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The accepted Halacha is that one should not interrupt with unnecessary speech between the blessing on washing hands and making Hamotzi. There are other situations where talking is prohibited or ideally avoided, such as during the Blessings before Shema, during the blowing of the shofar, and many other examples.

I've noticed a common practice that if it is needed to chastise someone, or tell them to stop what they are doing, during one of these times, people will look at the person and very agitatedly say "nu?!"

Is there any reason this is considered less talking than any other gibberish? Does the fact that it has become accepted parlance to mean, basically, "stop doing what you aren't supposed to be doing" or "start doing what you are supposed to be doing" make it into a word, and therefore perhaps it shouldn't be said?

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  • related judaism.stackexchange.com/a/17873/759 – Double AA Jan 11 '15 at 22:20
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    @NBZ My Google translate has "GNU" as one of the meanings :P – MTL Jan 12 '15 at 21:02
  • "Is there any reason this is considered less talking than any other gibberish?" I don't understand this. Who considers it less talking than other gibberish? You're proposing it's more talking than other gibberish, but I imagine those who condone it equate it talkingwise to other gibberish, not consider it less talking. – msh210 Jan 12 '15 at 23:41
  • @msh210 I happen to never hear anyone saying any other gibberish. I was wondering if there is something special about this gibberish. – Y     e     z Jan 13 '15 at 0:50
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The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch rules that:

  1. One may not interrupt between washing and eating, even with doing nothing or walking around.

  2. One who interrupts, need not wash again, unless he's become totally distracted from this washing, by doing some [major unrelated] activity or talking a lot.

He brings this in סימן מא - הלכות בציעת הפת וברכת המוציא

סעיף ב': יֵשׁ לִזָּהֵר שֶׁלֹּא לְהַפְסִיק בֵּין נְטִילַת יָדַיִם לְהַמּוֹצִיא, אֲבָל מֻתָּר לוֹ לַעֲנוֹת אָמֵן עַל אֵיזֶה בְּרָכָה שֶׁהוּא שׁוֹמֵעַ. וּשְׁהִיָּה כְּדֵי הִלּוּךְ כ"ב אַמּוֹת, אוֹ מִבַּיִת לְבַיִת, אֲפִלּוּ הִלּוּךְ מְעַט, וְכֵן אִם דִבֵּר מַה שֶּׁאֵינוֹ לְצָרְכֵי הַסְּעוּדָּה מִקְרֵי הֶפְסֵק. וּבְדִיעֲבַד אִם הִפְסִיק לֵית לָן בָּהּ, וּבִלְבַד שֶׁלֹּא עָשָׂה אֵיזֶה מַעֲשֶׂה בֵּינְתַיִם, אוֹ שֶׁהִפְלִיג בִּדְבָרִים, דְּאָז הֲוֵי הֶסַּח הַדַּעַת וְצָרִיךְ נְטִילָה שֵׁנִית. ‏

So technically there's not difference between saying "nu" and saying "come already!" or "behave yourself!". If it's required for the meal then it's allowed, if it's not required for the meal to begin, then it's forbidden but one needn't wash again.

I think people say "nu" (or "Ein!" as we used to say at home) as a self-reminder not to talk more than needed, which is a problem.

Interestingly enough, the Mechaber in סימן קסו - דין הפסקה בין בציעה לנטילה brings an opinion that one need not worry about interrupting between washing and eating, though he recommends being stringent about it.

א: יֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים שֶׁאֵינוֹ צָרִיךְ לִזָּהֵר מִלְּהַפְסִיק בֵּין נְטִילָה לְהַמּוֹצִיא, וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים שֶׁצָּרִיךְ לִזָּהֵר, וְטוֹב לִזָּהֵר. וְאִם שָׁהָה כְּדֵי הִלּוּךְ כ''ב אַמָּה, מִקְרֵי הֶפְסֵק (תוס' פ' אֵלּוּ נֶאֱמָרִים). ‏

(The last sentence "וְאִם שָׁהָה כְּדֵי הִלּוּךְ כ''ב אַמָּה, מִקְרֵי הֶפְסֵק " is in smaller print but not prefixed by הגה, so I'm not sure who wrote it.)

It appears that the same applies to other places you are not supposed to talk. Viz., if you speak - or even sit quietly for long enough - it's not considered a Hefsef requiring you to restart. But talking - or making any noises or otherwise distracting yourself - is highly discouraged.

