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If a person has OCD and tends to ritually wash their hands a thousand times because they feel they didn't do it right and they accidentally touch something wet in the sink after or have the worry they touched something ritually impure, do they have to rewash their hands (which may lead to rewashing a ton of times again)?

  • here is a relevant shiur from R Aryeh Lebowitz – mbloch Jul 11 '18 at 12:31
  • If I understand what you’re asking correctly, you’re wondering whether the level of uncleanliness to obligate washing hands is objective or subjective, and since a person with OCD feels a need to wash more often than an average person, perhaps they should wash more often? – DonielF Jul 11 '18 at 17:51
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Anyone discussing OCD and halacha needs to find a qualified, competent rabbi in-person, as well as a mental-health professional.

Reviewing the laws of what actually poses a halachic problem for handwashing might help, depending on the level of one's problem. The entire practice today is a throwback to when ritual purity laws were applicable ... but this is a side discussion. If someone is really OCD, it's going to manifest itself in degrees far beyond what halacha requires.

Rabbi Elli Fischer blogs about Rabbi Asher Weiss' responsum #134 about someone with OCD who keeps repeating words of prayers, always worrying they didn't pronounce them right. (Rabbi Asher Weiss is the posek for a major Israeli hospital, so he understands the solution here is more than "say another piece of Tehilim.") He says if the doctors tell this person to never repeat a word from prayers, even if you think you mispronounced it, then listen to the doctors!

I would strongly assume the same applies in a hand-washing case.

  • I heard a story about someone with extremely severe ocd when saying shema, that the Chazon Ish told him that whenever he does not finish saying shema in less than 7 minutes, then the next day he should skip Shema completely! This is shema which is min hatorah! but it takes the chazon ish to say something like that. – RibbisRabbiAndMore Jul 11 '18 at 12:16
  • I believe the tshuva is here, p. 16 - see also many sources in English from 21-38 incl. a lengthy analysis of R Weiss' tshuva – mbloch Jul 11 '18 at 12:26
  • The point is to differentiate personal chashash, from a chashash that is regarded as sofek by halacha. Next, safek itself is not always a relevant reason to wash again. Sofek is enendered by an event. Personal chashash is not relevant. Chachomim ruled what chashash are. In OCD there is no sofek and no halachik chashash. – kouty Jul 12 '18 at 5:21

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