Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Carrying holy items in the bathroom

When I used to fly back and forth between New York and Chicago multiple times a year, I often found myself in the airport with my tefillin in my backpack. I didn’t want to leave my stuff outside the airport restrooms, so I would take the backpack inside with me. I knew it was OK, but it always felt funny.

The issue comes up on today’s daf, Shabbat 62a:

[אלא] הכא במאי עסקינן במחופה עור והרי תפילין דמחופה עור ותניא הנכנס לבית הכסא חולץ תפילין ברחוק ארבע אמות ונכנס התם משום שי''ן דאמר אביי שי''ן של תפילין הלכה למשה מסיני

Assuming it has kedushah, an amulet is okay in the bathroom with just a leather cover. The battim of the tefillin also need to be covered.

The issue is discussed at length on Berakhot 23a–b. The men who would wear tefillin all day long would take them off and hold them inside their shirts. They would even do that lekha-tehillah, based on some incidents where leaving their tefillin unattended led to bad things.

Here’s an overview on bringing sefarim into a bathroom. You need one covering, so keeping them in your pocket or bag is fine. There’s a humra from the Eliyyah Rabbah to have a double covering, in case one covering comes open.

Don't miss the part about the Radbaz’s turban, cited from his responsa, 3:513:

Maybe I should start wearing a hat.

By the way, after the Radbaz was kicked out of Spain in 1492, his family made aliyah. He ended up becoming the chief rabbi of Egypt, and then made aliyah again in 1533 at the age of 90. He passed away in Safed at the age of 110.

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