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Let's say one lives with a Jew who doesn't bother to wash their hands (naagel wasser) in the morning and then this person touches a certain food. Can this food be eaten by someone else or does it possess "Ruach ra"?

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    There are some authorities who assume that this ruach raah is not around anymore. If so, one would be able to be lenient. – mevaqesh Jan 31 '16 at 5:27
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    "Can this food be eaten by someone else or does it posses 'Ruach ra'?" Or maybe both are true: it has ruach raa and can be eaten by someone else. Or maybe neither is true. – msh210 Jan 31 '16 at 5:54
  • IIRC, as @mevaqesh hints, Ru'ach Ra is specific to sleeping at night time. This would probably explain why you needn't wash after a mid-day nap. – DanF Feb 1 '16 at 19:00
  • @DanF I didnt mean that there is only ruach ra'ah in the morning. (That would not help as the OP asked about the morning.) Rather, I meant that these days spirits of impurity do not not rest on the hands and cause blindness and other ailments. – mevaqesh Feb 1 '16 at 23:00
  • @mevaqesh I got it, now. I narrowed the focus of your phrase "not around anymore". In R. Kaganoff's source, which is in my answer, I think he alludes to the general "ru'ach ra" explanation that you state. In contrast, we still abide by the general notion of the existence of Ru'ach ra. Also, washing hands during the day may be for more reasons than ru'ach ra. – DanF Feb 2 '16 at 14:10
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According to Rabbi Kaganoff's article:

Yet another stringency is that one should be careful not to touch food without first washing away the ruach ra. However, if one did touch food prior to washing, the food may be eaten (Shu’t Shevus Yaakov 2:105; Artzos Hachayim, Eretz Yehudah 4:4; Darchei Teshuvah 116:35).

If I have a chance to get to any of these cited sources, I'll amend my answer.

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Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl (notes to Mishnah Berurah 1:2) quotes the Vilna Gaon as saying that after the martyrdom of Graf Potocki (the famed “Ger Tzedek of Vilna”) in 1749, ruach ra'ah was no longer powerful enough to mandate washing immediately upon rising. From a more technical perspective, Shevut Yaakov (3:1) notes that this ruling is nowhere to be found in the Talmud. In fact, we have indications that immediate washing was not a concern: In discussing a proper morning routine, the Gemara (Berachot 15a) mentions that one is to relieve himself in the morning and only then wash his hands. For virtually all individuals, proper facilities were a long distance away (see, for example Shabbat 25b), making it likely that this Zohar was not followed. Perhaps most importantly, Birkei Yosef notes that our standard editions of the Zohar make no mention of this warning at all. Although some versions including the relevant passages have been found, our editions could give one reason to doubt this law's veracity. At the very least, this would explain Shulchan Aruch's omission. Also see http://ph.yhb.org.il/02-08-04/ There's no ruach rah

  • This is nicely researched, but mostly irrelevant. The question does not deal with the (alleged) Zohar about traveling 4 cubits without washing. The last line "There's no ruach rah" might be relevant, depending what you mean, or what the link says. – mevaqesh Feb 1 '16 at 23:02

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