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Do you have to close the bathroom door that you are in the vicinity of before being able to recite blessings or learn torah?

Does it suffice to simply turn your back towards the bathroom door?

For simplicity's sake let's assume that the toilet has been flushed and that no discernable odor is coming out of the bathroom.

  • In college I davened in a Chabad house that had a bathroom near the shul. The rabbi and others in the community were always careful to make sure the bathroom door was closed during davening. That's not proof of any halacha, though. – Daniel Feb 2 '15 at 16:53
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[I answered another question which was subsequently marked a duplicate on this one. So I am replicating my answer here]

There are two issues here. One is whether our bathrooms have the status of the beit hakisei of the traditional halacha, the second whether we can say a bracha close to a beit hakisei.

Whether our bathroom have the status of a beit hakisei is a machloket poskim. R Yirmiyohu Kaganoff for instance writes

The latter-day poskim dispute whether our bathrooms have the halachic status of the beis hakisei of the days of Chazal. Some poskim are lenient since our bathrooms are much cleaner than old-time outhouses (Shu’t Zakan Aharon 1:1; Shu’t Minchas Yitzchok 1:60).

Others contend that our bathrooms should still be treated as a beis hakisei (Shu’t Yechaveh Daas 3:1). Both the Chazon Ish (Orach Chayim 17:4) and Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Even HaEzer 1:114) rule that we should treat our bathrooms as a safek (questionable) beis hakisei.

The universal practice is to not recite brachos in the bathroom, but some people are lenient to wash their hands there. Rav Moshe rules that one may not wash for bread in our bathrooms, but one may wash his hands there before davening, although one should dry one’s hands outside the bathroom.

From this R Kaganoff concludes that one should not recite a bracha [...] facing the bathroom when its door is ajar. However, if we assume that it is only questionable, then one may have grounds to be lenient.

R Moshe Feinstein does indeed provide such a leniency. He writes (Even Haezer 1:114) that since the walls of our bathrooms are also an integral part of the house, we can ascribe the same status to the door doorframe as to the walls and consider them to be part of the structure of the house and not part of the bathroom. Therefore he rules that [...] one may recite a bracha opposite and outside a bathroom even when the door is open (even if tzo'ah is present in the bathroom as it is considered as in a different domain). R Tzvi Pesach Frank reaches a similar conclusion (Har Tzvi OC 1:48). R Moshe Feinstein further discusses how synagogues should be built to avoid the issue.

(sourced from R Ari Zivotofsky extensive study on the halachot of modern plumbing)

In all cases you must be four amot from the source of foul odors and not see tzo'ah (see here and here).

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While davening or learning, a person cannot be looking at something disgusting (eg. Waste). If it is behind him or to the side out of his vision, then he may make a beracha or learn as long as there is no foul odor AND he is 4 Amos (about 7 ft) away from the substance/odor. Even if the waste is in another room, you can't make a beracha with an open door or window (shulchan aruch סי׳ ע״ט סעי׳ א׳).

As far as odors from ANY foul substance, even not in the presence of the substance, one must be 7 ft away from the point where the odor ends.

Additional sources: Same as above but also siman ב׳. And הגרי״א הענקין זצ״ל בספר עדות לישראל ק׳

  • any more sources? – mevaqesh Feb 5 '15 at 0:15
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    Sure. Same as above but also siman ב׳. And הגרי״א הענקין זצ״ל בספר עדות לישראל ק׳ – Neiro_yair Feb 5 '15 at 4:11
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    Although this answer gives a general outline for where a person may or may not pray/learn, I don't feel that the question is answered. With a modern day bathroom where the toilet has been flushed, what can a person do? – Ani Yodea Feb 12 '15 at 12:06
  • @Neiro_yair So according to the Shulchan Aruch would it be possible to wash after using the toilet and make a beracha in front of an open bathroom assuming the toilet had been flushed AND there were no foul odors? – Tim Biegeleisen Feb 12 '15 at 12:28
  • @Tim: in regards to today's bathroom's it seems permissible, though I believe the accepted custom is not to – Neiro_yair Feb 16 '15 at 4:53

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