Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Back from Eretz Yisrael

I've just returned from a trip to Israel for a grandchild's bris.  Baruch she'hechiyanu.  The trip was, of course, wonderful.  All the inconveniences of travel in the winter in economy come to nothing in comparison to the great joy of attending the bris.

One of the issues of air travel is how one can wash his hands for eating bread.  For one thing, you need a keli for netillas yadayim of bread: there are those that say that a disposable kli is no good (see Sharei HaBracha 2:3, but see Teshuvos Igros Moshe OC III 39 who is mattir, and Halacha Berura 159-3).  But the main problem is that the bathroom on a plane might have the halacha of a beis hakisei, which means you can't wash there.  On the contrary, walking in there mandates washing one's hands after walking out.  So how do you wash on a plane?  Some say to dry your hands outside the bathroom, since the drying is the more important part of the process.  This does not appeal to me at all.  Even if the drying is important, that doesn't make it like a netilla.  Some say it's not a problem at all.  Others say you should wash in the galley.  There is no generally accepted halacha on this matter.  For example, here's what the OU says:

What does one do on an airplane? If possible, netilas yadayim should be performed in the galley. If, this is not feasible, contemporary poskim (note 12) have ruled that netilas yadayim may be performed in a bathroom, when no other options are available. Drying of the hands and recitation of the brochah should be done outside the bathroom.

Note 12:
Minchas Yitzchok, wI. 1, #60, IInd wi. 4, #/36, and Yabiya Omer, vol. 3, #1.

On the other hand, here is what the Koph K says:

Many poskim say that the bathroom on an airplane does not have the same status as a regular bathroom in a house or office. Therefore, one may wash his hands for a meal there. (note 17)  Similarly, one who went into the bathroom to get something (and did not use the facilities) would not be required to wash his hands upon exiting the bathroom. (note 18)

Note 17:
Maharam Brisk 1:117, Eretz Tzvi 1:110-111, Masef Lechul Hamachanus 4:96, Chelkes Yaakov 1:205, see 2:174, Minchas Yitzchok 1:60, 4:36, Darchei Chaim V’sholom 91;page 35, Be’er Mordechai 1:1, Be’er Moshe kuntres electric 7:114:8, Rivevos Ephraim 2:6, Halichos Shlomo Tefilla 20:24, Ohr L’tzyion 2:1:10, Sheiros Yosef 1:4:20, Minchas Gidiyon 2:9:page 175:footnote 22, V’ihiy B’nsoa 1:10:page 6:footnote 17, V’yan Yosef 1:2, Sharei Ha’beracha 1:foootntoe 112. The V’lechticha B’derech 8:2:footnote 68 says one should cover the seat beforehand. Some say the bathroom on an airplane has the same dinim as the bathroom in one’s house
Note 18:
Ohr L’tzyion 2:1:10, see Nekius V’kovod B’tefilla page 14:14

So the poskim at the OU advise to view the airplane facilities as more chamur than a bathroom in a house, and the Koph K advise the opposite.  I tend toward the OU's opinion.  To avoid the entire issue, here's what I suggest.

Eat less than a kezayis within kdei achilas pras, and you won't have to wash at all.

In other words: The din of washing for bread is associated with a concern of imparting tuma to the bread.  Bread smaller than a certain volume is not susceptible to Tumah.  Therefore, there is no requirement to wash before eating such bread.  Practically speaking, the amount is a kezayis, and only if eaten within kedei achilas pras.  The Mishna Berura says (158 SK 10) that lechatchila, one should wash without a bracha.  The Aruch Hashulchan says (158:3) that even lechatchila you can eat without washing.  It's funny, though, that the Aruch Hashulchan paskens that way partly because it seems to him that the oilem does that way.  What a different oilem he had: in our day, not one in fifty knows about the difference between a kezayis and less than a kezayis for Netilas Yadayim.

So: practically, this is how it goes.  Set aside less than a kezayis.  The definition of kezayis should be easy to remember from the seder.  Eat it, and wait a ke'dei achilas pras.  How long is ke'dei achilas pras?  Reb Moshe holds that nine minutes should be used for Yom Kippur because of the terrible chumra of Yom Kippur, but he holds that the shiur is most likely three minutes.  So it's up to you.  I would say three minutes is fine for the derabanan of netillas Yadayim.  My father in law says you should wait the entire nine.  On the other hand, you have Rabbi Heineman's shittah, that a kezayis is the size of a golf ball, and achilas pras is two minutes.

