- Question: [Monday, 11th Kisleiv, 5783]
I was listening to a very popular radio show which features a very well-known and respected Rav and leading Posek who answers questions from listeners on the radio. One of the listeners asked him if there’s any source for the custom of some Jews to prepare Neigal Vaaser near their bed in order so they don’t have to walk 4 Amos, and he replied to my astonishment that there is no source for this custom and that everyone agrees that within the same house you can walk as much as you want after awakening, and the issue is only when you are outside. When the asker pressed the rabbi as to what is the source behind all those who are careful, he said that they are simply ignorant of the law as the warning was only said when you are outside and not inside the house.
With no disrespect to the honored Rabbi on the radio, this is blatantly incorrect. Many of the greatest Poskim of Ashkenaz [i.e. Mishneh Berurah], Sephard [i.e. Chida, Ben Ish Chaiy, Kaf Hachaim], and Chassidim [Shulchan Aruch Harav], explicitly obligate or initially prohibit walking four Amos prior to washing in the morning, and apply this even within the home and room, and not just to an outside field, and hence consequently one needs to prepare Neigal Vaaser near his bed so he does not need to walk four Amos to wash. [It is for this reason that many Gedolei Yisrael were opposed to Rabbanim answering Shaalos on the radio, irrelevant of their greatness, as it puts them on the spot, and they may out of pressure and instinct to not be embarrassed, and in order put up a good front of their knowledge, give an inaccurate response to the Shaalah. Certainly, they have no time to research the question and verify the accuracy of their answer while put on the spot on the radio, and they must rely on their memory and lack of research, and this creates a great Michshol for the public, and hence my advice echoes the advice of many Gedolei Haposkim prior to me, not to take answers of shaalos on the radio with such trust, and not to follow them Halacha Lemaaseh, unless you research it yourself or ask another Rav privately. Of course, a Rav who gives a Shiur that he prepared over the radio is different, and the above simply refers to Rabbanim who answer shaalos on the spot.]
According to the Talmud and Codifiers it is permitted for one to walk prior to washing hands in the morning upon awaking. The only restriction according to the Talmud is not to touch food and drink [or orifices of the body]. However, the Zohar states one may not walk [even] four cubits while the impure spirit resides on ones hands prior to the morning washing, and one who does so is liable to death , as through residing this impurity on his hands he has desecrated G-d’s holiness which resides on him. As a servant of G-d, which is sanctified with the sanctity of Hashem and His holy Torah, requires greater holiness and purity than the regular layman which is not holding on this level. Practically, the Poskim conclude that one is to be stringent like the Zohar and avoid walking four Amos prior to washing. Now, while there are some Poskim who are lenient and rule that the entire home is considered like four Amos, in truth we do not rule this way as is evident of the tens of Poskim, including the Shulchan Aruch Harav and Ben Ish Chaiy who completely omit such an allowance in their statement of being stringent not to walk four Amos. I am sure that all the Poskim who conclude to be stringent were aware that most people live and sleep inside a room, and they nevertheless chose not to tell us that within the room there is a Heter to walk four Amos, hence explicitly proving that they disavow this Heter and do not hold of it, and so explicitly rules the Shaareiy Teshuvah and Mishneh Berurah who record the Heter and negate it, saying that one is to be stringent against walking four Amos even in his room, and it is only in a time of need that one can be lenient [i.e. such as he forgot to set up water near his bed]. Now, although we can certainly at least Bedeived find a Limud Zechus for those who are lenient in this, based on those opinions who hold that the room is considered like four Amos and that today there is no longer this level of evil spirit, nonetheless, practically one must follow the main opinion and majority of Poskim of all sects which is not to be lenient, and hence to say that there is no such opinion which holds that you need to wash near your bed is preposterous and is a great ignorance of this Sugya, unless they claim to understand the Zohar better than every one of the previous Poskim, inclucing the Chida, and Ben Ish Chaiy, and Mishneh Berurah, and Shulchan Aruch Harav, which is no less preposterous!
