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Halachos of using the bathroom (abridged)
MBY 3:1-17 In this lesson, we will learn the most relevant halachos and principles in this siman. Some of the points seem practical, more than halachic. I guess this reinforces the idea that halacha is not simply a set of “rules”; it is a “handbook” for living! (Ed: To this end, I have used a sefer I bought several years ago when we began the MBY project: Kitzur Mishnah Berura, published in 2004 by Rabbi Dov Maza. This is the first time I am using it!)

1) One should still observe ‘tznius’ while in the bathroom, whenever possible. (Compare with MBY 2:1-2 above.) This includes keeping oneself covered until he is ready to actually use the bathroom; not revealing more than necessary, etc.

2) One should not converse in the bathroom, unless there is a great need. While in “active duty”, one should not converse at all!

3) If a person feels unable to relieve himself, he should try walking around, sitting down, standing up and then sitting down again. (Ed: I don’t think this is intended to cure a more serious condition of constipation, but it does work!)

4) One should avoid bearing down too hard, as this can be dangerous.

5) When wiping oneself, there is the right hand and the wrong hand to use. The Rule: Avoid denigrating the fingers which perform the mitzvah of tefillin! This has 2 implications: 1) the hand which winds the tefillin around the tefillin arm – i.e. a “rightie’s” right hand, and a “leftie’s” left – should not be used at all! 2) When using the hand which wears the tefillin, the middle finger should preferably not be used either, because that finger does a mitzvah too, by wearing the ‘retzua – strap’! (Ed: I’ll let you figure out which fingers remain!)

6) One should make sure to clean up after himself, because other people will need to use the same facility at some point!

7) It is forbidden, at least by rabbinic law, to withhold oneself from using the bathroom if he is in need of doing so. This is based upon the verse (Vayikra 11:43): “Do not make your souls abominable…” Moreover, the Rabbis taught that too much withholding can lead to sterility! At times, the principle of ‘kavod habriyos’ (human dignity) overrides this prohibition, which is why a person is allowed to wait while he finds a suitable facility!

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