woman named Rivkah, the
wife of Kaflalah Nahum. He was among the prominent members of the city of
Tripoli and the head "gabbai" of the main Bet Kenesset. She would ensure
that her Shabbat preparations were finished Friday morning, so that on
Friday afternoon she could go from Bet Kenesset to Bet Kenesset, cleaning
and preparing them for Shabbat, mopping the floors, rinsing the lamps and
renewing the oil and wicks.
Once, as she was working, a rusty nail scratched her foot and injured her
quite severely. Two days later, the foot became inflamed and she suffered
bitterly. By the following Friday, although she could barely move her foot,
she refused to forgo on her weekly missvah. She went about her normal
routine, even though each step required tremendous effort and strain. She
bit her lips so as not to shout in pain, but the tears poured from her eyes.
Suddenly, she saw across from her a man dressed in white, his face wearing
a radiant countenance. "What is wrong, my dear woman?" he asked warmly.
"My foot was injured by a rusty nail, and now I can hardly walk," she
"So why are you walking around out here? Why don't you just stay home?"
asked the stranger.
"I have a missvah to do," she explained, "and I cannot neglect my
"If so, then it you must be cured," said the man. Suddenly, she felt the
pain subside, to the point where she felt no pain whatsoever.
"You are the angel Refael," she cried.
"No," corrected the man. "I am Eliyahu Hanavi, and in the merit of your
missvah you will bear a son who will illuminate the eyes of Torah scholars."
The man then disappeared. Indeed, she soon gave birth to the ssadik Rabbi
Nissim Nahum, who became a renowned Torah scholar as well as a generous
supporter of other Torah scholars.
THE POWER OF ACTION
The mystical underpinnings of the mishkan and its accessories lie well
beyond the limits of our comprehension. Hazal hinted to us the profound
concept of the mishkan through their comment that Bezalel, the chief
architect of the mishkan, knew how to combine the letters through which the
universe was initially created. These mystical allusions refer to a level
of understanding which we cannot even approach. For this reason, the Torah
constantly repeats the fact that the mishkan was assembled "as Hashem
commanded Moshe," meaning that the mishkan was constructed according to the
deepest intentions of Moshe, the father of all prophets.
Nevertheless, neither Moshe nor Bezalel receive exclusive credit for the
construction of the mishkan: "Benei Yisrael did in accordance with
everything that Hashem commanded Moshe, so they did." In this pasuk, the
Torah teaches us that once they acted in accordance with Hashem's
instructions, and they meticulously adhered to the details outlined by the
Almighty, then the act itself contains all the profound thoughts and
intentions of Moshe, all that which is laden in Hashem's instructions.
Similarly, a person who lays tefillin and ensures that they are made and
placed in accordance with halachah can affect in the upper spheres all the
deepest intentions of the Ar"i and the Zohar. All these exalted qualities
are contained within this seemingly simple act.
Thus, Moshe remarks after the mishkan is completed, "May it be His will
that the Shechinah will reside in your work." We fulfill the misvah
properly, and Hashem responds by instilling the Shechinah within the act.
THE CARRYING OF OUR HEARTS
Imagine that we live not in a democracy, but in a monarchy. We are subject
to a king who is capable, at whim, to raise an individual to the highest
levels of wealth, honor and prestige and, conversely, can have him hung on
the gallows in an instant. Now think for a moment that this powerful king
decides to have a gold monument erected in his honor, an ornate edifice
decorated with precious jewels and diamonds. Masses of people would make
regular pilgrimages to this monument to pay homage to the king, and thereby
merit the grace and kindness of the monarch.
Would any of us volunteer to do the work? Perhaps we would gladly offer
our services with regard to the administration and general supervision of
the project. But would any of us, given our inexperience, volunteer to pick
up the instruments and actually perform the labor? Knowing full well that
this monument is to glorify the powerful king and reflect his honor and
majesty, we would any of us want to run the risk of producing an imperfect
work, crooked and unbalanced, thereby violating the royal quality which this
monument is to represent?
"Who is the wise person? The one who understands his place." Nobody would
risk their lives by assuming responsibilities beyond his capability.
Yet, those who built the mishkan felt otherwise. The Creator of the
universe commanded the people to build Him a mishkan, an abode for the
Shechinah, as it were. This project entailed complex work with wood and
metal, gold, silver and brass. Each thread used in the work was woven from
twenty-four strings. The people called upon for the work were slaves just
six months earlier. Their lives involved nothing more than bricks, mud and
straw. There were no smiths, carpenters, diamond-cutters, jewelers,
weavers, tanners or any other skilled professionals. So how did the nation
choose qualified people for the work of the mishkan? "Every person whose
heart carried him." The Ramban explains, "There was no one among them who
was trained in this work by a professional or who trained himself. But
there were those who by nature knew what to do and whose heart was inspired
by the ways of Hashem to approach Moshe and say, 'I will do everything my
master tells me!'"
