Lord, What of the Rings?


My wife gave me a ring that I cherish. It helps remind me of my commitment to care for her in every way and my responsibilities as delineated in the kesuva.

Do my rings act as a chatzitza regarding netillas yodayim, requiring me to remove them?


A woman who wears a ring should remove it for netillas yodayim before a seuda, since the ring may obstruct contact between the water and part of the finger under the ring.[1]

This chatzitza will void the netillas yodayim whenever the ring is not considered tafel (ancillary) to the hand. If the woman would wear her ring while involved in all of her daily activities, which may include work such as kneading dough, it is tafel to her hand and will not constitute a chatzitza.[2] If, however, she normally removes her ring before beginning some of her daily activities, then her hand is viewed as complete only when ringless. Women, more often than men, include baking in their activities. A ring can get quite dirty if worn when one kneads dough. Therefore, if a woman would normally take her rings off before kneading, the rings on her fingers are not considered tafel to her hand. Should water not be able to penetrate under the ring, the netilla is ineffective.

A ring that is loose enough to allow water to seep under it and reach the skin will not be a chatzitza; however, the Ramo advises removing all rings (unless it is worn all the time) before washing for bread since it is difficult to determine if a ring is loose enough or not.[3]

A man, however, generally does not have to take off his rings for netillas yodayim. Men generally do not take their rings off during their daily activity. Consequently, the ring is always viewed as ancillary to the hand and is not a chatzitza even if it is tight enough not to allow any water to penetrate under the ring. A man who is careful to take his ring off occasionally will have the same halachic status as a woman regarding chatzitza for netillas yodayim.

For example, although men usually don't knead dough, a baker who does knead dough and would take his ring off beforehand should take it off before netillas yodayim. A male car mechanic who is particular about removing his ring so that it won't get greasy and sticky should also consider his ring a chatzitza.[4]

The same laws that apply to a chatzitza in connection with netillas yodayim for bread apply to netillas yodayim shacharis in preparation for tefilla.[5]

BookID: 1 Chapter: 161

[1] A ring is worn between the second and third joints at the bottom of a finger. There are three opinions as to how much of the hand needs to be washed.

  1. The Tur quotes the Rif's opinion that the entire hand, including the skin covering the carpal bones, up to the head of the ulna and radius in the forearm, needs to be washed.

  2. The Rosh disagrees, considering that an unnecessary stringency. The water only has to cover the phalanges until the metacarpal bones. It does not have to cover the palm or the dorsal side of the hand. (Actually, the proximal phalanges meet the metacarpals beyond the web of skin between the fingers. According to the Rosh, the water must reach the joint between the proximal phalanges and the metacarpal bones, which is about an inch past the web between the fingers. The joint is pronounced and easily recognizable when one bends one's fingers so that the tips of the fingers touch the palm.)

  3. Rashi and the Rokeach (328) rule that one need only wash until the end of the second joint since that is the part of the fingers that touches food. Once the distal and middle phalanges have been washed, one can eat bread even though the proximal phalanges are dry. It follows that according to this opinion, rings cannot pose a problem of chatzitza since the ring is worn on an area that does not need to be washed at all.

וז''ל הרוקח וטבעות באצבע הנשים אינו חוצץ כי הוא למעלה מפרק אמצעי של אצבע ואם היה צריך כל היד הוי חציצה עכ''ל.

Most of the Rishonim (Rabbeinu Tam, Ra'avad, Rambam [chapter 6]) and the Zohar (Ekev 272b) agree with the Rosh. The Aruch Hashulchan points out that the version of the Rif available to us does not clearly disagree with the Rosh. Other Rishonim quote a different version of the Rif requiring hands to be washed until the point connecting the hand and forearm.

The Mechaber (161:4) and Mishna Berura (161:21) only mention the first two opinions and rule that the ikkar halocho is as the Rosh says, but that it is best to wash the entire hand, as the Rif requires. Since the third opinion (Rashi and the Rokeach) is omitted entirely and apparently rejected, the issue of rings as chatzitza remains relevant.

[2] A woman who never takes off her rings because she never does anything messy would also not need to remove them before washing her hands for bread.

[3]מחבר או''ח קס''א ס''ג וז''ל צריך להסיר הטבעת מעל ידו בשעת נטילת ידים וברמ''א שם הוסיף ואפילו הוא רפוי ואפילו אינו מקפיד עליו בשעת נטילה הואיל ומקפיד עליו בשעה שעושה מלאכה שלא יטנפו, ונהגו קצת להקל אם הוא רפוי אבל יש להחמיר כי אין אנו בקיאים איזה מקרי רפוי עכ''ל.

[4] M.B. (161:19).

The Mishna Berura mentions another situation in which everyone (men included) usually remove their rings: One would apparently take off a ring set with a stone before washing one's hands in order to avoid getting the ring dirty. This sensitivity may have changed. I have noticed people with stone-set rings who wash their hands without being concerned that the stone will get dirty. When determining whether a ring is a chatzitza or not, it is wisest to consider the principle of the matter rather than sticking to the examples given at different points in history. The examples may become obsolete as trends and sensitivities change from generation to generation.

The principle is straightforward. Is the ring purposefully removed before a specific activity? If so, the ring is a chatzitza for netillas yodayim. This is apparent from the Tur, Beis Yosef, Shulchan Aruch and Mishna Berura and is stated explicitly in the Aruch Hashulchan (161:6).

[5]רמב''ם פ''ו מברכות ה''ד כל שחוצץ בטבילה חוצץ בנט''י. וע''ע סוף אגרת ד' של החזו''א בח''א וז''ל כן צריכים לתת לב להזהר ממפסידים טבעים וסגולים מן הסגולים שלא להקל בנט''י המבוארים בשו''ע ומאד החמירו בזה כמבואר בשו''ע סי' ד' ומן דקדוק ההלכה שלא יהא חציצה ושתהיה הנטילה למעלה מקשרי אצבעות וזהו בכלל טהרה המביאה לידי קדושה וכו' עכ''ל. אמנם בא''א מבוטשאטש סימן ד' ס''א ד''ה ויש לעיין, מסתפק אם צריך ליזהר מחציצה בנט''י שחרית וכתב דטוב לכתחילה לחוש ולהקפיד בכל דיני חציצה.

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