E.g. in Hilchos Shma we learn in Shulchan Aruch in סימן סה - הנכנס לבית הכנסת ומצא צבור קוראין קריאת שמע או שהפסיק בשעת הקריאה:

א: קְרָאָהּ סֵרוּגִין, דְּהַיְנוּ שֶׁהִתְחִיל לִקְרוֹת, וְהִפְסִיק בֵּין בִּשְׁתִיקָה בֵּין בְּדִבּוּר וְחָזַר וּגְמָרָהּ, אֲפִלּוּ שָׁהָה כְּדֵי לִגְמֹר אֶת כֻּלָּהּ, יָצָא, אֲפִלּוּ הָיָה הַהֶפְסֵק מֵחֲמַת אֹנֶס: הגה: וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים דְּאִם הָיָה אָנוּס וְהִפְסִיק כְּדֵי לִגְמֹר אֶת כֻּלָּהּ, חוֹזֵר לְרֹאשׁ (תוס' וְהָרֹא''שׁ פֶּרֶק מ''ש וְהַטּוּר), וְהָכֵי נָהוּג, וּמְשַׁעֲרִין עִנְיַן הַשְּׁהִיָּה לְפִי הַקּוֹרֵא, וְלֹא לְפִי רֹב בְּנֵי אָדָם (רַשְׁבָּ''א ר''פ הָיָה קוֹרֵא) וְכֵן הוּא לְקַמָּן סִימָן ק''ד.‏

Regarding Psukay D'Zimra, one shouldn't talk, unless it's to be polite, as we learn in סימן נא:

ד: צָרִיךְ לִזָּהֵר מִלְּהַפְסִיק בְּדִבּוּר, מִשֶּׁיַּתְחִיל בָּרוּךְ שֶׁאָמַר עַד סוֹף י''ח: וַאֲפִלּוּ לְצֹרֶךְ מִצְוָה אֵין לְדַבֵּר בֵּין בָּרוּךְ שֶׁאָמַר לְיִשְׁתַּבַּח (בֵּית יוֹסֵף בְּשֵׁם כָּל בּוֹ) וע''ל סי' נ''ג וְנ''ד.‏

ה: בֵּין הַמִּזְמוֹרִים הָאֵלּוּ שׁוֹאֵל מִפְּנֵי הַכָּבוֹד, וּמֵשִׁיב שָׁלוֹם לְכָל אָדָם, וּבְאֶמְצַע הַמִּזְמוֹר שׁוֹאֵל מִפְּנֵי הַיִּרְאָה, וּמֵשִׁיב מִפְּנֵי הַכָּבוֹד. ‏

Similary regarding Shofar we learn in סימן תקצב - תפלת מוסף בקול (רם) וסדר התקיעות:

ג: לֹא יָשִׂיחַ, לֹא הַתּוֹקֵעַ וְלֹא הַצִּבּוּר, בֵּין תְּקִיעוֹת שֶׁמְיֻשָּׁב לִתְקִיעַת שֶׁמְעֻמָּד מִיהוּ בְּעִנְיָן הַתְּקִיעוֹת וְהַתְּפִלּוֹת אֵין הֶפְסֵק (מָרְדְּכַי וּמַהֲרִי''ל), וְאִם סָח דְּבָרִים בְּטֵלִים אֵין צָרִיךְ לַחֲזֹר וּלְבָרֵךְ (טוּר); וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר שֶׁלֹּא יָשִׂיחוּ בֵּין בְּרָכָה לַתְּקִיעוֹת, אִם לֹא בְּעִנְיַן הַתְּקִיעוֹת.

Obviously if one talks between the Bracha and the first blows, one has to redo the Bracha, as the Be'er Heitev says:

בין. ואם סח בין ברכה לתקיעה אפי' מענין התפילה צריך לחזור ולברך

All the examples we are discussing, are adjacent Mitzvot, or Mitzvot that start and take a long time to end.

