Convenience can easily override sanctity unless we take care to preserve it. The items we use as tools in our worship attain a measure of sanctity. Must we treat them specially to maintain their status? More specifically, may someone who normally wears a hat and/or jacket to pray take those items into the bathroom? It is a mitzvah to use the bathroom before praying. The prophet exhorts us to “Prepare to meet your God, Israel” (Amos 4:12), which the Talmud asserts includes relieving ourselves if we so need (Berakhos 23a). Efficiency and convenience would presumably require someone on his way to prayers to take with him his hat and/or jacket to avoid doubling back to retrieve them. Is this allowed?

Taking A Hat Into A Bathroom

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I. Sanctity and Preparations

Convenience can easily override sanctity unless we take care to preserve it. The items we use as tools in our worship attain a measure of sanctity. Must we treat them specially to maintain their status? More specifically, may someone who normally wears a hat and/or jacket to pray take those items into the bathroom?

It is a mitzvah to use the bathroom before praying. The prophet exhorts us to “Prepare to meet your God, Israel” (Amos 4:12), which the Talmud asserts includes relieving ourselves if we so need (Berakhos 23a). Efficiency and convenience would presumably require someone on his way to prayers to take with him his hat and/or jacket to avoid doubling back to retrieve them. Is this allowed?

II. Designated Clothing

There are, I believe, two issues involved. The first is defining the sanctity, if any, a hat and/or jacket attain. The Taz (Orach Chaim 21:3) rules that any item that is dedicated for use during prayer has the status of tashmishei mitzvah and therefore may not be taken into a bathroom. Men wear the four-cornered garment we call “tzitzis” all day and may enter a bathroom while wearing it. They wear a tallis, on the other hand, only during prayer and must therefore remove it before going into the facilites.

Nevertheless, the Taz (Yoreh De’ah 283:3) himself and the Shakh (Yoreh De’ah (283:6) explicitly permit wearing a tallis into a bathroom. However, the Mishnah Berurah (21:14; 610:18) and Arukh Ha-Shulchan (21:6) rule like the original Taz.

Some people wear a hat and jacket whenever they go outside. For them, their hat and jacket are not designated specifically for prayer. Therefore, they may presumably wear them into a bathroom. Other people wear a hat and jacket only for prayer. I don’t wear mine back and forth everyday but leave it in my office for mincha and have a separate set at home. People like me, who generally wear a hat and jacket only for prayer, presumably should not take it into a bathroom.

III. Bathrooms Today

A separate issue is whether modern plumbing has rendered our bathrooms so different from those of ancient times that they enter a new halakhic classification. R. Ari Zivotofsky plumbed the depths of this subject in an article titled “Halacha and Modern Plumbing” (Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society XXIX, Spring 1995). He shows how authorities differ over what status bathrooms to day have, some being very lenient, others strict and some recommending avoiding leniency when possible. He concludes on this subject: “However, if one can be stringent, it seems it would be consistent with the dignity due these articles of clothing that are designated for prayer not to wear them in a bathroom” (pp. 126-127).

My general impression is that the common practice is to treat bathrooms stringently and not to recite blessings or bring holy items inside one. Therefore, you should avoid bringing into a bathroom your hat and/or jacket that are designated for prayer. You should instead place them on a chair or other object outside the bathroom, or double back and pick them up before prayer. If all that is impossible, there is probably some room for leniency.

By wearing specific garments for prayer you are elevating them into tools for religious worship. It is your task to treat your tools with the care and respect they deserve.

(On all this, of course, ask your rabbi and do not rely on internet musings.)

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link of New Jersey, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazine and the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

42 comments

  1. My gut reaction is that it doesn’t depend on the specific person. IOW, talleisim and siddurim have one purpose; they’re used for prayer. Therefore they are prayer items. Hats and jackets are worn throughout the world for many things other than prayer. The fact that you may use them only for prayer doesn’t change them into prayer items and therefore they can be taken into the bathroom. As I said, just a gut reaction.