One might argue that eating other foods along with the bread extends the time of kedei achilas pras, or is added to the bread to be called a kezayis.  But Reb Moshe holds, as is assumed in my suggestion, that kedei achilas pras is for the bread alone, irrespective of what is eaten along with it.

I know that not every halacha should be publicized.  For example, if your shul gets to mussaf at a time that you can already daven mincha, the halacha is that you should daven mincha first and then mussaf, but Rabanim do not tell people to do that, because it will confuse and perplex them, since they're not familiar with the dinim of tadir and so forth.  Here too, maybe it's not good to tell people that you don't have to wash for less than a kezayis, because it will diminish the importance of netillas yadayim.  Baruch hashem the people I have to worry about stopped reading this a long time ago.

On the subject of eating, I would like to share a story from my time in Israel, in the style of Damon Runyon.

At two thirty in the morning, I find myself awake due to my wife looking for her antacids.  Although she is trying to be quiet, I am not sleeping soundly anyway.  We do not find the antacids, and as I know how unpleasant an acid stomach is, I gallantly insist, over her strenuous protest, that I go out to a 24 hour store not far from the hotel and get some Rolaids or whatever they have there.  So, at three in the morning I am standing in the SOS 24 on George Washington off Keren Hayesod.  I look and look, but no luck.  Actually, there was some luck, but it is only the kind you wish upon your parole officer.  The clerk speaks almost no English.  You have to visualize this: it is chilly, and he is behind the counter, half asleep, possibly stoned, with a Russian winter aviator's hat with flaps hanging down over his ears.  I try to explain what I want with what I am thinking is my perfectly adequate Hebrew.  But how do you say antacid pills in Hebrew?  So I start to slowly and clearly explain to this befuddled clerk that I am in need of something נגד חמצן .  I choose this word because I recall that acid, in Hebrew, is חמצן.  He is looking at me oddly, and I see that I have to make myself clearer, so I say I need pills.   I need פילים נגד חמצן.  It is clear that I am not getting through, so I try again- I need- not פילים... I need טילים! I need  טילים נגד חמצן!  This does not clear things up at all.  So I give up and go to another 24 hour store, and I strike out again, so I just buy apple sauce and cottage cheese, which helps a little.  I later realize that I am expending a great deal of energy trying to explain to the poor clerk that I want anti-oxygen elephants.  Or, if not elephants, then missiles.  Anti-oxygen missiles.  Or, you might say, anti-aircraft missiles.  For my wife's stomach.

For future reference, pills are כדורים  and acid is חומצה.  Is it my fault that oxygen and acid are so close?

Anyway, here's a picture of two of the characters from this week's post:

Separately, here are the older divrei torah on parshas Shemos.  Some are very good.


  1. great to have you back
    valuable information

    just have to remember that the kzayit that we all use for leil haseder is way bigger than a halachik kzayit
    it could take you 2 hours to eat a slice of bread at 9 minutes per kzayit

  2. Hi, Nachum. I'm hitting myself for not thinking of inviting my Israeli chaveirim to the Bris. It was on Asara Be'Teiveis, though, so it was probably a kindness to have forgotten. Who wants to shlep to Ezras Torah on a taanis and not even enjoy a seuda? As it happened, far more than I expected.

    The reason I mentioned the Seder is that we are machmir for the De'oraysa: It seems to me that to worry about the derabanan, we can rely on the really big zeisim that we imagine for the seder. I may be wrong. We're very particular about netillas yadayim, and there are very scary warnings about it, as the Mechaber says. That's probably why my FIL said you should wait nine minutes. But from simple halacha, I think that the seder kezayis and three minutes should be adequate.

  3. Mazal Tov!

    Unless you bring your own bread, the rolls given with the meals are Mezonos rolls. I have been advised to take them home to avoid doubt about washing on them. You did not mention this issue vis a vis being Kovea Seuda.

    Forgive my simplistic approach, but why not avoid the Mezonos rolls and not wash at all?

    Harbei Nachas.

    Jonathan Keefe

  4. Hi, Jonathan.

    The rolls are sometimes labeled "Mezonos Rolls." But it is less common than it used to be, because all the poskim I am familiar with agreed that the term "mezonos roll" is an unadorned falsehood.

    As the OU put it,
    "Rav Yisroel Belsky, shlita, Rav Hershel Schachter, shlita, and the Rabbinical Council of America; the OU took the bold position that the phrase "mezonos roll" is an oxymoron. Rolls and mezonos can not coexist; mezonos rolls are a spurious term and the correct brochah for the so-called mezonos roll is hamotzi lechem min haaretz, with netilas yadayim a prerequisite."

