May one learn Torah or recite blessings in face of the morning washing water?

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May one learn Torah or recite blessings in face of the morning washing water?

According to the Zohar, it is forbidden to learn Torah prior to washing hands in the morning upon awakening due to the impure spirit that resides on the hand.[1] Now, although the water used to wash hands upon awakening removes this impurity from the hands, it itself receives this impurity and becomes impure.[2] Accordingly, many Poskim[3] rule it is forbidden to learn Torah or say blessings in presence of this water. However, some Poskim[4] rule it is permitted to learn and pray in its presence. Practically, one who is lenient has upon whom to rely[5], although many are accustomed to be stringent.[6] If one covers the water he may learn and pray in its presence even according to the stringent opinion.[7] Likewise, if one spills a Revius of clean water into the impure water, one may learn Torah in its presence.[8] [Thus one can simply leave a Revius of water in the washing cup while washing and then spill it into the water. In the event that one is unable to remove the water, or cover it, or pour water into it, or go to a different room, then heaven forbid for him to refrain from learning Torah due to this.[9]]


[1] Admur Basra 1:7; Siddur Hilchos Netilas Shacharis [However, see Kama 1:7 which does not mention the learning prohibition as one of the differences between the Talmud and Zohar; See also Kama 4:3]; Mahram di Lunzano in Derech Chaim; Or Hachama [Avraham Azulai]; Birkeiy Yosef 4:8; Zechor Liavraham 4:50; Yifei Laleiv 47:9; Nemukei Orach Chaim 4:1; Kaf Hachaim 4:107; M”B 4:61; Rama 47:13 in his Lechatchila opinion; Sefer Haminhagim p. 4 [English]

Other opinions: According to the Talmud and Codifiers if one slept in his clothing, he may speak words of Torah prior to washing. [Basra 1:7 and Siddur Hilchos Netilas Shacharis; See Kama 4:3; Michaber 4:23; The Graz of Vilna [brother of Rav Chaim Volozhin] followed this opinion and would hence sleep with gloves in order to be able to learn Torah as soon as he awakens, before washing hands, and so writes Yosef Ometz 198]

[2] See Admur Kama 4:9 [based on Zohar brought in Kaf Hachaim 31-32] “The water that was used for the morning washing is forbidden to be used for any purpose, as this water is forbidden in benefit due to the impurity that resides on it. Therefore one may not leave the water lying in his house and he may not spill the water on the ground, or any other place where people pass by, as perhaps a person will touch the water and get injured.”; See Kaf Hachaim 4:29 in name of Zohar that is therefore forbidden to give this water to anyone who asks for it as certainly they intend on using it for sorcery.

[3] Birkeiy Yosef 4:4, brought in Shaareiy Teshuvah 4:8; Moreh Baetzba 2:57; Kesher Gudal 1:5; Shalmei Tzibur 4:74; Zechor Leavraham 4:50; Mishmeres Shalom 1:6; Ben Ish Chaiy Toldos 9; Ketzos Hashulchan 2:5 [in name of Kesher Gadol]; Kaf Hachaim 4:33; Halichos Shlomo 20:7

Opinion of Chida: The Chida writes in Birkeiy Yosef ibid “it is the custom of G-d fearing Jews to avoid doing so and so was the custom of the great leader Rav Chaim Abulafia”. He does not mention there that it is forbidden to do so. However, the Kaf Hachaim and Ketzos Hashulchan ibid record from the Chida in Kesher Gudal that it is forbidden. However, see next footnote that some Poskim received a tradition that the Chida retracted his ruling and later ruled that it is completely permitted.

[4] Siach Yitzchak 2 in name of Chasam Sofer; Piskeiy Teshuvah 2; Beir Moshe 8:39; Toras Yekusiel 2 in name of Divrei Chaim that the Chida and Shaareiy Teshuvah retracted their ruling and hence the entire source of the prohibition has fallen, and so concludes the Toras Yekusiel that he received that in Tzanz they were not careful in this at all.

[5] Beir Moshe 8:39

[6] See Toras Yekusiel 2

[7] Moreh Baetzba ibid

Placing the Basin under the bed: Regarding placing the basin of water under the bed, then if the bed frame reaches within three Tefach (24 cm) from the ground, seemingly it is considered that the water is covered, and it would be permitted for one to learn Torah according to all. [see Admur 87:4]

[8] Ruach Chaim 77 brought in Kaf Hachaim 4:33; Toras Yekusiel 2; Beir Moshe 8:39 mentions nullifying in majority

If two people washed: If two people washed hands, then one requires two Revius of water to nullify it. [Kaf Hachaim ibid]

Other Opinions: Toras Yekusiel ibid brings Rabbanim who rule that even adding water does not help.

[9] See Admur 1:7 that even in a case that one did not wash hands due to there being no water available, he is to learn Torah as rules the Talmud and Poskim. Hence certainly in this case in which there is a dispute in the root of this stringency.

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