Tzoa-Davening and learning near feces and urine:
Summary of laws-Part 1
1. The Biblical prohibition:
- It is Biblically forbidden for one to pray, say the Shema, or learn Torah, within the sight, or close proximity, of feces [i.e. Tzoa].
- The source in scripture: This prohibition is derived from the verse in Scripture “Vehayah Machanecha Kadosh Velo Yiraeh Ervas Davar.”
- Torah Thoughts: One may not even think words of Torah within the sight, or close proximity, of feces [i.e. Tzoa].
- All the above applies to both men and women.
A. Sight of feces:
- It is forbidden to daven or learn Torah if the feces is within ones sight, even if it is very far away, past one’s four Amos. Thus one must walk away from it until it is no longer in his sight or turn around.
- Blind: Even if one is blind, he must distance himself from the feces the same distance as one who is able to see. Thus one must walk away from it until person who could see would no longer be able to see it, or is to turn around.
- Night: At night one must distance himself from the feces the same distance required during the day. Thus one must walk away from it until he would no longer be able to see it even during the day, or is to turn around.
- Feces behind one’s body: Behind one’s body is not considered within one’s sight.
- Feces by one’s sides: One’s sides are judged based on their angle. Any area within one’s sight is considered to be in front of him, even if the feces is not directly in front of him but more to the side. Thus, one’s front side is considered within his sight. If the feces is directly by one’s side, it is initially to be distanced to the point one does not see it, although in a time of need he can consider it out of his sight.
B. Not to be within 4 Amos of the feces:
- It is forbidden to pray or learn Torah within a four-cubit radius of feces [i.e. approximately 2 meters].
- Feces behind person: This prohibition applies even if the feces is not within one’s view, such as if it is behind the person.
- No smell: This prohibition applies even if the feces contains no smell.
- Inside house: If one is distanced 4 amos from the feces and it is behind one’s view, he may learn Torah and Daven even if he is within the same room as the feces.
- If the feces gives off a foul odor, one may not pray or learn Torah within 4 amos of the smell. Meaning even if one is more than four Amos of the Tzoa, if he is within four Amos of the smell, it is forbidden to Daven or learn.
- Within the sight of the smell: One may Daven or learn within sight of the area which contains the smell, so long as the feces is not within sight.
- One who cannot smell: One may not Daven or learn within 4 amos of the smell of Tzoa even if he is unable to smell, such as he has a cold or a stuffed nose.
2. Dry Tzoa:
- Even if the feces is as dry as earthenware, it is still defined as feces regarding the prohibition of studying Torah or praying in its view or proximity.
- Dry to point that will break: If, however, the feces is so dry that if one were to roll it on the ground then it would break to many small pieces, then it loses its Tzoa status. If, however, it will only break into two pieces, then it retains its status of feces.
3. Tzoa is covered:
- If the feces is covered, then it is permitted to Daven or learn even within its four Amos and within its sight. This allowance is learned from the verse which states “and you shall cover it”.
- Glass: This applies even if it is covered with glass.
- If Tzoa smells: If the Tzoa is covered but releases a foul odor, one must distance himself until he no longer smells the odor. [However, it is not required for him to distance himself 4 amos from where the smell ends.]
4. Tzoa on a high or low surface:
- If there is Tzoa in an area, or on an item, that is 10 tefach tall, or ten Tefach deep, and the surface is 4×4 Tefach, then there is no need to distance oneself 4 amos from the feces and it may likewise be within one’s sight. However, there are opinions which forbid having the feces within one’s sight even if they are in a different domain. [However even according to this opinion there is no need to distance oneself 4 amos from the feces.] Practically the main opinion is like the former opinion, however it is best to be stringent like the second opinion.
- Cannot see the feces: If the feces is in a different domain, then if he cannot see it such as if it is nighttime or one closes his eyes, then according to all it is permitted to learn Torah and Daven even if the feces is front of him.
- Smell: The above is only allowed if one cannot smell the feces. If one can smell the feces, then according to all opinions it is forbidden to learn or Daven even if the feces are in another room.
- Urine: If urine is on a surface that is 10 tefach high or steep, then even if the surface is not 4×4 Tefachim it is considered to be in a different domain.
- Having Sefarim or Tefillin near Tzoa: One may not place revealed Tefillin or Sefarim within the same room as revealed Tzoa, unless the Sefarim are 10 Tefachim high [even if not 4×4] from ground or is covered.
5. Tzoa in next room-May one pray or learn in a room if he can see feces from his open door/window?
- If a person is in one room and the feces are in another room, then even if the door is opened between the two rooms and he is sitting by the opening which is near the feces, nevertheless it is permitted to read the Shema in that area so long as he does not smell the feces. If one can smell the feces, then according to all opinions it is forbidden to learn or Daven even if the feces are in another room. However, there is an opinion that rules it is forbidden to read the Shema while the feces is within one’s view, even when it is in a different domain. Practically, the main ruling follows the former opinion. [Thus, the feces may be within 4 amos of the person outside the room and the door may be open with the visible feces.] Nevertheless, it is proper to suspect for the latter opinion [and not have the feces within one’s sight].
- According to all it suffices to close one’s eyes when inside the house even if one is facing it, and at night, if one cannot see the bathroom due to lack of light, it is permitted to pray or learn in ones house even if one is facing it through an open window or door.
 See Shulchan Aruch Chapters 76-87 [Admur, Michaber, Kaf Hachaim, and Piskeiy Teshuvos]; Ketzos Hashulchan Chapter 10:1-16; Ishei Yisrael Chapters 51-54; Tefila Kehilchasa Chapter 2:17-22
 See Admur 74:1; 79:1-2; 87:4; Ketzos Hashulchan 10:1
 See Admur 79:1; 81:3; Ketzos Hashulchan 10:2
 See Admur 76:1; Ketzos Hashulchan 10:3
 See Admur 79:4-5; Ketzos Hashulchan 10:4
 Ketzos ibid footnote 8
 Admur 79:5; Michaber 79:2