  2. Whats about a gartel?

    is it meyuchad le’tfila, more than a hat and jacket,
    for those that where a hat a hat and jacet regularly.

    and for those who wear a gartel the whole day, is it like a hat and jacket?

  3. What about using the washstand for washing your hands there and making the brocho of course outside. Perhaps drying your hands outside as well. I think it is allowed. The same may apply where there is a bath. Today they are not considered a place like they were originally.

  4. Doron Beckerman

    I went to ask R’ Chaim Kanievsky this exact question.
    I asked him if the Halachah of a בגד המיוחד לתפילה was a Din in the גברא or the חפצא – Nafkah Minah with hats that are designated for Tefillah (Joseph Kaplan’s distinction).

    His answer was יכול להיות that one should not take such a hat into the bathroom (but it was clear that he tended to the strict side), but emphasized זה צריך להיות מיוחד! meaning really designated as a davening hat.

  5. “(On all this, of course, ask your rabbi and do not rely on internet musings.)”

    The very notion that people should actually ask rabbis questions like this is ludicrous. One cannot decide on his own whether his jacket and hat are objects for prayer?

    One needs to write articles about such a question?

  6. I know someone who used “I’m wearing a gartel” as an excuse for not being willing to change his kid’s diaper…

  7. Shachar Ha'amim

    The only hats that I can think of that would attain the status of being designated for tefilla are the special sort of hats that are made for chazzanim and sextons/beadles.

    your standard fedora – or even shtofhittel or shtreimel, and suit jacket – or even frock or reckel, simply don’t qualify. Even if YOU particularly only wear it for tefilla.

    There are no real sources – i.e. halachic, no social structures or chumras – that suggest one has to wear another head covering for tefilla, so doing so is just something that one does. hard to make that a tashmish kedusha

  8. The issue is a simple one: בגד המיוחד לתפילה. The author of this article did not make this concept up, so why are people acting as if applying the concept in practical halacha is a silly thing to do? Isn’t that what “practical halacha” means?

    And, while I’m not a gartel man myself, those who are have told me that they remove them before entering the bathroom because it is – drumroll, please – בגד המיוחד לתפילה.

  9. Separate issue – why wear a jacket – if it is an inyan of respectful dress-does wearing a mismatched jacket (or dingy one) count or is it yatza scaro bhefseido?
    KT

  10. IIRC, the one time I was in Rabbi Tendler’s shul in Monsey, there is a sign posted with something along the lines that it is not proper (kavod) to wear sports jackets during tefilla.

    That said, now that it’s wintertime, I do enjoy the sight of seeing people wearing respectable button-down shirts who put on a puffy bright orange bomber jacket just to daven mincha…

  11. Shachar Ha'amim

    the idea of בגד מיוחד לתפילה is a reading into S”A OCH 91. It doesn’t say that explicitly however. The factual reading of that siman is like this interpretation http://www.kipa.co.il/ask/show/91600

    i.e. how one should NOT be dressed when during tefilla

  12. a ballebattish question: I thought the point of wearing hat/jacket is that they are respectable items of clothing. doesn’t the whole project of turning them instead into ritual objects (that one doesn’t actually wear as clothing per se) seem a little odd?
    But once we are going there, would a lace doily worn by a non-headcovering woman in shul only have the same din?

  13. 1. I once asked whether Meshichistin with Yechi yarmulkas or badges or normal people who have hebrew lettering on their yarmulkas should enter the toilet?

    2. Based on your premise, a non frum person who only wears a Yarmulka when they walk into Shule to daven, should take it off when they go to the toilet. Should we have baskets for them to deposit their yarmulkes into before they go to the urinal?

    3. I have stood next to chasidim who wore their gartel while urinating. I was informed this was ill advised 🙂

    4. What is the din of something which is meyuchad for tfilla but isn’t acceptable clothing in front of a king. For example, I’ve seen baseball style caps and/or jackets. Does this mean that they can also not be work into the loo. On the other hand if it is something worn in front of royalty but is not customarily removed before going to the loo, does this change the utility of such clothes.