  • The practice בבית אבי is to grunt an unintelligible sound of some sort with intonation to communicate. It works surprisingly well, although I agree that it's really a hefsek. – Noach MiFrankfurt Feb 23 '17 at 22:10
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My 2¢… To what extent one must be carefull not to be מפסיק between washing and his Bracha is a dispute between the Rambam and the Rosh, with the Rosh being stringent. The Mishna Berura in siman 165 #7 & siman 166 #2 rules not to speak at all אפילו שיחה מועטת. In the שער הציון in both places he says he is ruling like the Elya Rabba and Magein Giborim in the name of the Magen Avraham (M.A.) in siman 179 and not like the M.A. in 165 where he says one can talk שיחה בעלמא (nothing important) two or three words, taking for granted that the M.A. actualy contradicts himself. This idea that there is a contradiction is not so simple as pointed out in the Nesiv Chaim in 179 who says the M.A. there was merely pointing out the opinion of the Rosh. The Shulchan Aruch HaRav in 166 rules in accordance with the M.A. (as he does more so than the M.B.) So what we have here is a regular old machlokes achronim, directly dependant on a machlokes rishonim. As such minhag, custom, plays a big role as far as psak. The fact that people are accustomed to not talk even two or three words however unimportant means that they have accepted the stringent opinion. However, in cases like this there is a loophole used many times where we can say they did not accept the stringent opinion in all cases. Your case of 'nu' even if it is word would qualify. In fact the M.A. and Shulchan Aruch HaRav mention the custom of saying מזמור ה׳ רועי וגו׳. There are also many people who say 'ברשות' before making המוציא in a public setting, (apparently an attempt to get everyone's attention see 167 2 in Ramma) even though they won't say other words. The idea presented here would work to understand that minhag too.

'Nu' from what I've seen is not commonly used in other places, like When trying to goad the shliach tzibur during Birchas Krias Shema. Usually it's 'uh'. This is much lower on the 'is it a word' totem pole. I think people consistently use 'nu' when hephsek is not such an issue, for instance when trying to get the tzibur to be quite during leining or chazzaras hashatz.

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HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky shlita, the gadol hador, has been witnessed to say "Nu" in between netila and hamotzi, and is not concerned that this may be a hefsek, and so was the practice of his saintly father, the Steipler Gaon. Source: Ain Lo LeHakosh Boruch Hu Beolamo Ela Daled Amos Shel Halacha Bilvad - Hanhagos Sar HaTorah Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita - Al Seder HaShulchan Aruch"

Rav Chaim shlita mentioned that the Gaon and Tzaddik HaRav Elyashiv zatzal was machmir in this inyan.

  • Rav Chaim shlita holds that to hum a niggun without words is also muttar b/w netila and hamotzi. – Michael Feb 23 '17 at 16:55
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    Maybe he felt that the things he was saying "Nu" to were permitted because they were needed at the time? You don't know that he would permit "Nu" to everything. (Also fyi it's invariably the case that someone else thinks someone else is a gadol hador too if not the gadol hador, whatever those terms even mean.) – Double AA Feb 23 '17 at 16:59
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In a place where it's forbidden to make a hefsek, "nu" should not be said - especially since this expression has a well-known meaning, so it's basically the same as saying a word.

Between netila and hamotzi, if one says "nu," b'dieved it's perfectly fine and not a problem at all.

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    Could you provide sources for this one? – Scimonster Jan 11 '15 at 18:23
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    @Scimonster , וזאת הברכה פרק ב. ברכת הפת סעיף ט.א בין אמירת הברכה לאכילת לא יפסיק בדבור - לכתחילה לה ישהה אפילו בשתיקה יותר מכדי דיבור (קסז מ''ב לד). ולא יפזם ניגון (מנחת יצחק ח''ז ט), ואף לא יאמר ''נו'' ו''שה'' וכדומה*, עד שיכלה ללעוס קצת מפרוסת הפת ויבעלנה (קסז ו מ''ב לה). וכו' * ע''פ המנ''י הנ''ל, וכן שמעתי מהגרי''ש אלישיב שליט''א. ואם רק אמר ''נו'' או ''שה'' אינו חוזר בדיעבד, שאינן חשובים דיבור ממש - הגרי''ש אלישיב שליט''א – havarka Jan 12 '15 at 18:42
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    @havarka V'zos Hab'racha (The Blessing on Bread, 2:9): Between saying the blessing and the eating, one may not interrupt with speech - and ab initio one should not pause even silently longer than k'dei dibbur (Mishna B'rura 167:34). Nor should one chant a tune (Minchas Yitzchak 7:9), and he should not even say "nu", "sha", or the like^ until he finishes chewing some of the slice of bread and swallow it (Mishna B'rura 167:35). – Fred Jan 13 '15 at 5:09
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    @havarka ^This accords with the aforementioned Minchas Yitzchak, and I heard likewise from the Gaon Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv…. And if he only said "nu" or "sha" he does not repeat [the blessing] ex post facto, for they are not considered actual speech (the Gaon Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv). – Fred Jan 13 '15 at 5:10

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