- Jewish Learning
What are the laws surrounding washing your hands on Yom Kippur? If you must eat on Yom Kippur, do you wash your hands before doing so?
The Prohibition There are a handful of activities one may not do on Yom Kippur, which represent enjoyment. So of course we know you're not allowed to eat and drink on Yom Kippur, and included in that list is that one is not allowed to wash himself.
The Purpose of Negel Vasser There are two questions that come up when we speak about washing. One is we know that every morning when we wake up, we're supposed to wash "Negel Vasser," we're supposed to wash each hand three times to remove the ruach rah, the bad spirit that is on our hands after we sleep all night. So what's the halacha regarding hand washing on Yom Kippur morning? It says in Shulchan Aruch that if one's hands get dirty on Yom Kippur, you're allowed to wash off the dirt - not with soap, but you're allowed to wash off the dirt. So, similarly, since we wash our hands in the morning to remove the ruach rah, which is like dirt, just like you're allowed to wash off the dirt, you're allowed to wash off the ruach rah. However, although when we wash our hands all year in the morning, we wash our entire hand, on Yom Kippur, since the halacha is to fulfill the obligation of negel vasser you only need to wash till your knuckles, til the palm of your hand, on Yom Kippur morning, we only wash Negel vasser till our knuckles.
If One Needs to Eat on Yom Kippur, Does One Wash His Hands? What happens if someone has to eat on Yom Kippur? Whether it's someone who's unfortunately not well, or a child, children who don't have to fast. And of course we know before you eat bread you're supposed to wash your hands. So there the halacha is, certainly you should wash your hands before you eat, and that, even though it's Yom Kippur, and not only should you wash your hands, there you should wash your entire hand. And the reason, the Sefer Lehoros Nosson explains, is because when it comes to negel vasser, to ruach rah, the halacha is that up to the knuckles is all that is halachically absolutely required. However, when it comes to washing one's hands for eating, the halacha requires the entire hand to be washed. And since you're doing it for the purpose of washing your hands in order to be able to eat, you're not doing it for enjoyment, not only should you wash part of your hands if you're eating bread on Yom Kippur, or children are eating bread on Yom Kippur, but they should wash their entire hand.
For more Yom Kippur learning: What Foods Should You Eat on Erev Yom Kippur?
When Must You Stop Eating on Erev Yom Kippur?
Do You Say Borei Me'orai Ha'eish after Yom Kippur?
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