  14. Doron Beckerman

    i.e. how one should NOT be dressed when during tefilla

    There are two separate Seifim that deal with this Halachah:

    שולחן ערוך אורח חיים הלכות תפלה סימן צא

    סעיף ה
    לא יעמוד באפונדתו ולא בראש מגולה ולא ברגלים מגולים, אם דרך אנשי המקום שלא יעמדו לפני הגדולים אלא בבתי רגלים.

    This is more along the lines of what you mentioned, but it essentially boils down to – dress formally as defined by how one’s society would dress to greet important personae. Rav Hershel Schachter likes to tell the story of one who took off his tie and tied it around as a gartel – which is the opposite of the intent of this Halachah…

    שולחן ערוך אורח חיים הלכות תפלה סימן צח

    וראוי שיהיו לו מלבושים נאים מיוחדים לתפלה, כגון בגדי כהונה, אלא שאין כל אדם יכול לבזבז על זה; ומ”מ טוב הוא שיהיו לו מכנסים מיוחדים לתפלה, משום נקיות.

    ביאור הגר”א אורח חיים סימן צח

    וראוי כו’. ברכות ל’ ב’ מציין כו’ ושבת קי”ד א’ מנין לשינוי בגדים

    This means that it is commendable to have special clothes for davening. The question is whether such (otherwise common) clothes have the status of בגדים המיוחדים לתפילה.

  15. Isac Balbin

    >1. I once asked whether Meshichistin with Yechi yarmulkas or badges or normal people who have hebrew lettering on their yarmulkas should enter the toilet

    R. Yaakov Emden rules it is permissible to read Hebrew works of didkuk and the like in the bathroom. On the other hand, R. Nosson Kamenetzky says his father ruled you can make a birchas hatorah for learning didkuk, so presumably he disagreed with RYE.

    >3. I have stood next to chasidim who wore their gartel while urinating. I was informed this was ill advised

    LOL I’ll bet it is. I have edus ne’emanah that R. Chaim Pinchas Sheinberg continues to wears his tefillah shel yad (covered) when he urinates.

  16. If i remember correctly, i saw Rav Shmuel Aurbach enter the bathroom area with his tallis, and i think he didn’t take off for numero uno.

  17. 1) For those who rule like the M”B and Arukh Ha-Shulchan against the Shakh does this apply to other items:

    – A pen used just for taking notes while learning Torah
    -A Kiddush cup
    -Lulav
    -Menorah

    2) If a siddur can be brought in with 2 covers/wrappings,how many does a hat need?

  18. I never wear a hat or jacket, so I don’t have to worry about this one.

  19. I always cringe when I see people still wearing their kittel on R”H or Yom Kippur in the bathroom. They think taking off the tallis is sufficient.

    But does a kittel count as meyuchad for tefilla? It does have other uses (Pesach seder and after 120 years . . ).

  20. The MB (in both places cited in the post) explicitly says that a kittel is considered meyuchad li-tefillah.

  21. It seems to me the simanim from Shulchan Aruch are an excellent example of needing to be careful of anachronism in interpreting texts.

  22. So I always wear a shirt when davening. Should I strip to my birthday suit to go to the bathroom? My problem with this post is it lends credibility to stupidity. And we may need a Kol Korei to prevent people from wearing hats in the bathroom if such silliness is promulgated.

  23. Is your definition of silly anything you have not yet heard of?

    Do you wear your shirt only for davening so it is a begged meyuchad li-tefillah? I assume not.

  24. Daniel Schiffman

    I was once on an El Al flight and I saw someone put on his hat to go to the bathroom. At first, I didn’t understand; later I figured it out. Apparently, this person holds that (a) a hat is required for Asher Yatzar and either (b) Asher Yatzar must be recited immediately, before walking to one’s seat, or (b’) Asher Yatzar must be recited standing, and on an airplane, it is easier to stand near the restroom than in the aisle near one’s seat.

  25. So if someone borrows my jacket and would only use it for tfilla, I can have some confidence he won’t take it into the bathroom? This is good to know.

