Chatzitzot and Tevila - Part II by Rabbi Howard Jachter

1997/5757

              The laws of Tevila will, with God's help, have major applicability for preparing us to enter the Beit Hamikdash.  Since there is relevance for these laws today as well, we will continue in our presentation of these important Halachot.

              After last week's presentation of the basic rules of Chatzitzot and Tevila we are ready to discuss some practical applications of those rules.  It should be emphasized at the outset that should any actual problem arise, a highly competent halachic authority should be consulted.

Earplugs

              Different suggestions have been offered by Acharonim on how to solve the problem of someone who was told by a doctor to avoid having the ear canal exposed to water.  The problem of course lies in the fact that the outer part of the ear canal is considered Beit Hastarim and must be able to have water enter it.  Dr. Abraham S. Abraham (Nishmat Avraham p. 136) cites Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt"l who rules that it is permissible to place cotton in the ear that fits loosely (95&**%, and hence does not constitute a Chatzitza as we discussed last week) and to remove the cotton immediately after emerging from the Mikvah to avoid having water enter the ear canal (a competent ear, nose and throat specialist should be consulted to determine if this is a safe procedure).    

              Rav Zvi Pesach Frank (Teshuvat Har Zvi Y.D. 170) presents the following protocol in this situation.He writes, that first of all, the cotton should be placed deep enough into the ear so that it is no longer Beit Hastarim, but rather, Balua - to the point where water does not have to be able to enter.  Second, he writes that the cotton should be kept in the ear for a week so that it is considered "non-objectionable" (!*1& /85*$, as we discussed last week).  In addition the coton should keep cotton in the ear for a few days after the Tevila, again so that the cotton should be viewed as !*1& /85*$, and thus not considered a Chatzitza.

              It should be noted that Dr. Yisrael Bramma (an ENT specialist in Jerusalem) writes in the Israeli Torah journal Techumin (5:227) that from a medical perspective, it is not advisable to keep cotton in the ear for an extended period of time.  A competent specialist should be consulted should this situation arise.

              Rav Moshe Feinstein presents a solution to this problem and writes at length defending his ruling (Igrot Moshe Yoreh Deah 98 - 103).  He believes that it is permissible to immerse if the pad was placed somewhat deeply within the ear canal before Tevila.  Rav Moshe, unlike Rav Frank, does not require the cotton to be placed in the ear for a week prior to immersing. 

              Rav Moshe's reasoning for this ruling is as follows. The Mishna in Shabbat 65a teaches that a woman is permitted to wear a small piece of cotton in the ear into a public domain on Shabbat.  The Gemara explains that any item which is a chatzitza may not be worn into the public domain on Shabbat. It would seem, accordingly, that a piece of cotton is not a chatzitza.  Rav Moshe explains that the reason for this is as follows.  He says that there are two types of chatzitzot.  The first is a Chatzitza which actually attaches to the skin and impedes the contact of the skin with water.  Examples of this include nail polish and ointments.  The second type of Chatzitza is that which blocks contact with the Mikva water, but is not attached to the body.  Examples of this include tight fitting clothes, rings, and the firm grasp of another's hand.

              Rav Moshe writes that the Gemara's rule that these parts of the body designated as Beit Hastarim be capable of being in touch with the Mikva water only applies to Chatzitzot that are attached to the body but not to something that merely blocks access to the Beit Hastarim.  Rav Moshe provides what appears to be a very persuasive proof to this question.  He cites as proof the rule that the mouth or eyes need not be open during Tevila.  It is only necessary to make certain that the mouth or eyelids are not tightly closed or clenched.  If one is careful not to do this then the Bet Hastarim of the mouth and eyes are considered capable of having water enter them (Niddah 67a, Tosafot ad. loc. s.v 5;*(%, and Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 198:38-39).  According to Rav Moshe's approach, we can fully comprehend the reason behind this rule.  If there is a Chatzitza in the mouth (the Talmudic example is a bone embedded in the teeth) which is attached to the body, tightly sealed lips are considered "attached," then the Beit Starim inside the mouth is considered not capable of being in touch with water.  However, if the mouth is not closed tightly, the mouth is merely a barrier to water entering the mouth but does not disqualify the mouth from being defined as capable of being in contact with water.

