Shailah of the Week by Rabbi Zvi Nussbaum
Rabbinic Coordinator, Kosher Hotline Administrator for the Orthodox Union
I put a piece of fish on my plate at a kiddush. I then wiped the plate clean with a napkin. May I now use the same plate for meat cholent, or must I wash the plate?
The Shulchan Aruch (YD 116:3) says: One must wash their hands between eating meat and fish. However, Rema says that Ashkenazic custom does not require hand-washing, but just that one check that his hands are clean. The Pri Toar writes that the Shulchan Aruch’s washing includes wiping the hands clean with a towel. In fact, wiping the hands with a towel is actually a better method of cleaning, since fatty residue might not come off without soap. However, some poskim maintain that according to the Shulchan Aruch one is required to use water.
With fish on a plate, the answer relates to the various opinions above regarding cleaning one’s hands. According to the Pri Toar, wiping a plate should be sufficient. According to those poskim who require water for hands, the same would be true for a plate. And according to Rema, who maintains that washing one’s hands is never required as long as the hands are clean, it follows that wiping down the plate until it appears clean should likewise be adequate.
Typically, those of Sephardic descent follow the Shulchan Aruch, while those of Ashkenazic descent follow the view of Rema.