    I am curious also about the question of a less frum person wearing a yalmuka to shul … whether he needs to take it off before going to the bathroom.

    And whether you are allowed to wash out your kiddush cup in the bathroom sink.

  26. And whether you are allowed to wash out your kiddush cup in the bathroom sink.

    I asked R. Hershel Schachter. He said that he thinks this only applies to tefillah but you can take other tashmishei mitzvah into the bathroom (like a lulav). He also wasn’t sure that a kiddush cup is tashmishei mitzvah. It might be tashmish of a tashmish.

  27. Gil

    re RHS
    Why is this application of tashmishei mitzvah only applicable to tiffilah?

  28. Of course not. Are you humor impaired? I stopped wearing a hat at all years ago, hats of any kind give me headaches (call me the ear muff king). I think my davening has vastly improved. I will not wear a t-shirt/jeans ever to shul, button down shirt with shoes for every tefillah. The problem today is the focus on the hat instead of the words in the siddur. And yes, there are plenty of halachos I probably do not know. Sometimes when I hear them I say-really? and just wonder what our sages Really did.

  29. Of course, you can bring a beged meyuchad l’tefillah into the bathroom, but it must be double covered (like the bentcher in your wallet). Oddly, Chassidim don’t do that with their gartel (which is usually wrapped and stuck in their pocket between tefillos.

    I pointed this out to a Chassid once and showed him the sources that beged meyuchad l’tefillah must be double-wrapped before entering the bathroom. He acknowledged that no Chassidim do that, and that it appears to be a legitimate problem.

  30. What about wearing a Talis Katan that is worn under one’s shirt into a bathroom?

  31. Steve:
    A tallis katan isn’t ‘meyuchad l’tefillah’ by definition, since it is worn more than just for the purposes/times of tefillah.

  32. See Mateh Ephraim, 610:12. He permits urinating with a kittle on, but not defecating. He also discusses the “special hat” worn with the kittle, which he says people are accustomed to keep on in the bathroom. (Most people probably don’t know what this refers to. Apparently, everyone used to wear a special, white, large-size head covering worn only when the kittle is worn, making it “meyuchad l’tfiloh”. Today, I am only aware of German Jews who maintain this old custom. People in Washington Heights will know what I am talking about.)

  33. An interesting sociological detail I’ve noticed is that chassidim always take off their streimel before entering a bathroom.

  34. Shachar Ha'amim

    Doron – OC 98 also only supports my view that the normative halacha governs what one should NOT dress like during tefilla. Even the last bit about having special pants can be viewed as saying one should NOT daven in soiled garments – and when it was common for most people’s garments to be soiled one would obtain a special set for tefilla.
    However, today most people regularly put on a clean, laundered clothes every day and thus there is no need to acquire special pants for tefilla.

    Again – the only type of clothing that could obtain the status of “tashmishei kedusha” seem to me to be the type connected with synagogue function – chazzan hats and robes, beadle hats, etc.

  35. Doron Beckerman

    Shachar,

    I cited the sources from the Gaon to show that your reading is faulty. The ראוי שיהיו לו מלבושים נאים מיוחדים לתפילה means just that. The fact that not everyone can spend money on special clothes for davening does not negate the possibility and commendable nature of having such clothes, and Halachah – at least potentially – recognizing them as מלבושים מיוחדים לתפילה

  36. Indeed, Chassidim don’t take their shtreimel into the bathroom. However, it isn’t because they consider it a beged meyuchad l’tefilla (as noted by seeing chassidim at zoos and parks with shtreimels on during Chol HaMoed).

    Rather, Chassidim have attributed/manufactured lofty kabbalistic and kedusha meaning to shtreimels.

  37. Doron — what evidence do you have that at the time of the late 18th century, in Vilna, Jews were closer to our sartorial norms than to the early 16th century Levant?

    Or have I missed your point?

  38. For the record, I don’t know the answer, but it is difficult to believe that the S”A or GRA gloss envisioned our modern conveniences (shopping, laundering), economics (type of labor) or cultural context (personal hygiene, body odors).

