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Q&A from the Bais HaVaad Halacha Hotline

Finger Painting

November 30, 2023

Q I was painting on Friday. I cleaned the paint from my hands, but I see now that a tiny spot remains on one fingernail. Does that pose a problem for netilas yadayim? If so, what can I do about it on Shabbos?

A Just as one who is toveil in a mikveh may not have a chatzitzah (blockage) between his body and the water, a person washing netilas yadayim may not have a chatzitzah between his hands and the water (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 161:1). The Mishnah Brurah (161:1) writes that one should check his hands for chatzitzos before washing. But if a chatzitzah on one’s hand is miut she’eino makpid (it covers only a minority of the surface area of his hand, he doesn’t mind its presence, and neither would most people), it doesn’t pose a problem. Although for tvilah, we lechat’chilah (a priori) remove even a chatzitzah that is miut she’eino makpid, for netilas yadayim this isn’t necessary (Shulchan Aruch ibid.).

Most people probably wouldn’t care about a tiny spot of paint on a fingernail. But even if most people aren’t makpid about a particular kind of chatzitzah, the Mishnah Brurah (161:10) maintains that if the bearer himself minds, it is a chatzitzah for him.

If it’s unclear whether the bearer is makpid or not, and he can’t remove it because it’s Shabbos, there is room to be lenient with netilas yadayim on two bases:

  • The Shulchan Aruch Harav argues on the Mishnah Brurah and maintains that for netilas yadayim, if the bearer is bothered by the chatzitzah but most people wouldn’t be, it’s not a chatzitzah.
  • The Eishel Avraham (Butchatch) says that when one cannot remove a chatzitzah because of Shabbos, he is considered not to be makpid on it. In this he disagrees with the Mishnah Brurah (340:3).

If one has a chatzitzah that cannot be removed on Shabbos, he may eat bread by wearing a glove on that hand.

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