Laws Pertaining to the Water Used for Washing Hands Before Meals (2)
If something is added to water to give it a fragrance, it
remains fit for use for washing before meals, for we don’t consider the water
to have been used because fragrance was added. The fragrance was added solely
for the purpose of improving the water. For this reason, it is seems to me
that water to which chlorine or any other substance which purifies the water
was added may be used for washing before meals. The appearance of the water is
not changed and adding these substances is not considered making use of the
Water from which birds and other wild animals have drunk is
fit for washing hands. But if a pig, a dog or a snake drinks from the water,
it is considered unfit because a person would no longer be willing to drink it
and would pour is out as waste water. Waste water may not be used for washing
hands before meals.
If water that is unfit mixes with a larger quantity of
water that is fit, so that the majority is the suitable water, the mixture may
If there is doubt whether the water had been used in a way
that rendered it unfit for washing before meals, it may still be used, for
washing before meals is rabbinic, and in cases of doubt, the law is lenient.
Nevertheless, if water that is unquestionably fit is available, it is
preferable to use it in order to avoid doubt. According to the Beis Yosef , a
person should try to find water that is unquestionably fit because failure to
wash properly before meals can lead to poverty.
If no water is available, fruit juice may be used, although
there are some poskim who disagree. The Mishnah Brurah distinguishes
between the juice of grapes (which is considered to be wine) and the juice of
all other fruits. According to him, all fruit juices except wine may be used.
The law that water may not be used that has changed its appearance does not
apply to fruit juices.
Washing before meals may be done with warm water, but not
with water that would burn the hands.
When we wash hands before meals, as we usually do, from a
cup, the water must be potable: it may not be bitter, salty, or foul.
Therefore, ocean water, the water of the Dead Sea and the water of the hot
springs in Tiberias, which is bitter, may not be used. But we can also purify
our hands before eating by dipping them in any one of these bodies of water.
When used in that way, the water is considered fit even though it is bitter or
salty. Similarly, it is permissible to wash hands before meals by dipping them
in a mikveh even if the water is not fit to drink.
Water that has been used to wash hands before meals may not
be used again for washing hands before meals. The water has become impure, and
even if the there is a sufficient quantity of water to prevent it from
becoming impure (a revi’is), it is considered unfit because it has
been used. Touching the water (as opposed to using it to wash) does not,
itself, render the water unfit. Nevertheless, there were Gadolim who were
stringent in this matter and would not use water that had been touched. Water
that has been used to clean hands before meals is unfit because it is has been