    Another way of thinking about it, is what would the halacha le’ma’aseh be for a man who works in the Refet on kibbutz, or as a garbageman, or a shochet; as opposed to for someone who works in an office.

  39. Doron Beckerman

    IH,

    I understand what you are saying, but I don’t think it makes a difference. Talmidei Chachamim were always expected to dress immaculately at all times – שלא יראה רבב על בגדו and the like, and yet the Gemara in Berachos states that Rav Yehudah would dress particularly nicely for davening, and the GRA understands that as the source for מלבושים נאים מיוחדים לתפילה.
    The SA compares the concept to Bigdei Kehunah, and the Kohanim had specially designated clothes for their Avodah, irrespective of what they wore otherwise.

  40. As I understand it, Doron, you are saying there are two halachot: (1) to wear dignified clothing for prayer and (2) to wear special clothing for prayer.

    If so, only (1) is kept today. Item (2) isn’t kept, except in a minor way by those who wear a gartel, and of course for shacharit with the tallit (which wasn’t originally a prayer garment but has become one).

    A hat and jacket do satisfy (1), but not (2) since they are often worn in contexts other than prayer. On the contrary, those who maintain that a hat and jacket are required for prayer also believe that they should be worn in the street, for example when going shopping.

  41. Doron Beckerman

    You mention Bigdei Kehunah
    What did Kohanim wear to the bathroom? There is NO meilah. No problem for a Kohen getting benefit (ie warmth) from them.

    Seems a hat JUST for tiffilah is more holy than Bigdei Kehunah in some respects according to some poskim

  42. Doron Beckerman

    YC,

    You make a very good point. I don’t think anyone holds it is Assur to go to the bathroom with a Tallis Meikkar Hadin – you don’t make a new Berachah when you put it on again, unlike Tefillin.

    Regarding Bigdei Kehunah in the bathroom, according to the Ohr Sameiach Tefillin 4:17 it is Muttar, based on how he explains the Gemara in Yoma 7b – ומי לא בעי למיעל לבית הכסא regarding the Tzitz:

    אור שמח הלכות תפילין ומזוזה וספר תורה פרק ד

    אך טפי נראה לפרש הכוונה בגמרא פשוט, דכתיב והיה על מצחו תמיד להם לרצון לפני ד’, שהוא מרצה תמיד כשעל מצחו תמיד, וע”ז פריך דכי מעייל בבית הכסא איך יתכן לאמר דאז הציץ מרצה, הלא קיי”ל בריש פרק אמר להם הממונה כל המיסך רגליו טעון טבילה, וכל המטיל מים טעון קידוש ידים ורגלים, משום היסח הדעת מעבודה, ואפילו יציאה בעי בפ”ב דזבחים )כ, ב( אם מועיל לקידוש ידים ורגלים, ועיין פרק ה’ מהלכות ביאת המקדש, דאם לא קדש ידיו ורגליו כשהטיל מים או הסך רגליו עבודתו פסולה, משום דהוי כעבד בלא קדוש ידים ורגלים, ואמרו )שם יט, ב( דבלא קדוש ידים ורגלים עבודתו פסולה, דילפינן חוקה חוקה ממחוסר בגדים, דכמו התם בזמן שאין בגדיהן עליהן אין כהונתן עליהן, כן בלא קידוש ידים ורגלים אין כהונתן עליהן, וכיון דכי עייל לבית הכסא בעי קדוש ידים ורגלים הוי כאין כהונתן עליהן וכמחוסר בגדים האם יתכן דאז יהא הציץ מרצה, כיון שמונח על מצח זר ואין כהונתו עליו, וזה נראה נכון בפשט הגמרא.

    IOW, he explains the Gemara to mean that the Tzitz may be worn in the bathroom, but cannot be מרצה then. (Other than the Ohr Sameiach, the Gemara would be taken to mean that he must remove it, but this is almost certainly due to the Shem Hashem, not the Bigdei Kehunah per se.)

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