Thursday, May 5, 2011

Rav Ovadiah Yosef: ruach rah - does it exist today?

Yabiah Omer (O.C. 3:2.4): … we should combine this with the view of Achronim that in modern times, ruach rah doesn’t exist. This is the view of the Lechem Mishneh and the Eliyahu Rabba concerning netilas yadayim in the morning (washing the hands) because they say that there is no ruach rah anymore. This is also the view of the Yam Shel Shlomo. Also look at Maharam ben Chaviv … who says that in modern times we do not see or hear that anyone who touches his eyes before netilas yadayim in the morning is blinded or that one who touches his ears becomes deaf…Therefore the ruach rah of the morning does not exist today. This is like the ruach rah of food that will choke a child if the hands are not washed but Tosfos (Chullin 107b) says it does not exist today. I also saw in the sefer Soles Belulah (4:3) who also comments on the issue of ruach rah and says that our experience is the opposite of what is says in the Talmud. However he says the gemora means that not washing your hands in the morning and touching your eyes or ears causes you to not understand the Torah that you see or hear. But how will he explain (Shabbos 109) which says touching with unwashed hands causes bad breath? In fact if you examine the gemora objectively you will conclude that the words are meant literally [contrary to the understanding of the Soles Belulah]. The Minchas Aaron (1:13) also rejects his understanding. Thus it is seems that the more correct understanding is in accord with the Maharam ben Chaviv we mentioned before. In sum, it seems that ruach rah has become very weak until it almost entirely gone from the world… So this is surely so regarding the ruach rah of the bathroom which is not as strong as that of the morning. So even though there are those who are concerned about ruach rah even today, nevertheless it is appropriate to combine these understanding which we mention in order to lenient in times of need to allow washing the hands under the faucet with is found in contemporary bathrooms. That is because the bathroom is always kept clean by the flushing of water. However if it is not necessary, then we should not be lenient in this matter - and surely we should not say words of holiness there. If the toilet is not constantly clean in the bathroom then one should not be lenient at all even concerning netilas yadim.

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