              Rav Moshe concluded, accordingly, that a pad placed somewhat deeply within the ear canal is merely a barrier to water entering the ear, but is not attached to the ear.  Hence,  is does not remove the ear canal from the status of "capable of coming in contact with water."  Rav Moshe writes (Igrot Moshe Y.D. 104) that for the same reason contact lenses do not constitute a Chatzitza (although he certainly requires that the contact lens should initially (‑,;(*‑%) be removed).  Dr. Abraham S. Abraham discusses the issue involving a wearer of contact lenses who forgot to remove prior to Tevila, in his Nishmat Abraham IV:109. 

              Dr. Yisrael Bramma (in the article in Techumin that we referred to earlier) suggests a different approach to the problem.  He points out that most of the time that a chronic problem in the ear is a result of a torn eardrum.  He writes that the simplest solution to this halachic problem is to have the eardrum surgically repaired.  He writes that not only does this solve the halachic problem of her immersion, but it will improve hearing as well.

              Another solution posed by Dr. Bramma is that antibacterial drops should be placed in the ear before Tevila as a preventative measure to avoid bacterial infection and then once again after Tevila to prevent infection.  It should be emphasized that should this be an issue of relevant concern, the guidelines of both a competent Rav and an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist should be sought.  The Rav and physician should cooperate in discovering the halachically and medically appropriate solution to the problem.

Casts

              The problem of casts is one of the most difficult issues to grapple with.  Dr. Abraham S. Abraham (Nishmat Avraham Y.D. p.128) writes that one should try if all possible to have the cast removed before Tevila.  Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg (a rabbinic judge and Rosh Kollel in Jerusalem who is considered to be one of today's leading halachic authorities) also told this author that every effort should be made to remove the cast prior to immersion.

              However, if removing the cast involved great difficult, Rav Eliezer Waldenberg rules (Teshuvot Tzitz Eliezer 4:9) that it is not a Chatzitza.  The reason is that it does not cover a majority of the body and one does not object to its presence (/*3&) &!*1& /85*$) since it is necessary for medical purposes.  Even though most people would find a cast "objectionable" and would want it to be removed and thus it should be considered a Chatzitza (as we mentioned last week), nevertheless most people who need casts do not find the cast objectionable since it is medically required.  How we judge what is objectionable is based on a formulation by the Rema that "someone whose profession is an animal slaughterer or butcher (or surgeon or medical researcher) and his hands are soiled with blood, the blood does not constitute a Chatzitza, since most people in that profession do not find the blood objectionable."  Similarly, most people who wear casts do not find casts objectionable.

              On the other hand, Rav Zvi Pesach Frank (Teshuvot Har Zvi Y.D. 165) cite the Sidrei Tahara (a major commentary to the Shulchan Aruch Hilchot Niddah) who rules that if they never would have wanted the foreign object on the body, had it not been necessary for medical reasons, it is considered objectionable and is considered a Chatzitza if it will eventually be removed.  A source for this argument is the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch (198:10) that plaster on a wound constitutes a Chatzitza.

              However, other Acharonim interpret this law as follows:they believe that since the plaster is removed occasionally to inspect the wound or fix the plaster it constitutes a Chatzitza.  If a cast is going to be in place for a considerable amount of time, then it is possible to say that it is not a Chatzitza (see Badei Hashulchan 198: 87 for a review of the two different ways to interpret the "plaster rule").  Rav Frank concludes (unlike Rav Waldenburg who is lenient with any reservations) that it is best to avoid immersion while wearing a cast, but essentially it is permissible to rely on the lenient opinion in case of difficulty.

              A very serious issue arises regarding casts when the cast cannot become wet.  This is a very serious problem and a highly competent Rav should be consulted to rule on this matter.

               It should be noted that in the matter of Niddah one cannot say be strict "just to be on the safe side."  Rav Mordechai Willig (a leading Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University) reports that heard from Rav Moshe directly that it is forbidden to rule strictly on issues of Niddah "just to be safe," because the stringency is also a stringency against the mitzva of 59& &9"& and 3&1%.  On the other hand, one cannot simply rule leniently without adequate support from the classic sources.  Therefore, these difficult matters should be presented to a leading rabbi who is expert and very experienced in regard to Hilchot Niddah.

              Next week we will, God willing, conclude our discussion of Chatzitza with discussion about issues concerning dental work, fingernails, splinters, and artificial eyes.

Chatzitzot and Tevila - Part III by Rabbi Howard Jachter

The Proper Beracha for Breaded Chicken or Cheesecake by Rabbi Howard Jachter