How were these people not afraid that their work would be clumsy and
unprofessional, thereby arousing the divine anger against them? The answer
is clear. Clearly, if we were dealing with a human king, no one would have
the gall to volunteer for this task without proper training. But when
dealing with the monument for the Almighty God, the King of Kings, then the
rules are different - "Rahamana liba ba'i" - Hashem is interested, first and
foremost, with our thoughts and intentions. The moment He saw their sincere
and genuine desire to serve Him, He provided them with the necessary skills
and knowledge, and their work was perfect. After all, He is the source of
everything, and He provides us with the strength and capabilities to do
everything we do - nothing is too difficult for Him!
Indeed, this is what took place - "He instilled within them wisdom to
perform all the labor of carpentry and architecture, and
weaving...performers of all the work and the designers of all the plans...in
whom Hashem gave wisdom and understanding, to know how to perform all the
work of the sacred service, for everything which Hashem commanded." In the
end, as we know, the mishkan emerged perfect and magnificent, a
representation of heretofore unseen glory and majesty.
The Torah is eternal, as are its lessons. This parashah, too, presents us
with an eternal message, relevant to every individual in every generation.
The mishkan symbolizes the internal mishkan, which each one of us is
required to build within him to allow for the residence of the Shechinah
within his very essence. As the Zohar explains, the "kodesh hakodashim"
corresponds to the heart, which, like the aron, is to contain the "luhot,"
the Torah. The menorah symbolizes the light of wisdom, whereas the ketoret
represents the sweetness of character which we are to develop. The Shulhan
in the mishkan signifies proper monetary conduct and the "kiyor" (faucet)
corresponds to the ultimate level of purity towards which we must strive.
Each utensil of the mishkan corresponds to a different value, a different
A person is likely to ask himself, who am I to make these efforts? Why
should I even bother trying to reach these exalted levels of sanctity? How
can I build a mishkan inside myself, and bring in a menorah, an aron with
the luhot, pure thoughts and beliefs? I don't possess the necessary
capabilities or experience. Why should I even bother?
Our parashah teaches us that if only we truly desire it, if only we make
the decision to come before his spiritual mentor and say, "I will do
whatever my master tells me," we will receive divine assistance, the
necessary wisdom, insight and intuition, all the qualities necessary for the
construction of a magnificent, internal mishkan of the purest elements. All
the Almighty demands of us is the first step, the resolve to make the
effort. Once we take that step, Hashem responds with an abundance of help
and support from above.
FROM THE WONDERS OF CREATION
The Poisonous Fly
The Tsetse fly, known in Hebrew as "ssah-ssah," became renown for its
deadly bite. When it thirsts for blood and bites, microscopic parasites
penetrate the victim and enter the bloodstream, causing life-threatening
illnesses. Not too long ago, the world declared war against the dangerous
fly, only to discover that this fly is no easy foe. The flies quickly
developed immunity to the sophisticated poisons which were processed. And
when people attempted to destroy the creatures on which the fly feeds and
destroy the jungles which had become its natural habitat, the flies simply
picked up and moved elsewhere. Further complicating the war efforts was the
fact that, unlike other flies, the mother does not lay eggs. Rather, the
eggs are kept inside her until they are ready to be born.
The question is, why did Hashem create such a deadly and harmful creature,
one which cannot be overcome by human beings? Furthermore, why does this
damage occur specifically on the African continent? Hazal teach us that
nothing was created for naught. Although we cannot always understand or
find the answers to our questions, we know that everything occurs through
Divine Providence. Furthermore, no one suffers for no reason - "Hashem is
righteous in all His ways, and pious in all His acts." It could be that the
African continent still suffers the effects of the curse to Ham. Our
ancestor, Shem, received the blessing of Noah, and thus throughout history
we have been blessed with prophets and scholars. Each Jew comprises another
link in this glorious chain and a weak link threatens the entire chain.
Thus, each Jew must ensure to carry out his responsibilities in maintaining
this historical chain, dating back to our patriarchs.
Father and Son (6)
Flashback: Two righteous and scholarly brothers lived together, supporting
themselves from a store they inherited from their father, until the store
could no longer pay for their growing expenses. The younger brother thus
decided to go with his family and look for a position and the rabbinate, but
he could not find one. He was forced to travel from city to city collecting
money, and his journey took him to an inn, where his family was greeted so
generously that they began growing suspicious.
