Danger of nails during pregnancy

* This article is an excerpt from the above Sefer


Nails contain a certain impurity which can be lethal for the fetus of a pregnant woman, and cause a miscarriage heaven forfend, if she steps on it.[2] For this reason, it is necessary to discard one’s nails properly to assure that a pregnant woman will not come to step on them.[3] [This applies towards nails of both males and females, and especially is relevant to the nails of a woman who is ritually impure.[4] Due to this reason pregnant women are to be aware not to walk in areas that contain nails.[5]] There are three different ways of discarding the nails, relative to three types of characteristics:[6]

  • Chassid: A Chassid burns his nails.[7] [The Rebbe Rashab would mix some wood together with the nails before burning it.[8]] [See Q&A]
  • Righteous person: A righteous person buries his nails.[9]
  • Rasha: A Rasha discards his nails on the floor.[10]

Throwing one’s nails in a Beis Hamidrash and bathhouse:[11] It is permitted for one to throw his nails in a Beis Midrash and places of the like [such as a bathhouse-Men’s Mikveh[12]] in which women are not accustomed to entering.

Nails which have been swept to a different area:[13] The nails are only considered a danger while in the original area that they were thrown in after they were cut. If however they are swept to another area then they are no longer a danger.[14] [Some Poskim[15] rule that only if the nails have been swept to another room, or to the outside, is it considered to have switched areas, and no longer contain danger for a pregnant woman. If however they were moved into another area within the same room then it is questionable whether this suffices to remove the danger.[16] Other Poskim[17], however, rule that so long as the nail has been moved from the exact area in which it fell, it is no longer considered dangerous, even if it remains in the same room. Some Poskim[18] also limit the above allowance of moving the nails only to a case in which one had no prior intent to move it at the time that it was cut. If, however, during the cutting itself one intended to eventually move it to a different area then the nail has ability to damage in the second area as well.]


Q&A on discarding nails

What is one to do if a nail dropped and became lost?[19]

He is to sweep the dirt of that area into another room.[20]

May one throw the nails into the sink or toilet rather than burn or bury them?[21]

Yes. Throwing the nails into the sink or toilet is similar to burying them. Nevertheless, one who wishes to follow the practice of a Chassid is to specifically burn them rather then throw them in the toilet.

Do the nails of a gentile have the power to injure?

This matter requires further analysis.[22]


May one discard his nails in an area of gentiles where Jews are not commonly found?

Some Poskim[23] write it is permitted to do so.[24]

Cutting another item with the nail cutter nullifies the danger:

Some Poskim[25] write that if one cuts another item with the nail cutter after the nails were cut, the danger is no longer applicable.


[1] Admur 260:4; M”A 260 Hakdama; Nida 17a; Moed Katan 18a; Kneses Hagedola 241; Ateres Zikeinim 241; Perisha O.C. 241:4; M”B 260:1, 6; Kaf Hachaim Y.D. 116:92; Daas Moshe 29; Darkei Chaim Veshalom 353; Betzel Hachochmah 3:54; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 68:14 footnote 15 in length; Shevach Habris 1:12; Nitei Gavriel 56:7

[2] Based on Kabala the nails contain danger towards all people, and are not just limited to pregnant women. [Likkutei Maharich based on Zohar Acharei 39; See also Poskim in next footnote regarding a woman who is ritually impure.] It is clear however from Admur and the Poskim/Talmud [which allow discarding it in a Beis Midrash] that it is only a danger for pregnant women.

The reason: The reason that nails have such potency and danger for the fetus of a pregnant woman is because the nails of Adam were damaged as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve. Prior to the sin, Adam and Eve were garbed by nails and when they sinned they lost this nail protection, and the nails remained only on the tips of the fingers. Now, since it is Eve who caused Adam to sin, and hence cause his nail garment to be damaged, therefore there forever remains a danger for women to step on nails. [Tolas Yaakov Sod Hashabbos 3; Beir Heiytiv 260:2; Elya Raba 260:7]

[3] Liability for one who caused a woman to miscarry due to throwing his nails in a walking area: It requires further analysis as to the level of liability one carries if he caused a woman to miscarry due to him not being careful to put his nails away properly. [See Mishneh Halachos 5:265; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 68:19 footnote 21]