    Please see the original at

    In recent years, the frequency of use of that term has diminished, no doubt because it is assumed that professionals are well aware of this rule, and so the intentional use of the falsehood exposes the packager to ridicule in kashrus circles.

    As to why not simply not eat the roll, the answer is that on long flights people get hungry and want something to eat. You could bring along whatever you want and avoid the problem, or just not eat and get over it, but I'm talking to the people that do want to eat the roll.

  5. I'm not sure my cheshbon here makes sense, but I'll bounce it off you anyway. The tzad to have to wash on a k'zayis is predicated on the fact that although a k'zayis is not mekabeil tunah, it is chashuv viz. birchas hamazon (M.B. 158:9). If the definition of achila requring netilas yadayim hinges on the definition of achila viz. birchas hamazon, then you have walked right into the MG"A's safeik of whether there is a chiyuv birchas hamazon in a case where one ate less than k'zayis b'achilas pras but feels satiated ( -- does the chiyuv birchas hamazon depend on seviya, or on doing a ma'aseh achila? The halacha in siman 158 about washing on less than a k;zayis may apply only where that is the total extent of one's achila.

  6. Believe it or not, Chaim, I was just thinking about that same Magen Avraham, especially since he's the one that says that you don't have to wash at all. Unless he means where you ended up not savei'a. But that would turn my whole assumption upside down. I'm going to have to look at both MAs and see what's going on here.

    Thank you all for your mazal tovs!

    Since this is the comment section, and very few people read it, I'll tell you what was definitely the best line from my visit. someone said that there was trouble brewing, because there was going to be a fight over who was going to be Sandek-- Rebbitzen Jungreis or Rebbitzen Feinstein. When Reb Reuven got Sandeka'us, that person said that Reb Reuven only got it as a pshara.

    I think, Chaim, that you can understand where this person was coming from.

  7. Chaim, I was misled by the Aruch Hashulchan. All the Magen Avraham says is that se'if gimmel is wrong, that the BY had the wrong girsa in the Rokeiach, because there's no difference between <Beitza and <Zayis. It's the Taz that I should be looking at. But it doesn't matter. The point is that the Aruch Hashulchan holds lehalacha that you don't wash for <zayis, period.

    But your point is still tzarich iyun.

  8. what a great story, thanks!
    For future reference, צרבת is heartburn.

    Regarding Kezayis, note that the C"I himself holds that the big Shi'ur is Chumra Be'Alma, and Me'ikar hadin Kezayis is (our) olive size, which leaves you hungry AND frustrated. Even if one disregards this, the large Shiur (~50ml) is based on taking the large Revi'is AND following Tosfos Kezayis= 0.5 Beitza rather than the Rambam (Kezayis < 1/3 Beitza ). Does such a Sfek-Sfeka LeKula works for deRabanan?

  9. Thanks, Eli. For future reference, if it happens again, I'm waking you up.

    As for your observation about kezayis, you're right; I am being somech on a sfeik sfeika lekula in a derabanan. My father in law also said what you said, but you put it very well- that my advice "leaves you hungry AND frustrated".
    BUT, this is only true IF the only kula were for less than a kezayis. As you know, the Magen Avraham holds there's no difference between pachos mi'ke'zayis and pachos mi'ke'beitzah. True, he advises washing without a bracha. In that respect, I would be somech on the Aruch Hashulchan.

  10. A rather belated Mazel Tov on your grandson's bris. Question: It seems that the shaila of how much bread requires Netilla contains 2 dinim. 1) If he eats a kebeitza the requirement is because the food can be Mekabel Tuma. If this is the only factor then less than a kebeitza does not require netilla. However, even when eating a Kezayis there are shittos that you need to wash since it is a Choshuve achila regarding Birkas Hamazon so perhaps hu hadin it requires netilla. Now, when eating less than a Kezayis, your assumption is that a waiting of Kdei Achilas Pras is Mafsik. I understand that assumption in the case where one ate less than a Kebeitza and the only need for netilla is because of the Tzad that the eating of a Kezayis is chashuv. Hiowever, if he were to eat a Kebeitza and the concern is the Kabbolas Tuma of the food, perhaps there is a Chiyuv of netilla regardless of how many breaks he takes during the eating? Is there a raya that there is no Chiyuv netilla when the shiur of a kebeitza is not eaten toch Kedei achillas pras?