Gradually, more people entered the room and stood around them silently.
Their elderly host continued serving them graciously, and only when the
family finished eating and recited "birkat hamazon" did he speak to the
other guests. "Your meal will be served shortly." He then turned to the
family and said, "Please, come with me." He brought them to a large,
comfortable room with made beds, chairs and cushions. "Rest here for a
while," he said pleasantly, "while I have them heat water for the bath."
The family continued to wonder why the host was being so hospitable. The
brother approached the man and said, "Before you do anything else for us, I
should tell you that we have no money whatsoever to pay you for your
kindness." The man's face lit up, and he smiled. He then took a large
wallet out from his pocket and said, "Do not worry, we can take care of
that. Here - this is yours. There is more than enough to cover all the
The brother turned pale, having no idea what was happening. The host
quickly returned and announced, "Come, the bath is ready for you." He
appeared with fresh clothes for his guests. "After you are washed," he
continued, "you can join us for minhah and ma'ariv."
The family did not understanding anything about what they were
experiencing, but they were simply too worn out to ask any questions. They
took turns bathing in the hot bathtub, enjoying this sensation which they
had not had for such a long time. They joined the man for the tefilot, and
then another meal was served for them and the other guests. Everyone sat
around eating to their hearts' content, enjoying the wide array of
delicacies and fancy wines. All the meanwhile, the gracious host stood over
them and served more and more. Finally, the brother leaned over to the
guest sitting next to him and asked, "Tell me please, who is this man?"
The man could hardly swallow his food. He whispered, "You don't know about
"The ssadik?! Who is he?"
"Nobody knows his name. They simply call him, 'the ssadik.' Look how his
face shines and radiates! He established this inn with his own money, and
serves people for free. He refuses to take even a penny, insisting that no
payment amounts to the reward of a missvah."
"But how does he earn a living? It must cost a fortune to maintain such an
"Nobody knows, so why waste your intellectual energy with these questions?"
responded the poor guest. "Eat, drink and rest, and in the morning you can
continue along your way."
to be continued...
FROM THE WELLSPRINGS OF THE PARASHAH
"Moshe assembled the entire congregation of Benei Yisrael"
The Hid"a zs"l explains this pasuk based on the notion that the 613 missvot
correspond to the various parts of the human being. The 245 positive
commandments correspond to the 245 limbs, whereas the 365 negative
commandments are parallel to the 365 sinews. Many have asked, how can all
of the person's limbs shine with the light of the missvot? Nobody can
fulfill all the missvot - some missvot apply specifically to kohanim,
whereas others apply to everybody but kohanim. And some people do not know
how to fulfill the missvah of slaughtering, and many never have the
opportunity to fulfill missvot such as "shilu'ah hakein." The answer is
that when Benei Yisrael live together in harmony, they blend together into a
single, organic unit. Thus, the missvot of one are considered as those of
the other. Thus, "Moshe assembled the entire congregation of Benei
Yisrael." He gathered them together with unity, thus informing them,
"...these are the things which Hashem commanded to do them." Meaning, now
that everyone is together in harmony, it is considered as if you all
fulfilled all the commandments.
"Moshe assembled the entire congregation of Benei Yisrael"
Hazal derive from this pasuk that Moshe instituted that one should study on
Shabbat and Yom Tov the laws relevant to that specific day: "Moshe assembled
the entire congregation of Benei Yisrael...and on the seventh day you shall
rest." Based on this extrapolation, Rabbi Hayyim Vital zs"l explains the
continuation of the pasuk - "These are the things which Hashem commanded to
do them." As if to say, just as I gather you now to teach you the laws of
Shabbat, so did Hashem instruct you to do for all time - on Shabbat and
Yamim Tovim you should gather in the Bet Kenesset for Torah classes,
studying the appropriate halachot of Shabbat and the hagim.
"Moshe assembled the entire congregation of Benei Yisrael"
Moshe says in Sefer Devarim, "Hashem gave me the stone tablets, written by
the finger of Hashem, and on them were written all the things..." Hazal
comment that this refers not only to the written Torah, but also to the Oral
Law - the Mishnah, Gemara, Halachah and Aggadah. Even the ideas which
schoolchildren will present to their teachers were revealed to Moshe at
Sinai. The "Benei Shelomoh" from Morocco writes that this is what is meant,
"Moshe assembled the entire congregation of Benei Yisrael." "Adat" -
congregation - has the same letters as "da'at," knowledge. In other words,
Moshe assembled within the Torah all the knowledge of Benei Yisrael for all
time - including the ideas raised by young students. It was all included in
the Torah received by Moshe at Har Sinai.