[4] This refers to any woman who is a Nida, until she purifies herself in a Mikveh. [Bach and Beis Yosef Y.D. 198 in name of Rokeiach; Yesod Veshoresh Havoda Shaar Hakolel 6 based on Zohar Pinchas 248; Kitzur SHU”A 161:8 “If her husband or other person steps on it is dangerous for them”; See Betzeil Hachochmah 2:35; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 68:20] The nails of a Niddah are even more severe than the nails of a regular person, as the danger of stepping on the nails of a Niddah is for all people and not just for a pregnant woman. Likewise, by the nails of a Niddah it does not help to sweep the nails to a different area to cease the danger. [Betzeil Hachochmah 2:35]

[5] For the need of a Mitzvah: Vetzaruch Iyun if doing so is necessary when she is walking for the need of a Mitzvah. [Toras Hayoledes 60 footnote 9; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 68:18]

[6] Admur ibid; Nida ibid; Poskim ibid

[7] The reason: In order so they are destroyed from the face of the earth and there is no longer any possibility for them to become uncovered and cause potential damage to a fetus. One who does so is called a Chassid being that burning part of one’s body, even one’s nails, is damaging for oneself, hence he is called a Chassid as he overrides his own health in order to fully protect his friend. [Machatzis Hashekel 260:1]

[8] Hayom Yom 16 Iyar; See Darkei Chaim Veshalom 353; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 68:16 footnote 19

[9] This is however of less righteousness then is a Chassid, as it is possible for the nails to resurface.

[10] He is considered a Rasha as he is causing a potential hazard if a pregnant woman were to walk on it.

[11] Admur ibid; Machatzis Hashekel 269; M”B 260:6; Rebbe Yochanan in Moed Katan ibid

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule one is to refrain from throwing nails even in a Beis Midrash, as it is implied from the Zohar that the nails have the power to injure all people and not just pregnant women. [Likkutei Maharich based on Zohar Acharei 39] Likewise nails are considered repulsive. [Nimukei Yosef and Ran on Moed Katan 17a]

[12] M”B 260:6

[13] Admur ibid; Perisha O.C. 241:4; Birkeiy Yosef 260:6; Machatzis Hashekel 269; M”B 260:6; Moed Katan ibid; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 68:15

[14] The Aruch Hashulchan 260:6 notes that if one cut another item with the nail cutter after the nails were cut, the danger is no longer applicable.

[15] Elya Raba 260:4, brought in Peri Megadim 260 A”A Hakdama and M”B 260:6; See Machatzis Hashekel on M”A ibid “If the nails were swept outside”

[16] See Poskim ibid

[17] Perisha 241, brought in M”B 260:6; Birkeiy Yosef 260:6; Makor Chaim 260; Aruch Hashulchan 260:6

[18] Peri Chadash Y.D. 116, brought in Machatzis Hashekel ibid

[19] Machatzis Hashekel on M”A ibid; M”B 260:6

[20] As once it has switched rooms, the nail is no longer of danger.

[21] Beir Moshe 6:133-12

[22] On the one hand gentiles do not have impurity of the hands in the morning [Admur Basra 4:2; Peri Megadim 4 M”Z 7; Amudei Hashulchan 4:7; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 54:16] and likewise do not spread Tumas Meis within an Ohel, and do not contract impurity when they touch a corpse. [Rambam Tumas Meis 1:13] Some deduce based on this that their nails are also like the nails of an animal, and hence do not give off impurity. [See Piskeiy Teshuvos 260 footnote 94] On the other hand there are Poskim who rule that gentiles do impurify food which was under the bed they slept in, just like a Jew. [See Darkei Teshuvah 116:39 in name of Chakel Yitzchak 41]

[23] Makor Chaim 260

[24] The reason: Perhaps the reason for this is because the nails do not cause damage to pregnant gentile women. Vetzaruch Iyun.

[25] Aruch Hashulchan 260:6; See Nida 17a; Tosefes Shabbos 260:2, Machazikei Bracha 260:5, Darkei Chaim Veshalom 353; Kaf Hachaim 260:18 that some are accustomed to cut another item after cutting the nails, however no mention is made that this nullifies the danger; See Betzel Hachochmah 3:54; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 68:17 footnote 19 in length

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