Sources: See regarding radio Rabbis: https://www.tv2000.co.il/article/23132 ; See regarding not walking four Amos before washing: Admur Basra 1:7; Kama 1:7; Siddur; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 54:1-10; See regarding the Talmudic law: Kama 1:7: “According to Talmudic Law one is not required to wash as soon as he awakens and rather he is allowed to walk around in the interim until he washes.” In the Basra ibid and Siddur, Admur does not explicitly mention that walking is permitted according to the Talmud. Nevertheless, it is evident from their ruling that it is only required according to the Zohar as opposed to the Talmud. See regarding ruling of Zohar: Kama 1:7: Basra 1:7; Tolaas Yaakov in name of the Zohar “By doing so one brings a foreign G-d on his hands as the verse states “For that which he brought a god on his hands”;Beir Heiytiv 1:2; Kaf Hachaim 4:1; See regarding final ruling-Stringent like Zohar: Kama 1:7 concludes that every G-d fearing Jew should be stringent like the Zohar. Sefer Haminhagim p. 4 [English]; [In Basra and Siddur Admur does not give an explicit ruling in the dispute between the Zohar and Talmud, although it is clearly implied that they rule like the Zohar perhaps to an even greater degree than the Kama]; Peri Eitz Chaim; Olas Tamid 17a; brought also in Bach; Shiyurei Kneses Hagedola 4; Halacha Berurah 1; Birkeiy Yosef 1:1; Shalmei Tzibur 18a; Beis Oveid; Matzas Shmurim 3a; Ben Ish Chaiy Toldos 6; Beir Heiytiv 1:2; Shaareiy Teshuvah 1:2; Kaf Hachaim 4:1; M”B 1:2; Poskim who are lenient: Elya Raba 1:4 brings in the name of Damesek Eliezer that the warning of the Tolaas Yaakov in name of Zohar against walking prior to washing only applied back then and today it is seemingly no longer accustomed. The Birkeiy Yosef ibid negates their words, brought in Kaf Hachaim 4:1; Some quote a tradition from the Gr”a that the spirit of impurity has been weakened in the latter generations and hence there is no need to be careful to avoid walking 4 Amos. [See Isheiy Yisrael 2 footnote 17 in name of Rav SZ”A] They account this diminishing of impurity based on a certain martyr [Avraham the Ger or Count Potatzky] that was publicly burnt at the stake. Nevertheless even amongst the Rabbinical descendents of the Gr”a there are those that dismiss this tradition and write one must be stringent in the matter. This story also clearly contradicts the story with the Gra that is recorded in Maaseh Rav 25 and hence cannot be relied upon even amongst his followers. See regarding if one may consider the entire house as four Amos: Stringent opinion: Setimas Kol Haposkim who record the stringent ruling of Zohar, including Admur; Shaareiy Teshuvah 1:2; M”B 1:2; Lenient opinion: Shvus Yaakov 1:8 rules in name of Rashba that the custom is not to be careful in not walking four Amos being people consider the entire house as four Amos, brought in Shaareiy Teshuvah 1:2; See regarding a single room being considered four Amos: Shach 344:11 in name of Mordechai end of Moed Katan; Beir Hagoleh in name of Mordechai; Beir Heiytiv 344:8; Elya Raba 1:4; M”B 45:2 in name of Ateres Zekeinim; This opinion is omitted from Admur ibid; See that according to all opinions, the lenient opinion only applies to one’s actual room and not house: Peri Megadim 4 A.A. 1; Ashel Avraham 4; Beis Baruch 2:2; See however Daas Torah 1]; See regarding preparing a basin of water next to ones bed: Seder Hayom:“Every G-d fearing Jew needs to prepare for himself prior to going to sleep two vessels, one that contains water and one that is empty, into which he will pour the water upon awakening.”; Elya Raba 1:4; Ketzos Hashulchan 2:1; Chelkas Yaakov 3:152